Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Graphics Data Storage Software

Universal 3D File Format In The Works 464

Posted by timothy
from the clothing-optional dept.
telstar writes "The Register is reporting that more than 30 companies are working together to define a new file format intended to serve as a universal 3D file format. The new file format will be named the 'Universal 3D Format', or U3D. According to the article, they hope to make the new format as standard as MP3 has become for audio, and JPEG has become for 2D images. Interesting that they would choose two lossy media formats as models for comparison."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Universal 3D File Format In The Works

Comments Filter:
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:26PM (#8933019)
    Not only did they pick two lossy formats to use as examples, both MP3 [mp3licensing.com] and JPEG [forgent.com] are patent-encumbered formats. (The validity of the Forgent patent on a piece of JPEG is a bit of a still-contested issue... but I'll leave that to others to discuss.) If you want to write a program using either of those formats, you're going to have to pay the toll.

    Let's hope U3D is able to stay clear of such entanglements. Having a patent involved in a file format makes it questionable if FOSS can legally use the format.
    • by tepples (727027) * <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:29PM (#8933064) Homepage Journal

      You have a point with MP3, but the author of BurnAllGIFs.org [burnallgifs.org] seems to think the JPEG patent wouldn't stand up in a court of law.

      • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:38PM (#8933183)
        Maybe so, but at least they have a patent number, which is further along than anything SCO's been able to come up with.
        • HEY! (Score:3, Funny)

          VRML

          (ducks for cover...) ;-)

      • by Phexro (9814) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:48PM (#8933302)
        And if there's anyone in the patent lawyer field who's studied the issues and has a valid opinion on this issue, it's that BurnAllGIFS.org guy.

        I mean, come on. 'BurnAllGIFS.' It practically reeks of professionalism and years of law school.

        As an aside, I have this CD full of GIFs I burned, but nobody ever told me what I was supposed to do with them after I burned them. Anyone?
        • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:57PM (#8933953) Journal
          I mean, come on. 'BurnAllGIFS.' It practically reeks of professionalism and years of law school.

          If emotion was mutually exclusive with competence, we wouldn't have had Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, or most of the United States Founding Fathers.
    • by cptgrudge (177113) <cptgrudge@nospaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:31PM (#8933086) Journal
      Let's hope U3D is able to stay clear of such entanglements. Having a patent involved in a file format makes it questionable if FOSS can legally use the format.

      In the first line of the article, it says that Microsoft is involved with developing the format. Maybe I'm cynical, but I have little to no faith that this will come out as an open standard. We all know about Microsoft's SOP with respect to actual open standards that they've "enhanced". With them in on the ground floor on this one, I think it's doomed to be proprietary.

      • by cybermancer (99420) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:58PM (#8933420) Homepage
        ...it says that Microsoft is involved with developing the format...

        Not to long ago there was a push for Microsoft to adopt open file formats for their office suite. They naturally didn't follow through. Their reason is they have a virtual monopoly in office suites - despite very viable alternatives. If they adopted an open file format then that would, in their mind, strengthen the competitors and weaken customer lock-in.

        Their motive for advocating an opne 3D graphic format is that they have no stake in the 3D imaging market. If an open format is adopted then that gives them a leg up on taking over the 3D image market.

        The interesting thing is how Microsoft "embraced and extended" the SVG format - only to make their own incompatible format wvg [microsoft.com]. This is inspite of the fact that Microsoft was involved in the specification [w3.org]. I would suspect they will use the same strategy with U3D.

        • I think one of the main pushes behind this is DirectX. Currently DirectX uses the .X format, that many professional modelling programs don't natively support. Maya 5.01 Unlimited, the latest version available to my knowledge, exports to OBJ, GE2, RTG, VRML2, and RTG. This has people turning to third party apps like Deep Exploration or hacked plug-ins*.

          Microsoft wants to be certain that every available 3D modelling program can easily and accurately export to a format that will work directly with the next v
      • by PalmerEldritch42 (754411) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @06:01PM (#8933989)
        The article says that 3 big companies in on this are Intel, Adobe, and Microsoft (and a variety of other unnamed parties). I would much prefer to see some companies that do more with 3D content createion, like Autodesk, Discreet, Alias/Wavefront, Invidia, etc. Might it not be best to ask the big players first?
    • by frenetic3 (166950) * <houston.alum@mit@edu> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:37PM (#8933173) Homepage Journal
      This is all kind of a silly nitpick. Those issues are completely orthogonal. They are obviously citing these formats because they are ubiquitous and the prevailing format for their media type... if a kid said "I want to be a great basketball player, like Michael Jordan", saying "But damn, he was so shitty at baseball!" is kind of irrelevant. (Hope you enjoy the crackheaded analogy :P)

      -fren
      • by An. (Coward) (258552) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:08PM (#8933520)

        This is all kind of a silly nitpick. [Patent encumberance] issues are completely orthogonal. They are obviously citing these formats because they are ubiquitous and the prevailing format for their media type...

