As virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) become increasingly simple to use for designers of all skill levels, more users are developing strategies for optimizing and exporting 3D models for VR and AR.
With just one or two easy steps, digital creators can be AR and VR-ready. Whether you’re a 3D artist freelancing through easyrender.com, or looking to show off your game art on Artstation, AR/VR is just one click away.
In this article, we will answer frequently asked questions about how to convert your 3D model to the best file format for the ultimate VR experience or AR performance.
Whether you’re using Unity, Unreal Studio, InstaVR, Sketchfab or BRIOVR, these tips will show you how to 3D model for VR or AR with minimal changes to your typical design workflows.
What file format do I need to export to VR? What file format do I need to export to AR?
Fortunately, you don’t need a 3D model file converter when importing models to BRIO, or other major drag and drop AR/VR platforms.
Regardless of whether you want to export a 3D model for VR or AR, you will almost always need to export to an .OBJ file or .FBX file format. Depending on the complexity of your 3D model, you can select the best format to export.
Sketchup CAD to OBJ / CAD to FBX
An obj file is the more common of the two file formats, but it can only be read in ascii. OBJ files do not support hierarchy and can be heavier than FBX files when brought in to the VR or AR scene. However, most software, like BRIOVR, will allow you to scale down the object in the platform.
OBJ files won’t support animation, but in BRIO you can add animations using the toolset inside of the builder.
An .FBX file can be read in both acsii and binary. When you export FBX for VR or AR, object scale and materials would be preserved. The FBX file format also supports animation and the native hierarchy in the scene.
There is no need for a separate OBJ or FBX converter in order to do this either. You can simply export 3D models as OBJs or FBXs from the native design program that you are using. This can be done in almost any design or 3D modeling software.
Once you have completed your export to OBJ or FBX, you can then bring the model into your AR/VR platform. In BRIO, you can simply drag and drop the file into the scene.
I imported my FBX or OBJ file, but the scene is running very slowly. How do I optimize my model for better AR & VR performance?
There are several design tricks that you can use to make sure that you get the best possible result when you import OBJ or FBX files for AR/VR, but most of them occur in the native design program.
Here are some easy tips for reducing the complexity of the model without compromising your original design:
Reduce the Number of Objects
Aim to keep the number of objects as low as possible (ideally less than 10). If necessary, combine the static geometry of the objects in your scene. A high number of objects can slow down real-time rendering – especially on mobile.
For the best performance when you create a 3D model for AR, keep it at the lowest possible object count.
Group objects in Cinema4D for AR or VR
Reduce the Number of Polygons
Try not to exceed 300K polygons in your final scene. This means that you will need to reduce your poly-count in the native design program before exporting for AR or VR, especially if you are adding multiple models to a single scene.
300K polygons are the rough limit for high-end smartphones, but in particular older phones may have trouble rendering that volume.
Reduce polygons in Cinema4d
Limit Texture Sizes
Use as few texture maps as possible and do not exceed a size of 2048×2048 pixels. Instead, try to use compressed textures like .jpeg, and re-size your images to achieve the power of two (POT) whenever possible (256×256, 512×512, etc.)
You can also reduce the number of skinned objects for animation, and reduce the poly-counts for skinned objects.
When you do this, the textures that are POT will be optimized for AR or VR presentation.
Grouping/Limiting the Number of Materials
By grouping your materials and textures, you can drastically reduce your scene’s size and complexity, particularly if your model is made with a several materials.
For example, if you have created a bicycle in 3DS Max, you can group the rubber on the wheels and the rubber handlebar grips if they are the same material. When you do this, you will see no change to the final model, but the performance in AR or VR will be more seamless because you have reduced the complexity of the initial model.
What software do I need to make AR or VR-optimized models?
BRIOVR, and some other AR/VR platforms are compatible with all major design software, including:
– Cinema 4D
– 3DS Max
– Fusion 360
– Plus many more
If you’re a beginner who has limited or no experience making digital 3D models, you can find thousands of them online through websites like turbosquid. BRIO gives you access to hundreds of FREE assets from the Google Poly library or the Brio Treasure Box, which you can access when you sign up.
You can also find a great selection of textures on the web if you know where to look. Check out this article to learn about where you can find great texture libraries online.