Friday, April 15, 2005

Finding U3D Files

For the past few weeks, I've been wanting to play with the U3D file format a bit. Unfortunately, no actual U3D files are available on the web. There are U3D files embedded in pdf documents that can be viewed with Acrobat Reader, but if you want to look at an actual U3D file, you're out of luck. Intel apprently has a SDK for creating and reading U3D files, but they haven't released it to the public yet, so the most widespread way for people to get an actual working U3D file right now is to get a trial version of commercial 3d file format conversion software (which has Intel's U3D SDK embedded in it) and to convert some existing files over to U3D.

I tried e-mailing the 3DIF, asking them to put up a plain U3D file somewhere so that I could take a look at it, but they never bothered replying after a week. Fortunately, after a little bit of research, I found a utility called Multivalent. This utility comes with a tool called Uncompress, which is able to take a pdf document and uncompress all the files attached inside. Of course, afterwards, you still have a pdf document with U3D files embedded inside, but since the U3D data is now uncompressed, it's possible to examine the raw U3D data.

Since all U3D files start with the string "U3D\0" you can just discard all of the pdf data that comes before that string, and everything after that is a valid U3D file (I presume). I used a little Python script like this to discard the initial useless pdf data:

data =
# You need to take the second "U3D"
idx=data.index('U3D', data.index('U3D')+1)
data = data[idx:]

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