Shaded Graphics Support

OrcaFlex has two distinct types of graphical presentation:

  • Wire frame, isometric shows an isometric projection of the model
  • Shaded, perspective draws the model as solid objects with lighting, shading, perspective and hidden line removal.

The contrast between these methods can be seen on the OrcaFlex screenshots page.

Software and Hardware Requirements

To use the shaded graphics mode you must have DirectX 9 or later installed. Most modern machines will meet this requirement; otherwise the instructions on getting the latest version of Direct X can be found on the Microsoft website.

In addition you will require a DirectX 9 compatible graphics card. In our experience the most important factor to consider when choosing a card to work with the shaded graphics is the amount of memory. We would recommend using a card with 256MB or more.

It is also important to make sure that your computer's graphics settings specify a colour mode of 16 bits (65536 colours) or better.


  1. If your machine's graphics capabilities are insufficient then the shaded graphics mode may fail to function properly or indeed fail to function at all. For example, low quality, blocky images usually indicate a graphics card with insufficient memory. This problem can also manifest itself by failure to draw the sky which appears plain white.
  2. For best results you should centre your model close to the global origin. The Move Selected Objects facility can help you do this.

Video Export

Just as for wire frame views OrcaFlex can export video files of a replays in shaded views. When producing videos it is very important to use compression, otherwise the video file size becomes unreasonably large. The software that performs this compression is called a codec.

For wire frame replays OrcaFlex uses a built-in codec called run-length encoding. This codec is not suitable for shaded replays and in fact there is no suitable built-in codec in Windows. We would recommend using an MPEG-4 codec of which many are available. In our experience the freely available XVID codec performs very well.

The XVID codec can be downloaded from

Once installed we recommend that you make the following minor configuration changes to the XVID encoder:

  • Set Target Quantizer to 2.00.
  • In Other Options on the Encoder page uncheck the Display encoding status setting.

The XVID encoder settings can be found in Start Menu | Programs | XviD | Configure Encoder. Should you wish to use a different codec you can select this from the OrcaFlex Preferences form.

Showing Exported Video in Microsoft PowerPoint

An XVID encoded AVI file (and possibly other codecs) added to Microsoft PowerPoint slides as a Movie Object may not play correctly (displaying a blank screen on replay, or the video only appearing in full screen mode). To avoid these problems, an XVID AVI file needs to be inserted as a Video Clip Object. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Drag and Drop the AVI file onto the PowerPoint slide, or
  2. From the PowerPoint menu, choose Insert | Object. Select 'Create from file' and Browse to your file (do not select the 'Link' option).

To set options such as auto repeat, right-click on the image in the slide, then select Video Clip Object | Open, this displays the video player window and menus. The Video Clip Object links to the AVI file (it is not embedded within PowerPoint) so the file location needs to be accessible when running the presentation. The computer running the presentation must also have the XVID codec installed.

Importing 3D models

OrcaFlex has the capability of drawing objects using detailed 3D models. For examples of this see the OrcaFlex screenshots page. We have supplied with OrcaFlex a very basic selection of generic models which you are free to use. However you may wish to use a detailed model of a project specific vessel, buoy, template etc. OrcaFlex can import Microsoft's ".x" file format and also Wavefront ".obj" format files (introduced in OrcaFlex 10.0) which describe a surface mesh and sometimes material properties for such a model, for more information on OrcaFlex support for ".obj" files see below.

To produce a 3D model requires a specialist design package and there are many 3D design packages available, either CAD software that can export a mesh file for the design object or software dedicated to producing 3D images. Many of these packages can export a 3D model in the formats required by OrcaFlex, and if not they can be exported to another commonly supported interim format such as ".3ds" or ".stl". You should be aware that the quality of these converters may not be consistent, and may not correctly reproduce your model from one file format to another. The table below is a list of common software that claim to be able to export 3D models to ".obj" format and some also to ".x" format. Note that we do not use these packages and so can offer no support in their use.

Warning: If you are importing a 3D model into OrcaFlex you should make sure that it does not contain too much detail. Otherwise the drawing performance may be very poor. This is because there are limits to how much detail a graphics card can render efficiently. The largest model that we have provided is 350KB and we would recommend that you aim not to exceed this size significantly. You may need to reduce the level of detail of any existing 3D models before exporting them.


