If you have followed me for a time, you know that I have been mentioning a MATERIALS SYTEM RUMOR. Today the Lab announced that indeed there is a Materials Project. So, what will our world look like with materials? Check out the 2min video.
If the video is still showing as unavailable use this link: Youtube
OK… every one else can display the video and my site won’t… I suppose I need a plugin change.
I think this is pretty awesome. We’ll be using this on buildings and CLOTHES… oh damn, SHOES too. /Me dances looking at my feet and thinking about new shoes.
If you followed the link and are wondering why the announcement bears a title about ‘Performance’, that is because a materials system is used in the 3D modeling world to enhance performance.
Performance in 3D virtual worlds is all about how fast a computer can draw polygons and apply texture. The trick in building 3D virtual worlds is how to get a level of detail to make things look real without using a high number of polygons.
To see the SL polygons, press Ctrl-Alt-R or look at the image above.
To get more detail with fewer polygons professional systems use Normal and Specular Maps. If you have played with building sculpties you understand the idea behind a Normal Map. To explain what it does, I’ll start with what one looks like and an image of what it does.
Image nmap is from 3D Kingdoms Tutorial – If you are into math, this is the tutorial for you. It is for programmers rather than artists building models.
The bluish Normal Map or NMap is what Blender and several other 3D modeling programs would generate. Like a sculpty map where the color tell the system where to put vertices, the NMap’s colors tell the system how to deform a polygons surface… or more accurately how to reflect light from the polygon.
The difference between a sculpty and an object using an NMap is the sculpty uses a vertex for each pixel in the map. So, lots of vertices and polygons. The sculpty map actually arranges the vertices.
A polygon with an NMap is still just one polygon and 3 vertices. But it looks like way more. So, for way more detail in a model it requires less data be manipulated and renders faster.
The result for Second Life is the detail in everything is going to explode.
Specular Maps are about light too. They give us the visual clues as to whether some thing is shiny or dull… semi-glossy. Glass and brick texture is obvious to us before we touch them because of the way light reflects off of them. Specular Maps handle that look in 3D worlds. Some call them Gloss Maps.
Following me you have probably hear me on about a rumor of a material system. This is the rumor turning into a real project. See the Linden announcement here: New Open Source Project to Improve Graphics Rendering Performanc
The project is a mix of Third Party Developer and Linden Lab effort. The Exodus Viewer Team is handling the viewer side of the development and the Lab is working on the server side of the project.
I imagine that like sculpty prims have a second texture, the map, so too will objects using Normal and Specular Maps. But, that is a guess on my part. We’ll soon see.
Watch the Snowstorm Viewer page to see when a Project Viewer comes out. At least that is the page I’ve been told to watch. I advise watching the Second Life Alternate Viewers page too. Most project viewers appear there.
This is an exciting development, at least for me. I think it is the other half of the ‘Mesh’ coin that will transform the appearance of Second Life. I also think this adds a significant chunk of 3D modeling that professional modelers have missed.