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Shockwave-3D Exporter

Arrow Exporting Shockwave 3D (W3D) Files

Shockwave is a WEB streaming file format that can be played back into an (estimated) 300 million Shockwave-enabled WEB browsers. The Shockwave file and its contents are most often authored in a software package called "Director" by Macromedia (now owned by Adobe).

This export converter will convert 3D content into an Adobe Director .w3d file. The conversion process is shown in the following diagram:

  • The original 3D content is imported into Okino's NuGraf or PolyTrans software, or alternatively into PolyTrans-for-MAX or PolyTrans-for-Maya.
  • The 3D content is exported to the Director .w3d file format via the Okino Shockwave-3D exporter.
  • The .w3d file is imported into Adobe Director where it is added to a Director "movie" as a cast member.
  • A "Shockwave" movie is published from the user interface of Adobe Director.
  • The Shockwave" movie (.dir extension) is placed on a WEB server and allowed to be viewed from the Internet via a WEB browser which has the Shockwave player installed.

NOTE: This export converter does not export or publish a Shockwave movie directly. It exports a .w3d file which is the 3D asset (content) data. This .w3d file must be loaded into Director for further publishing. Alternatively, you can create a special Director movie which will allow .w3d files to be loaded from a WEB browser into the movie for display.

Features of this .w3d Export Converter:

  • Mesh output with vertex normals and uv texture coordinates.
  • Materials with all .w3d supported attributes.
  • Default camera.
  • Lights with all supported .w3d parameters.
  • Texture maps for the diffuse, luminous and reflective channels.


  • You will probably find that the export process is very slow, or extremely slow, for moderate sized models. This is the time taken by the Intel compression algorithm on the raw geometry and is not under control of Okino software.

  • Very tiny triangles can cause the Intel core compression library to crash. This is/was a known problem with the core Shockwave-3D code. This might occur if you are importing from a CAD model that uses small units; in this case ask the CAD importer to pre-scale the scene by 1000 units.

A Short and Current History of the Shockwave-3D File Format:

There has been much publicity about the Shockwave-3D file format (.w3d) but little publicized history. Understanding where Shockwave-3D (and its newer brother U3D, which was derived from .w3d)) fits into the global scope of other 3D file formats is best understood through its history.

  • In the late 90's Intel's 3D Architecture Lab and a small group of developers created the "IFX Toolkit v1" and soon thereafter the "IFX Toolkit v2". From the published papers of that time, and the structure of the IFX toolkit, it was mainly targeted at game developers who needed to deal with highly compressed, low polygon count mesh models, including skeletons and bones deformation. Technically, the IFX toolkit was and still is an excellent toolkit for 3D games development and for WEB streaming of 3D models. Portions of the IFX toolkit were sold through Digimation for a period of time as the Toon RT SDK and MultiRes SDK, among others. Some of the interesting aspects of the IFX Toolkit, which are still used today for U3D file support, is its "modifier pipeline" on each mesh object, and multi-resolution technology and deformation via skeletons.

  • In the summer of 2000 Intel and Macromedia announced that they would collaborate to bring the Intel 3D technology to the masses as an integrated component of the very popular Shockwave player. New content would be authored in 3D programs which first exported "Shockwave-3D .w3d" files, then the .w3d files which would then be turned into Shockwave playable files via staging and further re-export from Macromedia Director 8.5.

  • Almost every major 3D company bought into the idea of exporting their 3D content to the .w3d file format, for the desired purpose of streaming their 3D data quickly across the Internet to the large installed user base of Shockwave players. Considerable development effort, enthusiasm and marketing was invested in these custom Shockwave-3D exporters and related support software in each major 3D animation product, including Okino's own software products. Okino developed its Shockwave-3D exporter in the fall of 2000.

  • However, just as quickly as the enthusiasm for the Shockwave-3D file format grew, it just as quickly petered out in 2001 and 2002. This coincided with the Internet Bubble implosion, as well as the general industry consensus that little "big money" could be made by WEB streaming of 3D asset data across the Internet. Many companies either went out of business, changed their directions or began to downplay 3D WEB streaming as their primary reason-to-be. Development from Macromedia appeared to stop at that point on the Shockwave-3D file format as did contact with the development team at Macromedia. Most 3D companies eventually dropped or stopped supporting the Shockwave-3D file format.

  • Not to let good technology go unused, Intel and several major vendors created the "CAD 3D Working Group" in July 2002, as part of the Web 3D Consortium, to create a technical standard that would let furniture designers, car manufacturers and other companies post their CAD drawings to the Web, as well as permit software developers to create standardized software browsers that will let customers read those images.

