QB Times Issue #7

3D Graphics

So you want to include some awesome 3D graphics in your game/app/program?There are some things you'll need to know first of all.This "chapter" is an into to 3D graphics and raytracing, and talks about different software that you can use.

3D images are not made like regular drawn images.You don't sit down and paint things with brushes.Instead, you make objects in a "virtual" space, as if you were arranging those objects in front of you.You can make them any color you want, give them any shape, do anything you could do in real life, pretty much.Quite a bit of the skill in making good 3D artwork is in being able to properly do stuff to objects in this 3D space, to get the effect you want.

3D objects are made in what is usually called a "modeler".This modeler is usually part of an integrated package of tools, the other of which is a "raytracer".In the modeler, you create the different objects you want, and tell them what they're going to look like.Then you use a raytracer to make a final image.A raytracer basically simulates real life.It takes beams of light and bounces them from a "camera" (the place where the picture will be taken from) all around the scene.These beams of light (called rays) bounce around and hit objects.The objects will return points of color, and these points put together form the image.Since raytraced images do this, they can easily be much more realistic than even a good artist with a regular 2D program can make.

There are a lot of 3D packages and programs out there.A few are good.There are three things to take into consideration when you're choosing what software you want to use.The first is capability.What can this program do?The second is ease of use.A lot of people ignore this, and focus on capability, but with an easy to use program, you can really get things done much faster and more efficiently.Lastly, there is cost.Its an unfortunate fact that 3D software is EXPENSIVE.And by this I mean ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars for good software.So it's important to keep price in mind, since you probably won't be able to GET software if it is too expensive.

Capability among programs varies, but is generally the same.Most programs have about the same features.You can make 3D objects, and give them textures (what they look like).You can usually set some atmospheric effects, and have various things like transparency/translucency, reflections, etc.Stuff to make an image look real.Some programs are better in some areas than others, and some have more support from people writing plugins than others.Following is a description of all the programs that I've encountered, with my two favorite ones at the bottom.

Well, I guess that concludes this article.It was a bit long, I know, but I think that you need a good intro before getting into 3D.From this you should be able to choose a program that suits you, and make an intelligent choice about what to get.If you already have a program like this (or not included on my mini-list), or want to learn some actual 3D, then my next topic will be 3D modeling basics.It'll cover all the basics of creating 3D images, using the two programs (Extreme 3D and Bryce).For people who don't have these programs, you can download demos on the net.These demos don't let you save your final images, but through using paintshop to do screen captures, you can somewhat annoyingly get around this.

Copyright 2000, Marinus Israel & Jorden Chamid