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falc410

Starting 3D Modeling - or sculpting? Advise please

12 posts in this topic

Hi,
 
I'm currently a student of computer science. While I see myself for as the programmer type, I wanted to have a deeper understanding on how to create 3d Models, textures and so on.
In the past I tried a couple of different technologies and mostly spend my time creating simple 2D games, but Unity3D got me interested. There are some nice tutorials out there but they all come with assets which I am not able to modify. So I really would like to create some basic stuff myself and just place it into Unity3D and interact with it in some way.
 
What I would like to do:
- Create a simple building to walk around in, maybe add a door which opens and closes. I figure once I manage to create a simple house it should be possible for me to create some larger level to walk around in. For Islands I can use the Unity build in tools, but in their current demo (this top down game) the main building is huge and seems to be one part build in some 3d Model tool.
 
- Create a simple animated character to be used in game. For the complexity level I think something like the Models from Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation one. Create basic animation and use it in Unity.
 
Now I looked around and obviously I came across Maya, 3DS Max and Blender. Since I am a Student I have equal access to all of them. I searched for some books / video tutorial and found some for Blender but they all lack something. Still I am unsure which software to use.
 
And then I found some Sculpture tools, like 3d Coat or even now from Autodesk 123D on the iPad. It seems that those tools are made to create characters and not objects like buildings and I can't animate them on the iPad but it could be a start, and then import the model into some other tool on the PC. But apparently sculpting needs more artistic experience then I expected (well last time I sculpted clay was in elementary school).
 
What do you suggest that I pick up? Is it even possible to get results in a short amount of time (like one month during term break), because some books start with the phrase, something like: " I spend the last 5 years learning Blender and I still don't know everything but enough to write a beginners book..."
 
thanks in advance for your input
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Okay, well, not sure how solid this advice is since I started solidly working in 3D three weeks ago, but some words from my teacher:
 

 We're going to be using Maya because it's industry standard these days, and it's more suited to things that aren't just Architectural.

 

So. I want to create characters and animate, so I use Maya.
However, and I'm going to tell you right now, it does not have the easiest interface to learn, and it still feels like I'm using a work around when I'm doing something simple sometimes. Animating in it is swell, though, and I like the way it works with textures, materials and shaders.

 

Blender, comparatively, was actually pretty easy to pick up for modelling. I modeled a character with decent topology in it after only a little use, but... I got stuck. A lot of features that are easy to find and pick up in your workflow in other programs are... sort of obscured in Blender's interface. Even now, after the updates (which are great, but still not as intuitive as they could be). It's main advantage is that it's not a victim of Autodesk's insane pricing, but that's not a problem for you. Online Tutorials are the way to go if you want to pick up Blender, just make sure you're looking for the right version, since any pre-2.5 versions are completely different. there are whole sites dedicated to just Blender tutorials, so I'd say to just have a bit more of a look around.

 

3DS Max is good. I personally don't see many differences between it and Maya at current, but I bet I will once I myself test it out again. I remember when I first tried it is seemed easier to grasp than Maya... But that's about it. Perhaps, it's better for level/building design. Or perhaps they're the same once you pick them both up. It's sort of an eternal question of "Which is better?"

For your purposes, perhaps it's Blender or 3DS Max, since you're only really interested in it on a reasonably short-term basis, and the learning curve for Maya is perhaps a little much.

Since you're a student, and thus have access to a lot of Autodesk products, perhaps a combination would be better... I'd really suggest animating in Maya, but I'm not sure how well that'd work out for exporting it to an Engine. That bit I'm not sure how to do just yet... But it seems possible, after looking it up.
 

In terms of Sculpting, Blender has a pretty miserable inbuilt sculpting tool, as does Maya (though perhaps a little less miserable). Any serious 3D Character artist would suggest Zbrush. The free alternative to that is Sculptris, but that's... Limited, to say the least.
You said you were a student, so I'm suggesting student software as much as possible; perhaps Mudbox. I don't hear it mentioned around so much, but that's Autodesk's attempt at a Sculpting program. The only reason I can suggest it is that you can get it for free, while Zbrush is... mmn. Mn. m.

 

Remember that with Sculpting you need to bake the models down to Low Poly, and you will probably have to re-topo if you want to do animation.
It might be easier for a beginner to just model them in Low Poly straight up, but only because that's one less step to have to learn how to deal with right away. Worth playing around.


Anyway, that's all I have in my knowlege at this point in time. Hope it helps... somewhat. Good luck!

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As a beginner, I would forget about sculpting things.  You mention Unity3d, which means to me that you are interested in created assets for games.  In a full-blown pipeline, there is indeed a place for sculpting models, which usually involves baking a normal map from the high detailed(sculpted) model.  But for you as a beginner, I would just go with the normal low poly(well, "low-ish anyway) and learn to create those.  Once you can animate and texture those, and get some practice, then if you still have time, you could take some and create some sculpt based normal maps for them.

