Open Source 3D Graphics Programs

twak.jpg

image CC licence Attribution 2.0 Generic by Twak on Flickr (after Escher's Tower of Babel)

3D graphics can be used to model people, objects or scenes in 3D, for simulations, to create textures for other objects, animation, video and special effects and creating 3D interactives or to "populate" game applications.

They are increasingly being used to make objects, buildings and people in virtual worlds or the "real" world with 3D printers.

Once in an animation package or virtual world you can make movies called Machinima (http://www.machinima.com a mix between Machine and Cinema ) or use them as objects in game design.You can construct walkthroughs of environments or make scientific models that help simluate biological processes - the list is endless.

What was once the province of the specialist game or movie makers years ago is now well within reach of the ordinary teacher and student and what is more these tools are, in the main, free.

Open GL licence

Most Open Source 3D graphics programs use what is called an Open GL licence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenGL) that allows developers to use and reuse the code to build, use and adapt new programs. For the Copyright and IPR data content on models please see the Copyright and IPR Considerations section.

Levels of difficulty

Open Source 3D graphics programs can be a steep learning curve at first but the more you download and use them, the easier and faster your workflow becomes over time.

It does help to have a little knowledge about file extensions and file conversion to begin with as many of the programs listed here output files that can be used in other paint and film packages.

Fortunately there are a great number of multimodal learning tutorials on the web to help. You may question the provenance or the effectiveness of such materials but, generally, the community involving in making and consuming these resources tend to act as informal peer reviewers and, in essence, there is nowhere to hide if a resource or piece of knowledge is not up to scratch.