        It's not nitpicking at all...the article states that

        the intention is to create a way of encoding 3D data as freely available as MP3 for audio and JPEG for still images. Intel and co.'s goal is to end the array of proprietary 3D graphics formats devised by CAD, 3D and other software developers and replace it with a single, standard format that all can use.

        MP3 is unquestionably a patented, and therefore proprietary, format, and JPEG might have some patent issues of its own. If those are the examples they cite, then it's perfectly legitimate to probe more deeply into what exactly they mean when they say they wish to make their format "as freely available" as these.

    • by Docrates (148350) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:37PM (#8933174) Homepage
      I disagree. I think their comparisson is based on the ubiquity of those formats and not on their technical quality or legal status.

      In that case, it's a very good example, only not a slashdot-compliant one.
    • Oh knock it off (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Brad Mace (624801) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:47PM (#8933289) Homepage
      Interesting that they would choose two lossy media formats as models for comparison
      No. It's not interesting at all. They are merely refering to their near universal popularity, nothing more. You can all quit trying to make a big deal out of nothing now.
    • by dbarclay10 (70443) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:47PM (#8933292)

      I believe the references to JPEG and MP3 were just examples of other popular standards, not meant to point out patent-encumbered standards.

      That being said, the companies involved are all heavy users of patents, in many cases aggresively. They're also using ECMA as their standards body, who has a very premissive policy on patents [ecma-international.org]. For anybody who reads that link, "reasonable and non-discrimantory licensing" means "everybody who uses this 'standard' can be made to cough up some dough."

      So yes, in all likelyhood, this "standard" will be patent-encumbered and will require any new kids on the block to pay what will likely be extortion-rate fees (though they'll be "reasonable" fees in that any multinational with billions in the bank can afford them). The companies involved in creating the standard (the ones who don't like competition and in some cases have been convicted for price-fixing and illegal monopolistic practices) will simply cross-license the relevant patents amongst themselves, meaning they're free to implement it without cost.

    • This is an excellent point, since MP3 and JPEG have been absolute failures as formats and Free software cannot interoperate with them. Do we want to repeat that?

      ....err, wait
  • by tepples (727027) * <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:27PM (#8933025) Homepage Journal

    Interesting that they would choose two lossy media formats as models for comparison.

    Would one really notice slight noise in the coordinates of points of a mesh or in texel color values?

    Frankly, I'm more worried about this from the article:

    the intention is to create a way of encoding 3D data as freely available as MP3 for audio

    MP3 is not free [mp3licensing.com]. Will Intel or one of Intel's licensors pull a Unisys [burnallgifs.org] after this format has become popular? Apparently, the 3D Industry Forum's FAQ page [3dif.org] doesn't even contain the word "patent".

    • Would one really notice slight noise in the coordinates of points of a mesh or in texel color values?

      Uhm... yes... it'd create a jittery effect that could make a mess of things when it comes times to convert the rendered output to an MPEG.
      • [coordinate noise would] create a jittery effect

        In skeletal animation, noise in the mesh would move more or less rigidly with each bone, creating a bit of roughness but no jitter. In non-skeletal animation, one could move a slider to increase the precision with which the animation tool stores coordinates. Remember that even 64-bit floating point isn't perfect.

    • It doesn't really matter because their format will not be lossy. 3D files aren't like graphics or MP3's, the only reason a point or polygon exists in a 3D file is because an artist told the computer to put it there. In an uncompressed bitmap a white page would take as much space as a photograph of a house. An empty 3-D file would take much less space than a 3-D file containing a model house.
  • by tcopeland (32225) * <tom.thomasleecopeland@com> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:27PM (#8933028) Homepage
    ...right here [ecma-international.org].

    There's also a separate 3DIF [3dif.org] site.
  • CX (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:27PM (#8933029) Homepage Journal

    will allow 3D data to be more easily incorporated into other apps, such as web browsers

    I hope the Christmas Island people get their act together before this becomes widely used... the horror... the horror...
  • 3D what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:27PM (#8933035)
    3D maps?
    3D wireframes?
    3D solid objects?
    3D interior spaces?