 

As far as software goes...you may want to think about the future too.  Using the student license for Maya/max, I believe you can't do anything commercial.  If you later decide you want to go "indie" or "free-lance" you may have to learn other software unless you get the money for the software.  if you think you may want to get commercial usage later, you may be better off working with Blender.  On the other hand, if you are wanting to work for someone, you may be better off learning Max/Maya.

 

I'd say that in the end, the choice you make now isn't all that important.  Just like programming languages, the user makes the work, not the tool.  If you are truly an artist and are capable of model creation, then once you learn one tool, it likely won't take much to learn other similar tools.

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Thanks for the input. I don't plan on working as a 3D Modeller but still I figure from your answers that I should neglect sculpting (tools) for the time being. I will try to find some learning material for Maya then, since it's an industrie standard and thus should work flawlessly with Unity3D and I will keep Blender as a fallback option.

 

Nobody mentioned tools like Cinema 4D, Cheetah3d, Modo or Lightwave - so I guess those are outdated.

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I wouldn't say the tools are outdated, rather just different.  In general the cheaper tools have less capability, but are still plenty enough for beginners.  Some people swear by those other tools though.

 

As far as using Maya with Unity3d, you should be fine.  I know Unity works well with Blender, but since I don't have Maya I can't confirm for sure, but I'm understanding(via forum posts and specifications of Unity) that it should work fine with Maya or Max, or in fact several of those cheaper tools you mentioned.  As a last resort, if you can't get Unity to work directly with your tool of choice, you can export to .fbx and that usually does the job too.

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my suggestion is go as low poly as you can, the more verts that get into the model the trickier it is, im talking for your characters, all you need is the chin shape, maybe a lip and the nose and eye bone and thats as detailed as you get, rely on your texture for the rest of the detail.   thats what i do,  i find low poly models are the easiest, all you need is a ginger bread man and your texture will take over and make it magic.

 

 

 

(i guess that means learning how to paint decent too.)

 

painting characters decent means learning how to paint sss!   the easiest way to add a bit of glow to your skin is to redden into the shadow (but watch out, try not to end up too bloody, this guy ended up with scars all over his face), a nifty little trick that works, check this little dude out i made using the technique -> (complete dodgy job but what do you expect for half an hour hehe)

 

dudep.png

the model without the texture, you cant even tell if its male or female, but thats the way its supposed to be, all the actual character is in the texture.

SKILL DISCLAIMER: if it looks complete crap to you im sorry, im still learning myself. biggrin.png

Edited by rouncer
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@rouncer: that's exactly the level of detail I'm aiming to achieve. Enough to test it out and to get the gist of the underlying system. How long did it take you to model and animate something like this? Did you use Blender or 3DS Max?

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I've used modo. The problem with it is that it doesn't have any kind of skeletal animation system (at least not when I used it). Other than that, it was pretty cool.

 

I recommend Blender. I like the UI. It takes learning, they all do, but it's a good UI. Once you get a hang of the basics, you will want to focus on modifiers and constraints.

 

Scultping is typically used to create high-res meshes. You "bake" the detail information into a texture that gets used in a lighting equation used to shade a counter-part lower-polygon version of the model. This applies to anything you want to look detailed, but cost cheap, including characters, architecture and other props.

 

 

As for your project, I would recommended skipping making the base mesh. Animating and game programming are more than enough for the time period you are looking at. The animation and programming tasks are related, the modeling is, essentially, orthogonal. It will eat into your time and be a little counter-productive.

 

I suggest doing some personal modeling and sculpting exercises separate. For example, every day, give yourself an hour to work on something that you'll trash. Sculpt a new head or polygonal model a humanoid base mesh or sub-div surface model a vehicle component thing.

 

You can use this base mesh: http://cgcookie.com/blender/2009/11/14/model-male-base-mesh/

And then follow these tutorials to rig and animate it: http://cgcookie.com/blender?s=rigging

Then drop it into unity, create a little state machine system, and start adding more states, animations, and logic to it.

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Thanks deekr. That's actually very good advice.

 

Even though I have access to Maya and 3DS Max I still started out with Blender - because there are just more tutorials / books available. But the idea of just taking a base mesh to animate it is very good. I will give it a try once I understood the basics of 3d Modeling.

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Sculpting is fine. When you are done sculpting, you can use something such as Blender's retopology mode to make a low polygon mesh around your high polygon sculpt, and then bake down any information you want to trasnfer.

Also, sculpting doesn't mean you want to make a high detail result. You can sculpt a low poly mesh. It's just a different way to push around vertices to get a different result, similarly to pushing them around with proportional editing turned on.

Blender 2.66 is out today, and it has a sculpting functionality update: http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Dev:Ref/Release_Notes/2.66/Dynamic_Topology_Sculpting
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Now I looked around and obviously I came across Maya, 3DS Max and Blender. Since I am a Student I have equal access to all of them. I searched for some books / video tutorial and found some for Blender but they all lack something. Still I am unsure which software to use.

