Announcing trueSpace for Virtual Earth 3D Development

Today is a big day. BIG DAY.

As you’ll recall, several months ago we acquired Caligari because of their advanced 3D toolset – trueSpace (among other assets). I’ve always felt sketchy about other 3D freeware, so starting today trueSpace 7.6 is now available for download…..FOR FREE! And, there is a direct connection into Live Search Maps so you can create SUPER high resolution 3D models using trueSpace, then right from the environment upload the model into Live Search Maps as a collection item. Once you’ve created your collection, you can import your collection into your Virtual Earth application and BAM you have your own custom 3D models in your Virtual Earth application. We’ll host the models right in our 3D collections cloud! This is going to be a long post – get some coffee and make it diesel.

Register and Download trueSpace 7.6 for free.

“Yeah, 3D is cool and all but how can I make money?”

How about a Virtual Retail Experience? We’ll use a Starbucks location as an example. Put on your helmet for I’m about to blow your mind.

Now, THAT, my friends is HIGH RESOLUTION and can not be done by sketching. The possibilities are limited only to your imagination. Things you wish you could do in the real world can now be done in virtual space. Perhaps you want to create a store that looks nothing like what one of your stores looks like but get feedback from the community.

Real Estate – provide real open houses. Manufacturing – visualize your plants. Utilities – power grids. Hospitality – hotel tours. The list goes on and on.

“Awesome, but I have all these models in AutoCAD. What can I do?”

Well, you can import them into trueSpace! That’s right, trueSpace supports importing models drawn in other 3D software environments. The following is an exhaustive list of other 3D modeling software file types supported natively by trueSpace 7.6:


Stereo Lithography


X format

Illustrator and Postscript

BVH motion capture

3D Studio files:

.lwb, .lwo

Register and Download trueSpace 7.6 for free.

“WOW, Chris, this is mind blowing. How do I upload into Virtual Earth?”

Allow me to provide you step by step instructions, my friend, copied directly from the instruction manual using some of my own screen shots, so you feel the love.

imageVirtual Earth gives you access to a 2D or 3D view of the earth, featuring road maps, cities, major landmarks and more. As well as the pre-made content that you’ll find in Virtual Earth, people can add their own using Collections. Collections can be anything from a simple push pin, all the way up to a 3D object.

With trueSpace 7.6, you can create and add your own 3D objects to Virtual Earth, and then share those with friends, or even with anyone who is using Virtual Earth and looking at that section of the map.

The same house exported to Virtual Earth and placed on a Scottish hillside.

Adding an Object from trueSpace into a Collection

Adding objects from trueSpace is done from inside trueSpace itself, rather than from inside Virtual Earth. There is an option in Virtual Earth to add a 3D object, but this works with the 3DVIA application and not with trueSpace.

Once you have your object created in trueSpace, ensure it is selected and then click on the Export To VE icon.

The Export to VE icon on its toolbar.

Where to find the Export To VE toolbar and icon icon in the default layout.

imageThis will open the VE-X Export dialog. Virtual Earth uses X format for its models, and this dialog will let you set the parameters for the X format export, and for the Virtual Earth values.

You can manually copy the Longitude, Latitude and Elevation from Virtual Earth, although it is suggested you only use rough positioning during the export, and use Virtual Earth itself to accurately position the model in its final location.

Animations, Skeletons, Stretchy Bones, Cameras and Lights should be unchecked as these parameters are not used for Virtual Earth (they are shown as part of the regular X format export). Note that the Skeletons parameter is checked by default. You should set Start Frame and Stop Frame to zero since they are not used, and Frame Rate can be ignored and left at the default value.

Be sure that UV1 and Normals are checked, so that the object will display properly once in Virtual Earth. Leave UV2 and Split Hierarchies unchecked, and ensure the Polygon Mode is set to “Polygons, triangulate holes”.

For the output format, it is best to set X File Format to “Compressed”. You may choose to set Texture and Normal maps to JPG to save space, or leave them as PNG files to maximize quality.

Once the settings are done, click on Export. If this is the first time you have done an Export since running trueSpace 7.6, you will be required to sign in to Virtual Earth with the sign in dialog seen below. On subsequent Exports in the same trueSpace session, you will not be asked to sign in.