    JPEG != MP3, and wishing will not make disparate needs and functionality the same.
  • Lossy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by martingunnarsson (590268) * <martin&snarl-up,com> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:28PM (#8933045) Homepage
    Interesting that they would choose two lossy media formats as models for comparison

    Yeah, they're probably working on a lossy 3D format. Duh.
    The fact that MP3 and JPEG are lossy formats doesn't have anything to do with this, and no, it's not "interesting".
    • Re:Lossy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:35PM (#8933141)
      Therefore, better comparisons to align themselves would have been BMP for 2d images and WAV for audio... both of which are elementry enough to avoid patent scares which mostly center over compression routines.
      • The note sais "they hope to make the new format as standard as MP3 has become for audio, and JPEG has become for 2D images". It doesn't say anything about compression or other things like that.
      • Re:Lossy (Score:4, Insightful)

        by The Kow (184414) <putnamp@POLLOCKgmail.com minus painter> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:44PM (#8933262)
        Therefore, better comparisons to align themselves would have been BMP for 2d images and WAV for audio... both of which are elementry enough to avoid patent scares which mostly center over compression routines

        Oh come on, the point of the analogy was just to bring to light how far they wanted to take adoption, reading anything into the lossiness of the respective formats is trifling and borderline pedantic.

      • but not ubiquitous

        not evreyone thinks 'aha, a bmp is what I store images in'

        or 'aha, a wav file suits my audio storage needs'

  • .3ds (Score:2, Informative)

    Ok, so its ASSOCIATED with some random application (3d studio max), but ANYTHING that does 3d will read/write to a .3ds file, if they take themselves seriously. Whats wrong with that?
    • You must mean that ANYTHING that does 3D will read/write to an Autocad file... ;)

      They've even nicely documented the format for you: http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/item?id=75256 9&siteID=123112
    • Re:.3ds (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:38PM (#8933184) Homepage Journal
      You have an excellent point, but if the company choses to change the format, that causes hell until all the other apps can keep up, granted, users of this kind of program are generally a lot more savvy than those of MS Office, it is still a pain to remember to "save as...". It definitely happens in many version changes of AutoCAD, AutoDesk at one time owned 3D Studio, and I don't think that is necessarily out of their system.
    • Re:.3ds (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Quarters (18322) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:54PM (#8933370)
      The lack of multiple UV channels per vertex makes .3ds quite useless for any modern 3D work.
  • by quelrods (521005) <quel@quel[ ].net ['rod' in gap]> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:29PM (#8933053) Homepage
    How was choosing lossy formats even mildly interesting? That comparison was only for the purpose of pointing out that well defined standards for some audio and images exist. I would think fighting between 3d-studio and every other 3d graphics program allows for little to no transfering. Think every 3d program writing it's own non published file format and then think about having 1 published standard that everyone uses. Things like word and excel as open standards would also be nice.
  • What about VRML (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spiritraveller (641174) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:29PM (#8933060)
    Why haven't I heard anything about that 3d format in the past 5 years.

    Is it not scalable or something?

    I was always under the impression that it was as open as html.
    • Re:What about VRML (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:32PM (#8933097) Journal
      I was going to ask the same thing. VRML was going to replace the web with cool virtual environments, there was once a whole lot of buzz around it.

      I would like to know what's lacking in VRML. A lack of foresight (didnt plan ahead for programmable pixel shaders, funtional textures, etc)?

      And if it's that sort of problem, how can this new format not fall into the same traps, since the authors likely don't have magical crystal balls that tell them what types of information GPUs of the future will want to store.

      • early implementations pretty much killed vrml, not because the format was particularly lacking but constraints in bandwidth, lack of hardware acceleration etc.

        Now it is tainted with those memories, proabably never to be seen again.

      • Re:What about VRML (Score:5, Informative)

        by Urban Garlic (447282) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:56PM (#8933394)
        VRML, as I understand it, is not quite dead yet. There's still an active W3G working group working on "x3d", which is the successor to VRML, and more than a few scientific visualization packages can export to, and read, VRML, including SGI's OpenInventor.

        What's bad about VRML was that the VRML '97 spec was too damn complicated (IMHO), and a few years later, the really good free browser (CosmoPlayer) got sold off by SGI, and after changing hands several times, apparently disappeared from the face of the Earth. There are other browsers, but they don't plug in to browsers as easily.

        The other problem I heard people complain about (but was not a problem for me) was the "JavaScript" problem -- people on comp.lang.vrml didn't like that their web VRML was human-readable and stealable. CNN used to have the occasional VRML model on their site for interesting things, but switched a while ago to something called Cult3D, which appears to be binary, and to have pricey development tools -- I don't know if the format is actually proprietary, but it wouldn't surprise me.

