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Blender dropping COLLADA support


Masami Kuramoto
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Nalates Urriah wrote:

If they change over to FBX, that shouldn't be too big a deal.

It might actually be a bigger deal than you'd think, for a few reasons:

First, FBX is not open source, like COLLADA is.  It's owned by Autodesk, lock, stock, and barrel.  Autodesk does offer it for free, but still, usage is subject to Autodesk's licensing terms.  I'm not sure LL would want to step into that. 

Second, I don't know that it would make any sense at all for them to switch formats, just because one modeling program out of dozens MIGHT drop official support.  Granted, Blender is popular, but there are more than enough viable alternatives.  What if they did switch to FBX, and then the Blender people decided to drop that, too?  Should they switch again?

Third, I'm not sure if this really matters, since I'm guessing that by the time a model becomes an SL asset, it's no longer a COLLADA file anyway, but just in case it does matter, perhaps we should note that FBX does not support data streaming, whereas COLLADA does.

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Vivienne Schell wrote:


Why did SL go for collada and not something common like obj?

Because Linden Lab apparently wanted to avoid tenthousand DMCA´s and probable injunctions.

How so?  There's nothing in the COLLADA format (or any format) that would prevent anyone from pirating models, not in any way, shape, or form. 

Plenty of commercially available models are offered in COLLADA format, right from the source.  Anybody could illegally redistribute those in SL without even needing to do any conversions.

As for models ripped from video games, most game assets are in proprietary formats, unique to whatever game they're in, or at least unique to the company that made the game. Before those could be made usable in any environment other than the game they came from, they'd need to be converted to another format.  COLLADA is no different from any other choice, in this respect.

In any case, the ripping point for models is usually the graphics buffer, rather than the source files, since that's where the raw geometry and textures are exposed, so there's no need to worry about the source formatting at all.  From there, the data can easily (and illegally) be written into literally any target file format.  Once again, COLLADA is no different from any other format, in this respect.

If the potential litigation you're talking about is not in regard to models, but rather to LL's potential use of proprietary file formatting systems without permission of the rightful owners, that's a non-issue.  LL would never do that.

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You may be right there, technically, but if someone asks for  more "common" formats like "onj", this someone has a reason. The reason is that - apart from the Google Warehouse - most of the objects on the web are in "obj" format. And most of these "obj" files are either ripped or distributed under a sctrict "no transfer" license. For the average non-nerd wannabe ripper  converting such stuff into collada isn´t such an easy task at all. And remember that out of the currently 40,000 logged in users maybe 400 know what the hell  "Blender" is. But everyone can type "free 3D" into google search and get a zillion download links to "obj" files, which are either ripped or..., you know.

I am pretty sure that Linden Lab executives were pretty aware of the risk, and they still are and should be more than ever before with the Protect IP Act on the way. Picking some not sooo popular format certainly was not only a techie decision, imho. It slows down things - a bit at least.

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Vivienne Schell wrote:

if someone asks for  more "common" formats like "onj", this someone has a reason.

Of course.  But I doubt it's the reason you seem to think.  More likely, it's simply because the person who asked the question is familiar with OBJ, but unfamiliar with COLLADA. 

The notion that COLLADA is itself uncommon is just plain false.  It's in widespread use.  Granted, there are a lot more OBJ files in the world today than COLLADA files, but that's just because OBJ has been around since the 80's, while COLLADA has only been around since 2005.  A twenty year headstart by anything is going to leave a significant stockpile in its wake.  But that says nothing about what is or isn't in common use right now.

Also, your interpreation that the person "asked for" OBJ does not appear to be accurate.  As worded, it was simply a request for information on why LL made the particular choice they did.  Nothing in the question suggested in any way that the asker was seeking a different option. 

I'm sure you'd agree that if a person were to ask, "Why is the sky blue instead of green?" that wouldn't mean they actually want the sky to turn green.  It would just mean they want an explanation of why things are the way they are.  Asking why LL chose COLLADA instead of OBJ is no different.

That said, I'm no more qualified to speak to the asker's intent than you are.  If there is indeed more to it than just the actual wording of the question itself, as you suggest, then the asker is free to come back and say so.  Until then, I think it's best not to read anything more into it than what was specifically said.

 


Vivienne Schell wrote:

The reason is that - apart from the Google Warehouse - most of the objects on the web are in "obj" format.

Again, I'll say be cautious about assuming other people's reasons.  From just the question itself, there's no way to determine that the why behind it is the one you're suggesting.  I could come up with a thousand other posible why's.  I'd rather not do that, though.  It makes more sense just to deal with what was specifically said, and not assume anything more.

As for your assertion that the majority of models avaiable on the web are in OBJ format, that's just not true. There are a lot of OBJ's out there, sure, but they're not "most of the objects on the web".

Most 3D model marketplace sites sell their models in whatever format their vendor artists choose to deliver them.  That's usually the native format of whatever program each artist happens to use (.max, .3DS, .ma, etc.).  Sometimes in-between formats like OBJ, FBX, COLLADA, etc., will also be included, but not always.  Beyond that, some sites, like TurboSquid, offer conversion sevice, to whatever format the buyer wants.

More specialized sites, like DAZ offer their wares in the format that works best with their own software, such as PZ2 and DSF.  If you want anything beyond that, you need to export it yourself.

 

 


Vivienne Schell wrote:

And most of these "obj" files are either ripped or distributed under a sctrict "no transfer" license.

If there's some huge cache of ripped models somewhere that just happen to be in OBJ format, I'm not aware of it.  As for licensed models, sure, most won't be resellable in SL, at least not legally.  But that's got nothing to do with formatting.

