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Master Tonberry

Blender COLLADA plug-in

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If you're using Blender you might already know that I am the current maintainer for the COLLADA plug-in. I'm always looking for more people to try the plug-in so I thought I should announce my project here too. The plug-in features import and export of meshes, materials, textures, lights, cameras and scene hierarchy. Project site: http://www.sourceforge.net/projects/colladablender/

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Just curious, any reason you decided to support Collada in Blender? Can't imagine there are many PS3 developers that plan on using Blender for their titles...

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COLLADA is an open XML format and Blender is free so anyone can use it on any system that can parse an XML file and display 3d graphics. It is not exclusive for PS3. I have myself written a collada reader for a third-party engine on PC.

Besides that the idea was to learn more about python and be the first to support the format on Blender. :)

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Quote:
Original post by Master Tonberry
COLLADA is an open XML format and Blender is free so anyone can use it on any system that can parse an XML file and display 3d graphics. It is not exclusive for PS3. I have myself written a collada reader for a third-party engine on PC.


Oh, I'm quite familiar with COLLADA... I presented alongside Sony, Alias and Discreet when they unveiled the format officially at SIGGRAPH 04.

I was more curious if you saw any particular advantages to COLLADA over other well-established 3D formats (OBJ, for example). AFAIK, there's not a well-established XML exchange format, which is unfortunate. I'm not quite convinced COLLADA will become that format unless it's through the shear weight of Sony leaning on the art packages.

It's really a shame, though, when tech folks (like Sony R&D who developed COLLADA) decide to "reinvent the wheel so you don't have to." I may be wrong, but I'm sure there must have been an existing format they could have latched onto and improved rather than creating one more "open and universal" format.

And I'll be honest: the tech groups I've worked with have certainly been just as guilty of this, so I'm not picking on Sony.

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Well my personal experience with COLLADA is that because it uses a XML schema as its specification there is two types of Collada documents. Correct documents or not correct documents. The problem, as I see it, with OBJ, VRML or any other format is that different applications might interpret the data different because the specification is unclear.
In Collada their should be NO non-valid documents. At least in theory. I have had several problem with the existing exporters not outputing valid documents or writing invalid characters.

According to the people at Sony they did go through a lot of research before they decided to make a new format. I guess the research problem was to solve how to exchange content between different DCC now that graphical content is getting larger in production scale. Collada is their answer. I do not think this is a solution that gains Sony but a solution that could gain the entire gaming industry, producing more competition between the consoles, forcing better games, games get higher quality, more money involved, Sony sells more TV. ;)
Collada is proberly also aimed directly at the developers. If they invent a format and make that format "standard" for content creation they might attract more developers to the PS3 if they can say: "Dear Mr. Developer we got all you content data exchange problems solved! Your DCC works with Collada and PS3 have COLLADA support! Release your game on our console."
I bet the format also works as a competition to Microsofts XNA development for their Xbox 360. Sony seems to have shifted their philosophy from their own format for everything, to open-standards for their PS3. Collada is their open-content solution.


Collada is mainly used as an exchange format and for that it works. When I had finished my work on the latest plug-in I exported my Blender scene into collada, imported in Maya and exported the scene again, importing into Blender and everything worked. Moving content between DCC's might be a big issue for many game developers and with collada they could all talk the same language. They could also let artist work with their preferred tool instead of spending money and struggle to write importers for every DCC tool.

But I guess you already heard this from the SIGGRAPH presentation. ;)


Reality check.
More content is being produced and more and better tools are needed for fast content creation. In the long-term nobody wants to reinvent the wheel, and thus use the Collada format for their content needs, but in the short-term everybody is writing new wheels all the time.
"Should I use this long-term saving format when I have two weeks of importing a skinned character from Max although I already have a written importer to my own format used in the previous version of the game?"


Even though the Blender plug-in is mostly aimed for indie development I hope smaller companies, not afraid of using Blender, will consider using it. Collada is great and even though the format is early their is several people working to keep the standard up-to-date with new better versions. Also since the format is open-source I can almost certainly guarantee, much like Sony, that it is here to stay.

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There is now a new version with some minor changes. Hopefully this version will come bundled with the Blender 2.4 release:

+ Export and import of correct camera fov value.
+ Outputs data without any unnecesarry tabs or line breaks.
+ Better texture loading (textures load if they are in the same path as the .dae file).

Download: http://sourceforge.net/projects/colladablender/

Merry Christmas. :)

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