        Of course, the *real* reason it died was because I learned it...
        • Re:What about VRML (Score:5, Interesting)

          by soricine (576909) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:11PM (#8933544)
          as an architecture student, i have spent considerable time working on 3d modelling, and have experimented with vrml. the reason that neither i nor any of my fellow-students used it for anything important is because it is ugly. everything is optimised way too far (i know you can vary the optimisation, but to get it to work realtime, it has to be pretty minimal).

          key difference: vrml is for realtime 3d.

          interesting note: more students have had success with using the unreal engine to model spaces. it is much prettier, and the navigation is better.

      • Re:What about VRML (Score:3, Insightful)

        by frenetic3 (166950) *
        Well, in those days, the players were big, bloated plugins that never worked well. In fact, nothing about it really worked well; the few sites that could get it in any kind of working state had 3d models that were often simplistic and ugly; it was not only slow and software rendered but seemed several generations of 3D tech behind. It was a cute gimmick at best.

        Believe it or not, the technology probably wasn't the biggest issue. It's a classic example of a solution searching for a problem; there was no ki
      • Why VRML sucked (Score:4, Informative)

        by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:10PM (#8933533)
        VRML had a bunch of problems.
        • VRML files are huge. VRML was designed to be human readable (a laudable goal) but this meant that a VRML of any complexity made an enormous file. I used to use VRML files out of ProEngineer in a 3D simulation package and the smallest files were usually about 20 megabytes and it went up to 200 at times.
        • VRML lacked the precision to be useful as a CAD quality 3D data interchange format. Not that any of the alternatives are great (IGES) but VRML didn't solve the very real problem of interchange between incompatible 3D modeling systems.
        • VRML was designed (partly) with the idea of moving the web to 3D, but this isn't very useful for real world interfaces. Even where 3D interfaces might be useful (rare) there isn't the infrastructure (bandwidth, control systems, etc) to make it useful
        • Unrealistic (read poor) image quality. You will never see a VRML file that looks anything close to as good as a modern 3D shooter.


        Basically VRML wasn't designed to scratch a real itch, just a theoretical one. It was just a neat idea that was designed by committee, with predictable results.
        • Re:Why VRML sucked (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dasmegabyte (267018)
          MPEG-4 was another neat idea designed by committee, and it's pretty awesome.

          It's not committees that ruin concepts, but lack of a concrete agenda. Start with a solid goal, continue with cutting edge research, and round it out with a coherent standards doc. That's how you make a file format.
        • VRML files are huge. VRML was designed to be human readable (a laudable goal) but this meant that a VRML of any complexity made an enormous file. I used to use VRML files out of ProEngineer in a 3D simulation package and the smallest files were usually about 20 megabytes and it went up to 200 at times.

          VRML files are designed to be human readable because VRML isn't just a mere 3D description language, but also a programming language.
          The very big advantage of VRML/X3D for designing virtual worlds is that
    • I was always under the impression that it was as open as html.

      Just because it's open doesn't mean that it's a useable standard. I don't think that any sane person today would consider VRML any kind of "standard" any more than Netscape (the browser) is a "standard".
    • Someone says: "oooh, this should be updated to a valid XML DTD and such and such", since it's just begging for it.

      But flash and Quicktime started being used extensively by developers, and each has a "solution" for viewing 3D models that's just as useful as featureful as a seperate VRML browser might be. So targeting VRML became kinda pointless because other more common frameworks had support, and there are excellent content creation tools for those environments.

      So no one had any reason to keep the VRML st
      • by Mithrandir (3459) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:03PM (#8933472) Homepage
        Not at all. U3D is actually just the Shockwave3D file format that Intel are trying to ram through a standards body somewhere.

        They originally tried to do this through the Web3D consortium (the owner of the VRML standard) under the guise of a CAD format. After a lot of manipulation of the members and several other very dodgy things, the consortium told Intel to get lost. It's now just popped up again under another guise. The laughable thing is that this file format is completely inappropriate for CAD requirements. It's somewhere between a scene graph file format and a programming API, with neither being particularly good. For example, it's not extensible and has a lot of hardcoded strategies. If you wanted to extend or change an iimplementation of one item in the modifier chain, it would require complete reimplementation of the entire system. For example, changing the humanoid representation to using shaders for rendering the mesh was impossible. The entire format is designed around CPU-based rendering. Video hardware accelaration is not possible for about 95% of the spec.

        Nothing has changed at Intel since we were dealing with them for the last 2 years on it. Effectively this project is 2 engineers and one manager trying to save their arse and the code from failed Shockwave efforts.

        An example - the press release says it will be an ISO standard. The ISO people have no idea what Intel is talking about as they've not been approached yet. It would fall under either SC24 or SC29 subcommittes (SC24 3D graphics, SC29 is programming and home to MPEG) and both of these committees already have standards that fullfil these requirements (MPEG and VRML/X3D). It wouldn't make it past the front gate at ISO.
    • The only reason VRML was ever brought up was to keep Apple's QTVR from becoming too popular with developers. It pretty much worked. Barely any development is being done with QTVR. Let alone VRML.

      I've seen sample QTVR scenes with embedded hot spots, URLs and QT Sprites (water ripples, fires and smoke puffs). That would have made killing web sites, games and (!) easter eggs.
    • Re:What about VRML (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mithrandir (3459)
      It's more than scalable. It's gone into real world usage. No longer hyped, people are just using it for real applications and data transfer.

      VRML is as open as HTML, it's an ISO specification. There's the next revision of it going through ISO process right now called X3D (final ISO vote on the IS acceptance ends June 30, so see an announcment at Siggraph). X3D takes all the good stuff from VRML and expands it again to allow for multiple different encoding strategies (VRML-style, XML, binary etc) and compone
    • Re:What about VRML (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Boglin (517490)
      Not any form of expert here, but I maintained an interest in the area long after everyone else gave up on the technology, so here's my thoughts on why it died.

      Mainly, VRML kept trying to position itself as an internet technology, as opposed to a simple, standardized file format. This lead to a couple of nasty effects. First was the fact that it was pretty well designed to look like HTML. This, in and of itself, isn't terrible; I've always been a big fan of the taxt based .obj file. However, it meant th

  • by Mantrid (250133) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:29PM (#8933062) Journal
    Kaydara Motionbuilder (.fbx I think) files seem to be becoming one of the defacto standard file formats for 3D - it stores mesh, bone, and UVW/texture information (to my knowledge), as well as animation info and most of the major apps now have Kaydara support.
  • so.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:29PM (#8933065) Journal
    U3D will get a head start due to early release and saturate the market with crappy files while formats with better compression and quality are ignored by the public because "it's good enough"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I use a WYSE terminal, you insensative clod!
  • Blender support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TexasDex (709519) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:30PM (#8933069) Homepage
    I certainly hope this will be a royalty-free (as in beer) and restriction free (as in speech) format.

    But...

    One restriction I wouldn't mind, however, is the same sort of compatibility requirement that JAVA has: If something follows the format, it MUST follow it exactly and have no proprietary extentions. This tripped up MS when they tried to hijack JAVA for their own nefarious purposes.

    Just my views on this...

  • Standards (Score:5, Funny)

    by El Cubano (631386) <roberto.connexer@com> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:30PM (#8933072) Homepage

    The Register is reporting that more than 30 companies are working together to define a new file format intended to serve as a universal 3D file format.

    I forget who said it, but I think this fits very well: "The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from."

  • Danger, Danger... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by M0nkfish (620414) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:34PM (#8933118)
    "they hope that such a standard will allow 3D data to be more easily incorporated into other apps, such as web browsers, to make 3D imagery more widespread" Web browsers?!? I really hope not. I find the idea of a banner ad requiring a minimum of a GeForce 4 and pixel shader support offensive. "Shoot the 3D rendered monkey in each limb and win a prize!" *shudder*
  • by 4of12 (97621)

    We had VRML.

    And an XML based X3D (?)

    Were those other formats that bad that we need U3D?

  • Intel uses Pro/Engineer in many of their operations. Back when I worked for PTC I used to talk to them al the time. It will be interesting to see what format Pro/Engineer adopts in the future and if they don't go with this if Intel switches to something else.
  • by darthcamaro (735685) * on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:35PM (#8933138)
    Aren't there enough proprietary 3d formats already! It's time for an open source / free software GPL type format. Maybe SGI now that they love Linux can work with the community to free up some of their proprietary standards and make it really happen.
  • Could be good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JaxWeb (715417) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:36PM (#8933149) Homepage Journal
    It is annoying when given a 3D engine, it cannot load a 3D Format which happens to be the only one that your 3d Modeller can export to. I would be happy for that problem to disappear!

    But how general will it be? If it can handle detailed CAD models, and open landscape, and UT2003 style maps, high polygon characters and so on, then will it end up being unspace-effective for all of them?

    Is there a reason why right now 3DS seems to be the nearest to a standard we have, when it doesn't even have many features?

    JPEG might be the standard for images, but it isn't used for everything: Sometimes PNG and TIFF are used for particular reasons. TGA and PNG for example support Alpha channels, while JPEG does not. My friend draws pictures, and sometimes she gets good compression with JPEG, but sometimes the quality loss is terrible. Sometimes GIF is better, or something PNG is. And then there are vector graphics.

    MP3 is nearly a standard, but we use OGG for political/legal reasons, or a lossless format when that is important. Real is often used when the sound needs to be streaming.

