Building 3D Models for Product Visualizations

posted in: elearning, virtual world | 0

Ener Hax has mentioned that I use OpenSim on a USB drive for “real work” and asked me to write a post about this. I will dovetail into Ener’s post last night and frame this with a similar Blender 3D perspective.

I have been using Blender 3D since it went open source in 2002. It’s a great program and once you move beyond its steep learning curve it can be a fairly rapid tool to use.

My primary task in my day job is to create multimedia assets for eLearning that is distributed to 90,000 annual users in over 110 countries. This varies from software simulations to static graphics to scenario-based video. In addition, and like many corporate eLearning developers, I often am tasked with non-eLearning multimedia work that can range from creating conference videos and product demos to large-scale printed exhibit graphics for clients. For some presentation work I use Blender 3D and it is well received but the downside is in its rendering time. It can take hours to weeks to render out video from Blender 3D.

For our corporate eLearning the rendering time is simply too long to be cost effective and the hardware requirements are sometimes too great (i.e., render farms for large projects).

When Second Life was all the hype in the media a few years ago it seemed like an easy answer to my need to do “3D” animation faster and cheaper. At first it was challenging to accept the “poor” graphics quality of Second Life prims and I confess to a certain elitist attitude I had regarding this. However, stepping back I realised that Second Life could get me 80% of the way there and that it was worth sacrificing the remaining 20% for something that was many orders of magnitude faster. As a bonus, avatars had built in joints and adequate walk cycles and gravity even existed.

After a short time, a freedom to concentrate more on the overall interactions and less on the details developed and was a pleasant benefit. It was liberating and it opened doors to share this with eLearning colleagues. I could teach the use of Second Life as a 3D animation studio to colleagues in a manner of hours and not months!

I left my elitist mindset behind and embraced a tool that ended up being just as well received by learners. People just get it and I often compare my use Second Life (now OpenSim) to YouTube content. YouTube is considered the largest eLearning repository out there and it works because of the content and not the production quality. People understand that they are not going to always have Steven Spielberg quality productions on YouTube but they also know they can find virtually any topic covered in a video tutorial.

Using OpenSim as a 3D animation studio for eLearning is fast and inexpensive. I add the needed interactivity for eLearning by importing the videos into Flash and have been doing this technique for four years now.

I have also been using OpenSim, particularly the USB stick version, for doing space and product visualization. It does not have the polished look of a Blender 3D video but clients don’t have an issue with that because it also means a significantly lower project cost for them and a project delivered in a shorter time. It’s also easy to make edits because there is no rendering time. If I don’t do a camera fly-through in the way the client wants, it is easy to redo it in a matter of minutes.

The images below show an exhibit booth that can be textured with a client’s graphics, placed in an exhibit hall, and have videos showing how it will look to their customers (I don’t need to bring them in-world – I simply shoot video for them). OpenSim on a USB stick has been ideal for doing this and lots of fun as well.

Interested in giving it a try on a shoestring budget? Get yours at Ener’s very handy!



this post also appears on the iliveisl blog