We've Moved

The blog has been retired - it's up for legacy reasons, but these days I'm blogging at blog.theodox.com. All of the content from this site has been replicated there, and that's where all of the new content will be posted. The new feed is here

Friday, January 3, 2014

First find of 2014: A Scriptable DCC app in the browser?!?!

Just stumbled across this link to clara.io, which is an in-browser 3D editor from Ecocortex, one of the vendors behind the Alembic file format. It's a 3d modeler that runs in a browser.  And it's free.


And look at the bottom - a script console!

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, beyond totally wicked. I'm not going to try to review clara here - I just found it today, after all, but it's such an interesting find that I can't help but comment.

The UI is a riff on familiar ideas, so it's easy to pick up for any TA, or for that matter anybody with more than a passing familiarity with the usual suspects. It doesn't break any new ground in productivity or ease of use - but that doesn't bother me in this context. Like the dog that walks on it's hind legs, it's not done perfectly but one is surprised to see it done at all.  This is, after all running in a browser. Yikes.

The app is still kind of wet behind the ears - it feels a trifle slow (some kinds of UI operations seem to trigger a perceptible refresh in all of the 3d views, for example). There are host of poly modeling tools -- notably booleans -- that Max/Maya users will miss pretty quickly.  All that said - the idea of running a zero-configuration, instantly deployable app from anywhere -- a tool you could be sure was the same for your outsources in Bangkok and on your own desktop right now -- along with inherent cloud data management?  The ability to run remote commands via web push commands, so you could set up a That is beyond just a curiosity. This app doesn't suddenly obsolete Max or Maya or XSI, but it might be the first rumblings of a big change in how things get done.  As a side benefit, it's got a several different file IO options and could perhaps make as decent waystation for people crossing product boundaries.

The TA who immediately asks "what scripting language" will be pleased to note that there's a script console down at the bottom; unsurprisingly for a web app the scripting language is JavaScript.  JS may not be my favorite language -- by a long shot-- but it's the natural language of the web. Most importantly, the scripting system makes it fairly easy to extend the application by writing your own plugins: this example on their website shows how to make an OBJ importer.

Most important of all, though -- did I mention this? -- it's a browser app. Which means you can so things like this:

Which, you must admit, scores pretty well on the Gee-Whiz scale.
Overall, this is a really excellent developmnt. The 3d market has been painfully sluggish for a decade now - we've got better bells and whistles but on the whole we still work in 2014 more or less the away we worked in 2004.  We need new companies with fresh ideas to shake up this market.  We also need to embrace web development as a part of how we build tools.  This is a big step in the right direction and we should do what we can to help it along.