Away3D: First steps

After a day or so, Away3D turns out to be quite a bit harder to get into than Papervision3D, mainly due to the lack of proper documentation.

The support forums are more of a mailing-list, with a bad searching function and very hard to navigate. Google also only seldomly gives proper results for Away3D problems, one reason being that the mailing-list is mirrored several times by different services, which kinda spams the search results.

And often enough, even if you find tutorials, they’re hopelessly outdated. The strong part of Away3D, its frequent updates, is also one of its larger problems, as methods are replaced frequently with no one documenting their use properly (or at all). Whatever problems you’ve managed to solve when using Papervision3D, Away3D has new ones in store for you…

What’s comparable is the fact that they have a book, in this case “The Essential Guide to 3D in Flash” (quite snotty compared to PV3D’s “Papervision3D Essentials”, haha). I’ll look into it.

Papervision 3D

A while ago I wanted to broaden my horizon and two things came into my mind: Motion Graphics or 3D Modeling. At work I see others doing that frequently and I’m just as frequently awestruck by what those people can accomplish (Well, that feeling is mutual, but you know: the grass on the other side). And then there’s that talk about “Hypernurbs”! Now, if that doesn’t scream Sci-Fi, I don’t know what does.

Despite my best intentions, I failed miserably: I claim to have some basic understanding of both, Motion and 3D, but at the end of the day I’m just a total noob. It took me hours for the most basic things and the prospect of having to waste days and weeks before getting anywhere remotely OK was less than promising.

Cobbler, stick to thy last. For me, interactive and Flash-based 3D is the probably the only proper way to go.

Flash CS4 already provided some basic 3D functionality that Adobe tries to improve, but currently it mostly sucks. Those new motion tweens are already a major pain in the ass, but without z-sorting, cameras and lighting? As they are now, Flash’s internal 3D methods are at best appropriate for online banners. For interactive websites and 3D worlds? Not so much.

Some time ago I’ve already had some first experiences with Papervision3D (a 3D engine for flash) and fiddled with a few of Mr. Doob‘s sources – though what I achieved in the end was more due to endurance than skill. Even getting PV3D to run was already a mess of its own, because there’s still much development going on and different versions vary greatly enough to keep older tutorials and files from running.

Papervision3d Essentials

Without a rich pool of online tutorials found for other technologies, it’s quite hard to get into Papervision3D. Some months ago I was finally recommended the Papervision3D Essentials book, bought it and it’s a bliss. It’s like the missing tutorial you’ve always been looking for: from downloading sources to mere cubes and cones to more advanced problems like performance optimization; everyting is explained comprehensively and in detail (and at thirty-something bucks for both the book and pdf it’s a steal). If someone wants to get into 3D Flash, this is the proper way to start.