    So, really, how useful will this standard be? And how free?
  • Lossy 3d? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Traicovn (226034) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:36PM (#8933157) Homepage
    "Interesting that they would choose two lossy media formats as models for comparison."

    Well, this is probably a sign that the new 3d format will probably reduce 3d files to 2d or 2.5d. So you'll lose some of the third dimension when you save in it.
  • by eadint (156250) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:36PM (#8933160) Homepage Journal
    Actually i really hope that his works.
    about a year ago i started doing 3D animations, this year i wanted to buy a collection of 3D models but in the end i found that 1 the app that i use has terrible support for model importing (blender) and 2 there are two many different formats out there. someone previosly mentioned 3ds but thats the stupidest thing ive ever heard because 1 its proprietary 2 it sucks. the closest thing to a standard is the .obj format. but even blender has a hard time with uv mapping in that area. as far as lossy, there is no such thing, 3d models dont work that way a model has so many meshes so many polygons and so many textures, how you choose to render it determines the lossyness of it. nut a u3d standard would be great because than i could buy models from anyone and know they would work.
    and for the 3ds guy your modeling software sucks and is a POS.
  • from a multimedia point of view, we have been trying to make flash animation support 3d but no format was light enough and easy to render, with director mx, we have 3d objects but the format is proprietary for macromedia and u have to transform every element and the rendering is without shadows and lights. a decent open 3d format is exactly what we (as multimedia developpers) need to take us to the next level to deliver virtual interactive environments.
  • by ItMustBeEsoteric (732632) <ryangilbertNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:37PM (#8933165)
    Most likely has to do with the fact that .mp3 and .jpeg are ubiquitous more so than anything. If they said, for example, .FLAC, they would have confuzlled the hell out of a good chunk of people.
  • As there are so many different ways to represent the geometric structure of a 3D object that tie to the engine rendering that object. The fact of the matter is that 3D graphics rendering is still a non-trivial problem which requires optimizations for the use in question. Just about any piece of hardware still in use can handle JPEG and MP3 without a notable performance hit.

    3D applications still push the limits of the hardware they run on and are keyed for specific intents; 3D games sacrifice detail and accuracy of modeling the interaction of light on surfaces for speed, while povray and RenderMan go for full hardcore ray tracing to make sure each pixel on the screen is accurately representing a reflective light model to the capacity of their respective engines.

    Sadly, I don't think this arena has trivialized to a one size fits all format yet.

    • I think you're correct when you imply that rendering would be difficult to standardize, but I don't think that's what they're trying to do. There's a difference between rendering and modelling, and I believe the standard they are making is for a description of the model. Individual rendering engines would still have the choice of how they actually display the models, including how much detail they show and what hardware optimizations they take advantage of.
  • by sp00j (770937)

    It will be XML based (i.e. text file with tags), use MIME to encode bitmaps, and be so bloated you will need a 10GHz P5 with 4GB of RAM just to render a rotating "Hello, World!" file...

  • by MattRog (527508) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:39PM (#8933196)
    ... let it not be XML-based. If there is a God in heaven he will not let it be in XML!
  • by switcha (551514) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:40PM (#8933207)
    Interesting that they would choose two lossy media formats as models for comparison.

    Ooooor, it's interesting that they compared it to a few formats that have allowed real people with real-world storage capacity to enjoy/share media of different flavors.

    "Dude, you should see this 3D monster I created! Just let me plug my iEverything into the accompanying 70 lb. iRenderFarm."

  • Without Apple (OpenGL), SGI (OpenGL), or Sun (Java3D), this is going to die a quick death as a "universal format," at least in the consumer marketplace.
  • by tstoneman (589372) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:41PM (#8933228)
    I have enough trouble getting 5 people to agree on where to go for dinner or for which movie to go see... and we're all friends!

    These guys want to get 30 companies to agree to one specific file format that would probably have an impact on the work they do???

    Good luck!
  • This is the big question to my mind. Comments on the 3DIF site indicate that the format will support materials. If they don't support programmable shaders, they'll be excluding most of the interesting stuff happening in 3D at the moment. If they do support programmable shaders, how are they going to handle the plethora of incompatible shader definition languages (OpenGL's GLSLang, Direct3D's HLSL, NVIDIA's Cg etc) in a suitable platform-neutral manner?
  • In particular, they hope that such a standard will allow 3D data to be more easily incorporated into other apps, such as web browsers, to make 3D imagery more widespread - and, in turn, boost demand for faster processors and graphics chips.

    I see what's goin on here. Microsoft and Intel... always making things unnecessarily bloated just to convince people that they always need to keep upgrading their CPUs!

