Free Pixel

discovering games as expressive media

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    FreePixel looks at video games as part of the moving image culture. Games are not movies. But games use moving image tradition in their presentation. That is why FreePixel offers a critical look at games and their expressive qualities that grow from the use of the moving image.


    [May 3rd, 2007]

    Live blogging from fmx

    Posted by fiezi

    I am currently attending this year’s fmx conference in Stuttgart, Germany. Just yesterday evening, i was happily talking about Machinima with Paul Marino, followed by a presentation of machinima movies selected by Claus Dieter Schulz.the fmx building

    I just came back from a talk about the (relatively) new COLLADA standard by Remi Arnaud of SCEA, now officially part of the KHRONOS group (of OpenGL standard fame).

    Here are some of the COLLADA highlights:

    It is an open, extendable format for 3D assets with support for rigging, weighting, animations, shaders and even physics.

    In short, it aims to become the standard data format for 3D content which means that oyu could use whatever tools you like to present, manipulate and mix COLLADA data.

    The talk itself stressed some interesting but mostly known facts. Obviously, COLLADA uses the XML standard and serves as its own language (not an API!).

    It has most leading industry members on board (not that there are that many) – with support for Maya, Max, XSI, Houdini, Photoshop CS3 (!), Google Earth and even Blender (Blender is actually the most up-to-date standard).

    The most recent version of COLLADA is 1.4.1 and the standard specifications have been downloaded 800.000 times. From the numbers presented, about 15% of the game developers are actively using the standard to date.

    As for the more interesting points (at least to me) it seems like COLLADA is heading towards the “specific interfaces for specific jobs, all sharing the same data” line. One of the diagrams that we presented in our machinima talk the day before kindof illustrates the general idea:

    futuristic machinima structure

    Of course we did not use COLLADA in our presentations, but the general idea is the same. Different programs will perform different tasks with very specific interfaces (or strenghts/weaknesses) and they all exchange data between each other. In COLLADA’s vision, they would all connect to a shared database that makes multi-tasking and multi-editing possible, even realtime rendering.

    It’s still somewhere in the future, but we got to see some of these ideas implemented in free to use tools like NVidias FX Composer – a software to compose shaders – and Open Physics Composer – a tool to create and set up physics environments. They both use COLLADA as their data format and thus can be combined with all th other tools mentioned above.
    One of the points that were mentioned that particularly caught my interest was the possibility of a COLLADA codec that could be implemented on products like the XBOX360 or the Playstation3 or a cellphone. It was brought up on the “Business opportunities” slide, so i don’t think we’ll be seeing this anytime soon, but it’s nice to see it appearing anyway.

    Unfortunately, there was no convincing demo on how you would actually mix a maya rig with a 3DStudio character and apply MoCap data to that (or anything to that extend). The demos shown were simply meshes imported and exported from and to different software packages.

    More talks i might be posting about:

    “We want emotions in games!”, “Eve Online: Space Ships to Avatars”,”Cinematic Game Design”, “Intelligent Believeable Characters”, “the future of games” and finally some Microsoft XNA stuff.


    Comment from Overman
    Time: May 3, 2007, 8:24 am

    Really good stuff, Friedrich, thank you. I find this whole standards-formation process fascinating. In this particular case, it’s very exciting to think about the possibilities which could come from better interoperability between 3d design platforms.

    For those interested, the Khronos site has more info on COLLADA, including the current version of the spec:

    Comment from fiezi
    Time: May 3, 2007, 8:48 am

    ahh, thanks for the link overman, i completely forgot about posting that…

    Comment from rita
    Time: May 3, 2007, 6:20 pm

    The most recent version of COLLADA is 1.4.1 and the standard specifications have been downloaded 800.000 times. From the numbers presented, about 15% of the game developers are actively using the standard to date.

    Am wondering where this 15% comes from… and who came up with that number.

    Comment from michael
    Time: May 3, 2007, 9:21 pm

    We are in the move to Collada basically because of Blender. I still have to get my head around it, really. But I seem to remember that Andrew also is swapping to Blender for his virtual puppetry.

    Comment from erikc
    Time: May 4, 2007, 2:00 am

    and ogre as well..
    have not tried collada in sketchup.. but google earth with future features like animation sounds rather 2nd lifish..or even walk around geomachinima-ish..

    or, one could import them back into blender..

    Comment from Bruno Patatas
    Time: May 7, 2007, 5:19 am

    Hi Friedrich,
    The kind of demos you were looking for can be found in the DVD ‘COLLADA in Production – Next Gen Asset Management’, together with a lot of cool demos and tutorials about COLLADA.

    Best regards,
    Bruno Patatas

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