MD3 (file format)

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Example of two MD3 model assets from Quake III Arena that have been linked together using tags.

MD3 is a model format supported by the Quake 3 engine. The format can be used for characters, items, and level structure geometry. Animations are saved on a per-vertex basis, opposed to skeletal animation. The format can contain tags (origin and rotation) that games can place models or effects at.

File format[edit]

Data Type Name Description
U8 char 8-bit unsigned octet (character)
S16 short little-endian signed 16-bit integer
S32 int little-endian signed 32-bit integer
F32 float IEEE-754 32-bit floating-point
VEC3 vec3_t triplet of F32 in sequence (read 4 octets, make float, read 4, make float, read 4, make float), describing a 3-space vector
* [] indicates sequential repeat count (homogenous aggregation, array, vector), as in "U8 * 16" to mean a 16-octet array (i.e. character string
- file/array offset of which to make special note
 ! aggregate complex data that should be described elsewhere

MD3 header[edit]

Data Type Name Description
- MD3_START Offset of MD3 object. Usually 0, but not guaranteed.
S32 IDENT Magic number. As a string of 4 octets, reads "IDP3"; as unsigned little-endian 860898377 (0x33504449); as unsigned big-endian 1229213747 (0x49445033).
S32 VERSION MD3 version number, latest known is 15, but use the constant MD3_VERSION.
U8 * 64 NAME MD3 name, usually its pathname in the PK3. ASCII character string, NULL-terminated (C-style).
S32 FLAGS  ???
S32 NUM_FRAMES Number of Frame objects, with a maximum of MD3_MAX_FRAMES. Current value of MD3_MAX_FRAMES is 1024.
S32 NUM_TAGS Number of Tag objects, with a maximum of MD3_MAX_TAGS. Current value of MD3_MAX_TAGS is 16. There is one set of tags per frame so the total number of tags to read is (NUM_TAGS * NUM_FRAMES).
S32 NUM_SURFACES Number of Surface objects, with a maximum of MD3_MAX_SURFACES. Current value of MD3_MAX_SURFACES is 32.
S32 NUM_SKINS Number of Skin objects. I should note that I have not seen an MD3 using this particular field for anything; this appears to be an artifact from the Quake 2 MD2 format. Surface objects have their own Shader field.
S32 OFS_FRAMES Relative offset from start of MD3 object where Frame objects start. The Frame objects are written sequentially, that is, when you read one Frame object, you do not need to seek() for the next object.
S32 OFS_TAGS Relative offset from start of MD3 where Tag objects start. Similarly written sequentially.
S32 OFS_SURFACES Relative offset from start of MD3 where Surface objects start. Again, written sequentially.
S32 OFS_EOF Relative offset from start of MD3 to the end of the MD3 object. Note there is no offset for Skin objects.
 ! (Frame) The array of Frame objects usually starts immediately afterwards, but OFS_FRAMES should be used.
 ! (Tag) The array of Tag objects usually starts immediately after FRAMES, but OFS_TAGS should be used.
 ! (Surface) The array of Surface objects usually start after TAGS, but OFS_SURFACES should be used.
- MD3_END End of MD3 object. Should match OFS_EOF.

Frame[edit]

General properties of a single animation frame.

Data Type Name Description
VEC3 MIN_BOUNDS First corner of the bounding box.
VEC3 MAX_BOUNDS Second corner of the bounding box.
VEC3 LOCAL_ORIGIN Local origin, usually (0, 0, 0).
F32 RADIUS Radius of bounding sphere.
U8 * 16 NAME Name of Frame. ASCII character string, NUL-terminated (C-style)

Tag[edit]

An attachment point for another MD3 model.

Data Type Name Description
U8 * 64 NAME Name of Tag object. ASCII character string, NUL-terminated (C-style).
VEC3 ORIGIN Coordinates of Tag object.
VEC3 * 3 AXIS 3x3 rotation matrix associated with the Tag.

Surface[edit]

An animated triangle mesh.

