Entering the Production Stages: 3D Modelling

Header image retrieved from http://bryanwynia.blogspot.com.au/

With the groundwork of the pre-production stages completed, the project is ready to evolve from a solid concept to the basics of a working 3D animation project. Modelling breathes life into the ideas put forward – environments, props, characters. The manner in which these assets are created should heavily reflect the styling of the concepts put forward in the pre-production stage, ensuring a degree of continuity between planning and execution. The combination of reference materials, concept art and design notes gathered prior create a perfect recipe for a well-made 3D model.

Polygonal modelling tends to be the most common method of creating 3D models within the games, animation and film industries (Slick, 2016). Artists can use industry standard programs such as 3Ds Max or Maya to build on from low polygonal shapes into more complex forms. Although relatively new to the animation scene, sculpting applications such as ZBrush and Mudbox allow for more specific details within models (Boudon, G., 2014).

The place where two different faces interact within a polygonal model is called an edge, whilst a point of intersection between three or more edges is called a vertex (Slick, 2016). The connections between vertices, faces and edges are mapped out to form a “mesh,” – a plot that defines the shape of the object.

Further reading on components of polygonal modelling… https://www.lifewire.com/3d-model-components-1952

During its infancy, a 3D model is comprised of the most basic of geometic shapes, originating as simple objects like cubes or cylinders, known as object primitives. Manipulating the current model into a recognisable prop or character can be achieved through a series of common modelling techniques, which can differ from cutting into the object to building on top of it.

Low resolution shapes can be fashioned into complex shapes using a technique called box modelling. This technique sees scale and rotate tools used in succession with extrusion and intrusion of certain areas. Subdividing the surface to increase polygonal resolution or edge loops (set of connected edges across the surface of the object) can help to maximise detail (Slick, 2016).


Retrieved from http://unit66gj.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/ha4-task-4-mesh-construction.html

Further reading… https://www.lifewire.com/polygonal-3d-modeling-2139

Digital sculpting, which majors in programs like Mudbox and ZBrush, can be likened to moulding a set of digital clay. Much like its traditional counterpart, artists can use tools to “pinch” and “pull” the surface of the object without the limitations of other modelling programs. This organic process has allowed natural-looking models to be made with a high degree of surface detail and polygon count.


An example of a base mesh being sculpted through various stages. Retrieved from http://www.3dartistonline.com/news/2015/04/create-a-terrifying-werewolf-in-zbrush-and-3ds-max/

Despite allowing a model to retain a high level of detail, a high polygon count may cause the program to slow, or even crash entirely.

Although used to a lesser degree, spline or “NURBS” modelling, in contrast to box modelling, works with two or more curves, whilst the program “fills in” the neutral spaces. The mesh is absent of faces, edges and vertices, and comprised of ‘smoothly interpreted surfaces…’ (Slick, 2016).

A more arduous process of 3-D modelling, edge or contour modelling is constructed with individual loops of polygonal faces along the prominent contours of an object, filling in remaining gaps. This technique is reserved for high specified meshes, such as human faces, which are difficult to achieve through typical box modelling (Slick, 2016).

Rather than trying shape a well-defined eye socket from a solid polygonal cube (which is confusing and counter-intuitive), it’s much easier to build an outline of the eye and then model the rest from there…” (Slick, 2016).

Once the blank models match their pre-production vision, the project can advance to UV mapping, the next step in the production pipeline.

Other references:

Sculpteo, (2017) 3D Modelling: Creating 3D Objects, Retrieved from https://www.sculpteo.com/en/glossary/3d-modeling-definition/

Slick, J., (2016) 3D Model Components – Vertices, Edges, Polygons & More, Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/3d-model-components-1952

Slick, J., (2016) 7 Common Modelling Techniques for Film and Games: An Introduction to 3D Modelling Techniques. Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/common-modeling-techniques-for-film-1953

Slick, J., (2016) Box Modelling Technique Defined. Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/box-modeling-2150


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