 

Maya is by far the best for animations and character design. Most levels and other things are made in 3dmax ( but this really depends on the company you work for and who or what their deals/contracts are ) and blender is the free version of them all. If you are a student and have access to them all I HIGHLY encourage you not to waste time with the free tools and start learning with what will be used in the industry. It is very easy to go for the quick and easy answer but I truly feel putting in the hard labor now saves tons and tons of hours later. If you want some tutorials for maya you can find amazing ones on digital tutors.

 

 

And then I found some Sculpture tools, like 3d Coat or even now from Autodesk 123D on the iPad. It seems that those tools are made to create characters and not objects like buildings and I can't animate them on the iPad but it could be a start, and then import the model into some other tool on the PC. But apparently sculpting needs more artistic experience then I expected (well last time I sculpted clay was in elementary school).

 

I own and use 3dcoat on a daily basis. The program is like zbrush and can honestly make/build whatever you like. Once you have a complex understanding of the tools they provide you will find that you can make even rigid objects like robots and other such forms. Normally these programs like 3dcoat and Zbrush are used because it allows for a very fast and realistic creation of humanoid forms or shapes. Not only can it be used to mesh out the shapes but these products normally export the look/feel of the sculpt into occlusion maps, normal maps, specular maps, and displacement maps. All of which are highly used in most shaders today to create the sexy look and feel games have today. Sculpting does take an artists understanding of this but it is not impossible to understand nor is it impossible to master.

 

As mentioned in other posts after yours these sculpts are normally retop'd via the tools in the software which allows you to make low - mid polygon meshes without any real issue at all. Simply lay some points down and connect them and walla... you have a mesh. In maya and 3dstuido max, without training and experience, this can take several hours or weeks to get done what these programs can allow you to do in minutes. Each of them has a learning curve and each of them have good and bad outcomes.

 

 

What do you suggest that I pick up? Is it even possible to get results in a short amount of time (like one month during term break), because some books start with the phrase, something like: " I spend the last 5 years learning Blender and I still don't know everything but enough to write a beginners book..."

 

It is the cold hard truth of it. Art in this industry can take years to gain a good base understanding. You will never use ONE program and if you attempt to do so you are really limiting your overall potential. If you want something quick and easy that takes little to no time than you are not in the right place of mind. Anything you put together will be half done and you will make things harder because you do not understand the core of what is making everything work. Take it from somebody who tried the same thing many years ago and found out the hard way. ( To this day I still laugh at myself for the silly things I use to think about software and art )

 

The simple answer is this, get a 3d program and start with low polygon models. Make a 100 polygon or less model and learn how to UVmap and texture it. Once you get that part down add in rigging and animation. If you want estimates for how long that will take?

 

Polygon Modeling:

Basic skill ( shit looking model ): 1 - 5 hours

Mid Skill ( its okay but nothing amazing ): 25 - 90 days

High Skill ( industry grade ): 1 - 2 years

 

Texturing:

Basic Skill: 1 - 5 hours

Mid Skill: 3 - 50 days

High Skill: 1 - 3 years

 

Animation:

Basic Skill ( rigging and setting up controls ): 1 - 5 hours

Mid Skill: 1 - 3 weeks

High Skill: 1 - 5 years

 

These are HIGHLY generalized numbers but I have  taken into account the smartest and the most retarded. Keep in mind that High skill normally takes some type of formal training or some serious time to obtain. Some people are lucky and just are skilled at doing it but that does not mean everybody can obtain High Skill. Mid Skill range means that you have a good understanding and can perform these tasks within a short period of time.

 

I know what you are saying, "if i put all of your suggested times together I could do it all in 15 hours!". This is true but that is assuming you learn fast and have no issues with understanding the concepts. Most likely whatever you do make in those 15 hours will be less than desirable and will suck. This is not a reason to be discouraged just a reality of the field. Anyway... hope that helps

Edited by riuthamus
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Sculpting is fine. When you are done sculpting, you can use something such as Blender's retopology mode to make a low polygon mesh around your high polygon sculpt, and then bake down any information you want to trasnfer.

Also, sculpting doesn't mean you want to make a high detail result. You can sculpt a low poly mesh. It's just a different way to push around vertices to get a different result, similarly to pushing them around with proportional editing turned on.

Blender 2.66 is out today, and it has a sculpting functionality update: http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Dev:Ref/Release_Notes/2.66/Dynamic_Topology_Sculpting

 

Yes, sculpting in Blender works that way, except for the new features...but we weren't talking about using sculpting brushes as a method to create a model, rather the other part of the workflow where you create the high detail. In Blender that part would possibly be done after you have the base mesh using the multirez modifier to get many more vertices.

 

On another note, I too was waiting for this new Blender version to see how well the new sculpting bit works.

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Use 3ds max or maya, as they are both industry standards and there is lots of support for tutorials etc.  And if your a student you can get a full working student version for free.

 

Ive been modeling for 20 years :)   I started off on Imagine 3d, lightwave and real 3d.  Over the last decade 3ds max and Maya have become the standard for most industries, there are lots out there but none come up to the power of 3ds max or maya with as many tools and plugins.

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