Sketchfab has been the go-to viewing platform for sharing and viewing 3D models since the 3D content distribution website launched back in 2013. Originally their in-browser functionality was limited to embeddable static 3D models for web pages and blogs, but they have been adding new functionality almost constantly and working towards giving users the ability to share their 3D content just about anywhere. Some of their recently added features included the ability to share content directly to social media pages like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as the ability to offer downloadable 3D models using a Creative Commons license.
Back in August Sketchfab started beta testing a new feature that would allow their users to share interactive 3D animations just as easily as the rest of their 3D content. Since the beta test launched, over 1,000 members of the Sketchfab community jumped in and tested the new animation feature to help work out any bugs. The beta testing phase was a huge success, so as of this week the 3D animation feature has now gone live to all Sketchfab users so they can share their 3D animations just as easily as they share their other 3D content.
The new 3D animation feature uses the same WebGL technology as their embeddable 3D viewer, so it is just as easy to upload 3D animations as it is to upload 3D models. There is no longer a need to convince anyone’s social media followers to click to a new website to see their work. And just as with their 3D model viewer, users 3D animations can now be shared on virtually any website or social media page. The Sketchfab 3D animation player is similar to a YouTube player with native controls that allow the viewer to pause or play, and even skip to different parts of the animation. As with the 3D model viewer, the 3D animation can be rotated to be viewed from any angle and zoomed in or out.
The 3D Animation Preview will support several types of animations, including skeleton-based animations, solid animations, and morph target animations. The 3D animation can simulate both movement in space, and movement using a series of scripted actions, so just about any type of animation can be displayed as seamlessly as a video, and all of it is fully manipulatable.The 3D animated model can contain different animation tracks and loop modes, and users can jump between them during viewing.
Users can upload 3D animation files by exporting it as an FBX file and upload it directly to Sketchfab. Users of Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya can use the same Sketchfab 3D content exporter plugins that are already in place, and the company is working on new plugins for more 3D modelling programs. FBX is the most popular 3D animation formats, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get content online, however if anyone needs help with the process Sketchfab has set up an Animation Help Center page that can walk users through the process. Just a warning, if the file being uploaded has multiple animations then they all need to be part of the same FBX file, as the 3D viewer won’t support multiple FBX animation files, controller files, or point caches.
A 3D animation preview feature has probably been one of the Sketchfab community’s most requested features since the site launched, making this new functionality perfect for 3D modellers and animators to spice up their online portfolios. It also allows examples of video game animations or features to be previewed without needing to actually launch the game, and because Sketchfab already supports VR headsets, users can upload 3D animations viewable with the latest Virtual Reality technology. You can find out what the rest of the Sketchfab community thinks about this new feature on the discussion forums, and check out a gallery of the beta testers 3D animations here. What are your thoughts on these new features? Let us know in the Sketchfab Animation forum thread on 3DPB.com