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CSS3 First Look
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An overview of 3D transforms


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CSS3 First Look

with James Williamson

Video: An overview of 3D transforms

Of all the cool CSS3 demos currently online, none of them get as many oohs and ahs as the 3D transform demos. I mean check this out. It's pretty cool, right? All right, how about this one? How about that? Isn't that cool? Check that out. I can just sit here and do this all day. That is so cool. All right, I'll show where to find these demos in just a moment.
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  1. 3m 5s
    1. Welcome
      1m 20s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 45s
  2. 31m 30s
    1. What is CSS3?
      5m 26s
    2. The current status of CSS3
      3m 35s
    3. An overview of CSS3 capabilities
      2m 24s
    4. Can you use CSS3 now?
      5m 31s
    5. Detecting support for CSS3
      9m 0s
    6. Understanding vendor prefixes
      5m 34s
  3. 1h 9m
    1. An overview of child and sibling selectors
      3m 11s
    2. Using child and sibling selectors
      7m 17s
    3. An overview of attribute selectors
      3m 19s
    4. Using attribute selectors
      8m 32s
    5. Pseudo-class UI selectors
      5m 56s
    6. Negation pseudo-class selectors
      6m 48s
    7. Target pseudo-class selectors
      5m 39s
    8. Structural selectors
      3m 58s
    9. Nth-child selector syntax
      10m 0s
    10. First, last, and only structural selectors
      5m 39s
    11. Using structural selectors to write more efficient code
      8m 52s
  4. 45m 28s
    1. Color formats in CSS3
      7m 9s
    2. Transparency in CSS3
      9m 10s
    3. CSS3 gradients
      4m 11s
    4. Creating linear gradients
      13m 57s
    5. Creating radial gradients
      11m 1s
  5. 49m 8s
    1. Working with web fonts
      6m 38s
    2. @font-face syntax
      4m 52s
    3. Downloading sample fonts
      6m 5s
    4. Writing @font-face declarations
      7m 57s
    5. Using web fonts
      6m 42s
    6. Using text shadows
      7m 14s
    7. Creating multi-column text
      9m 40s
  6. 50m 55s
    1. An overview of the flexible box model
      4m 42s
    2. Controlling box orientation
      5m 2s
    3. Setting element flexibility
      12m 59s
    4. Distributing boxes
      7m 54s
    5. Controlling box alignment
      12m 38s
    6. Working with box-sizing
      7m 40s
  7. 1h 5m
    1. Using border-radius
      6m 20s
    2. Creating custom rounded corners
      10m 21s
    3. Understanding border images
      5m 15s
    4. Using border images
      8m 52s
    5. Creating box shadows
      8m 58s
    6. CSS3 backgrounds
      4m 55s
    7. Controlling background size
      8m 46s
    8. Creating multiple background images
      6m 4s
    9. Using background-origin
      3m 18s
    10. Clipping background content
      3m 2s
  8. 40m 8s
    1. An overview of CSS3 2D transforms
      4m 26s
    2. Using 2D transforms
      8m 16s
    3. Setting transform origins
      5m 24s
    4. An overview of CSS3 transitions
      5m 0s
    5. Animating CSS properties
      6m 12s
    6. Using easing in animations
      5m 41s
    7. An overview of 3D transforms
      5m 9s
  9. 37m 56s
    1. Understanding media queries
      6m 18s
    2. Strategies for targeting multiple devices
      6m 4s
    3. Writing styles for target screen sizes
      12m 11s
    4. Deploying styles through media queries
      3m 55s
    5. Basing media queries on page orientation
      2m 24s
    6. Targeting media queries for iOS devices
      7m 4s
  10. 1m 6s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 6s

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CSS3 First Look
6h 34m Appropriate for all Nov 29, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In CSS3 First Look, staff author James Williamson provides an in-depth introduction to the newest CSS standard, detailing its modular format, history, and current level of browser support, while also demonstrating its capabilities and applications. The course includes tutorials on using new selectors, modifying typography and color, working with the box model, and understanding media queries. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the history of CSS3
  • Working with the new selectors
  • Adding transparency and gradients
  • Specifying web fonts with @font-face
  • Understanding the advances to page layout
  • Looking at CSS3 box model capabilities
  • Using 2D and 3D transforms
  • Understanding media queries
Subject:
Web
Software:
CSS
Author:
James Williamson

An overview of 3D transforms

Of all the cool CSS3 demos currently online, none of them get as many oohs and ahs as the 3D transform demos. I mean check this out. It's pretty cool, right? All right, how about this one? How about that? Isn't that cool? Check that out. I can just sit here and do this all day. That is so cool. All right, I'll show where to find these demos in just a moment.