If you have not already created a Windows Live ID, you can use the “Sign up for a Windows Live ID” at the bottom of this panel. If you have an existing Windows Live ID, enter it and the password to sign in. Checking Remember Me and Remember My Password will allow trueSpace to automatically export again without asking you to sign in each time (until trueSpace is closed and restarted, when it will require you to sign in again).

Note that you are signing in to “Virtual Earth – 3DVIA” since you are publishing 3D objects.

Once you are signed in, you choose the name of the Model and the collection to publish it to.
Any existing collections stored under your Windows Live ID will be shown in the lower panel.

image Once you have signed in, a new dialog box will prompt you to name the object. This is the name that Virtual Earth users will see and be able to search for. You can also specify which collection to publish the object to. You can choose to publish the object to a new selection (enter the name in the space below the option).

Alternatively, you can check the “Add to this collection” option and choose the name of an existing collection stored under your Windows Live ID. trueSpace will automatically load the list of collections (if any exist) when it opens this export dialog.

Once you have chosen the name of your object and which collection it should be published to, click on the Publish button to continue. If you chose to publish to an existing collection, trueSpace will export the object and all the export dialogs will close.

Additional Properties

If you chose to create a new collection, you should click on Additional Properties before choosing to publish the object. This ensures you will have the correct settings for sharing set for your new collection.

If you chose to publish to a new collection, you will be asked to set the options for that collection.

The options for this panel are:

· Notes – This lets you enter notes for the collection, such as a description of what it contains and shows.

· Tags – This lets you enter tags for the collection. You should separate each tag with a comma. Tags will allow people to search your collection, so these should describe the objects and / or locations in this collection.

· Turn on sharing – By turning on sharing, you allow other people to see the collection. If you leave this option unchecked, your Windows Live ID will be the only one that can see the collection and the objects in it. With this option unchecked, no-one will be able to find or view your model, even if you send them a link to the model itself.

· Make this collection searchable – The option only applies if Turn On Sharing is checked, and lets you choose whether the collection is searchable. If checked, then people searching on Virtual Earth by keyword or tags will be able to find this collection if it matches their search criteria. If unchecked, the collection will not be shown in any search results, and people will only be able to see your objects if you send them a direct link to your collection.

· Let others copy items in this collection – This determines whether you allow people to take copies of the objects you publish in this collection. If checked, then other Virtual Earth users will be able to copy the objects in this collection and use them in their own Virtual Earth collections. If unchecked, then other Virtual Earth users will still be able to see your objects, but will not be able to copy them.

Note that Turn On Sharing, Make This Collection Searchable, and Let Others Copy Items In This Collection set the values for all objects in the collection. You cannot set those values individually per object. Every object in the same collection will inherit whether it can be copied by other Virtual Earth users or not from this setting for the whole collection.

Clicking Save will create the collection and export the object to that collection, making it available in Virtual Earth. Note that you can also edit these all these values in the Additional Properties dialog from within Virtual Earth itself, so you can change them later after publishing from trueSpace if required.

Viewing and Sharing Your Collections

image Once you have published your objects from within trueSpace, you can then view them in Virtual Earth. If Virtual Earth was open in Internet Explorer when you published a new object, you must use your web browser’s Refresh option to update the display of your collections and objects. When you refresh the browser, your new collections and objects will be displayed within the Virtual Earth collections information dialog.

On the left, you can see the collections editor displaying the collection for the trueSpace house shown earlier at the start of this section. By clicking on that collection, you would see all the objects contained in it.

From there, you can view your objects, and you can also select them, zoom in to see them, move or rotate them, change their elevation, add comments or hyperlinks, and so on.

If your collection is shared and searchable, then people will be able to find it if they are viewing collections and zoom in on that area in the map, or if they search for particular tags or keywords that match the ones you set up for your collection.

If you want someone to view your object directly without them needing to search for it, or if the object is shared but not searchable, then you can make a link available that will take someone straight to your object in Virtual Earth. To create this link, open the collection in your collections editor, then use the Share option in the top right of the Virtual Earth screen.

Note that other sharing options (such as the ones found within the Collection Editor panel) may not allow the user to view the 3D object, but just to view a pushpin instead. Also, there may be a slight delay between you being able to view the object on Virtual Earth and others being able to view the object. If someone is unable to view the object soon after you published it, they should try again a little later.

