Lighting Bitmaps in Papervision

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This is a technical article explaining how to code a light source into your Papervision 3D scene. Papervision is an open source 3d library for the Flash platform.

Lighting in Papervision is a very useful tool. It helps add realism to your 3D project. Often times, you will have a scene or 3D objects that have textures on them using bitmaps. You can easily add lighting effects to these textures.

First you’ll need to add the following import statements:
import org.papervision3d.lights.PointLight3D;
import org.papervision3d.materials.shaders.PhongShader;
import org.papervision3d.materials.shaders.ShadedMaterial;

Phong Shading is a set of 3D rendering techniques which includes a model for reflecting light onto surfaces. It was invented by Bui Tuong Phong at the University of Utah, who published them in his 1973 Ph.D. dissertation.

Where you set up your scene, just create a light source
light = new PointLight3D();

In the part where you create your 3D objects that you want to light, you will create a PhongShader based on the light source and a ShadedMaterial based on your BitmapMaterial and your PhongShader. Please note that it HAS to be a BitmapMaterial and not a BitmapFileMaterial.

var earthBitmap:Bitmap = new earthAsset() as Bitmap;
var mat:BitmapMaterial = new BitmapMaterial(earthBitmap.bitmapData, true);

// create a shader using the light source
var phongShader:PhongShader = new PhongShader(light, 0xFFFFFF, 0x000000, 10);

// create the material based on the Phong shader
var phongShaderMat:ShadedMaterial = new ShadedMaterial(mat, phongShader);

globe = new Sphere(phongShaderMat, 200, 20, 20);

view.scene.addChild( globe );

The project source code is available for download here.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Using a WiiMote to Control an X-Wing


I spent this afternoon putting together a quick demo for my Rich Internet Interfaces Beyond Mice and Keyboards talk I’m giving at the DePaul University iTea Seminar tomorrow. The example is a simple one that illustrates using a WiiMote as an interface to controlling a 3D model. This can be easily used as a game control and or more general UI control. I believe it is a more natural way to interface with 3D elements navigating in 3D space and can be generalized to let people more intuitively navigate through and interface with software such as the operating system. After a few hours of looking for the WiiMote, charging it and some coding, I’ve put together this simple demo:

I can’t claim credit for putting together code to display a 3D X-Wing. I’m not interested in that. I quickly found what I was looking for here: – the source code repository for PaperVision – the open source 3D engine for Flash. At the very bottom there’s sample code for displaying a 3D X-Wing.

First things first, you will need the WiiFlashServer that interfaces the WiiMote with your Mac. That code and supporting documentation can be found here: There are 2 pieces to the puzzle here. The WiiFlashServer which listens to the WiiMote and sends messages to your app and the WiiFlash Actionscript API which can receive those messages.

Once you download the Actionscript API and put that in your project directory, include it in your application:

import org.wiiflash.Wiimote;

var wiimote:Wiimote;

Initialize the Wiimote like so:

wiimote = new Wiimote();
wiimote.addEventListener( Event.CONNECT, onWiimoteConnect );


The only thing we really have to do now is to use the pitch, yaw and roll values of the WiiMote and use them to control the X-Wing, like so:

function handleFrames(e:Event):void
var rotX = 0;
var rotY = 0;
var rotZ = 0;

if (!isNaN(wiimote.roll))
rotX = wiimote.roll/Math.PI * 180;

if (!isNaN(wiimote.yaw))
rotZ = wiimote.yaw/Math.PI * 180;

if (!isNaN(wiimote.pitch))
rotY = wiimote.pitch/Math.PI * 180;

// no easing - animation too jagged
//group.rotationX = -rotY;
////group.rotationY = rotZ;
//group.rotationZ = -rotX;

// added easing to smoothen motion
group.rotationX += ( -rotY - group.rotationX) / EASING;
group.rotationZ += ( -rotX - group.rotationZ) / EASING;

You can see from the code there’s a section I commented out. You can use the raw WiiMote values to feed to the X-Wing directly but I found that the values can be jumpy and discreet causing the X-Wing to turn and move with a lot of jitter. I added a simple easing function to make the movements smoother.

As you can see, it’s not rocket science. With a little bit more work, we can easily add other controls like button presses to control the firing of the X-Wing.

Here’s the link to the source if you’re interested. Thanks for watching.

Popularity: 5% [?]

3D Earth with Head Tracking


Here’s a demo that illustrates my ideas on computer human interaction. Instead of controlling the movement of a 3D globe through the mouse and keyboard, why not move your head to look around the globe. You’ll need a webcam for this demo to work.

Side to side motion works pretty well. Up and down is a little iffy.

Moving around to see what’s on the other side is a much more natural and intuitive human behavior than say pressing some computer keys to change perspective of an object. I believe that as computers become more powerful and more and more people have to interact with them in their daily lives, computer scientists will have to design systems and software that provide a more natural user interface (nui) than what we currently have.

