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I'm currently trying to teach myself OpenGL... and quickly discovering that the Immediate Mode taught in old OpenGL tutorials is basically obsolete... which leads me to VBO's... which I kind of get but would like to start learning them in context.

What is the workflow involved in taking a 3D object from Maya or 3DS Max and converting it to something that can be turned into a VBO?

On that token, do these export workflows also deal with materials and textures, or is that handled in an entirely different manner?

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Saving it as a very simple text format or binary (wavefront obj is a common one) and then parsing it in the usual way. This is exactly the same as any other data parsing task. A vertex buffer object is essentially just an array of data that's held in video card memory. You'll probably want to read the data into system memory first and then convert it to a VBO. With that in mind, you might be best of starting with a simple shape (e.g. a cube) that you generate in code, convert that to a VBO and then try loading files. This ensures that you're working on one problem at a time. So, get the spinning cube running first (That's the 3D graphics programmers 'hello world') and then worry about importing meshes from other sources.

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From 3d application you have to export the data to any format that you can parse. VBO are storage to hold vertex, index... information. In your program you have to parse back the information and feed it into the VBO, so OpenGL can draw them.

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