Master the Art of 3D Modeling
Let’s model a nose! Why a nose? Because the process of modeling is pretty much the same for any you want to build. So let’s just model something.
The nose when viewed from a distance is a very simple shape. But when you see it close up, it’s actually has very complex forms. Therefore, modeling the nose can be a simple or complex task depending on what resolution you need it at. In this tutorial, I’m going to build a nose model that when subdivided, will give us a nice clean high resolution model that is ready for production in games or film.
|Before you model anything, always study the forms first. That way, you can see what the major shapes are and how to structure the edge flow. For the nose, the major forms are the bridge of the nose, the tip, and the nostrils. Also keep in mind how the cheeks flows into the nose.|
|If you are new to modeling, I really suggest you try drawing a mesh overlay on your reference. This helps you to visualize what your model can look like. This is like doing a light rough sketch before doing a detailed drawing. The better you can visualize the mesh, the less mistakes you’ll make going forward.|
|For the nose, I start from a plan geometry and start cutting edges into it. What I’m trying to model here is just the basic shapes. You can imagine the shape as if you’re laying down faced up, and someone tosses a soft cloth over your face. That cloth shape wrapping your nose, deprived of any details, is what you want to build at the beginning. Once you have that shape, make sure that you have an edge on any area that will be have a crease. We’ll double up on the edges later to get a sharp crease, but don’t do it now. Work on getting the proportions correct first, because the rule is that a low poly model is much easier to work with than a high poly model.|
|This stage of modeling is what separates the beginners from the intermediate modelers. From here on, you are most likely going to be tripling up the geometry as you go. Reason is that you will need the additional geometry to play with in order to get the shapes you want. Here we’ll cut in the creases and build in a more definitely edge flow for the model.
Keep in mind that triangles are perfectly fine in subdivision models. So don’t bother making them into quads if they work once subdivided. A triangle could cause a pinch point so make sure you don’t have it on areas that needs to be smooth and round. Another thing I like to do is to only cut up geometry on areas that I am working on. That means I will have T-joints on my model. It’s better to have T-joints than excessive geometry on areas that I’m not working on. Again, I’m sticking to the rule that a low model is a more workable model.
Finishing up the model is just a matter of building in the missing elements like the nostrils and enhancing the realism of the model by making the creases look natural. A natural crease tends to tighten up at certain areas and tapers out on the edges as it disappears. If you make the crease too tight overall, your model will look dead.
Here is how the final model looked. The shaded images are the result of the low model being subdivided twice. The video for this modeling is below. Check it out. Until next time… -Wei
Here’s the 3D modeling tutorial for my Star Trek Enterprise ship concept. I love to design in 3D. It’s quick and you get better visualization. I do love modeling.
It seems that a lot of concept artist are adding 3D modeling into their arsenal. They’re not interested in being a modeler, but they’ve realized how useful it is to be able to render out a quick scene that will lay the foundation for their concept work. Whether you’re creating spaceships, architecture, or environments, 3D modeling can assist in the process. Say you’re looking to do a realistic architectural environment. You can lay in your perspective lines and start sketching out a scene. But better yet, you can build boxes in 3D to represent buildings and render out a quick scene for your perspective foundation. Maybe mess around with camera angles and focal length to get some extreme perspective. You can even quickly add some lighting in your 3D scene for shadow references. It is so incredibly easy to do in 3D. Trying drawing on paper a dome shape with a wide angle perspective. What a pain in the butt that is! In 3D, it’s a click away.
I don’t do much concept exclusively. For my previous projects with Disney Imagineering, I’ve created concepts as needed. Since most of the final images are rendered in 3D, jumping in and doing concepts in 3D saves me time as I’m combining two stages of production into one. Seriously, the ability to do 3D modeling is an awesome foundation–it has so many uses! Below is an example of doing concepts with 3d modeling.
Here is something that I’ve done just for fun. Being that the Star Trek Into Darkness is coming out soon, I’ve had this image in my head for an Enterprise ship design.
I started with a quick sketch on paper, then it was off to Maya for modeling. Once in Maya is where the real fun begins. Sketching in 3D is so liberating. You can play with proportions almost as quickly as you can think of it. The best part is being able to spin the camera around and see it from different angles, and that visualization, in my opinion, leads to better concept designs. Here’s what I created in 3D in about 45 minutes. Half of that time spent was thinking of the design as I model. It’s a fun process, you should try it if you haven’t. Click on images below for a larger view.