Although many people today deal with computers and the internet, this highly technical tool is still completely inaccessible to a large population because it is so difficult to use. By creating interfaces that are more natural to use, we make technology more approachable to the masses. That’s my 2 cents. Feel free to chime in.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Set Up Papervision 2.0 for Flex 3 in 3 Minutes Flat


Anybody who knows me knows that I’m all about quick and dirty, get it done, up and running and worry about it later. I don’t like to waste time and I’m sure you don’t either. If you want to set up Papervision Great White for Flex fast, you’ve come to the right place. You got your timer ready? Here we go:

  1. Create a new Flex project, called it FlexPapervision Base. Time elapsed: 20 seconds.
  2. Drop the Papervision library into your libs folder. You can download the Papervision library at the Google Code repository, but that’s too messy and going to take too much time. I’ve taken the liberty of downloading it and compiling it into an easy to consume swc right here. Time elapsed: 15 seconds. [If you are using Eclipse, create a libs folder in your project. You'll also need to add the libs folder to your build path - Go to Project -> Properties -> Flex Build Path -> Library Path, and add the libs folder]
  3. Assuming you have some Flex basics and Papervision basics, here’s the essential code:
            // these 3 lines are key to putting Papervision in Flex
            var uicomp:UIComponent = new UIComponent();
            canvasPv3D.addChild( uicomp );
            uicomp.addChild( viewport );

    canvasPv3D is just a regular Flex Canvas. You add a Papervision viewport to a UIComponent which can then be added to a Flex Canvas. That’s it. Here’s the complete FlexPapervisionBase.mxml file

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <mx:Application xmlns:mx="" layout="absolute" creationComplete="onInit(event);">
    import mx.core.UIComponent;

    import org.papervision3d.cameras.Camera3D;
    import org.papervision3d.render.BasicRenderEngine;
    import org.papervision3d.objects.DisplayObject3D;
    import org.papervision3d.scenes.Scene3D;
    import org.papervision3d.view.Viewport3D;

    import org.papervision3d.materials.ColorMaterial;
    import org.papervision3d.objects.primitives.Plane;

    private var renderer:BasicRenderEngine = new BasicRenderEngine();
    private var scene:Scene3D = new Scene3D();
    private var camera:Camera3D = new Camera3D;
    private var viewport:Viewport3D;

    private var plane:Plane;
    private var angle:int = 0;
    protected function onInit( event:Event ) : void {

            viewport = new Viewport3D(canvasPv3D.width, canvasPv3D.height, true, true);
            // these 3 lines are key to putting Papervision in Flex
            var uicomp:UIComponent = new UIComponent();
            canvasPv3D.addChild( uicomp );
            uicomp.addChild( viewport );
            camera.z = -500;
            var mat:ColorMaterial = new ColorMaterial();
            mat.doubleSided = true;
            plane = new Plane(mat, 200, 200, 4, 4);
            // update the scene every frame

    private function onEnterFrame( event : Event ):void {
            angle = angle+=1%360;
            plane.rotationY = angle;
            // render the scene on every frame
            <mx:Canvas id="canvasPv3D" width="100%" height="100%"/>

    All this project does is put a 3D plane in the scene and rotates it 1 degree every frame.

    Time to read this bullet point and copy paste this piece of code into your project: 40 seconds.

If you’re feeling super lazy and can’t even be bothered to create a project of your own, here’s the project:

This is what the end product looks like:

Your welcome.

Popularity: 17% [?]

PicLens – Browse Web Media in FullScreen 3D


I checked out PicLens a while back when the tool first came out. They’ve added a whole bunch of new features so it seems like a good time to revisit them. PicLens by Cooliris is a plugin that integrates with your web browser to display you the photos (or whatever media) on whatever website you’re on in glorious fullscreen 3D.

PicLens of My Flickr Photos
Screenshot of PicLens on my Flickr Page

Basically the way PicLens works is when you are on a page with images, you mouse over an image and you’ll see a PicLens icon. When you click on the icon, PicLens takes over and you switch you a fullscreen view of the images in 3D. PicLens takes advantage of 3D hardware acceleration to provide a really smooth browsing experience even if you are flipping through 1000s of photos.

PicLens of My Flickr Photos
Screenshot of PicLens on my Flickr Page

What’s cool about PicLens since I’ve last saw them is that they’ve added support for so many more things. You can view images from Flickr, PhotoBucket, Facebook, MySpace. On top of that, you can also browse Youtube, MSNBC, ESPN and movie trailers. PicLens has definitely come a long way. PicLens is definitely worth checking out especially if you like browsing in totally cool immersive experiences.

Popularity: 1% [?]