Web3D RoundUp:†Looking Backwards and Forwards

Vol.34 No.2 May 2000

Funnelvision Web Cartoon

Barrett Fox

What is the Work All About?

Funnelvision, the new real-time streaming 3D cartoon from infoplasm debuted at the Web3D RoundUP at the Web3D 2000 conference. The original tale of the Carpal Funnel, this cartoon represents not a new technological innovation, but a creative exploration into the possibilities of a new medium.

Working with Pulse 3D and the new Pulse 3D Studio Max exporter, infoplasm has created an eight-minute streaming cartoon for delivery over a modem connection. Rich in character animation and environment, Funnelvision begins to hint at the potential for streaming long-form animation in a Web3D context.

Infoplasm is a three-year-old company consisting of Web3D veterans who worked together as Intervistaís content department during the chaotic birth of 3D on the web. Dedicated to creating and exploring the unique possibilities of Web3D characters, 3D information visualization and the convergence of these two fields, we have produced several web-based cartoons. Each piece has pushed hard on both the technological and artistic limits. Our newest piece, Funnelvision, incorporates cutting-edge technology to deliver an informationally footnoted cartoon. Satiric in nature, the saga of the Information Overload Overlords examines and comments on the current nature of society and our place in this informationally oversaturated age.

Who Makes Up the Intended Audience and Likely Participants?

The audience for the Information Overload Overlords is the growing segment of the population that deals with challenges of filtering and focusing the almost unlimited stream of information now available from our TV sets, phones, palm pilots, camcorders, MP3 players and virtual desktops.

What are the Unique/Interesting Contributions Made, and Why are they Significant?

As an infant medium, Web3D is still mostly the realm of the technophiles. That is to say that most of the people in the industry are focused on expanding the technological capabilities without much concern to expanding the artistic possibilities. At infoplasm we take a different tack. We are not a technology company - we are a content company. Our goal is to find and develop the new possibilities of communication and artistic expression made possible by all these new technologies.

The Funnelís website features links to real information germane to the subject of the cartoon. This information is accessed through a unique interface. Using a combination of DHTML and the Shout3D Java-based 3D engine, infoplasm has created a conduit for the user to interact directly with the information stored inside Carpal Funnelís brain. A 3D model of the brain in Shout allows the user to scan up and down the brain, elevator style. Each brain layer has a DHTML menu associated with it that provides access to the information stored in that part of the brain. Our goal with the Information Overload Overlords is to create cartoons with characters that carry their "backgrounds" with them. This way, if a character says something inflammatory or stimulating, a viewer can demand corroboration. This iterative examination of Carpal Funnelís brain provides information on information overload, repetitive stress injuries and information visualization to provide some weight for his frantic ravings.

How are Common Problems like Initial Installation and 3D Interface Handled for Ordinary Everyday 3D-Naive Users?

By using mature technology such as Pulse, in combination with plug-in "sniffers" and download-on-the-fly technology, we make the process of loading and using the necessary technology as painless as possible. When users visit the Funnelvision page, they are simply asked to say "Yes" to viewing the cartoon. The player then downloads, installs itself and plays the cartoon. We use Flash technology to create an interface wrapper for the pulse window to make the user as comfortable as possible and provide them with a dynamic experience.

How Does it Leverage Capabilities of the Web? Does it Scale?

By streaming the audio and animation over the web we can present a long form cartoon with a very brief initial download. Combined with the client-side rendering of the Pulse engine, this approach allows us to stream content of a visual quality far outstripping what is available in other streaming technologies such as MPEG or Quicktime, while still keeping the stream size small enough for a dial-up modem connection.

Where Can the Work be Accessed On-line? and

What Do You Get Out of Presenting?

The Web3D RoundUP offers us a unique opportunity to showcase our work to an audience that is supportive of the graphics complexity involved, yet not awed by it. Instead we get a real reaction to the content undiluted by technological awe. Furthermore, showing the cartoons to a live audience and hearing the laughs of hundreds and even thousands (as in previous RoundUPs) of people has given us the opportunity to feel like comedians "working the big room." This is great!

Barrett Fox

The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.