Silverlight TV 65: 3D Graphics

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Do 3D and graphics get you going? The folks at Archetype created an amazing 3D application that we first showed in the keynote at the Silverlight Firestarter in December, 2010. In this episode, Danny Riddell, CEO of Archetype, joins John to discuss their recent work with Silverlight 5, 3D, and graphics. Watch as Danny dives into how they built the 3D medical application and takes John through a detailed tour of the application.

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The Discussion

  • User profile image
    Ben Hayat

    Great points were brought up. My question is, is there any visual tool to create the model and the layers. If there isn't any 3D tool yet, what would it take to do any 3D modeling in Blend? Or does it all have to be done in code?


  • User profile image
    Steve Wortham
    I can't wait to get my hands on the beta and play around with the 3D API. I hope the API is powerful and easy to work with. 10 years ago I was writing OpenGL programs as a hobby. To be able to code GPU-accelerated 3D effects and environments in Silverlight will be sweet.
  • User profile image

    John, thanks for this interview.

    Some questions that I'd like answered whenever it is appropriate (but hopefully sooner than later): 

    1) What sort of polygon counts can you push with SL5? Is it dependent on the specific video card on the user's machine or is it more of a guaranteed range because of virtualization?

    2) What are the minimum video card requirements to enable hardware acceleration for 3D in Silverlight 5? Will DirectX 8 cards be able to run SL5 3D content?

    3) What happens when a user's video card does not meet minimum requirements? Does SL5 attempt to fall back to software rendering or simply tell the user their computer is not capable of running the app? If it is the latter, I'm concerned that the number of people who can actually take advantage of the best parts of Silverlight is shrinking, rather than growing.

    4) Now that Live Labs is closed and Deep Zoom is maintained completely by the Silverlight team, will there be any attempt to bring back features from the original Seadragon demos such as zooming to a huge wall of text (using the typical deep zoom image as a thumbnail, of sorts, but then switching to rendering actual vector fonts as you reach a particular distance? I'm also thinking of the vector map demos which continuously update, rather than only using discrete levels of imagery as Bing Maps currently does. There is also the example of the dynamically computed Mandelbrot set, providing an example of live computation, rather than only applying zooming to preformatted images. I'd also love to see Deep Zoom Video come to pass. It seems to me that if Smooth Streaming already necessitates multiple resolutions of a video (or at least multiple bit rates), then why not also go the extra mile of tiling these different resolutions, so that they can be zoomed on and only load the currently visible portion of the currently visible resolution? I've gotten the impression from people inside of Microsoft before that you all expect that now that you've provided Deep Zoom, you expect developers to do the work of actually expanding the ways in which it is used for themselves. Just from looking around, I'd say that the community is either not being creative enough or are simply waiting for simple authoring tools from the Silverlight team which will enable them to create massive zoomable walls of text, etc. - something as simple to use as Deep Zoom Composer.

    5) Will  the hardware acceleration in SL5 allow for large numbers of particles/vertices? I ask because I am a big Photosynth fan and the point cloud rendering really took a terrible performance hit when being shifted to CPU only in Silverlight (vs. using Direct3D before that). I'd love to know whether Silverlight 5 will enable the full point clouds to be rendered in realtime again (or hopefully even stepped up to dense reconstructions as seen here).

    6) Will Silverlight 5 still disable most of the keyboard in fullscreen? This is one of my biggest irritations about Silverlight. I understand the reasons why you do it, but I just want to use all the normal shortcut keys in the Photosynth viewer in fullscreen, as I have in the original Direct3D viewer.

  • User profile image
    Karl Beal

    I am very curious to find out the difference between this and WPF 3D.   Is this going to be just a port or is it going to be more friendly to work with?

  • User profile image

    Studio is great but too much shadows in the eyes, check your scope makesure you are at 100IREs

  • User profile image
    Aaron Oneal


    1) Performance of the API is only limited by the power of the machine and GPU. You should expect full fill rates comparable to a desktop 3D application.

    2) A Direct3D 9 compatible HW video driver is required.

    3) If compatible HW is not available, the application can detect this and provide its own fallback experience.

    5) Yes, you can render up to 65k primitives per draw call, and of course you can perform multiple draws. Real-time point clouds are possible.

  • User profile image
    Aaron Oneal

    @Karl Beal:

    WPF 3D is a retained mode API that largely uses declarative XAML to describe the scene. This is very useful for some scenarios, but other scenarios have different requirements.

    Silverlight 3D is an immediate mode API which gives full control over the graphics device and the rendering of primitives (triangles). This means full performance and control because there is no retained system or high-level API in between the application and the device. This gives developers the ability to create their own high-level retained APIs, scene managers, and visualization engines on top.

  • User profile image

    im disappointed that there was no new information here.. you could just have reposted the pdc demo Smiley gimmie something i can use man.. give me APIs Smiley

    anyhow what really puzzles me is the strategy of releasing this for sl and not full .net.... silverlight is supposed to be a subset, yet features like this make it into silverlight first, at best several months before .net Sad

    even if its not included in the framework proper, this api should be released as an out of band release for .net as well..

  • User profile image
    Aaron Oneal


    I understand your desires regarding the API. We're anxious to share additional details as well. Look forward to announcements regarding this at MIX11.

  • User profile image
    Ned Nedson

    I found the following which might be the answer to #6.
    Silverlight offers a new class of trusted applications that brings desktop capabilities to the browser for the first time. These features, when enabled via a group policy registry key and an application certificate, mean users won’t need to leave the browser to perform complex tasks: 
    •Enjoy full keyboard support in full screen, which enables richer kiosk and media viewing applications.

  • User profile image

    Will 3D be available at free online tv? I will be looking forward to that!!!

  • User profile image

    Would love to see some of the code for this.  As others asked how is the model generated?  What are the specs on that laptop (for performance)?

  • User profile image

    @Aaron Oneal: Thanks for taking the time to answer! 

    One thing that I would like to clarify is exactly where Silverlight 5's 3D will work. I've heard it said multiple times that in IE9, SL5 will take advantage of IE9's hardware acceleration. My question is whether SL5 3D will also work in Firefox 4, Chrome X, Safari 5, and Opera 11 on Windows.

    Also, will Silverlight 5's 3D work in supported browsers on Intel Macs, using OpenGL under the hood in that case, or is Silverlight 5 3D only available for computers with DirectX9 or above?

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