    So this is basically a "no one has any reason to buy our 3 ghz chips, so let's force them into do
  • MP3 and JPEG (Score:3, Offtopic)

    by Boing (111813) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:46PM (#8933281)
    The lossiness of MP3 and JPEG was only relevant because it allowed the actual files to become small enough to transmit over slow connections and fit on small hard drives. Additionally, while they may be lossy, the "lost" information goes completely unnoticed by the end-user, 99.99% of the time. If they come up with a convenient way of storing 3D information that is "lossy" but doesn't lose anything that will be missed, then more power to them.

    Additionally, the demand for small files, and therefore for MP3 and JPEG, draws on preexisting "content" sets that are enormous; all the audio data ever recorded (including in analog media), and all the static, 2D visual data ever recorded (including photos, texts, drawings, etc). By comparison, there are currently relatively few recordings of true 3D data; and the present uses of that recorded data are so specialized that a general file format would probably be insufficient anyway.

    So the day that Wal-mart starts selling digital cameras that laser-scan the whole room and render a complete 3D model, and the day they start selling holographic projectors for those 3D models, at prices that are reasonable for personal use, then there will be a market for a generic 3D file format.
  • Geometry Images (Score:3, Informative)

    by duckpoopy (585203) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:53PM (#8933366) Journal
    Conformal surface parameterization [ufl.edu] allows you generate a geometry image from an arbitrary mesh. The geometry image is a parameterization of the mesh on a uniform grid where the (r,g,b) coordinates are considered to be (x,y,z) spatial coordinates. You can now use the image format of your choice, lossy or not.
  • by frAme57 (145879) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `teefekans'> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:11PM (#8933546) Homepage
    but the line on the ECMA site [ecma-international.org], the repurposing of 3D CAD data for training and visualization, generally in non-engineering and non-design applications, killed it for me. I was hoping for an open universal format for CAD files. I know they're commonly used but .dwg and .dxf are overrated and proprietary. And IGES is supposedly the universal format, but every CAD program has its own unique approach to the IGES format. In my experience, exporting from one CAD systesm to another via IGES is, at best a gamble and at worst a tedious excercise in rebuilding what got mangled in the transfer.

    So what's the point here? Will this enable me to model dancing hamsters and spinning thingies in Alias or Rhino and export them directly to Front Page and Power Point? Be still, my beating heart.

  • by jbum (121617) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:27PM (#8933703)

    Burbank, CA - A consortium of one programmer is working to
    define a new file format intended to seve as a universal
    file format for all data. The new file format will be
    named the 'Universal File Format', of UFF. According to
    the consortium, he hopes to make the new format as
    standard as MP3 has become for audio, and JPEG has
    become for 2D images.

    "The basic structure of my file format is a sequence of
    8-bit numbers," says the consortium, "in which each
    number can represent anything required by the users of
    the file."



  • by alphakappa (687189) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:37PM (#8933794) Homepage
    JPEG is not *necessarily* lossy. The JPEG specification allows for both lossy and lossless compression.

    In common parlance, however, JPEG refers to the *JPEG baseline algorithm* which is lossy (but allows you to define the amount of loss). Note that even though you can create images that are visually lossless, baseline JPEG can never produce truly (mathematically) lossless compression. (no, not even if you set quality=100)

    If you want lossless JPEG compression, there's the standard called *lossless JPEG* (LJPEG) which doesn't provide a high degree of compression though. There's also *JPEG-LS* which is another JPEG standard which provides for lossless compression.

    If that's not enough JPEG for you, there's the new standard called *JPEG 2000* which allows a host of features such as the ability to choose between lossy and lossless compression, progressive transmission etc.

    So calling JPEG lossy is true only if you are referring to baseline JPEG.
  • by Sludge (1234) <slashdot@nOsPaM.tossed.org> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:43PM (#8933855) Homepage
    Do something cool, and THEN move to standardize it. This was the fundamental problem with VRML. Standards locked it down far before it was useful.
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:54PM (#8933932) Homepage
    We all know what this is going to be: an XML definition like everything else these days.

    Universal everything is a misnomer, because everything is in a constant state of evolution. What works today, will be passé in a year or two when DirectX n+1 is released with new gimmicks. Standards are good for fixed concepts, or at least ones that take a long time before having significant changes. 3D ain't one of them.
  • Overambitious? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dr. Mu (603661) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:54PM (#8933936)
    The goals of this project are either overambitious or overstated. Each of the 3D file formats in current use has its plusses and minuses, depending on what it's used for. For example, VRML works fine for dynamic 3D visualation, but I wouldn't want to fabricate anything from it. Likewise, STL is optimized for stereolithography, but IGES is de regeur for final manufacturing. A single, universal format would have to include a lot more data than any one single application could ever need.