 


Vivienne Schell wrote:

For the average non-nerd wannabe ripper  converting such stuff into collada isn´t such an easy task at all.

Sure it is.  It's certainly no harder than converting to OBJ. There are all kinds of converters avaialable, some of which require no knowledge of 3D modeling whatsoever.  I'd rather not get into specifics, for obvious reasons, but if someone has the ability to rip a model, choosing any particular target file format isn't exactly going to be rocket science to them.

 

 


Vivienne Schell wrote:

And remember that out of the currently 40,000 logged in users maybe 400 know what the hell  "Blender" is.

OK, so the vast majority of users aren't creators.  That's just a given.  What's your point, exactly?

The vast majority of users also aren't pirates.  Out of those 400 who know what Blender is, I'd say maybe 4 would ever consider stealing someone else's work.  Out of the other 39,600 who don't know anything about 3D modeling, I would assume maybe a dozen or so might consider piracy, if they happen to stumble across a complete and total no-brainer way to do it.

File format has virtually nothing to do with any of that.

 


Vivienne Schell wrote:

But everyone can type "free 3D" into google search and get a zillion download links to "obj" files, which are either ripped or..., you know.

Have you tried that yourself?  I just did.  Want to know what came up?  Here it is:

 

  • The very first link they'll find is to Blender.org, so if anyone does as you suggest, the number aware of Blender will instantly go up from 400 to 401. ;)
  • Second is 3dmodelfree.com, which offers only .max files, from what I can see. 
  • Next is archive3D.net, which offers mostly .3ds and .gsm files, nary an OBJ to be found.
  • After the above is a link to a listing of 3D marketplace sites, which I won't bother citing, since we've already talked about those.
  • Next is Panda3D, a free game engine. 
  • After that is free3D.org, an informational resource about graphics hardware. 
  • Next is artist-3D.com, which offers models in mostly .3ds and .max format, with just a handful of others thrown in here and there.  You have to look pretty hard to find OBJ's.
  • Moving on from there, we have anim8or.com, followed by artivice.com, both of which offer software, not models.
  • After those comes rocky3D.com, which says it offers free .3ds models, but all the links seem to be broken, so that one's a total dead end.  Even if the links worked, though, it doesnt' look like OBJ's are on the menu.
  • After that, the first page ends with a link to "news for free 3D", followed by sponsor links to the Nintendo 3DS eShop, Autodesk's download page for 3DS Max trial, and some sort of 3D screensaver site.

Need I go on to page 2?

 


Vivienne Schell wrote:

I am pretty sure that Linden Lab executives were pretty aware of the risk, and they still are and should be more than ever before with the Protect IP Act on the way.

The risk of piracy is why LL chose to require payment info on file for anyone who wants to upload models, so they have means to identify offenders.  That's got nothing to do with file format.  There's no greater or lesser risk in this regard with any format as opposed to any other.  I'm sorry to have to say it, but the implication that there could be is simply ludicrous.

As for the PRPOTECT IP Act, it may or may not be "on the way".  It's still just a bill at this point.  Hopefully, it won't become law.  But whether it does or it doesn't, the presence or absence of OBJ support in SL won't change anything.

 

 


Vivienne Schell wrote:

Picking some not sooo popular format certainly was not only a techie decision, imho. It slows down things - a bit at least.

It doesnt' slow anything down at all.  It necessetates one extra click, at most.  That same click would be necessary, even with OBJ support in SL, since there are literally millions of models in the world that are not presently offered in that particular format.

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Nalates Urriah wrote:

I have put an agenda item in the Mesh/Content UG. Be interesting to hear what the Lindens think.

If they change over to FBX, that shouldn't be too big a deal.

I'm an avid lover and supporter of all things Blender. But, even I think it is a bit much to expect LL to drop Collada for FBX at this point. Frankly, this Collada issue with Blender has nothing to do with LL.  It's a problem that will have to be solved by the programmers in the community. Thankfully, it seems like Domino is already on the case.

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Ashasekayi Ra wrote:

Frankly, this Collada issue with Blender has nothing to do with LL.  It's a problem that will have to be solved by the programmers in the community. Thankfully, it seems like Domino is already on the case.


 

Fixing the Collada exporter for Second Life isn't hard, but Blender's troubles with the format won't end there. Collada's interoperability track record is lousy, and that's not because of bugs. It's because the format specification isn't strict enough. It makes little sense to maintain a C++ version of the exporter in the main branch that works only for a few target platforms.

Going forward, I guess the solution is multiple versions of the exporter, each implementing a subset of Collada for a particular target. Fortunately, SL's requirements are rather simple. We don't need support for animations, morph targets, Bézier curves, Nurbs, advanced materials, physics and all the other advanced Collada features.

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There seems to be a tendency where all this is going to end. But this is just from all i could find out today. Nothing decided, only ideas:

 

  1. create an Exporter that supports all what Blender supports (and what can be expressed with Collada).
  2. create an Importer which can reimport what the exporter has exported.
  3. From there add specific transformers for the individual target platforms (first for export, later for import if applicable)

Of course this is nothing that can be done over night. Also nobody says that 1. 2. 3. will be made sequentially.

Actually it is not yet clear if we will see the whole Collada support reimplemented, or the current issues fixed. As far as i understand, both approaches seem to have pros and cons and the experts are still investigating which approach is the better one to go.

But at least there is a remarkable amount of activity going on and it is also not yet decided if the current Collada exporter will realy be kicked or not. So i personally am very confident that we will not get lost at all, where ever this will endup.

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Do not say that :)

Masami's idea and my SL Collada addon just work with what we have in Blender 2.59 and newer. So all is (almost) well, except that we have to fight  for keeping Collada where it belongs: in the list of supported formats for Blender :)

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