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Trodge

About 3D Modelling

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Hello there, I've been interested in a career in games development since... well... thats pretty much the career path I set myself when i first started secondary school :) I originally sought a career in programming. For a few years, however, I've been much more interested in other aspects of the development field. I was never really an amazing artist, but 3D modeling really interests me. I'm learning to draw, its coming along quite nicely :) but of course I've still got a while to go. I was hoping that perhaps one or two of the community might help me understand the 3D modeling industry in greater detail: In short, what does a 3D modeler get up two? :). My REAL concern is that every modeler has to be a tremendous artist. Is this the case? Next year I will be attending university, and have found numerous 3D modeling and game art classes. I'm determined, but I need to know whether or not my... stunted art abilities will hold me back. I apologize if there is some other post or article regarding 3D modelers, but I couldn't find one ;)

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I'll go straight ahead and answer your "REAL" concern first (warning: I'm feeling wordy today, but it should be helpful).

Short answer: 3D modeling is a form of art, so yes you have to be an artist to do it well.

Long (and more useful) answer:
If you are a sculptor, do you need to know how to paint? No -- sculpting is a completely different task -- yet you'd be hard pressed to find any accomplished sculptor who can't at least sketch amazingly well.

There are so many fundamental skills and so much fundamental knowledge to creating art. These things carry over to every field of art. The more experience with any type of art you have, the better you will be at all the others. Thus, you can look at all the top modelers in the industry and they will almost always be able to blow you away with their painting/sketching ability because that's where they learned their fundamentals from. That's where they learned about form, balance, contrast, colour, anatomy, shading, depth perception, and everything else.

Often people who are not "artists" will jump into modeling and, inevitably, try to make a human character on their first try. It ends up being a mess, with arms and legs that look like tubes, a torso that is twice as long as it should be, a pelvis that's completely non-functional and a neck attached in the wrong place. The polygon count is 10 times higher than it should be and most of the detail is in the wrong areas or doesn't even help. Trying to animate the thing would be a massive exercise in futility. Lighting on the model is horribly distorted and stretching across it in weird ways. Then they slap on a texture that makes the whole thing look like a hideous blob of vomit they found in the toilet.

Here they are making art but they don't know a thing about anatomy, don't notice unbalanced polygon densities, can't see when polygons don't improve the form of the model, haven't the first clue about effective colour schemes, and don't know any of the other skills -- that any sort of existing artist is likely to have -- that would have prevented all of the problems I listed.

So this is the part where many pros say: "Learn to draw and paint before you model" but I'm going to take a little different approach.

Fundamentals transfer between all fields of art which means you can learn many of them through modeling. If you model for long enough you may find it helps you sketch better, for example. You are not doomed to failure just because modeling is your gateway into art. That being said, expect a rocky start and be ready to grin and bear (and agree with) criticism because you'll need it.

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Now on your initial question, what a "3D modeler" does is completely dependent on what studio you work for. In some places they do nothing but make models. In other places, they model and texture (or just "unwrap" the model to make it ready for texturing). Sometimes they might model and animate, or even participate in level building. The larger the studio the less variety you're likely to have, but in very small studios you may do all of the above things.

Most importantly however is that whatever you are doing you are still going to need to know lots about all of the other related tasks anyways.

It's easier to texture a model that's built with texturing in mind. It's easier to build a level with models that are designed to fit together well. The high-end of game-modeling skill is not making pretty models, it's making models that are easy for the rest of the team to work with and that run efficiently in the game engine.

Additionally, it will help you tremendously in getting a job to be able to prove that you know all of those things. Why hire someone who can only model if you could hire someone who can model and texture? Specialization is great, but flexibility is also an asset.

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Well that was a big spiel, hopefully it's all coherent.

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I don't think you should be worried. For one, you are probably underestimating your own artistic potential :) Everyone does this.

Two, 3D modeling is only partially an artistic task. It's also very technical and mathematical. You have to be able to think and work in 3d space using a 2d interface, which is pretty challenging. Having a technically-minded brain will help you immensely, and probably make up for any "artistic shortcomings".

You also have some flexibility to choose what kind of role you want. On one side of the spectrum are the more creative tasks, like drawing textures or animating. On the other side, there are some very technical tasks, like rigging or writing scripts. (A friend of mine told me that he specialized in rigging because it was high in demand; none of the artsy-types wanted to do it)

Third, it sounds like you already have the most important thing, which is a genuine interest to do it.

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Quote:
Original post by Trodge
but 3D modeling really interests me

You might not believe me but this is the most important thing in achieving any goals. Do what you like. When you do what you like you can probably end up doing it better than lots of other people.

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