Some of history’s biggest technological advances have occurred when a new product/method appears in an industry and completely disrupts the market. It quickly proves its worth and becomes the new standard that others follow. In the world of file formats and specifically 3D design, GLB files are one such innovator taking the crown. With the adoption of GLB growing and some of the biggest design services switching to this standard, now is the perfect time to learn about this format and start using it for your business. No need to worry if you are unfamiliar with the format and what it can do. We have all the information you need to take advantage of the benefits GLB has to offer.
WHAT IS GLB FILES AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
GLB is a file format used for 3D images and scenes. When you open such a file, you can view the model/scene from all angles and in detail. Like the beloved JPG format used for static images, GLB offers a perfect combination of small file size and relatively decent detail. It may not be as rich in detail as most. FBX files, but is incredibly compact and contains a range of 3D assets in a single file.
This format was created in 2015 and is the younger brother of GLTF (Graphics Language Transmission Format). The difference between the two is that GLB is a binary format while GLTF is based on JSON. Additionally, GLTF files are about 33% larger and do not include some supporting data in GLBs (like geometry, textures, and shaders).
After being generated, GLB files can be opened in any suitable viewer (e.g. Sketchfab, PlayCanvas, Babylon) or packaged in an application (web, mobile, VR, etc.).
HOW DOES GLB COMPARE TO OTHER FORMATS?
If you’re wondering which format to use to present your 3D assets, you can choose from almost a dozen options. Still, GLB offers several notable advantages and unique qualities:
1) It is incredibly lightweight. A .glb file with a size of 7 MB can easily reach a size of 37 MB or more with another extension (such as .fbx).
2) This is the only format that contains a full PBR shader and textures. Thus, it offers comprehensive data about the characteristics of materials in the 3D asset.
3) Unlike static formats like .obj, .glb can contain dynamic elements like animation. This adds substantially to its expressive and educational value.
4) Such files can be viewed near-instantaneously, with no coding required. The single-file format of GLB assets makes them very easy to view and access, in contrast with .FBX files that would require additional configuration.
In terms of drawbacks, the small size of .glb files is as much a weakness as it is a strength. Thus, while they are optimized for web and mobile platforms (including AR), they may not carry the amount of detail, material complexity, and polygons needed for larger projects like desktop applications.
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WHERE CAN YOU USE GLB FILES?
If your business uses 3D models, scenes, and animations, this format may be perfect for you. Let’s examine some of its uses and examples.
Popular Use Cases
- Presentations: This format works splendidly for presenting things, whether they are products, locations and buildings, processes, characters, or others. Unlike singular models, these files let you experience dynamic movement and animation. Unlike videos, there is an interactive element letting people examine the asset at their convenience.
- eCommerce: You can boost your sales by providing customers with top-notch marketing materials and product profiles in GLB. They will surely marvel at this unique form of promotion, which could be a game-changer if your competitors still use outdated formats like videos and static renders.
- Education: Whether you are an educational institution looking to impart knowledge to students or a company that wants to improve training materials, adding .glb files to your program can be a major boost. You can choose any suitable medium for these training materials, accessing the files separately or packaging them into a broader app/media object.
- Games & Entertainment: The GLB format is extremely popular among game developers, who save their work in bundles for easy continuation of work in engines. It is especially prevalent in adventure and text-based games that rely on the Glulx virtual machine.
While online viewers are a convenient way to view .glb files, this is not the only method. You can make your assets available in multiple ways and platforms:
- Websites: With the right code and proper implementation of BabylonJS, you can make these files viewable directly on the pages of your website. This is especially helpful in online stores, where customers benefit from the option to interact with products. You can even add a layer of immersion and create a WebAR experience for mobile users.
- Mobile applications: If there’s one thing mobile users hate, it’s large apps that take up their storage space. Because GLB files are lightweight and compressed, apps that include them rarely spiral to out-of-control size. Usually, the assets are imported into the software with the help of engines like Unity or Unreal Engine.
- Immersive experiences: Though most virtual reality and mixed reality apps tend to import larger and more detailed 3D assets, augmented reality apps (mostly accessed on phones and tablets) better match this unique extension.
- Social media: Twitter is leading the way in terms of support for 3D file formats. They have partnered with Sketchfab to bring users 3D content, so you just need to upload your asset to Sketchfab and share the corresponding link to make it accessible. Facebook has also supported 3D posts in the past but removed them for unknown reasons. Hopefully, they will bring the feature back soon, and other networks hop on the trend as well.
HOW ARE GLB FILES CREATED?
The process begins with the import of 3D models, textures, geometry, animation, and anything else that should be bundled into the end file. Some of these elements can be created directly in the design application, while others require the use of additional software.
Once all the elements have been added to the project, we select the desired file size, compression rate, and animation settings and begin the export process. This takes time and may result in errors.
It is also possible to convert other formats (e.g. OBJ, FBX, GLTF) into GLB. Still, you should keep in mind that any elements missing in the original files (like a PBR shader or animation) will not magically appear with the conversion. You will need to add them manually before generating the file.
We perform a QA review of the completed assets, identifying any issues and going back to the drawing board with modified settings/fixed issues. Hence, the next iteration is more polished. Still, most of the issues that arise (like a lack of a unique UV map) stem from the earlier stages of asset creation (3D modeling, texture design, animation work, etc.), so changing the export settings won’t be enough.
HOW YOU CAN USE GLB FILES FOR YOUR BUSINESS
You have a broad choice of options available when it comes to presenting your products and services in .glb format: you can add the files to your website or even turn them into an immersive experience You can also target mobile users and build an app with hundreds of assets. If you are making a game, you can look at using the format for various characters, scenes, and settings. This is just scratching the surface of all the possibilities available.
Who can help me get the GLB files I need?
GLB design and generation is still a rather limited niche in the talent market of designers and artists, so finding a reliable partner is no walk in the park. Nesso is one of the few professional studios providing this service, and we can create these files in large quantities (e.g. for every item in your web store).
We also offer a wide range of additional art services (modeling, texturing, implementation into software), which allows us to address many of your art and software needs together and in quick timeframes. If you want to know more and start moving forward with your project, just contact us today!