Exporting models from Blender for use in Frenzoo - converting *.dae files to *.efa

Converting DAE to EFA

Content for Frenzoo needs to make use of their own proprietary *.efa format. Unfortunately it's not possible at present to export content directly to that format unless you're using 3D Studio Max (for which there is a plug-in available), creators using other software - Blender 3D for example - have to 'convert' content into efa files via a 'third party' format, in this instance Collada's *.dae, that are passed through or processed by Frenzoo's own tool for the job FrenzooDaeConverter.exe.

The following tutorial will show and discuss the process of exporting files from Blender 3D and how to convert them to *.efa files ready for upload into Frenzoo's catalogue.

Export from Blender to Collada *.dae ^

As mentioned above in the Introduction, the process of exporting models from Blender 3D for use in Frenzoo requires their being saved using the available Collada DAE format export script. Below is an example of a scene in Blender containing a mesh object that has materials assigned, is UVW mapped, textured and selected ready for export - note that although the example below shows both a mesh and an optional armature selected, it's not necessary to export both for static (non-animated/moving) objects. The object has also been centered relative to Blenders 0,0,0, grid so it appears correctly placed when loaded into Frenzoo next to the avatar.

HOW TO: change the position of an objects Point Of Origin (POO)

Open the "View Properties" panel from the "View" menu; "View » View Properties". On the right hand side is a section titled "3D Cursor", make sure "X:", "Y:" and "Z:" show "0.00", if not, click in each field and change the number, the cursor will move as this is done.

Next select the object to be re-centered (make sure to right click and not left click otherwise the cursor will be repositioned somewhere else on screen), move it to where you want it to appear in Frenzoo, then in the "EDIT buttons" window ("F9") find the "Mesh" panel, in there locate the "Center Cursor" button and click on it, the objects little pink dot should jump to where the cursor now is.

That's the objects center repositioned so the model will now appear correctly placed in Frenzoo when loaded.

Mesh object in Blender ready for export to Collada dae

Mesh object in Blender ready for export to Collada dae

Once the object has been positioned correctly and is ready to go, select it and/or the assets that need to be exported (when exporting an armature and mesh make sure the armature is selected last - outlined a lighter pink by default), then from the "File" menu, select "File » Export » Collada 1.4" as shown below. Make sure to select version 1.4.

Exporting to Collada *.dae from Blender 3D

Exporting to Collada *.dae from Blender 3D

This will open the Collada export interface. In here, if exporting a selection of objects from a scene instead of a complete scene, then be sure to click "Only Export Selected". Browse and/or edit the "Export File" text field so it shows the 'save name' (the name the file will be called on saving) and location to where the resulting dae file will be saved, then click "Export and Close". A message will pop up letting you know export was completed and a Collada *.dae file saved to the location chosen (as shown below).

Blender 3D to Collada export options

Blender 3D to Collada export options

That's it for this part of the process. Next the exported Collada *.dae file needs to be converted to Frenzoo's *.efa format.

Finding the command prompt program on your computer ^

DAE file conversion consists of starting the tool so it's accessible and entering a couple of commands to provide import and export locations so it knows where files are and where they are to be saved.

The tool itself currently only runs from the 'command prompt' so that means opening that before anything else can be done. Depending on what Operating System is running the location to access this may vary; for Windows Vista and Windows XP users the command prompt can be opened doing the following;

Start » All Programs » Accessories » Command Prompt

Alternatively, it can be opened by typing "cmd" in "Start » Run" for XP users, or "cmd" in the "Start » Start Search" field for Vista users.

Type "cmd" into the Start menus "Start Search" field to display the command prompt; click on it to start the program

Type "cmd" into the Start menus "Start Search" field to display the command prompt; click on it to start the program.

On starting, a screen similar to the image below will open.

Before anything can be converted it may be necessary to move some content so the tool can find what it's looking for. So, depending on where the tool was extracted and installed, either move or copy both "FrenzooDaeConverter.exe" and "ICSharpCode.SharpZipLib.dll" into the same folder as the assets. Or, an easier option is to simply copy the assets to be converted into the Frenzoo tool folder - if doing this make sure to include the dae files and any additional media, jpegs, pngs or giffs used on the models. Once done, it's time to convert the files.

Default directory of the on starting the command prompt - may very depending on OS

Default directory of the on starting the command prompt - may very depending on OS

Converting Collada *.dae into Frenzoo's *.efa files ^

Prior to doing any precessing it's helps workflow to 'prep' the process a little by changing the default path shown in the command prompt window before actually entering any commands, by default it usually displays something similar to "C:\Documents and Settings\[user]" for XP users, or "C:\Users\[user]" for Vista users (as is shown in the above screen shot). To do this use the following commands;

"[driveletter]:" to change hard drive
"cd [foldername]" to change folder/directory

So for example, if the DAEConverter was in "F:\Frenzoo\DAEConverter" the following commands would be typed at the prompt pressing the 'enter' key after each commend; "F:", "cd Frenzoo", "cd DAEConverter" (with "cd.." being used to drop back to the previous directory if required). For Vista users this would display in the prompt as follows (italics show the typed commands);

F:\>cd Frenzoo
F:\Frenzoo>cd DAEConverter
The command line to execute the *.dae to *.efa conversion process

The command line to execute the *.dae to *.efa conversion process.

This 'sets' the base or root location and simplifies the command paths that need to be typed.

To then convert Collada DAE files into Frenzoo's EFA files all that's now needed is the following command line typed into the prompt as below;

FrenzooDaeConverter.exe mycolladafile.dae mycolladafile.efa

"mycolladafile.dae" is the name of the Collada DAE to be converted, for example, "teddybear.dae"; "mycolladafile.efa" is the name of the file to be created and doesn't necessarily need to be the same as the DAE file, for example "teddybear.dae" converted to "frenzooteddy.efa". On entering the command, the screen will scroll text output showing it's technical progress through the process of conversion.

Once finished the command prompt will look similar to the image shown below, displaying the 'root' path, in this instance "F:\Frenzoo\DAEConverter>". The time it takes to parse the Collada dae file depends on it's size and complexity, but once that path displays it will generally have competed the process of converting and saving it to the same directory/folder the assets where placed; check there to find the file and upload it to Frenzoo's catalogue using the usual procedure as explained here.

Output from the finished *.dae to *.efa file conversion

Output from the finished *.dae to *.efa file conversion.

Conclusion ^

The process of converting itself is usually straightforward, however, there are generally a number of preparatory steps that need to be taken to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible. It should always be kept in mind that because Frenzoo is web based interactive media, content should ideally be optimised in that context, i.e., models should have low polygon count/mesh density and smaller texture sizes should be used along side the appropriate compressed image formats; errors that crop up during the conversion process are more than likely going to be as a result of something to do with the prepping process and not the converter itself.