Commercial 3D modelling packages
Maya An Autodesk 3D animation and modelling package that supports import and export of a number of formats including ".obj".
3D Studio MAX Also owned by Autodesk, this 3D modelling package can export to ".obj" files.
Rhino 3D A 3D modelling package which can import a number of formats including Autodesk formats (".dwg", ".dxf" and ".fbx"), IGES files (".iges", ".igs"), STEP files (".step", ".stp") and ".stl". Rhino 3D can export to ".obj" and ".x" formats.
Amabilis Actually a free 3D modelling and animation package but export to ".x" and ".obj" formats requires the PRO version. In addition it is capable of importing AutoCad ".dxf" files and files from other CAD packages.
PolyTrans 3D This software provides conversions from the majority of 3D CAD, DCC/Animation and VisSim file formats into the DirectX ".x" and Wavefront ".obj" formats. Okino will also handle any questions relating to the file format conversion.
SolidWorks 3D CAD A CAD package that can import and export to many file formats including Wavefront ".obj" format.
AutoCad AutoCAD can export to Autodesk's ".3ds" mesh format and then another application will be required to convert this to ".obj" or “.x” format required by OrcaFlex.
Inventor Inventor can export to other CAD formats such as IGES files (".igs"), STEP files (".stp") and ".stl". These will need to be imported into another application such as FreeCAD to export a mesh in ".obj" or “.x” format required by OrcaFlex.
MilkShape Shareware 3D modelling package which can export to ".x" and ".obj" format. It is capable of importing AutoCad ".dxf" files, ".3ds" files and Maya files.
Free or Open source 3D modelling packages
Blender Freely available rendering and animation package. Blender can import a number of common formats (including ".3ds", ".dxf", ".fbx" and ".stl") and export to Wavefront ".obj" and Direct X ".x" (using an included add-on).
Wings 3D An open source 3D modelling package which can export to ".x" and ".obj" format. It can import from AutoDesk ".3ds" and 3D Systems ".stl" files.
FreeCAD An open source 3D modelling package which can import a number of formats including Autodesk formats (".dwg", ".dxf" and ".fbx"), IGES files (".iges", ".igs"), STEP files (".step", ".stp") and ".stl". FreeCAD can export to ".obj" format.

Support for Wavefront OBJ file format

The Wavefront ".obj" file format and the associated material file (".mtl") is a commonly used interchange format for 3D meshes and their properties. A description of the file specifications are here: OBJ specification and here: MTL specification. OrcaFlex supports a subset of these specifications that is sufficient for the requirements of rendering a 3D model in the shaded graphics view. The ".mtl" file is optional, if no material file is used the object will be drawn in the pen colour defined in the Drawing tab for that object's data in OrcaFlex.

Supported OBJ file statements

The ".obj" file defines the mesh vertices, normals, texture vertices and faces. These definitions may be grouped into subsets for the purpose of applying named material properties and for selection purposes when edited in a 3D software package. The following statements are supported by OrcaFlex:

mtllib filename Optional. filename should be a Wavefront material file with the extension ".mtl". OrcaFlex only accepts one filename.
v x y z Required. Geometric vertex x,y and z co-ordindates (floating point values).
vn i j k Optional. Normal vector components (floating point values).
vt u v Optional. Texture u, v co-ordinates. Values greater then 1.0 indicate a repeated (tiled) texture. The texture file is specified in the current material properties specified in the previous usemtl statement.
f v/vt/vn ... Required. Face vertex definitions. v is the 1 based index into the list of geometric vertices, vt the index into the texture vertices and vn the index into the vertex normal list. There should be at least 3 face vertex definitions per line. If 4 or more face vertices are present (a polygonal face) then OrcaFlex will triangulate these itself. If vt is not required then the second "/" must be present, e.g: f v//vn.
usemtl material-name Optional. This directs OrcaFlex to use the named material properties defined in an associated ".mtl" file for all subsequent faces following this line (until the next usemtl statement).
# Comment line
All other statements are ignored.

Supported MTL file statements

The ".mtl" file defines the material colours and textures that are named in the OBJ file. usemtl statements in the parent OBJ file must have a corresponding material definition in the associated MTL file. The following statements in the MTL file are supported by OrcaFlex:

newmtl material-name Required, the statements following this define the material properties that can be specified using 'material-name' in the OBJ file.
Kd r g b Required, specifies the red, green and blue values in the range 0.0 to 1.0 for diffuse lighting. This is the main colour property for the material.
Ks r g b Optional, specifies the red, green and blue values in the range 0.0 to 1.0 for spectral lighting effects, requires the Ns statement is present.
Ka r g b Optional, specifies the red, green and blue values in the range 0.0 to 1.0 for ambient lighting effects. Some 3D software packages may export this with default values of 1.0 1.0 1.0 (white) and the resultant rendered object will appear just white in OrcaFlex - so edit to 0.0 0.0 0.0 or remove this line completely if not required.
Ns Optional, specifies the focus of the spectral highlights with a value between 0 and 1000. Higher values give sharper and more focused spectral highlights.
d Optional, the default is 1.0. This specifies the dissolve into the background ('transparency') of the material. 0.0 is fully transparent and 1.0 is fully opaque.
map_Kd filename Optional, this specifies an image file (e.g. a ".png" or ".bmp" file) to use for a texture.
# Comment line
All other statements are ignored.