And that’s all there is to it! Now you can add your own 3D objects to Virtual Earth and start bringing the world to life!

Setting Up Your Scene in trueSpace

There are some important points to keep in mind when creating your scene in trueSpace, to ensure you get the desired result when you export to Virtual Earth. A sample scene is provided in the trueSpace scene library which can help you prepare your object for export to Virtual Earth. The lighting from that scene is also provided as a light library, so you can quickly drop it into any scene of your own.

First, you should always use a texture for the color. If you use the Plain Color shader in trueSpace, then you will get unwanted reversed colors on the unlit side of the object. You can capture the materials from the preview spheres in the sample scene and replace the texture maps on those with images of your choice.

Second, your object in Virtual Earth will always be lit with a light source coming from the north. This means that north facing areas will be brightly lit, areas facing east and west will be less brightly lit, and areas facing south will be in darkness.

The sample scene has a lighting set up that simulates how an object will look when viewed in Virtual Earth, and it also features a compass showing which direction is north. Note that you can rotate an object once it is loaded in Virtual Earth, but when you rotate it, the lighting will follow with it – whichever areas were south facing in trueSpace when you exported will remain unlit even when the object is rotated in Virtual Earth so those faces are no longer pointing south.

The best way to avoid having completely unlit faces on an object in Virtual Earth is to rotate it in trueSpace before exporting, as you can always rotate the model in Virtual Earth to get the alignment with the world and landscape that you need. An example is given below (scene by Marcel Barthel).

The house is aligned due north / south, resulting in the south facing areas being unlit, as shown here in trueSpace using the VE sample scene and lighting.

The north facing side of the house is brightly lit, but we want a more even lighting on all sides.

You can rotate the house in trueSpace using the VE lighting to ensure you get no completely unlit areas.

Rotated like this, our lighting is good, and we are ready to export – we can rotate the house once it is in Virtual Earth, so its rotation in trueSpace is only relevant for getting the lighting we want.

Bear in mind that the lighting in your trueSpace scene is not exported to Virtual Earth, nor does it change how the objects will look in Virtual Earth. The sample scene provided has a light set up that mimics how the object will appear when viewed in Virtual Earth, but changing it or using a different lighting set up will not change how your exported object looks in Virtual Earth.

Example Collections

You can see some quick example collections made during the development of trueSpace7.6 by following the links to Virtual Earth below:

An Important Reminder About Copyright

You should note that placing an object on Virtual Earth can be considered sharing or distributing that object, since you are placing the actual 3D geometry and texture information in a public area rather than simply using its likeness in a 2D image or animation. You should check for any copyright or licensing issues in using a 3D model in this way.

For protecting your own objects, you can uncheck the “Let others copy items in this collection” so that no-one else can take a copy of the model, and you can uncheck “Make this collection searchable” if you do not want people to find it via searches. For example, with those two options unchecked and “Turn on sharing” still checked, this would enable you to place a model into Virtual Earth for a client, ensuring no-one else could find it by browsing or copy it, but still allowing you to send the link to the client for them to view it.

With “Turn on sharing” unchecked, you can use Virtual Earth to generate images or flythrough animations which you could share, while ensuring no-one else can view or copy the object even if a link is sent to them.

In all cases, whichever sharing options you use, you must take all steps necessary to ensure that you are not infringing any copyright or license requirements before you make a model shareable in Virtual Earth.

Well, that was a long tutorial. Go get yourself something nice like an ice cream cone. Check out my Random Cubes that I published to Virtual Earth. It’s where I sit and watch the surf before I jump in. Ok, lame, but I’m working on it.


Register and Download trueSpace 7.6 for free.

“Register? WTH?”

Trust me, it will be worth it. Registering gives you access to the forums, shared spaces (very valuable for beginners) and technical support. It’s painless, so just do it. We won’t spam you with useless information.

I’m so not a 3D graphics guy, but I guess I better get into it. The whole mapping space is going 3D. Luckily, Caligari has a ton of training videos and a very active forum for you. I have Tom Grimes (trueSpace wizard) to help me, but he still makes me watch the videos.


Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on linkedin Share on linkedin