Data Type Name Description
- SURFACE_START Offset relative to start of MD3 object.
S32 IDENT Magic number. As a string of 4 octets, reads "IDP3"; as unsigned little-endian 860898377 (0x33504449); as unsigned big-endian 1229213747 (0x49445033).
U8 * 64 NAME Name of Surface object. ASCII character string, NUL-terminated (C-style).
S32 FLAGS  ???
S32 NUM_FRAMES Number of animation frames. This should match NUM_FRAMES in the MD3 header.
S32 NUM_SHADERS Number of Shader objects defined in this Surface, with a limit of MD3_MAX_SHADERS. Current value of MD3_MAX_SHADERS is 256.
S32 NUM_VERTS Number of Vertex objects defined in this Surface, up to MD3_MAX_VERTS. Current value of MD3_MAX_VERTS is 4096.
S32 NUM_TRIANGLES Number of Triangle objects defined in this Surface, maximum of MD3_MAX_TRIANGLES. Current value of MD3_MAX_TRIANGLES is 8192.
S32 OFS_TRIANGLES Relative offset from SURFACE_START where the list of Triangle objects starts.
S32 OFS_SHADERS Relative offset from SURFACE_START where the list of Shader objects starts.
S32 OFS_ST Relative offset from SURFACE_START where the list of ST objects (s-t texture coordinates) starts.
S32 OFS_XYZNORMAL Relative offset from SURFACE_START where the list of Vertex objects (X-Y-Z-N vertices) starts.
S32 OFS_END Relative offset from SURFACE_START to where the Surface object ends.
 ! (Shader) List of Shader objects usually starts immediate after the Surface header, but use OFS_SHADERS (or rather, OFS_SHADERS+SURFACE_START for files).
 ! (Triangle) List of Triangle objects usually starts immediately after the list of Shader objects, but use OFS_TRIANGLES (+ SURFACE_START).
 ! (ST) List of ST objects usually starts immediately after the list of Triangle objects, but use OFS_ST (+ SURFACE_START).
 ! (XYZNormal) List of Vertex objects usually starts immediate after the list of St objects, but use OFS_XYZNORMALS (+ SURFACE_START). The total number of objects is (NUM_FRAMES * NUM_VERTS). One set of NUM_VERTS Vertex objects describes the Surface in one frame of animation; the first NUM_VERTS Vertex objects describes the Surface in the first frame of animation, the second NUM_VERTEX Vertex objects describes the Surface in the second frame of animation, and so forth.
- SURFACE_END End of Surface object. Should match OFS_END.
Shader[edit]
Data Type Name Description
U8 * 64 NAME Pathname of shader in the PK3. ASCII character string, NUL-terminated (C-style).
S32 SHADER_INDEX Shader index number. No idea how this is allocated, but presumably in sequential order of definition.
Triangle[edit]
Data Type Name Description
S32 * 3 INDEXES List of offset values into the list of Vertex objects that constitute the corners of the Triangle object. Vertex numbers are used instead of actual coordinates, as the coordinates are implicit in the Vertex object. The triangles have clockwise winding.
TexCoord[edit]
Data Type Name Description
F32 * 2 ST s and t texture coordinates, normalized to the range [0, 1]. Values outside the range indicate wraparounds/repeats. Unlike UV coordinates, the origin for texture coordinates is located in the upper left corner (similar to the coordinate system used for computer screens) whereas, in UV mapping, it is placed in the lower left corner. As such, the t value must be flipped to correspond with UV coordinates. See also Left-hand coordinates
Vertex[edit]
Data Type Name Description
S16 * 3 COORD x, y, and z coordinates in right-handed 3-space, scaled down by factor 1.0/64. (Multiply by 1.0/64 to obtain original coordinate value.)
U8*2 NORMAL Zenith and azimuth angles of normal vector. 255 corresponds to 2 pi. See spherical coordinates.

Normals[edit]

Encoding[edit]

The normal vector uses a spherical coordinate system. Since the normal vector is, by definition, a length of one, only the angles need to be recorded. Each angle is constrained between 0 - 255 to fit in one octet. A normal vector encodes into 16 bits.

(Code in q3tools/common/mathlib.c:NormalToLatLong)
azimuth <- atan2(y, x) * 255 / (2 * pi)
zenith <- acos(z) * 255 / (2 * pi)

Decoding[edit]

(Code in q3tools/q3map/misc_model.c:InsertMD3Model)
lat <- zenith * (2 * pi ) / 255
lng <- azimuth * (2 * pi) / 255
x <- cos ( lng ) * sin ( lat )
y <- sin ( lng ) * sin ( lat )
z <- cos ( lat )

See also[edit]

Resources[edit]