3d Modelling : the challenges for Compression

Quick reminder, qoob is a modeller and library that stores 3d models by a series of modelling commands, not by storing the mesh. The hope is to get smaller models for intros. As I write qoob, three fundamental challenges are emerging:
  1. The size of the qoob library with the modelling commands code
  2. Storing modelling commands in a compact way
  3. Picking and selection compression
The Size of the Library
The Qoob library is around 2k after compression. It must be included in intros to decode cube models. As such the existing library simply wont work at 4k. Its fine for 64k and for 8k/16k. However I'm also hopeful a much smaller one could be produced. There would be three keys:
  • use DX maths and subdivision
  • reduce the modelling options and target abstract objects ONLY
  • use default values for all functions so storing a model means storing only a series of commands - no parameters.
That may seem crazy but there are a huge range of abstract objects that can be done this way. From plants to cubes to geometric abstracts. Even basic human figures.The first characters I showed on this blog were done this way!

Storing Modelling Commands

I made the mistake of targetting a low number of entry points in qoob lib. This kept the library small and tight but meant even a simple extrude needed 9 bytes to store!! However after considerable redesign, I've managed to reduce the average byte count per modelling command to less than 2. The result is less compressible but not by much and a factor of 5x on average is a very good saving. 50 modelling commands is a enough for many models. Thats 100 bytes BEFORE compression.

The first trick was to increase the number of possible commands (eg translate became translate, translateX, translateY, translateZ). Translate in X requires only one float whereas translate requires 3. Often the modeller does not need the full expressive power. In most cases the reduced bytes needed to store the new commands parameters far outweigh the extra code, which is highly compressible.

The second trick comes from accepting that we dont need the full range and accuracy of floats. A single byte is enough for most functions and should greater range be required, the modeller can always concatenate. For example, a translate in X can be expressed as a single byte. If further translation is required, the modeller simply translates again, however usually this is not the case.

Selection Compression

A talk with iq depressed me. Essentially selections needs 5 bytes (command and quad id) to store. In addition polygon ids are random (over many picks) and so do not compress. Iq guessed that 50 picks would render qoob models less effective than mesh based compression.
Well this is a fundamental mathematical barrier. The trick is to avoid it. Procedural selection comes to the rescue. Commands like "select similar" from wings3d mean that the modeller picks a single seed polygon then expands the selection using a command or two.
I'm still exploring the solution here so more when I'm sure what is a good thing but Im pleased with what I have so far.

So qoob lib got bigger but that could be fixed by porting to dx and reducing flexibility. Models got much smaller and picking is nearly solved but again costs bytes in the library.