Now without a doubt, 3D transforms allow us to do some pretty cool stuff. Although 3D transforms have their own Level 3 module specification, they share so much of the 2D transform specification that once you've got a handle on writing those transforms, making the transition to 3D transforms is pretty easy. Now that's the good news. The bad news is that the specification is still very young, support is sparse, and changes to both the specification and the implementations are ongoing.

Still it's certainly worth exploring. So let's talk a little about 3D transforms and how they work. Just like 2D transforms, 3D transforms use the transform-property to pass transform functions. At first glance, it looks like there are quite a bit more transform functions in the 3D transforms than 2D transforms, but if we look closer, we can see that for the most part, it's exactly the same transforms with the Z-axis property added to the X and Y properties.

Now, what's the Z-axis? Imagine that your monitor is a flat plane. If you were to draw a straight line, coming out perpendicular to the monitor that would be the Z-axis. It allows us to simulate depth and stacking order for our 3D transforms. Now, that leads me to a transform function that is specific to 3D transforms. Perspective. Now, perspective essentially establishes a viewing distance between the viewer and the transform object.

The higher the value, the further away the user is and as such the subtler the transform becomes. Perspective can be set as a property or as a transform function. Now as a transform function, it applies to the transform on the element itself, while as a property it applies to the positioned or transformed children of the element. More than anything else, applying perspective as a property allows you to set the same perspective for all child objects that are transformed.

So it's not uncommon to see it placed on the body tag so that your perspective remains consistent and you don't have to keep setting it. You can also set a perspective-origin property. A good way to visualize this is to think about a vanishing point or establishing the angle of the plane that the element is rendered on. Now this can be set as a keyword or as percentages. Another 3D transform property that you want to be familiar with is the transform-style property. Now this property takes one of two values.

The default flat value and preserve-3d. So what does this do? Imagine that you have you have two elements, a parent and a child, and that you've applied 3D transforms to both of them. If the transform-style is set to flat, the child's transform values are ignored and it's mapped to the same transform as its parent. Now if it's set to preserve-3d, both transforms are applied independently of each other, allowing for a more pronounced effect, greater stacking depths, or all sorts of mayhem.

Now all this sounds really cool and leads to the natural question, can I use this now? Well, browser support is as of this recording a little weak. As you can see only WebKit browsers really support 3D transforms and there are differences in the Safari and Chrome implementations. I also feel that I should point out that 3D transforms are hardware accelerated in Safari to increase their performance. They're fairly processor-intensive and work is continuing in other browsers to add support.

All right, so what does that mean for you now? Well, unless you're designing for a controlled WebKit environment, like the iPad or iPhone, I'd put these capabilities squarely in the experimental category. Although it's easy enough to detect for 3D transform support, creating fallback content is not the easiest thing in the world to do. I encourage you to experiment with 3D transforms, especially by combining them with transitions, and stay current on changes to the specification and support levels, so when the time is right you can add 3D transforms to your own projects and applications.

Now, how about those demos I promised? Snow Stack has that really cool 3D flicker interface that I was showing you and that 3D cube demo, that was created by Paul Hayes. You can find out more about both of them by visiting these links. I also recommend checking out the Safari blog page on 3D transforms. There is a ton of information and some really cool demos there as well. If you decide to give them a try, just remember their experimental nature and have fun with them.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about CSS3 First Look.


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Q: I'm following along with the video "Transparency in CSS3".  James shows us how to achieve transparency in Internet Explorer by going to Kimili.com and entering a HSLA value to generate code for transparency.

Here that code:

background: transparent;-ms-filter: "progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr=#BF0E0C0B,endColorstr=#BF0E0C0B)"; /* IE8 */
filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr=#BF0E0C0B,endColorstr=#BF0E0C0B); /* IE6 & 7 */ zoom: 1;

When this code is added to my HTML file it removes transparency on browsers that do in fact support it. So I'm left with NO transparency. Why?
A: The problem is in the filter code. If the IE background is called last, the first "transparent" declaration will remove all previous colors, regardless of browser. To resolve this, place the rule inside a conditional comment for IE or remove the "transparent" declaration at the front of the rule.
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