Here is another shot of the Enterprise concept ship with some more lighting. I’ve also tweaked the model a bit for better proportions. This 3D render I will use as a base layer for my painting. The 3D shapes are crude but it is more than enough to provide some crucial guidelines. The design might ultimately during the painting stage, but regardless, having this base images makes the painting process much easier.
Thanks for visiting and see you in the theaters! Can’t wait for the new Star Trek movie!!!!
NASA provides free 3D models from their 3D resource page. Their models are in .3DS format, which tells you these are pretty outdated. Model places now use .obj file formats. Anyhow, their 3D models are not all that great. You probably can’t use them for actual production as the polygons are messy. But they are good for scale reference. It’ll give you an idea of the general shape and the complexity of the object. You might be able to use it as a background object.
They have models for the shuttle, satellites, Saturn and Apollo spcaecrafts, orbitals, and even some spacesuits. Worth checking out if you need quick NASA reference. Here’s a snippet of the kinds of 3D models offered at NASA 3D resource page.
Here is the link to their 3D models resource page: NASA 3D Resources
Looking to model a face? Then you should model Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face. This is what I’ve done in this low poly modeling tutorial. Arnold’s facial features are bold and makes for a good modeling tutorial.
The tutorial is now under the Beginner Modeling section. Check it out and let me know what you think. Keep in mind that it’s a rough initial model. Since cleaning up a model is tedious and boring, I don’t show it in the video.
This model from the tutorial is available for download in the Free 3D Model section. I’ll have more versions of this face model as it progress in more advanced tutorials.
Having worked at Rhythm and Hues for over 6 years, I am saddened by their filing of bankruptcy. It’s the longest place I’ve stay and for good reasons. The culture there is ‘family’ oriented. And it all starts from the founder John Hughes. You take a look at his tiny office and you immediately know the culture of R&H. This culture will no doubt change under Prana.
I left Rhythm and Hues on 2008, so I’m not sure as to what lead up to the bankruptcy. I just read the news like everyone else, plus some stories from former co-workers. But I do remember the time when the company got into financial trouble during the work on Narnia. Half of the work on Narnia were taken away to another studio. That was a difficult period of time. I forgot how many artist were laid off, but it was a lot-empty desks were everywhere. We made it through, but it also made me realize how fragile a company even of this size can be.
Ang Lee at the Oscars said that visual effects are very expensive. And it is. If I remember correctly, John Hughes at his company meetings said that 90% of the cost of running R&H is on employee salaries. And salaries are high, with good reasons. It’s a specialized skill that takes a team of experts to create these stunning effects. I’m still amazed at how it is generated, even after working in it. It takes tons of man hours to create a split second on screen. And sometimes, months of work can be deleted in the final edit by the director. And don’t forget where these studios are located, in California, a place with high living expenses and a punitive state tax. It all adds up to a high price of doing business.
I don’t know what finally lead up to Rhythm and Hues declaring bankruptcy. It could have been what the papers were reporting that delays in future projects eventually cause too much financial strain. Future project money pays for the salaries of artist on existing shows at R&H. So a delay could be deadly. Or it could be the cumulation of generous benefits to staff employees. Once I was staff, I was given one day of PTO (Paid Time Off) for every five days that I’ve worked. So any given year, I had about two to three months of PTO accrued. Very generous, and I’m definitely not complaining. I’m just telling you how it was there. When I left, I had about three months of PTO paid to me. Then there’s the health benefits paid for by R&H, with partial contributions from our paychecks, covering everything your normal insurance would plus all the others you would not expect. It covered massages and even cosmetic surgery. You would think everyone had breast implants there=). Haha, that is not the case. Again, I don’t know what ultimately cause it to break. It could have been special circumstances or a cumulation of the generous benefits, or perhaps both. But seriously, you can’t say that it didn’t work, because R&H thrived for so many years. Something happened, and only the execs there would know.
