ICSD for WWW

Help with VRML for 3D Structure Display


22 June 2006

  • 3D Structure Drawing
    There are many applications for drawing crystal structures in 3D, and you may prefer to simply display the CIF file from the ICSD structure "Details" window, using for example CCD's free Mercury molecular plotting application. You may also try the PDB/Jmol molecular plotter, which will work with any recent Java-enabled browser, without the need to install any another application.
    However, ICSD's internal 3D VRML format is intended to provide simple, rapid and automatic drawing and comparison of inorganic structures, complete with co-ordination polyhedrae and bonds (examples). If you can't display this VRML structure you should install a VRML browser plugin.

  • Installing the Cortona VRML Client under Windows-95/98/NT/2000/XP or Macintosh
    After installing the Cortona VRML Client plugin, reboot and install the Cortona VRML-1 to VRML-2 converter.
    You may have to choose "manual installation" of Cortona, which allows you to select the specific browser plug-in directory to contain the npCortona.dll plug-in.

    Only the main mouse button is used by Cortona, and its action is determined by selecting a button along the left edge of the VRML window. Move the mouse over the button to discover its action - Fly, Examine, Plan, Pan, Turn or Roll the model by dragging the mouse. The buttons along the bottom are used to GoTo, Straighten, Restore or Fit the model. Probably you will want Examine and Turn with Fit. Right-click the window to select the "fastest" speed and other options.

  • Alternative plugins for Windows-95/98/NT/2000/XP
    CosmoPlayer for Windows is no longer officially supported, but may still be the best. You must manually copy the C:\Program Files\CosmoSoftware\CosmoPlayer\npcosmop211.dll file to your browser plugins folder.
    Since April 2006, CosmoPlayer no longer works in MSIE, but still works well in FireFox (details).
    Drag the left mouse button to rotate, the right button to translate, and the "middle button" (Ctrl-key modifier) to zoom. If the image skates off the page, locate the small Change Controls stick at the bottom left-center of the Cosmo console. Click on this (twice) to force "Examine" mode. Pivoron for Windows is an updated CosmoPlayer, but it too is no longer officially supported. You can find other VRML viewers at the VRML Repository.

  • Stand-alone VRML applications
    You can click the "Save VRML structure" button to download the VRML file, and then (in Windows) right-click this file to choose your favourite VRML application to always open such files. This is useful if you have problems displaying VRML files within your browser. The small Windows application VRML_viewer by Eric SIBERT makes this particularly easy for Cortona, CosmoPlayer and Pivoron.

  • Printing the 3D Structure Window
    You cannot print the 3D structure window directly, but you can use the "PrintScreen" key. Enlarge the window to fill the screen for best resolution, then (in Windows) press the "Alt-PrintScreen" keys to copy just the top window.

  • But what is VRML anyway ?
    You don't need to know what VRML is, but if you are curious, it stands for Virtual Reality Modelling Language. You can learn how easy it is to use for crystallography from the ILL's WWW pages.

  • Photo-realistic rendering of VRML files (Textures and POV-Ray)
    VRML files are plain ASCII, and can be edited with any text editor; you might like to experiment. In particular you can map a fancy texture onto the surface to produce striking illustrations. You just need to add a VRML-1 node such as: Texture2 { filename "earth.jpg" } eg in textured C60 buckey-balls to make the atom spheres look like miniature worlds ! You can also produce photo-realistic images from these VRML files, like this POV rendered C60 buckey-balls image, complete with shadows. First save the image to your harddisk, and then use the Windows-DOS application vrml1tovrml2.exe, which you will find in C:\WINDOWS\system32\ together with its library cp_vrml1to2.dll (if you have installed CosmoPlayer) to convert the VRML-1 file to VRML-2. Then convert this VRML-2 file to the POV (Persistance Of Vision) format using vrml2pov. Finally, you can now use POV-Ray to render the POV-format file, after editing it to set the light source and other details. Have fun experimenting !


    The ICSD database is copyright 2003 by Fachinformationszentrum (FIZ) Karlsruhe
    Please report technical problems with ICSD for WWW to hewat@ill.fr (Alan Hewat).