15 – File Formats in 3D Visualization (Part 1)

Because we use so many different software programs to successfully complete a visualization, transferring files between said programs can be tricky, to say the least. In this episode of the Civil FX podcast I break down the files I like best and why I want to use them. I also give a tip (two weeks in a row!) and gave a challenge for you to personally contact me in a unique way.

Player above not working? Either click here, or right-click and “Save Link” to download the episode.

File Formats Show Notes

File formats are extremely important in design and especially 3D visualization. Because this is a process and not a software, files must be transferred between programs, usually many times. While there are nearly innumerable file formats out there for 3D files, it has gotten easier to convert between programs. For all of us, learning file formats will be a combination of being told the best way and finding the best way. More of the former is better and this episode will hopefully help avoid the latter. This episode isn’t intended to give you the meaning behind every acronym and historical backstory of each of these formats. Rather, this is intended to show you the file types you need to know. File Formats:

  • DWG/DNG. What it is used for? CAD drafting but now include 3D elements and are both essentially a 3D model file.
  • FBX. What it is used for? Best 3D model format for transferring between programs. Can include accurate textures (including imagery with terrain) as well as clean surfaces and even animations. Love this for InfraWorks export, among others.
  • DAE (Collada) A relatively new 3D model format that accurately transfers textures and surfaces. I use most often if I only have access to free version of Sketchup.
  • OBJ An older 3D model file format. Typically you only use this if you have no other choice.
  • SKP/3DS… proprietary file formats that have become industry standards because the software is now ubiquitous.
  • SHP.  Shape file commonly used in GIS type programs and also increasingly in Civil 3D for surfaces.
  • TIN/DEM/DTM/Land XML Common surface files. Even .tiff and other image files can be used as surfaces with elevation as well. I’ve used Shape files as surfaces before too.
  •  Others will be covered in future episodes.

Here is the link for the Steps of 3D Visualization post.

Let me know what I missed in the comments!

Image Credit to Dav Wong