Seems like the FX industry is tyring to come together and affect some kind of change between the major film studios and FX companies. Who knows what will come of it. Probably not much as other FX companies seems to be doing fine. Film studios do what they need to do to make the most profitable movie with the least cost. And if a foreign government (basically the countries tax payers) want to subsidies the studios in making the movie, then so be it. Those subsidies makes it possible for these big effect movies to be made. It’s what movie goers want to see, big special effects. And those special effects are expensive, and film studios will go where it’s cheapest. Everyone knows that, that’s why R&H built studios overseas, because talents are five times cheaper there. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out for R&H.
Some very senior people were laid offer at R&H. But you know what, they are incredible talents and it’s just a matter of time before they get another gig somewhere else if they choose to. Best wishes to them.
Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve added anything new. Been a busy year growing my other business ventures. But I’ve got a free 3D anime head model if you want one. I modified and fixed up an old anime head model that I had to make a turn-table reference of an anime head. It’s for my art blog, www.artofwei.com. You can check out my post there on How to Draw Manga with 3D References.
Check into the Free 3D Models section here and you’ll find the .obj file for download. I’m still working on compiling the video for the actual modeling process. But for now, the model if there for you if you want it. Thanks, -Wei
When I was working on the Hulk movie (Edward Norton), I’ve used Mudbox to accentuate the muscles in the cg Hulk model as well as adding all the gritty details on the Abomination character. Since we use Maya for modeling, the natural choice of software was Mudbox. The interface was almost identical to Maya. We’ve learned the software almost instantly and cranked it out without any problems. We had our technical support team that helped us when we ran into problems exporting and importing displacement maps. But the learning curve of sculpting in Mudbox was almost nonexistent.
Fast forward to now, I’m looking into using Mudbox for my statue creations. I’m trying to decide which program to use, Mudbox or zBrush. I don’t have experience with zBrush. As a computer user all my life, the kiddie interface on zBrush is a turn-off. But I know many professional sculptors use it. In doing some research online on Mudbox vs zBrush, I came across what is perhaps the most in-depth and useful answer to my question. Maybe this is what you’re looking for too.
The following was taken from a forum discussion in cgsociety.org.
This is fairly long and dense post, but if you are still debating on which software to use I would like to share my insights with you. Of primary concern is what you need the software for. I did not see any mention of what you are actually using the software for. As was previously mentioned, Mudbox is a digital sculpt, paint, and texturing tool. Zbrush is best thought of as an all around digital design tool. If you are a technical artist of some sort than Mudbox may be more of what you are looking for. If you are a designer then in my opinion Zbrush is the obvious choice.
Many people say that Mudbox is an easier tool to learn, but I believe that this is merely a matter of perspective. Most 3d software packages have a standard setup for navigating the view port which is some variation of the basic camera manipulation algorithms that you learn in introductory computer graphics programming. In short if you are familiar with navigating in Maya, Max, Lightwave, Houdini, or even blender etc. than you have some experience with an interface that is at least similar to Mudbox. These are all tools that were designed by people with technical expertise for artists to use.
Zbrush followed a different paradigm. Zbrush was designed from the ground up with more input from the artist. Consequently, it has a unique interface. Many people find Mudbox easier to learn because it has a familiar interface. Truthfully, if you had never used any 3d software before in your life, I believe you would find the learning curve to be comparable. Comparing the learning curves of the two pieces of software is like comparing the learning curve between using Mudbox and Corel Painter. They are both digital painting tools with a small area of overlap, but they are fundamentally designed for different purposes.
Mudbox is specialized for a particular portion of the creative pipeline. In my experience, it works best if you have some preexisting model to start from that you need to add detail to. For example if you have a base mesh modeled in some other package and you want to lay in anatomical details, and or skin texturing and the like then Mudbox is more than capable. This seems more appropriate for someone working as a texture artist. When working in Mudbox you need not worry about generating the primary forms of the asset you are primarily concerned with secondary level of detail and higher (certainly you will tweak the silhouette, but you won’t be generating the main masses from scratch). Many of the other steps in the process are better handled outside Mudbox. You must construct custom base meshes outside of Mudbox, and you will also need to retopologize your geometry in an external program. On the upside Mudbox is intended to be a modular piece of the asset creation pipeline. I understand the new one even let’s you import skeletal information so you can pose your meshes based on the internal bone structure created by the rigging Technicall Director. The bottom line though is that Mudbox is a small specialized piece of the puzzle.
