On to the Future of 3D Web Content: Blend4Web

One of the subjects in Computing which continue to fascinate me, is CGI and so-called 3D Models as well as Scenes, that can be rendered to a 2D perspective View. At the same time, for the more trendy readers who like VR Goggles, those scenes can be rendered to 2 2D Views, just so that there will be parallax between them, and the scene seen with stereoscopic vision.

One of the facts which has been made known is that, sometime in 2020, Adobe plans to retire Flash. On one of my home pages, I actually have a 3D animation which used to run under Flash 11, when compiled with Stage3D support. What I find is that the latest Flash Firefox plugin will not display it for Linux, but Google Chrome still plays it. It’s an animation that should be fixed, but, since I neither have the software anymore which I once used to author it, nor the ability to expect browsers to support Flash in the future, I have just skipped fixing that animation.

What I may do at some point in the future, however, is to create some other sort of 3D content, that can be published as part of Web-pages. And, through the use of HTML5 and WebGL, this is quite feasible. The only question which struck me next was, What sort of platform could I use, eventually, that is Free and Open-Source? And the answer that presents itself, is Blend4Web – Community Edition!

Because this platform, which I’ve tested partially, is fully open-source, the licensing requires that I publish any and all source code used to create my future content, including source code belonging to Blend4Web-CE itself. Thus, to avoid procrastinating on that front, I have made the Open-Source version of that code available Here.

This way, whenever I want to create some 3D content, I will not need to worry much about the licensing requirement. Yet, if my readers want to, they may go to the company’s Web-site, linked to above, and purchase the paid-for version of the software instead, differently from the Open-Source version, which I really prefer and use. (:1)

I want to caution my readers however. This software tree comprises 1.4GB, and if the readers wish to download it, I’d strongly urge them to do so from the company’s Web-site, not mine, because the company has a Content Delivery Network – a CDN – that will enable many downloads, while I do not.

Note: Differently from what some readers have already inferred, Yes, the company Web-site also offers free downloads, of the Open-Source version, which is referred to as the ‘Community Edition’.

(Updated 01/05/2020, 11h40 … )

(Originally, earlier on 01/03/2020 … )

The only real test of this software which I performed is the example below:

http://dirkmittler.homeip.net/WebGL/Blend4Web_Test.html

Yes, this is the Blender Default Scene / Cube. Further, I only exported this sample using the standalone Blender add-on, the source code of which is in the ‘blend4web’ subfolder of the larger sub-site I linked to above. Obviously, just offering to allow my readers to explore this primitive ‘scene’, can serve to test the browser’s ability to render WebGL, at the most.

After completing this test, I deleted the standalone exporter and installed the full SDK.


 

(Update 01/03/2020, 20h15 : )

1:)

This example represents much of what works against FOSS game development. In my own past, even before the year 2000, I had as habit to spend a few hundred dollars to purchase 3D content authoring software of some kind, including game-engines that customers could use to design games, and that included model editors.

But one of the key components that the paid-for bundles included, were so-called “Object Libraries”, which were predefined sets of 3D Models, in various categories, which the customer was given permission to use freely in his own creations (once he had paid for the bundle).

So, what I did back then was naturally, to set certain 3D Models that I usually did not need to model, in a certain situation that would make them look ‘out of place’ and ‘surreal’. Thus, within a few hours work, I obtained 2D images of the 3D scenes I had constructed, which at the very least, mystified my compatriots as to how I had produced the images.

But if an aspiring Artist isn’t given these libraries of prefabricated sub-entities, then it becomes much more difficult to create good, 3D, CGI content. What the Artist then needs to do, is to learn how to manipulate all the controls of “Blender” efficiently (…), so that he can perform many editing operations, and sculpt primitive shapes into interesting, detailed models. And even such shapes as cars, lamp-posts, characters such as nights in armour, buildings, etc., all turn into complicated projects in themselves. It takes a lot of editing, to produce a decent-looking ‘car’.

Yet, if the software provider provides prefabricated content in any context, this content constitutes Artistic work performed by professionals, and makes up the bulk of the intellectual property (sold to a possible, game-authoring customer). Therefore, with no payment taking place, the User-become-Artist receives no prefabricated Art.

And I think that this might become my biggest challenge, if I ever want to experiment with CGI again. I’d prefer to go the Open-Source route, yet, the GPL is very strict, and I don’t have a large collection of 3D Models, which I truly created 100% out of my own work. OTOH, The paid route isn’t very appealing either, because then, especially the way the market has been shaped today, I’d just be paying a professional to create the components, so that I may place them.


 

I’m fully aware that certain software exists, client-side, which will ‘copy’ or ‘clone’ a URL off the Web, to the client’s hard-drive, in a way that recurses through all the sub-directories on the Server. Under Linux, one such program is named ‘httrack’. But, according to my Server Log, there seems to be a reader who doesn’t know how to use, whichever version of such software he’s using.

For example, if using ‘httrack’, one should always use the command-line version. Never trust the GUI version to do everything correctly…

Hint: The directory-depth of my source tree at ‘/blend4web_ce’ is exactly 10 levels, including that directory.

 

Dirk

 

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