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ATPM 3.08
August 1997



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Art Department

by Jamal Ghandour,

3D in Infini-D

I apologize to those readers who wrote to recommend that I write a little more about file exchange formats. I just received your e-mails a tad too late. However, I promise to do it as soon as possible. I do want to thank those of you who took the time to write in. As always, you really do boost our moral.

This month I decided to do that 3D section I have been promising for ages. I will try to explain what 3D really is and how it works.

[3D graphic]

3D means three dimensions, where a dimension represents either width, height or depth (known as x, y, z in 3D terms). That means that an object must have x, y, and z coordinates to be present in space. Shocking as it might sound, 3D can exist only in real life. You ask, “How do we see 3D objects rotating on the web?” Well, the reason is simple. Programmers have devised a optical illusion technique that makes users think they’re seeing 3D, called rendering.

Rendering is a procedure that casts colors, shadows and highlights on objects to make them appear three-dimensional. If you have trouble believing this, try to approach the idea this way: can you see how deep the object is on the screen? Of course not. That’s because screens are capable of projecting in only two-dimensions: x and y. Most amazing is that today’s 3D software can calculate not just colors, shadows and highlights, but goes farther and calculates shininess, reflections, refractions, transparency, metallicity, and even glow!

If you still don’t believe me, look at this two-dimensional circle and see that, by adding some simple shadows and highlights, it magically becomes a sphere. [3D2 graphic]

Types of Rendering

Although rendering is a global technique, there are many types; the most common of which are: wireframe, fast, better, best, phong and raytracing. Here's a summary of how they differ:

[table graphic]
Higher numbers denote higher quality and longer rendering time.

[methods graphic]

Tip: In the beginning, work in wireframe mode, then slowly advance into more time-consuming rendering modes as you approach the final stages of your model. This will save you much time in producing 3D scenes. [alias graphic]

I am sure you have heard of this before, because this procedure is also used by non-3D programs, such as Adobe Photoshop. Anti-aliasing smoothes by subtly blurring rough edges of shapes. It is used vigorously in 3D because most rendering modes leave rough edges behind.


With an array of rendering and anti-alaising techniques, modern software produces very convincing 3D scenes. It can also achieve 3D animation by calculating scenes in frames. It certainly takes much time, patience and effort, but the results are certainly worth it. Examples of high-end 3D computer art in action are films like Terminator 2, Independence Day, Toy Story, and even Walt Disney’s Hunchback of Notredame.

I hope that, by now, you have a better idea about 3D. Please, don’t hesitate to send me any inquires, problems or even requests you might have regarding graphic design.

[apple graphic] Copyright © 1997 Jamal Ghandour, Jamal Ghandour, is a “Senior Graphic Designer” and “Computer Section Manager” at CSS & GREY(Kuwait). He also works as “Creative Art Director” at Swiftel international communications.

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Reader Comments (1)

Yenny Virginia Barrios · August 26, 2003 - 17:12 EST #1
Excellent! I am very interested in Infini-D.

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