Zbrush on the other hand is a one stop design shop. If you wanted to you could create 2d concept sketches and paintings all the way through to a completed sequence of 3D rendered images without ever leaving Zbrush. Most people, myself included would have no desire to even attempt such a thing, because there are other programs that have more robust tools for many of the steps in that process. Nonetheless, Zbrush is competent at nearly every step and it is best in class in some areas in my opinion. Zbrush is a design tool. It is intended to be used as a creative tool, not merely as a 3d sculpt/paint/texture tool. It can be used as such, but that was not how it was designed. Zbrush has as much in common with Photoshop as it does with something like Maya or 3DS. It is the closest thing on earth to 3D drawing as exists in the production ready product.
All of the fundamental artistic tools that designers and production artists learn can be simply and intuitively applied within Zbrush. Zbrush divorces designers from the technical constraints of creating production assets. A designer can establish gesture, proportion, line, form, value and color all without thinking about polygon budgets or UV mapping. It is possible to design characters entirely in 3D from the ground up in Zbrush. It provides a digital workflow that more closely resembles that of working in traditional media. You’re primary focus is on design. As a designer in most cases you will be providing finished high resolution images or detailed high resolution meshes for someone else to use to add detail to a lower resolution control mesh of some sort, which can be animated. Depending on the nature of your position you may or may not be the person that is responsible for the lower resolution mesh as well. Even if you are you can prepare it in Zbrush if need be.
In general I find that preparing production assets to be integrated into production is the job of Technical Artists. Designers are typically involved in pre-production and are fundamentally concerned with working out the concepts of how things should look and work in general. Their designs are typically passed on to various TA’s to realize as usable assets. Zbrush can be used in both cases, however Mudbox has it’s own advantages that make it more appealing for a subset of artists and designers. Mudbox however is far inferior from the stand point of a pure designer. I would also like to mention that I am aware that the roles of Technical Artists and Designers often overlap and the true definition of their individual roles depend on many factors that vary for each given working environment.
I can open an empty zbrush document and in 15 minutes or so I can have a proportioned base mesh with all of the primary forms established with an elegant gestured pose ready for me to begin laying in secondary details. I’ll grant you that I didn’t start out being able to work that fast, but the point is that I can now. For Mudbox I have to create my base mesh elsewhere and that may take 20 to 30 minutes if I’m flying and all that is before I even export the mesh over to Mudbox.
I am much faster at laying out and sculpting basic form with Zbrush thanks to some of its tools than I am at box modelling. I realize that this is not the case for everyone. I found sculpting to be more natural so I honed my skills at it. If I need a usable mesh at the end then I just retopologize it later in the process. In general, base sculpting meshes aren’t suitable for animation or posing anyway. If they are, then they tend to be relatively well defined in terms of their primary forms, which is not good from a design standpoint, since the mesh is already dictating some of the features of its final form. For a texture artist this may be desirable.
Someone mentioned the glitchiness of Zbrush. I tend to agree with his comments. At times I believe that it could do with more polish, but as a design tool, their is simply nothing else out their that does what it does. As far as the crashing goes. That is something that seems to be an issue with software like this. Programs like zbrush and many other drawing programs are limited only by your system resources. How many polygons you can display on screen at once, or how many pixels in the case of painter is determined by the amount of ram that you can dedicate to the program. If you don’t know approximately what your upper limit is you should find out. If you flirt too vigorously with the limits then you’ll crash the program if not your computer.
I’ve done it to so many different pieces of software over the years I’ve lost count. The bottom line is that you should save early and often with any of these programs. Some may seem more stable than others but you can push all of them too far. Due to the nature of Zbrush it gets pushed towards its limits more than most programs that I use. An accidental hotkey press here or there that subdivides the wrong thing, and boom there goes your session. You really do have to be vigilant when using features with zbrush. Getting very familiar with the documentation and forums is a must, because many features have rules and limits that are hidden away in the documents that aren’t mentioned in ztutorials and the like.
Finally as far as learning new software goes, truthfully, if you set aside an hour a day for a week or two or just set a side a weekend or two to focus on learning the software and reading the manual you will master the basic functions in no time. I once taught myself mel script in a single weekend to meet a deadline for a school project, when a team member passed away, so that we could stay on schedule.
It can be done it only requires the will. Even if you are swamped with work now you won’t be forever. The reality is that in this field you must constantly be working on improving your skills and sometimes that means testing and learning new software. As I am sure you are aware software that is used on a regular basis must be mastered i.e. customizing work spaces and shortcuts for your own particular workflow to minimize wasted key presses and movements.
