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In every design, whether taken from existing places or concept art drawn from the imagination, there are key details in the way of building lights speak volumes about its character, age, materials and construction. Identifying key shadow-lines allows the designer to imprint the model with a sense of place and time and further refines the plan of construction of assets for the game. In this example, these large stone blocks with their very nicely radius trim are a key detail on this building, as is the engraved table below.
On this building the brick corbelling up above these arches is a key detail. We really need to see it in both geometry and texture so that the character of this building comes across. On this building, more of an Art Deco style with long vertical lines. These recessed panels are key details in this otherwise flat piece of a facade. As is the shadow-line from the corners up at the top and the spandrel detail or the panels above and below the windows here. Those are key details we need to see.
What I'll do in planning out a building like this for construction is draw on the photo in Photoshop in blue and green, blue for mesh lines and green for geometry, so that when I go to model in 3ds Max I can cleanly see what I need to do. I'll start out with a new layer and first work in blue for major mesh lines and I'll draw mesh lines to start up here at the cornice. And what these will tell me on this building is that I need to extrude these polygons out so I get that shadow-line correctly.
I'll also put blue mesh lines to start around these windows, and I am holding Shift to constrain that line to straight, getting it as close as I can. These mesh lines will later be extruded in. Referencing the earlier chapters on the division between geometry and texture, we can see I've marked this piece out as geometry. Now for texture work, I'll switch over to green, so it's easily recognizable. Major mesh lines for texture include these recessed panels, and why I am putting these in here, both steps, is so that as part of the texture in the self shadowing trim, I know that I need to come back and draw in or render in a shadow line and I'll add some here on the panels as well.
What I'd encourage you to do then is with your reference imagery, whether it's drawn reference or from photos as shown here, draw the mesh lines right on. That way when you come back to this building, one of many, you can cleanly model and texture to get the character of the building across and that's really the important thing, that the buildings have a character as being from a certain time, place, and construction in the evolved city. The next step is to identify these details as either geometry or texture, so they can be economically constructed for the game, imparting a sense of place without sapping rendering power.
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