How to make a model in a web server manipulable by users via browser?


I am barely a novice designer. Normally I either download models from Internet repositories or hire somebody to make a model for me. I rotate it, zoom in/out, etc. inside my 3D app (in this case, SketchUp).

I have also experience setting up webservers, Apache specifically.

As you can see, I am missing a middle layer here. What software should I use in order to allow users to navigate or manipulate the object?

I cannot assume that the client web will have SketchUp or anything equivalent installed.


JFK Numbers


See here something similar to what I am trying to achieve:

Rotate the Lincoln

Achieving that level of functionality would be nice, but a richer interface would be better.



Here’s another example:

Travel Around the Plaza




You would have to reconsider the way you would like to show your ‘scenes’ to the public.
The 3D-Warehouse, as @endlessfix suggested, has a file limit of 50MB. Your (SketchUp) models are simply to large. The lincoln alone was 250MB, you showed a trashcan of 38MB.
Even if you succeeded in generating a scene with all the elements surrounding Dealey Plaza, the file size would be enormous, gigabytegantic etc. No one’s system could handle that.
For interactive engagement, look how computergames developed a strategy for dealing with these problems.
(Eg. The closer, more details, the further away, less)

Mind you

This method goes a long way back, from the props in the cinema,

To the middle ages:

And maybe back to the stone age:


You can do that in SketchUp for ‘stills’ but you will need a game engine for ‘walking around’


You have seen nothing, Mike. I must confess that I am rather ambitious: I am designing that beast for the hardware to be available years from now. I am also hoping (knock on wood) to get donations of computer power from some friendly/astute provider interested to show off its prowess.

As an example of the massive number of polygons that will need to be number crunched, consider these 2 objects.

This is a photo of the well known Zapruder camera:

while this is the Chaney Helmet:

JFK Numbers


You can use SketchUp. If you export the file to .dae (file -> export -> 3D model), then it allows you to navigate it with an image editing program like preview. I assume your clients have Preview or the Windows equivalent preinstalled on their computer. The .dae file allows you to rotate, zoom, and pan through the model.

In order for the textures to appear, you need a file full of textures in the same folder as the .dae file. For example,
The export from SketchUp will automatically create a textures folder, so you don’t need to worry about that. It’s just really important that you move the textures file together with the .dae file.

To send large files to clients, you can use Google Drive (a free service).


Maybe, just maybe sketchup isn’t your solution. You’re proposing using it for something that it really isn’t designed to do, and that you admittedly know isn’t even possible on current machines running it. You might consider other software packages that are better suited to this level scope, detail and immersion. Best of luck on that future funding.


Monospaced: I am not a 3D designer, but a software engineer. It is common practice to design software in advanced for hardware being under development. I cannot think of a better example than Adobe. As others have indicated, it is possible to design an intricate, complex scene and “distill” it in order to achieve better responsiveness. One of my specialties is to pre-process data in order to fit what an application (such as SketchUp) expects.

We are all familiar with Google maps and perhaps Google earth: during the demanding period of movement, the resolution is lowered and restored when the object is stable. Many 3D packages do this as well.

Another possibility: divide and conquer. Multiple servers, each specialized on a floor a part of a scene.

JFK Numbers


Cool. And you’ve quite eloquently explained exactly why SketchUp probably isn’t the software tool for your needs.

Anyway, in response to your original question (and the topic of this thread), you can always use the free online version of SketchUp to view and manipulate SketchUp models. So can your clients, without installing software. Or, you can use the viewer if you just want to view and rotate them at will. The viewer is even available for mobile devices.


This isn’t a 3D model. It’s a sequence of 2D renderings that you scrub between with a slider. You aren’t actually manipulating a 3D model in any way here. This was done more manually, with individual 3D renderings created and then presented using web code that allows for this functionality.