Learn how to prepare 3D models to use in Dimension. Also, get to know the supported 3D model formats and content.
Dimension is a 3D design tool which acts as a virtual photo studio, allowing you to arrange objects, graphics, and lighting in 3D space. The media types that 3D applications primarily work with are 3D models. This article covers the supported types of 3D models and some best practices for creating content for Dimension.
Models can be created in modeling applications and come in a variety of forms and formats. You can create your own models, get them from colleagues or clients, or purchase them from a stock service or website. Here are some recommended resources:
.DN is the native Dimension format and is best for reusing models across Dimension projects to preserve decals and material quality. The other formats are best for exporting to other applications and may have different appearances based on differences in lighting, materials, or rendering configurations for various applications.
Most 3D model formats can hold many types of media including 3D models, cameras, lights, images, and even video. While Dimension may import a file format, it may not support all types of content in that file.
Dimension currently only supports polygon geometry. Non-polygons like NURBs and curves can't be imported. Since Dimension only renders polygons, at least one polygon must be present in the model for Dimension to import the file.
Dimension is a composition and rendering application and does not include modeling tools for creating original 3D models. You can import .obj files from most applications for use in Dimension. Before importing a 3D model to Dimension, here are some tips on how to prepare them for best results.
When importing objects created in another application, Dimension respects the units for formats that store the unit information. If the imported object does not have unit information (such as OBJ), Dimension uses centimeters as the default unit of measurement.
Unit measurement is customizable by changing the Scene Units setting, which is a part of the document properties. See Document Settings for more details on setting up scene units. The available units are:
3D models are made out of points in space that are connected to form polygons. For best results, models should use the least amount of polygons to get the desired visual results. Polygons take memory to render so the number of polygons you can have in a Dimension scene before it impacts performance depends on the hardware being used.
There are many techniques that can be used to reduce polygon count, such as baking high-resolution details into a normal map instead of using polygons.
UVs are a coordinate system used in 3D that tells the application what part of a 2D image is placed on what part of a 3D model. This allows textures and images to be placed onto the 3D model.
If your model does not have UVs, Dimension adds UVs automatically at import but they will not be customizable within Dimension. For best quality, it is recommended that the 3D artist add UVs to the object prior to importing.
Every polygon has a normal property, which tells the application the direction in which the polygon is facing. Dimension does not have control for normals. Therefore, it is important that normals are set to be uniform and facing outward prior to importing to Dimension as back facing and uneven normals render black.
If your model does not have any normals then Dimension automatically adds normals automatically at import.
Dimension provides several formats for exporting 3D models for use in other projects or applications. Each format has different ways of handling the data during export.
DN is the native Dimension format and is best for reusing models across Dimension projects to preserve decals and material quality. Dimension files cannot be imported to other applications.
DN can store all types of information contained in a Dimension scene. However, when exporting selected models, only those particular models are present in the file. No environment or scene settings will be saved. Use the File > Save As menu to preserve all information present in the current Dimension scene.
All hierarchy, geometry, material, substance, and decal information is preserved just as it is in the original scene. You retain all customizability.
Dimension files can, at the moment, only be loaded or imported into Dimension. It is not meant as an exchange format between other 3D applications, but it is a convenient way to export specific assets for reuse in other Dimension scenes.
OBJ is a format for importing to many 3D applications. When exporting to OBJ you may lose object hierarchy, material fidelity, animation, or other aspects that OBJ does not support.
OBJ files will preserve the topology of the exported meshes. It can store vertex, face, uv, and normal data.
OBJ does not store hierarchy, pivot, or animation data of any kind. All objects will be baked down to be siblings regardless of their hierarchy in Dimension. The pivot point of every object in an obj file will be at the origin of the scene.
OBJ’s companion file “MTL” should preserve the look of your Dimension/Substance materials almost entirely, but any customization or interactivity is lost. Dimension's decals are "baked" into the textures of the underlying material which can decrease the resolution of the material. Not every 3D program supports loading MTLs to the same extent, so your exported object may look different depending on the program you take it to. Where possible, standard MTL property labels are used, but because of the limitation of the format, some uncommon properties will only load properly into Dimension.
For file-size and compatibility reasons, textures are currently limited to 2048x2048 or below on export. Textures are exported as JPG and PNG images so you may experience JPEG compression artifacts. PNG's don't exhibit artifacts but are much larger so they are used only for images with alpha channels and for normal maps.
OBJ does not store any environment (lighting, camera, etc) information. It is only a geometry description format.
GLTF is a compressed format optimized for speed and runtime use. When exporting to GLTF you may experience some loss in quality due to the compression of this format.
GLTF is a scene format and is, therefore, able to store pretty much the entire Dimension scene, including camera bookmarks, lights and full object hierarchy.
Meshes will be visually unchanged but any non-triangles will be converted to triangles on export.
GLTF should preserve the look of your Dimension/Substance materials almost entirely with a few exceptions. The most important limitation is that GLTF doesn't include transparency information so the opacity channel will be used to approximate transparency on export. In addition, Dimension's decals are "baked" into the textures of the underlying material which can decrease the resolution of the material. Finally, the "Glow" property in Dimension is converted to GLTF's "Emissive" property and the conversion isn't exact.
For file-size and compatibility reasons, textures are currently limited to 2048x2048 or below on export. In addition, GLTF supports only JPG and PNG images so you may experience JPEG compression artifacts in your images. PNG's don't exhibit artifacts but are much larger so they are used only for images with alpha channels and for normal maps.
Currently, several environment details such as the lighting, ground plane, and background image will not be included in the exported file.
GLB is a compressed format optimized for speed and runtime use. When exporting to GLB you may experience some loss in quality due to the compression of this format.
GLB is a variation of GLTF export and has the same handling for geometry, materials, textures, and environment export. See GLTF export details.
The primary difference between GLTF and GLB is that GLTF export will provide multiple file outputs while GLB will package all outputs into one file.