episode 47: Playing with 3D Models in PowerPoint

Have you used 3D Models in a real project?

  • Troy: Yes, on a few now. Also all of January The Presentation Blog was all 3D model posts.
  • Nolan: Haven’t yet. I’ve primarily played around.
  • Sandy: I’ve wanted to. One of my clients produces corrugated products and 3D models of their products will be perfect for presentations.


Let’s give a quick summary of who can use 3D models in PowerPoint and file formats supported.

  • Sandy: When you go to Insert > 3D Model, the PowerPoint dialog lists 6 file formats:
    • Filmbox Format (*.fbx)
    • Object Format (*.obj)
    • 3D Manufacturing Format (.3mf)
    • Polygon Format (*.ply)
    • Stereo Lithography Format (*.stl)
    • Binar/GL Transmission Format (*.glb)
  • Troy: I have primarily been using .fbx, .obj, and .3mf when searching or requesting. Each with varying levels of success.
  • Nolan: From what I have found, PowerPoint converts all to the .glb format.


Are there any issues with using a 3D model?

  • Troy: There are so many options supported in 3D modelling software that can be baked into the file formats – but PowerPoint does not recognize them or even support a file with them included. There are also memory resource issues to consider with 3D models as they can be memory intensive to render.
  • Nolan: Fellow MVP Tom Howell has been experimenting a lot and has written a few articles, referenced in the Show Notes. In some of my experimenting I found that color and texture were stripped out, leaving white 3D models inserted. And 3D models are not supported Mac yet, or older versions of PowerPoint for PC.
  • Sandy: 64 bit installs of PowerPoint.


Any problem using a 3D model on the design side?

  • Troy: Cheesy, cartoon quality 3D models are what is readily available for free. Sourcing professional 3D model art is not easy right now, so on the design side, the overall professional appearance is taking a big hit.
  • Nolan: I believe we are going to see a lot of dancing bears and bad spinning globes. The introduction of 3D Animations will magnify the less than desirable design and visual appeal.
  • Sandy: It is more effort to source visually professional 3D models, and I will be using custom models for the short term.


What is the coolest use of a 3D model you have done so far?

  • Sandy: I’ve pitched 3D a couple of clients using an old slide featuring their product, which I replaced with a 3D model to demonstrate how their in-house design department can supply 3D models for our presentation projects.
  • Troy: One of my favorite real slides has been a global operations stats slide. The original slide had a nice image of a stylized globe and stylized callout boxes for each corporate stat – overall a really nice slide. I added a stylized 3D model of the earth and divided the 5 stats across 5 slides. Each click spun the globe to a new view and stylized PowerPoint content of the stat animated on.
  • Nolan: Tom Howell has a nice demo using a 3D map of Venice where he zooms in on various buildings and parts of the city, much more impressive than anything I have done so far.


Any hidden, hard to discover, formatting tips with 3D models?

  • Nolan: Just like with images and video, you can drag and drop 3D models in, you don’t have to use the insert feature.
  • Troy: The Pan tool for 3D models is a bit hard to discover and figure out. If you are using 3D models, select a model, go to the 3D model formatting on the ribbon and click Pan and Zoom. It adds a magnifying glass icon to the model, click and drag to figure out what is does.


Where are you sourcing 3D Models?

  • Sandy: Remix 3D, Microsoft’s site.
  • Troy: Remix 3D, TurboSquid and Free3D. Be cautious about pricing, it can get expensive fast, mostly for options PowerPoint cannot use.
  • Nolan: Envato Market is one of the few places I’ve found to buy stock 3D files. Adobe Stock does have a new 3D model library.


What is the future of 3D Models in presentations?

  • Nolan: I think stock sites will start offering them, so you can download your spinning globe next your JPEG of a kid selling lemonade. I also think there might be some more user-friendly ways developed for creating custom 3D Models. For example, Apple will probably come out with the ability to take a 360 degree picture and have it converted to 3D format.
  • Sandy: To maintain the integrity of the presentation, I will likely hire custom 3D model talent to create what is needed for the presentation. I also can see AR/VR using 3D models as a natural fit.
  • Troy: I see an immediate future of cheesy visuals, followed by professional visuals as the stock sites expand the offerings, and as PowerPoint optimized (actually Microsoft Office Optimized) 3D model specifications become more known. Overall I believe 3D models will be a standard image format fairly quickly.



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