Have you ever seen a gorgeous 3D model spinning on a website – maybe a modern architectural rendering you can rotate around or zoom in and out of, or an original creation someone’s showcasing in their Behance portfolio? The magic behind it all is Sketchfab, a web service to easily publish and display truly interactive models – you simply, embed and share.
Sketchfab’s Maker Beginnings
Wood carvers learn the practice of patience and precision as they put knife and chisel to a raw piece of wood. The wood is worked by hand and the form, shape and feel of this medium plays a big role in the finished work.
Alban Denoyel, CEO and co-founder of Sketchfab, knows this well. He considers himself a craftsman that just so happens to have a business degree. It was his exploration into sculpting and carving wood that led him on a path to discovering new techniques with other forms like resin and plastic. He immersed himself in the Maker movement, joining forces with other people making art with their hands and in many cases, experimenting with technology along the way. He eventually was introduced to the world of 3D and began to observe so many amazing artists who were doing innovative things with – what was at that time – a new art form.
Denoyel soon joined forces with Sketchfab co-founder and CTO, Cedric Pinson, another maker whose shared passions and expertise in developing 3D software got them really thinking about how they could bring more visibility and traffic to this work.
“Sketchfab is a simple concept. Many 3D artists and designers were spending hours working on 3D models…very complex forms of digital art, but there was no easy way for them to express or show it off in its actual 3D form,” says Denoyel. Denoyel and Pinson watched artists go through the painstaking process of making videos of the models they created in order to show their work. They wanted an easy way to make the art come alive, so you could interact with it as you would a physical object.
Like woodcarving, Denoyel understood that 3D requires precision and appreciation for the solid form. It’s also where texture, perspective and lighting play a role in creating the illusion of depth in an image. With the introduction of HTML5, Denoyel and Pinson finally had a scalable way to turn their vision into reality. For the first time ever, they were able to spread and publish 3D as interactive media (in real-time) and help artists gain greater exposure. Their small web-publishing platform has now become one of the leading destinations for 3D artists to share their work.
We had the opportunity to speak with Denoyel about how his own art informed what he does at Sketchfab and he gave us a sneak peek into what he and Pinson are cooking up for 2014. If you currently have a Behance account, this functionality is built in to the experience, so anything you design in 3D can behave and display just as you intended.
Do you have to be a 3D artist to appreciate Sketchfab?
Denoyel: When we first made Sketchfab available, there wasn’t much traffic. It was mainly a tool for a few people to share an asset with a customer. Over time, it grew and became more than just a tool, and created a captive audience and an engaged community. For people that don’t actually work in 3D, Sketchfab is a new media outlet for discovery. It’s actually those curious about what’s being created in 3D that have made it so popular and we’re reaching more viewers.
If you have work you want to upload, all you have to do is create a free account on Sketchfab, upload your 3D work, copy the embed code available in the footer of the viewer, and paste it in the “embed media” section of Behance. We’re now focused on helping a much broader audience experience 3D, with new 3D scanning technologies and easy sculpting tools. We want to show people that 3D creation is not as hard as they think, and that they are capable of creating models that they can one day publish on Sketchfab. 3D creation is art. In fact, a lot of 2D is made using 3D files, people may just not be aware of it.
What kinds of art are you seeing on Sketchfab these days?
Denoyel: It’s amazing to see that some of the 3D models have been viral sensations on the Internet. Medical representations have been very interesting from a teaching perspective. Additionally, we’re seeing cultural heritage modeling, sculpture reconstruction, and some interesting architectural landscapes, such as models of the Empire State building.
It’s also pretty amazing when people do 3D models of game assets—they invent small life and environments within a video game, then publish it within a very plug and play environment. It’s remarkable to see how creative some of these guys are! So we’re seeing a wide variety of content from architects, hobbyists, makers, scientists, surgeons, gamers and traditional artists. There’s really no limit to what can be produced.
How can creatives interact with 3D work in Behance?
Denoyel: The Sketchfab functionality in Behance is working behind the scenes, so people are usually blown away when they click on the work! We often see enthusiastic tweets from our followers about it as they zoom in and move around the work. Behance is very advanced in terms of the extensive portfolios that they have on their site. Our 3D artists are most likely already using Behance and therefore, happy to add the Sketchfab feature so they can showcase their 2D and 3D models that are created in Photoshop and other modeling software.
What’s next for Sketchfab – anything upcoming you can share with us?
Denoyel: While we haven’t officially announced this yet, I’m happy to share with the Photoshop community that we’re currently working on a version 2 release, which will be available in early 2014. We’re completely redesigning the site with a new user interface and we’re integrating an advanced social layer with more fun ways to comment and earn badges, including a community list and searchable user base. Overall, we’ll also have a better way to organize your 3D models, with new categories, folders and a tagging system that indicates location, polygon count, etc. You’ll see new features very soon!
Special thanks to Alban Denoyel for sharing stories about his journey to Sketchfab. It was interesting for us to learn how a maker’s passion for wood carving and curiosity about new art forms became the inspiration behind later showcasing others artists’ 3D creations. To learn more about Sketchfab and the world of 3D publishing visit Sketchfab.com or try embedding your own 3D files to your Behance profile.