Hopefully, that did not seem like a rant, but time invested in the front end streamlining your process will save you 1000’s of hours of wasted time in the long run. If you shaved 5 sec off of an action you performed 10,000 times you would save 50,000 sec across those 10,000 actions. That is roughly 833 minutes or about 14 hours. Odds are you could get a good bit of work on an entirely new project done with 14 extra hours. I apologize for the tangent, but once you decide on which way to go it will pay dividends to learn the software properly.
After some years at Rhythm and Hues Studios, I became a senior and lead modeler there. As a senior modeler, one of my task was to review 3D modeling portofolio submissions. We would grade them, A to F, and put aside the A’s and B’s for possible future hires. Having seen so many portfolios, I am going to share with you what we looked for in a 3D modeling portfolio. Different studios have different portfolio review standards, but these are solid guidelines that I am sure will apply to most if not every game and visual effects studio out there.
1. Organic, organic, organic. It is all about organic modeling. Organic modeling should be the core of your skill and portfolio. The average 3D modeler can build a hard-edged model, but only the advanced modelers can build great organic models. To showcase your organic modeling, show a human body(or parts) or some sort of creature. For human face models, faces with wrinkles and age are more complex and therefore more impressive to see. For creatures, make sure it’s anatomically sensible.
2. No military vehicles with hard edges. Don’t bother including anything like a tank, a missile launcher, or anything with super hard edges. Those models are composed of boxes and cylinders. Anyone picking up a 3D program for the first time will be able to build them. If you want to show your hard edge modeling skills, show a sports car with some complex curves with clean beveled edges. Just one of these will suffice.
3. You don’t need to dress up your submission. All the fancy eye-candy stuff like glossy folders and flashy DVD covers are not important. Your portfolio is ultimately viewed by seasoned professionals who are trying to determine your 3D modeling skill, not your presentation. So don’t spend too much effort on the fluff. Just keep it neat and clean. A simple cover letter with resume and DVD is perfect.
4. Your portfolio does not need sound. Again, we’re trying to determine your modeling skill. You don’t need to put the viewer into an emotional roller coaster ride.
5. Submit your portfolio by DVD. That’s the best way to do it. It’s simple for the viewer. We just pop it in and it’s there. Remember that reviewing portfolios takes time and the easier you make it for them to view, the better. Don’t include any additional videos or mesh files on separate CD/DVD. It’s a hassle and most of the time we’ll just skip it.
6. On your organic models, in addition to showing your high poly sub-divided version, show your low poly model with a wireframe overlay. If you work in Nurbs, then this doesn’t apply. But most studios use polygonal modeling, so box modeling should really be your primary skill. The low poly wireframe model is the key. Modelers can tell very quickly where your skill level is just by looking at the wireframe. If we see that your low poly wireframe is efficient with great edge control, then we know you are a great modeler. If you’ve got excessive polygons everywhere and your edges doesn’t flow with curve of the geometry, then you probably don’t have a good understand of modeling. If you got the goods, show the wireframe.
7. If your portfolio has images that are a result of a collaboration, make sure to provide a breakdown of your contributions.
8. Do not submit original materials on your portfolio as they are not returned to you.
Most studios accept portfolios year round, regardless of their current hiring needs. They set aside good ones for future hires. If you have a portfolio ready, there is no better time to submit it then now.
I hope you find this helpful. I wanted to give you these tips so that you can have a better understanding of what studios are looking for in your portfolio. Hopefully this will help you focus your efforts on the more important aspects of your modeling portfolio. Please contact me with any questions you might have. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got another 3D modeling tutorial video up and it’s the Intermediate 3D modeling on the Arm Muscles.
At this intermediate level modeling, most of the time, your model would be good enough for final renderings. All the majors forms, and some minor details, are built into the model. It’s not a perfect model–and we shouldn’t strive for that anyways–but it’s a technically sound model ready for sub-division.
I’ll be working on contents for other models in addition to this Arm Muscle model. If there are specific modeling that you are interested in seeing, please let me know. You can post comments or models you want to show in the 3D Modeling Forum. You can also leave a comment on the post. There are so much modeling content I want to put up. It just takes time to develop.
Check back soon!