At MAX 2010, Adobe announced new APIs for Flash player. Code named ‘Molehill’, they give developers low level access to 3D hardware acceleration through the GPU.
The current version of Flash provides us with 2.5D content; not quite 3D. But with frameworks and libraries like Away3D, we could stuff a 3D engine into Flash. Now the engine will be built-in with GPU support, allowing content with faster frame rates, more triangles, and better lighting and shaders. But because the APIs are low-level, developers will need to use frameworks to simplify development. Check out these videos for all the details:
Yesterday our amazingly talented, patient, smart, nerdy, impatient, committed, ingenious, thoughtful, creative, resourceful and brilliant development team put the finishing touches on the Zoom Creates self-promo reel. These guys are absolutely unbelievable. We described our vision for the reel and they told us: “That’s impossible. You can’t do that. The technology doesn’t exist. You cannot change the laws of physics. We will need super-computers, expensive software, years to write code, more chips, salsa and milkshakes than you can afford.” Then, five minutes later (slight exaggeration) came back to us with a solution–an ingenious solution: open-source software. The only hitch was they had to teach themselves how to use it. And that they did. They figured out how to use Blender for the 3d animation and Kdenlive for the video post processing. Sprinkle in some Flash and great ideas of their own (watch the mouse pointer jump from one panel to the next and the animated atom) and there is no stopping these guys.
They even used math! Lots of math. That was the most mind-boggling thing I witnessed. I like math and all but if it were me putting this thing together, I think I would have approached it more organically, finding the music then individually timing and positioning the pieces. Not these guys. After the look and feel/animation comps were completed, they looked at the music, the number of pieces and the frame rate etc. and gave each piece a number and had it all laid out on a table with little pieces of paper. Independently, Kurtis worked on the music while Kris positioned all the pieces and when they put them both together, it was like magic. The animation synced up with the music almost perfectly. It was unbelievable. These guys know what they talking about. Well done, lads.
This entire project has been such a great team effort. Everyone here at Zoom Creates contributed. The countless hours of concepting, discussing, designing, scheduling, production, learning, listening, laughing and collaborating have truly produced a project to be proud of. Not only does it show off some of Zoom’s best work, it is a portfolio piece in itself.
We here at Zoom Creates have been getting all kinds of interesting work lately. Some of this new work has led us down the path of animating in the third dimension. Naturally, we wanted to take a good look at some of the tools out there that could help us reach our goal.
First, because the dev team here is a mixed Linux/Windows environment, we took a look at the open source Blender project (www.blender.org). This is quite the powerhouse of software at our fingertips, but the UI is daunting to say the least. Kris tried out the 64 bit version on his Windows 7 machine, and ran into some serious road blocks with some of the different export file types. I downloaded version 2.49 from the Debian repositories and it worked without a single problem (nice going Linux). While Kris was struggling to get his environment up and running, I decided that I would follow some tutorials and make something.
I decided that something should be a tree. Trees are good for first time 3D modeling, as they have a lot of layers to them. You’ve got the bark, the leaves, the multiple layers of branches, etc. I made life easy on myself and downloaded and compiled ngPlant. It’s an open source program that helps you create the basic structure of a tree very easily. After building my tree, I imported it into Blender and added my textures. what you see to the left is my finished product. It’s far from perfect, it could use some smoothing, some better lighting and reflections, and could be filled out a bit better, but hey, it’s pretty cool for a few hours worth of work.
Meanwhile, Kris was still having trouble, so he decided that he should check out 3ds Max. He used this software a few version numbers ago, and is working with the trial version now to see if it’s the right tool for the job. We’ll see.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite 3D modeling program is.