Polygon Count

3D Model Polygon Count – What’s the Optimum for Your Application?

To improve user experience and to facilitate purchase decision-making, retail brands such as Target have started implementing 3D product models into their online stores. This is a natural evolution following the rapid adoption of virtual product photography. The use of 3D product models comes with a catch: Determining the optimum polygon count for the 3D product model.

What is polygon count or polycount?

Polygon count refers to the number of objects that make up a 3D product model. The higher the polygon density of a model, the more refined it is and the smoother the surface. A high polygon count results in a higher model quality when products have many corners and angles, complex structures or when small design details are important.

What can be considered a high, medium, or low polygon count?

Whether a polygon count is high or not depends on the complexity of the product that is being modelled. A product that is made up of many small parts or different materials or the use of close-ups may require more polygons in order for the polygon density to be high. Examples are electronic products such as an oven or products with complex structures and edges such as a wooden chair. On the other hand, a simpler product such as a table will require less polygons. As a general rule of thumb, a polygon count below 10,000 polygons (file size typically <15 MB) can be considered “low”, anything below 500,000 polygons (file size typically <50 MB) “medium” and everything above 500,000 “high”.

Which polygon count is right for which usage scenarios?

The use case for a product model is important when determining the optimum polygon count. Two scenarios that we often encounter are e-commerce use cases. Some of our clients embed more complex, fully rendered 3D product models into their websites. In those cases, the user experience will be better, as potential customers can have an ultra realistic product experience.
Product colours, surface look-and-feel as well as the impact of lighting will be very close to the actual product. The downside however is that larger models require longer load times and may slow websites down.
The image below shows a screenshot of a fully rendered 3D product model embedded in a website.

For technical reasons and also to improve page load speed, some brands opt for web viewers. This will provide a 3D experience as well, but the product experience is not as close to reality. The screenshot below shows a reference for that.

On the other end of the spectrum, we can also help clients deploy augmented reality (AR) experiences that can be experienced via apps or virtual reality headsets. This will allow users to virtually place products in their surroundings. The screenshot below shows this.

Which factors other than polygon count affect model quality?

The polygon count is just one of the variables that determines the overall quality of a 3D model. One other critical factor is the texture of the model. Textures are essentially 2D images that are applied to the surface of a 3D object. A granular, high-resolution (4K) texture will make the model look less flat and more natural and realistic. However, the more detailed the texture, the larger the output file.

How can you balance website loading speed vs high polycount?

Of course, everyone wants the best of both worlds: ultra realistic product models and fast loading websites. At Impala we work with technology partners that provide state-of-the-art systems that can be fully integrated into your website. This will get you the speed you need without having to compromise on user experience. Reach out to us to discuss how we can help roll out 3D solutions for your website.

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