Towards the Next Generation of 3D Visualization


I love Flash – I’ve been using it for years and know most of it’s tricks. Now with papervision and away3D we have a some nice 3D APIs. While these are great, 3D in Flash is seriously lacking in rendering power. Once you throw a few hundred simple 3D shapes on the stage, your frame rate starts to plummet.

Flash is still the best choice for ubiquitous interaction on the web, but for 3D graphics, there are some better alternatives. Please note that I am not lobbying for native 3D graphic card support inside Flash (that didn’t work out too well for shockwave).

From my research so far, 2 of the most interesting apps for creating next-gen realtime 3D graphics are processing and vvvv.


Processing has been around for a while and is gaining traction as a 3D visualization tool. Processing is free and cross-platform. The flickr processing pool shows the kind of stuff you can build with it. Since Sun updated the java preloader graphic to be cool and orange, we might even start seeing some all processing websites.

proccessing IDE

I’ve resisted learning processing for a while, but when Robert Hodgin generously released some of his source code I had the motivation to download and try it out. Surprisingly, processing comes with a nice, lightweight IDE. Each project is a sketch which is basically a folder containing simple text files. Processing has a number of libraries and examples for handling 3D graphics.

Lennyjpg is creating some beautiful work with processing:


As is Flight404:


vvvv is a ‘toolkit for real time video synthesis’. It’s a crazy app built by some crazy german people. The tutorials are written with typical deadpan teutonic humor. It’s currently windows-only and free. Jitter is a similar cross-platform app.

The concept of vvvv’s UI is ‘patches’. Modules are laid out in a 2D space and patched together with virtual wires. The beauty of this paradigm is that there is no compilation – results are rendered in realtime as you tweak the patches. Since I come from a textual programming background I find this to be quite baffling, but maybe it’s good to have your head turned around now and again.


Desaxismundi has been creating some fantastically beautiful pieces using vvvvv such as this deconstructed sphere:

and these:



4 Responses

  1. nanodust says:

    don’t dismiss blender.

    blender is awesome, fully integrated modelling environment & game engine, can do glsl shaders, all is python scriptable – from vertex mod to animation & generative behavior.

    furthermore, it exports to native executable – and is inherently cross platform (win32, osx, linux).

    vvv is neat, but as it’s windows-based, it is sadly uninteresting.

    furthemore, there is little that can be done in VVV that cannot be done in PD & GEM.

  2. David says:

    I love the article and have been following the developments regarding the Flash move into 3D. However, there is already a very capably web-based 3D player environment that can handle very high-res 3D scenes through a web browser. You should check out the player and experiences over at 3DVIA (shameless plug I know).

    Try either the rollecoaster or pyramid experience (requires plugin) on this page:

    It was built with our Virtools technology. If you are into 3D modeling, you can also check out one of the user generated 3D models site – click on the PLAY button on any model and you will get a real-time rendering of that model.

  3. Flickr 3D…

    Es ist schon erstaunlich, was man mit ein wenig Flash heute alles machen kann ….

  4. […] Towards the Next Generation of 3D Visualization: Airtight Interactive reviews a couple alternatives to Flash, specifically for 3D Visualization, Processing and vvvv. With links to some amazing work being done by Flight 404 and Lennyjpg. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *