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First Looks
PC Magazine -- November 3, 1998


By Linda Von Schweber

The "Author's Cut"

When you want to create interactive real-time animations and not just movies, you'll turn to the new but limited VRML97 import and the already robust VRML97 export plug-ins which come included with both Kinetix 3D Studio MAX R2.5 and 3D Studio VIZ R2.

VRML97 (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) allows anyone with Netscape Navigator 4.05 or a full distribution of IE 4.01 to interactively explore animated scenes or objects on their desktops without owning any 3-D software.] 3D Studio MAX R2.5 provides great modeling and animation capabilities for producing VRML scenes and characters for the Web. Architects who use VIZ R2 will find that they can export walkthroughs easily and engineers can export new product designs to VRML97 and e-mail or post them to a Web site so that others can explore the models interactively.

Although the results can be impressive, be on guard to avoid producing bloated VRML97 files. MAX exports simulations built with dynamics, such as gravity and wind and character animations built with Inverse Kinematics. The key is how you set the Animation Sample Rates in the export dialog. We reduced a VRML export of a walking robot from 1,686KB to 822KB by changing the setting from 25 fps (frames per second) to 1 fps without seeing any difference. We could have reduced this even further by using the Optimize Modifier for simplifying geometry.

Both MAX and VIZ rely on Helper objects for inserting VRML-specific capabilities such as backgrounds; anchor links; levels of detail; fog; billboards; sound and in-line files. You can create one animation and trigger either a range of keyframes or specific objects to animate upon entering the world or via touch, proximity, or time sensors.

We imported a scene created in Platinum Technology's Cosmo Worlds into MAX and exported it with the default settings. The file exploded from 105KB to 3,490KB. By setting the export to no indentation and to use ngons rather than triangles, it was reduced to 763KB of which 711KB represented MAX's conversion of 24 words of VRML97 text to 3-D text. Some features weren't imported at all including navigation, world titles and information, backgrounds, sensors, routes, and anchor links. Interactive animations were either totally lost or distorted and we needed to contact Kinetix tech support for a bug fix when the VRML97 importer scattered guitar parts throughout the scene. When importing and exporting more than geometry between VRML97 and MAX/VIZ, be sure to understand the nuances so you can keep those files small and make the scenes interactive.


Author's Notes:

We used the Cosmo Worlds' SoundBoard Beach Scene from our First Looks round-up of 3-D Web Authoring Tools: "The Web's a 3-D World After All," June 9, 1998. Cosmo Worlds (then owned by Cosmo Software) won our Editor's Choice in that round-up.

Since Platinum technology bought Intervista Software Inc, developer of WorldView, and bought Cosmo Software's software including Cosmo Player, both VRML viewers can also now be downloaded from

PC Magazine November 3, 1998

Copyright © 1998 Ziff-Davis Publishing Company

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Updated October 26, 1998