PlayCanvas Releases glTF Viewer 2.0

Today, we are excited to announce the 2.0 release of our glTF viewer.

glTF (or Graphics Language Transmission Format) has become ubiquitous since its introduction in 2015. With support for advanced shading techniques, it is particularly important for graphics intensive applications like product configurators/visualizers. 

With so many companies now relying on glTF to transmit graphics data over the web, it is critical that high quality tools are available to work with the format. This led us to develop v2.0 of our popular glTF viewer.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s new.

Improved glTF Specification Support

The glTF format is managed by the Khronos Group and defines a base specification along with a variety of extensions. The first version of the viewer support 100% of the base spec plus the following extensions:

  • KHR_draco_mesh_compression
  • KHR_lights_punctual
  • KHR_materials_clearcoat
  • KHR_materials_unlit
  • KHR_mesh_quantization
  • KHR_texture_basisu
  • KHR_texture_transform

The new and improved viewer released today adds support for:

  • KHR_materials_emissive_strength
  • KHR_materials_ior
  • KHR_materials_sheen
  • KHR_materials_specular
  • KHR_materials_transmission
  • KHR_materials_variants
  • KHR_materials_volume

These extensions provide developers with the ability to achieve exciting new graphical effects. 

Let’s take a look at three of them.

Advanced Refraction

The volume, transmission and ior glTF extensions can simulate how light is refracted through transparent materials. This leverages PlayCanvas’ grab pass functionality to ‘grab’ and sample the back-buffer.

Realistic Rendering of Fabrics

glTF’s sheen extension enables developers to faithfully reproduce materials with the appearance of certain fabrics. This is incredibly important for production visualization (home furnishings, apparel, vehicle interiors and so on).

Material Variants

Most product configurators allow the user to modify the appearance of a product. For example, a specific style of chair might be upholstered in various fabrics in various colors. Or a pair of shoes might be available in a number of different designs/patterns/colors.

The PlayCanvas viewer now detects any material variants in the loaded scene and permits their selection in the interface.

Rendering Enhancements

The new viewer introduces a couple of interesting features if you care about rendering fidelity. 

First up is a ‘High Quality Rendering’ mode (which is a toggle in the Camera control panel). 

Enabling this feature activates supersampling which is a type of antialiasing that aims to eliminate jagged edges along polygons. It progressively re-renders the scene many times when the camera stops, slightly offsetting and then compositing the rendered image over previous frames. 

You can see both in action below, deliberately reduced in resolution to show the effect:

Also new is sharper reflections for smooth reflective surfaces. The viewer will now use the full resolution skybox cubemap in the engine’s image-based lighting pipeline which looks crisp and far more realistic.

Interface Redesign

Initially, all information and controls for the viewer appeared in the leftmost panel. Viewer 2.0 has been completely redesigned to more intelligently group specific areas of functionality. The leftmost panel remains but now just shows scene info and a tree view showing the loaded scene hierarchy.

Buttons to control viewer settings can now be found at the bottom of the 3D view. These buttons open options for camera, lighting and debug rendering (plus a fullscreen toggle).

If you load a scene that contains animation, animation controls will automatically appear:

The controls allow you to scrub through an animation, select playback speed and even choose which animation clip to play should the file contain more than one.

Lastly, there is also now a button bottom right to download a rendered PNG of the 3D view.

Open Source

PlayCanvas is fully committed to an open source strategy and our glTF viewer is therefore made available to you on GitHub. It is a TypeScript application built on PlayCanvas PCUI front-end framework and, of course, the PlayCanvas Engine runtime.

These open source projects have been years in the making and would not have been possible without the amazing OSS community. So why not explore our various GitHub repositories and consider making some contributions of your own. We also appreciate feature requests and bug reports, so don’t be shy!

We hope you find the new and improved glTF viewer useful for your projects. Stay tuned for further updates to it in the coming months!

Import full model hierarchy into PlayCanvas

The PlayCanvas team are very excited to fully release the Import Hierarchy pipeline feature in the PlayCanvas Editor!

With this feature enabled, any imported FBX will create a Template asset which contains the full node hierarchy as entities representing sub-models of the model. This gives users greater flexibility in manipulating mesh instances in the model directly in the Editor.

Render assets will also be created that can be used with the Render Component and allow users to add an individual mesh instance of a model in the scene.

For example, an imported car FBX model would create several Render assets, doors, wheels, wipers etc. The wheel assets can be used independently from the rest of the car model to create a tire wall.

With the model hierarchy being editable in the Editor, this opens a number of uses that weren’t possible before:

  • Attach other Entities and/or models as part of another model’s hierarchy such as adding a helmet to a character’s head.
  • Move/Rotate/Scale sub-models directly in the Editor such as moving/adding/removing chairs around a house model.
  • Use the Render assets elsewhere in the scene for decoration or customization.
  • Add components and/or scripts to individual nodes such as attaching particle effects to animated parts.

However, please note that while the Model Component is compatible with both the Animation and Anim (State Graph) Component, the Render Component/Import Hierarchy feature is only compatible with the Anim (State Graph) Component.

Going forward, we will be marking the Model and Animation Components as ‘legacy’ but if you have an existing project using these components, please do not worry. None of the existing functionality is being removed and you will not be forced to update projects to the new pipeline for continued development. Although no new features will be added to the Model Component, the PlayCanvas team will continue to fix bugs with the existing pipeline until our next major version (2.0.0) of the engine at the earliest.

You can even mix both pipelines in the same project if you wish to take advantage of the features in the new pipeline in an existing project. However, please bear in mind that this can add complexity to the project code.

The Import Hierarchy asset task will be enabled by default for newly created projects. If you would like to use this feature in your existing project, please consult User Manual for details.

Useful Links

Important Information about macOS Safari 15

We have been made aware of a critical issue regarding WebGL content and the release of macOS Safari 15 earlier this week where previously published content could fail to load.

Apple are aware of this and have a fix in place on WebKit. However, we don’t know when this fix will be included in an update release.

PlayCanvas have released v1.46.5 of the engine to workaround this issue.

Actions to take

If you have a PlayCanvas application that was published between Feb 2020 and 21st Sep 2021, the application will fail to load on Safari 15 until Apple releases an update and users update their devices.

Please republish the application so that it uses the latest engine release or update the engine version to v1.46.5 if you are using NPM.

If you need to stay on particular version of the PlayCanvas engine, it is possible modify the engine or build a custom version and include the following code change from this PR.

If you have any issues or questions, please message us on the forum where we will provide support.