    Perhaps the best approach is a pseudo file format with plug in codecs, like Microsoft uses for its video playback.

  • .u3d already in use! (Score:5, Informative)

    by buhatkj (712163) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @05:58PM (#8933964) Homepage
    the .u3d file extension is already used for a proprietary format for a neat little app called uinwrap3d, which a lot of modders use to make skins for custom game models. prolly no big deal but i just thought that was mildly relavent
    maybe not...
  • by ameline (771895) <.ian.ameline. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @06:52PM (#8934372) Homepage Journal
    The major players in 3D modelling/content creation can't even agree on the precise interpretation of trimmed nurbs surfaces, much less on other more difficult areas like material properties and lighting for rendering. For materials no two renderers agree on what something simple like a chrome material means much less something more complicated like wood, leather or marble.

    They want to define something universal that everyone making 3D software will use as a native data format -- the two main products at Alias (Studio Tools and Maya) don't even use the same file format (because they have different problem domains -- but at least they share the same interpretation of nurbs :-)

    In StudioTools, some of the textures and images in the scene can be the result of compositing a bunch of layers (like photoshop) -- are they going to embedd a photoshop like 2D format in their 3D format? Others are 16 bit/channel or float per channel -- Now add trimmed nurbs, hierarchical subdivision surfaces, construction history, particle systems, dynamics, kinematics, animation tracks, procedurally generated textures, fluids, the list goes on and on -- the number of node types for StudioTools and Maya alone would be in the thousands. I'm sure that CAD and Engineering software packages would add a couple thousand unique ones to that list.

    The mind just boggles at the complexity of what they're attempting. I'm quite sure they have not the faintest idea of just how large a chunk of work they've bitten off.

    When I was at IBM (10 years ago now), we used to call this sort of thing "boiling the ocean". ie. comsume enourmous resources and money for extended periods of time while producing no discernable and/or useful results.

    Ian Ameline
    Software Architect,
    Alias.
    (Not speaking for my employer.)
  • by Naikrovek (667) <jjohnson@[ ].com ['psg' in gap]> on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @07:01PM (#8934428)
    http://www.ecma-international.org/memento/members. htm [ecma-international.org]

    isn't pixar one of the more popular 3d companies? at least in movies they are, and their RenderMan 3d format is pretty damn popular among photorealistic renderers. There's nothing that I know of that a RenderMan file cannot represent. I'm wondering why they're not making some effort to collaborate in this.

    another question: why is apple a part of this when Pixar is not? Steve Jobs is CEO of both companies, as we all know.
  • by Mr. Piddle (567882) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @07:28PM (#8934654)
    "Universal" is a very ambitious word. I have seen attempts at standard "universal" 3D formats and realized that the problem space of 3D is so complex that "universal" will very likely never exist. So, who do we please? CAD/CAM? LOL: within CAD/CAM there is machining, molding, prototyping, ship building, process planning, etc. Mesh editing for still-lifes and animation? That would be easier but there are already formats for that (gee, it's just a mesh and some primitives).

    The problem is simply that the standards documents become so large that no one can implement them, no one can follow all the changes in them, everyone will be behind, no one will be compatible with each other. I'm talking tens of thousands of pages of standards documents, for starters. And people thought "web based" and it's hundreds of related acronyms is bad? Just you wait!

    Intel should just look to history and all the failed attempts at reforming 3D (IGES, STEP, and VRML to name a few) and revise their goals a bit lower.

  • Intel's Motive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Long-EZ (755920) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @09:27PM (#8935348)
    I question Microsoft's motive, as a simple conditioned response.

    But what about Intel's motive? From the article:

    ...and, in turn, boost demand for faster processors and graphics chips.

    Getting a chipmaker involved in a 3D file format committee sounds like a good way to ensure a very computationally inefficient format that needs custom hardware to encode and decode. Heck, why not get some RAM manufacturers, hard drive manufacturers and bandwidth suppliers on the committee to make sure the file sizes are huge, too?

  • again ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animaether (411575) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @11:58PM (#8936004) Journal
    Funny... a new 'standard' seems to pop up every few months.

    Despite even a good deal of acception, such as the FiLMBOX format, I keep seeing people falling back to :
    - export and import .3ds
    - export and import .obj
    - export and import through third party plugins
    - in-house export/import routines

    I'd be all for an XML format. Yes, I know, storage space.. but considering there's a limited datatypeset, a compression routine could easily be written that collapses the file to a tidy binary, which a decompressor could then stream right back out to tidy XML. But whatever :)

We can predict everything, except the future.

Working...