What is COLLADA?

COLLADA stands for COLLAborative Design Activity.
It is a project initiated by Sony Computer Entertainment to create a standard Digital Asset Exchange format. It is the first time that major Digital Content Creation (DCC) tool companies, such as Alias, Discreet and Softimage are working together, along with other companies bringing different experiences and expertise, to create a common interchange format for the benefit of all users.

Is COLLADA “only” a new file format?

COLLADA is an XML schema and a common profile defining a list of features that every COLLADA partner has agreed to support. Using an XML schema enables the powerful capability of data to be validated, as well as the possibility of using a lot of already commercially available or public domain tools. The goal of COLLADA is to create a working group enabling collaboration between all the partners in order to standardize on the representation of all the features required by interactive applications.

Currently, the COLLADA DOM includes the source code for loading/saving the data and helps integrate COLLADA support into applications. All this code is available as open source. In addition, this API will also introduce the capability to use a database system, rather than a simple file to store the data, thus giving additional flexibilities, such as database queries and asset management.

Why develop a new format?

We did not take lightly the burden of introducing another file format. Before the decision was made to start the COLLADA project, we looked at all the existing ‘formats’ and decided that unfortunately we needed to create a new one that would have a chance to become a standard. Let’s use the example you are mentiomentioningok at the arguments :

Most exiting formats are not an open formats; and have not been designed by a working group, but by a single company. That is a problem on its own. How will all the other companies agree to support a format that they have not participated in design? But most importantly, what will happen if that one company disappears or decides on prioritizing their support for different tools?

Main interchange technology are not designed as a language, but rather as an API (available under a license on a limited number of platforms). This enable data to be exchanged between applications that have licenced the technology, but it does not help at all to liberate the data from proprietary formats. How can one take the risk of having its vital assets stored in a format that they do not have sufficient control over including the exact specifications for?

What happened to Kaydara (being acquired by Alias) and then Alias (being acquired by Autodesk) should be a reminder to everyone regarding proprietary formats, and all of us should be asking for COLLADA to be widely supported by all DCC companies and different tool makers.

When will the COLLADA File Format be implemented in major DCC software?

It is already !! And available here!

And even better, everything is available in source code. The importers/exporters are written and supported directly by the DCC vendors. Altough we encourage the use of the MIT-license, please check licensing for the given exporter.

What tools are supporting COLLADA?

It is too hard to keep the list up to date, more products supporting COLLADA are announced reguralery. Here’s a partial list of products providing COLLADA support. Note: This list is not an endorsement of any kind, if you want your product added in that list, simply let us know and we will !

FXComposer 2.0
Google Earth
DAZ studios
Bullet physics
AGEIA physics
Menu Master
Unreal Engine
C4 engine
Agent FX
Open SceneGraph


What are the major features of this format?

We have defined the COLLADA schema and its COMMON profile. The schema defines the XML elements and attributes that enable COLLADA to represent many features using these XML building blocks. The COLLADA 1.4.x feature set includes:

Mesh Geometry,
Transform hierarchy (rotation, translation, shear, scale, matrix),
Shaders (Cg, GLSL, GLES),
Physics (rigid bodies, constraints, rag dolls, collision volumes),
User data.

Addionally, the COMMON profile is the superset of all the common features that COLLADA supports across domains. At minimum, all COLLADA compatible tools need to be able to load and store such data, even if a given tool is not using the data.

Extensions are grouped into vendor or application specific technique profiles and are used for describing features where their design is not yet validated, but early exposure is desired.

What features are supported by the partner implementations?

There is unfortunatly a difference between what the format can handle, and what the exporters/importers provided by the partners support. The Khronos Group is working to provide a conformance test for COLLADA adopters to make it easier for developers to know what comforming implementations support.

In addition, the format is extensible by nature. One can use the same COLLADA schema to represent additional information that is not something we had in mind when designing the schema. Of course, it is also possible to extend the schema if one needs to do so.

Is COLLADA Open Source?

The COLLADA schema and specification are freely available from The Khronos Group.

The COLLADA DOM is using the SCEA Shared Source License, allowing usage in commercial and non-commercial applications, without restrictions. Some partners are releasing their import/export source code using the MIT license, some have more restricted licenses, but all the code is available for download.

How does COLLADA help developers?

Currently every developer has to create their own exporters to extract the data from the tools artists are using. This data is than repurposed for their game engines. This industry practice replicates the cost of data interchange within every development company.

With the increased data complexity expected from developers and periodic updates of the tools, this task is becoming increasingly difficult and resource consuming.

With COLLADA, we wanted to simplify this process. Developers can directly use the exporters that are provided by the tool vendors. These are not only maintained by the people who know the most of their tools, but they are also readily available with the new releases. Upgrading to the latest art packages will become easier on the application developers which translates into saving time and money.

In addition, COLLADA also provides an import path back to the modeler, so it is now possible to create a variety of tools that can interact with the data outside the modelers.

Is COLLADA only devoted to the video game industry?

COLLADA is focusing on providing solutions for interactive applications, which of course includes the game industry. It can also be used in the movie industry for pre-visualization tools and asset management ( like motion tracking ), also in real-time visual systems and other interactive applications, such as Google Earth.

Is COLLADA competing with middleware ?

We view COLLADA as a complementary technology, not competitive.
COLLADA enables different middleware and tools to communicate with one another.

Why make it multi-platform and not just PlayStation specific?

COLLADA is not platform specific. It is publicly available and not restricted to Sony platforms. Our initiative is to make content creation easier for every developer on any platform, including the PlayStation of course. It is part of our strategy to help elevate the interactive entertainment industry to a next level of productivity.

MPEG 4 and X3D are standards in 3D (using XML), will COLLADA provide interchange with those formats?

We will probably see in the future more and more tools that transform COLLADA into various other formats. Some companies have already expressed their interest of producing such conversion tools. [update: COLLADA->X3D conversion tools are now available]

This list has been compiled from frequently asked questions and direct inquiries such as : 3d-test.com