Lessons learned

I haven’t felt comfortable modeling. I think part of the reason is my training. Every video I’ve watched has been a relatively simple warm-up piece to demonstrate a concept. I’ve felt comfortable following this process in Houdini. I wanted to find a more extensive example in 3ds Max. I stumbled upon an 11 hour video series for the cost $10. Having more proper instruction, I’ve already learned a fair number of lessons on what I’ve done wrong.

  1. The free videos I’ve been following have been constantly adding support loops. This works for low-poly but can create too much geometry if you throw them in too early. I should have waited before smoothing my geometry out.
  2. It was my belief that support loops were my only option for smoothing. I tried using smoothing groups, but this created an impossibly sharp surface. I’ve since discovered a technique of using two turbosmooth modifiers. One to get the initially sharp surface. A second to add a believable curve. This technique can allow me to preview a finalized version without adding unnecesscary geometry.
  3. Start with the silhouette. I was obsessed with adding these several cuts and indents into my model. I had great difficulty adding to the outside of the model because of the extra geometry this created. The course I’ve found suggests blocking out large shapes then working inward. Start with a low level of detail and work towards a higher level. Don’t work in one place, have a model that you can slowly refine everywhere at once.
  4. Block out your model first. The course I’m following is creating a helmet. I would probably have created this helmet by attempting to wrestle a giant block into shape. The instructor blocked out the helmet with a large number of planes. These planes had gaps in them and were placed over one another until the shape of helmet was formed. I’m two hours into this 11 hour series and these planes still haven’t been connected into a single piece. This separation allows for a large degree of artistic control without worrying about topology. When the instructor wanted to curve a plate on the chin, he threw in a few edge loops and moved them around as he pleased. Since this was a separate plane, the majority of the model was untouched by this change. If I had proceeded in my way, a single piece, every edge loop and cut could cause a ripple effect of changes throughout the model.
  5. Instance repetition. Another technique I found fascinating was the use of instances. In the engine block, I manually redid a few repetitive pieces. This cost me a lot of time. There are few large areas that I used symmetry to define; I’m not talking about mirroring half the model. The instructor took small pieces, flipped them upside down and created an instance in the local area.

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