Lesson 1: Introduction to 3D Modelling
This module introduces you to 3D anatomy, modelling strategies, tools, workflows and learning resources. The focus is on low-poly modelling with some exposure to lighting solutions, camera settings, render settings (Mental Ray) and materials.
These skills and understanding transfer to an increasing range of industries, from motion graphics to architecture, civil, mechanical, automotive and aeronautical engineering, Medical Visualisation, VR, Augmented Reality, simulations, game development and now Web GL. The scope of 3D is vast and getting bigger.
The Learning Resources
The resources are shaped around Autodesk 3DS Max but students can elect to use Blender and Maya if they prefer. There are vast resources now available for learning either of these 3D tools.
The majority of resources here, however are developed using Autodesk 3DS Max. You can download a student version of 3DS Max for free (7GgB).
Why 3DS Max?
It's a de-facto global industry standard for games and VFX, has the biggest user base, has greater service-level support, mature production pipelines and for students/ educators is available for free on a 3-yr license.
Learner support is extensive and one of the better sources for learning is Getting started with 3DSMax from the Autodesk 3DSMax Learning Channel.
Both Maya and Blender are equally viable options. There's not a vast difference in base functionality between the three.
How you will be assessed
You are assessed against the criteria in the unit; CUAANM303 Create 3D digital models.
The assessment task is based on creation of a game asset. For more details see the Assessment Tool.
What does this Module cover?
It's all about low-poly modelling and by the end of the module you are expected to be able to:
- create 3D digital models that meet design requirements and production deadlines
- collaborate with others to clarify requirements, discuss techniques, select modelling software and review models
- use 3D modelling software proficiently to build models and apply various modelling effects
- correctly store 3D models in appropriate file formats using industry naming conventions.
- outline the stages in the production process from initial design through to finished product
- outline basic modelling principles used to build 3D digital models
- explain how geometry is used to create scale, form, weight and volume in 3D models
- describe the concept of integrity as it applies to 3D modelling
- explain the relationship between topology and deformation
- describe the process of rendering as it applies to 3D modelling
- outline intellectual property considerations if using images from external sources
- outline work health and safety standards as they apply to using screens and keyboards for extended periods of time.
The Learning & Assessment Tasks
There are several learning tasks to build your skills followed by an assessment task.
- LT1 Research Assignment (building foundation understanding)
- LT2 Learning the basics of 3DS Max | Interface
- LT3 Make a scene (intro to the tools, units, camera & lighting)
- LT4 Make a stylized chest (more practice with the modelling tools)
- LT5 Make a low-poly house (more practice and exploring mesh integrity)
- Assessment : Model a game asset
Where do you start?
You could dive straight in, with a Youtube tutorial or two at your elbow and start making 3D assets.
Or you could follow this sequence of learning tasks that build your skills gradually in a designed sequence to give you a solid grounding in 3D modelling.
There is value in getting some terminology out of the way first. This next learning task allows you to explore the meaning of some of the most used terminology in 3D.
Learning Task 1: 3D Terminology
In your own words, submit your answers to these questions via email for feedback. Cite sources (URLs, texts). If you need to, use a diagram to help your answer
- What's a vertex, edge, face, tri, quad, polygon? n-gon, mesh? Topology? .
- What's an edge-loop?
- What's UVW (aka UV) mapping?
- What's skinning? Rigging?
- Is it better to model a complex model in one mesh or separate meshes?
- What is Z-Fighting? How do you fix it?
- How many polygons were used to make Shrek in Shrek 1? Shrek 2? Shrek 3? Why do you think the poly-count for anatomy like Shrek has increased over time and what benefits does it offer?
- What's sub-surface scattering? Ambient occlusion? What's ray-tracing? What's caustics?
- What does "manifold" mean for 3D meshes?
- What's NURBS modelling? What's Box modelling? Why would you choose one over the other?
- What's a "Renderfarm?" Why would an Australian 3D artist use one in Europe or the US?
- What's the "Utah teapot" and why is it significant? It has a cameo in which TV shows/ films?
If you get stuck, ask for help in our 3D forums.
Chris Adams | 2017
Learning Task 2: Learning the basics of 3DS Max
This task is about exploring the interface. It's likely you will never use a more sophisticated or complicated interface. This task is about showing you just what you need to know to make a basic scene.
In this task you explore the following essential functions of 3DS Max to build your understanding of:
- Setting units
- Viewport management (arranging viewports to your liking)
- Adding primitives
- Scaling the primitives
- Moving (aka translating) objects
- Copying/cloning/ instancing
- Render set-up, Mental Ray
- Render your view
- Adding a camera (Ctrl-C), moving a camera
- Add a light, disc, large radius, ray-traced shadows
- Render set-up to specify the width, height and file format of the final scene output
The Autodesk 3DS Max Learning Channel is a good place to start learning the 3DS Max interface.
Work through the first 8 videos in the series, starting with "Touring the UI in 3DS Max" :
Note: The above videos, although generally relevant, are for 3DS Max 2011 and subtly different to the latest version. For a more recent example of a Beginner's Introduction to 3DS Max 2017 this may help.
Other supporting resources can be found in our 3D Forum on ddmstudy.com
With your scene complete, submit your .max file via email for feedback. Need help? Jump into our forums and ask there or Skype/ email your teacher.
Learning Task 3: Make a scene (6 hrs)
To further build your understanding of 3DS Max, make a room scene and populate it with imported assets. Add a realistic lighting solution and render out a single frame at 1920x1080, saved as a 60 quality jpg.
What will I learn?
- Keyboard shortcuts, basic interface features
- Viewport configuration
- Creating primitives and converting to an editable poly
- Selecting and editing sub-objects
- Merging existing models into your scene
- Scaling, moving, rotating objects
- Apply a basic material / colour
- Basic Mental Ray lighting
- Camera settings
- Basic Mental Ray Render settings
Shared on our Google Drive are supporting video demo resources for this task. See your teacher for access.
The latest trends and tips will be emailed to you periodically as well as archived in our 3D Modelling Forum.
Submit both your 3DS Max file (or exported as an .fbx if you're using Maya or .blend for Blender) and the 60 quality jpg for feedback.
At the end of this lesson you should now have an introductory view of the scope, tools and techniques required to design and create 3D models. In addition with access to our forums, you should know where to get help, share resources and find inspiration for your next 3D model.
Next lesson: More low-poly modelling