  • However, unspoken reasons caused Intel and a select number of companies to break free of the "CAD 3D Working Group" in October 2003 and create the new "3D Industry Forum". Rather than base the desired universal 3D format on the more extensive and well defined Web 3D Consortium's X3D file format, it was instead based on the Intel IFX v2.0 toolkit and its native 3D file format (previously utilized as the Shockwave .w3d format). This would become the now-known "U3D" file format. Intel open sourced the IFX v2 toolkit and allowed it to become the SDK for software developers to create U3D importers and exporters.

  • Since the 2002 era not much, if anything, has been done to the Shockwave-3D file format after the Macromedia development team stopped working on it. In 2008 Director v11 was published by Adobe, but with the same level of 2002-era support for the Shockwave-3D file format.

  • As a final note, Okino would go on to spend several years writing its full featured U3D import and export converters, but no additional work has been done on the Shockwave-3D exporter after the fall of 2000 due to no further support or changes from Macromedia on its .w3d SDK. It is hoped that future version of Adobe Director will add support for more modern and up-to-date file formats such as Collada.

More 'General' Dialog Box Options

The "Main/General" panel controls the compression of the exported data, the preview options and which data items are exported into the Shockwave-3D palettes.

Compression Quality

The Shockwave-3D .w3d file format uses what is known as "lossy" data compression in order to convert large 3D data files into much smaller files for transmission across the Internet. "Lossy" means that the quality of the model, or of the texture maps, are degraded in order to achieve better data compression. These sliders control the degree of compression.


This slider controls the degree of geometry compression. Lower values result in a coarser model, while higher values (towards the right side) result in higher quality models. The default value is 25.


This slider controls the degree of texture image compression. Lower values result in a fuzzier texture images, while higher values (towards the right side) result in sharper texture images. The default value is 50.

Preview .w3d scene after export

If this checkbox is enabled then a preview window (of the X and Y resolution shown on the dialog box) will appear. You can then rotate, pan and dolly around the scene using these mouse and keyboard settings:


CTRL + left click + drag = dolly
CTRL + SHIFT + left click + drag = dolly faster


left click + drag = rotate around the world Z axis
Y + left click + drag = rotate aound the world Y axis


SPACE + left click + drag = pan

Shockwave 3D Resources to Export

Shockwave-3D .w3d files are structured as repositories of "resource" data. The following options control which data elements are output to these repositories.

Mesh Geometry

Polygon mesh geometry is output to the .w3d file.


Material definitions are output to the .w3d file.

Texture maps

Texture maps are output to the .w3d file.


Lights are output to the .w3d file.

More 'Materials' Dialog Box Options

Enable Texture Images (embed within .w3d file)

If this option is enabled (checkmarked) then any texture images referenced by the exported data will be embedded directly within the Shockwave-3D .w3d file; the image will be compressed based on the "Texture Compression" slider of the previous panel. If this checkbox is disabled then no texture maps will be output.

X & Y Resolution

These drop-down combo boxes control the resolution (size) of the bitmap images embedded within the Shockwave-3D .w3d files. In general you should set these to "Closest" which will increase the texture image sizes so that their X and Y resolutions are both a power of 2 (64, 128, 256, 512, etc).

Multiply Colors by Material Shading Coefficients

The Shockwave-3D renderer only accepts raw color information for the diffuse, ambient, specular and luminous shading channels. In many 3D renderers they would also accept what are called "shading coefficients" which act as intensity controls of these corresponding colors. For example, a diffuse shading coefficient of 0.5 would reduce the intensity of the diffuse color in the shading calculations by 50%. Internally within the PolyTrans/NuGraf database each color has its own corresponding shading coefficient.

If you enable this option then the internal shading coefficients will be multiplied into their corresponding colors before being exported to the Shockwave-3D .w3d file. You should enable this if the exported file appears too bright or the shading on the models appear "washed out". Otherwise, keep it disabled.

Material Color Intensity Multipliers

These 4 type-in values allow you to change the overall intensity of the diffuse, specular, ambient and luminous colors exported to the .w3d file. Values greater than 1.0 will make the colors brighter while values between 0.0 and 1.0 will make the colors darker. If the model appears too dark then try using a diffuse scaling value from 1.1 to 2.0 (as a ball park figure). If the model appears too bright then try using a diffuse scaling value of 0.7 (for example).