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Modeling a Character in 3ds Max with Ryan Kittleson covers the process of designing and building a 3D human character that can be used for feature film, broadcast, and games. The course begins with an overview of the 3ds Max tools and techniques used in character modeling, and how human anatomy is represented using 3D geometry. Once this foundation is in place, the rest of the course goes step by step through the actual process used to model a simple human character from the ground up, including facial features, musculature, and details such as hair and clothing.
3D models are one of the first things created in a CG pipeline. Everything from texturing to rigging, to animation, to rendering is affected by how the model is created. Small little problems in a model can cause bigger problems for other people down the road. As a character modeler, you want to minimize the number of times that people later in the pipeline come knocking at your door asking you to make changes. For that reason, I made this video about how to clean up problem areas in your models. Depending on who you're working for and what kind of pipeline they have, there may be different expectations as to what a good model should be like.
However, there are a few things that are common to virtually all 3D projects. One thing that is a must for character models is removal of all six-pointed stars. Let's get up close to the face and see what I am talking about. I'm going to click on Hank and zoom in on the face. I want to show Edged Faces, so we can see what's going on. Right here on the cheek, this is what's called a six-pointed star. That's because there are six edges leading into one single vertex right here. These are sometimes caused by extruding from two different adjoining polygons.
This star is at the corner of where the eye flow zone and the mouth flow zone meet. Stars are a problem because when the character is rigged, this one vertex will have a huge influence over this whole cheek area. That can result in weird stretching, pinching, or other undesirable effects. So let's get this one cleaned up. What we want to do is remove some of these edges that are running through this vertex, but we also want to keep some of them. Figure out which edges are most important to the overall edge flow of the character.
So for this character, I think that the most important edge is this one that runs right here. Now, it might be different on your model. It could be different in any other part of the body. And maybe this one isn't the one most important; maybe there are two that are kind of equally important. But for the sake of this exercise, I am just going to keep this edge right here and remove these two and these two. So let's go into Editable Poly, and I am going to select Edges. And let's just go in here and select these four edges on either side of the one that I want to keep.
All right! Let's go up to the Edges menu here in the Graphite Modeling Tools and click Remove. Now what I want to do is cut new edges that bridge across from one side to the other. Let's see how this is going to work. Let's go into Edit and get the Cut tool. I am just going to click here and across to here and here and then right-click to lock that in. Now, there is a vertex that's hiding out right here. It's kind of hard to see, but if we move the mouse over it, it turns this little icon which tells us that there's a vertex to click on.
So we are going to cut from here to this vertex and then over here and right-click to lock that in and then one more time from here across the center and over to here and right-click to lock it in. Okay, let's get out of Edge mode and turn on the final result so we can see what this TurboSmooth is doing. Okay, there are no problems. Sometimes the Cut tool will accidentally create more vertices than you need, so you might have to fix up some things in there, but it's actually looking pretty good. Let's actually tweak a few things, though.
There's kind of a weird little curve right here. So if I reposition some of these vertices, that might help fix that. And it looks like I've accidentally got Normal Constraint turned on, so let's go down here to Edit Geometry and set it to None. Okay. Now, when I move this, it should be able to more freely. Okay, great! So that's how to fix six-pointed stars. You might find that after doing all of this that you picked the wrong edge to keep. Just undo everything and go back and experiment with keeping different edges and cutting across at different angles.
Another finishing step is to delete any unnecessary objects, like image planes. So let's get out of Vertex mode here. I will zoom out. So we've got these image planes. They are frozen currently, so we need to unfreeze them and delete them, because we don't really want to pass these image planes on to anybody else. They don't need it. So I am going to right-click and unfreeze all. Now we can just select that image plane and delete it. You'll also want to see if there are any curves left over from creating hair, or if there are any objects that were used to help make other things but are no longer needed.
You want to clean out anything that doesn't need to go on to the next step in the pipeline. So I think everything is pretty clean with our character Hank. Let's just see if there are any stray things. Let's go into Wireframe mode so we can see through these hair clumps. I am pretty sure those NURBS curves were cleaned out when we converted them to geometry. So that happens automatically, and I don't think there's anything else on this character to clean up. Something else that you want to do is give everything a name. Sometimes projects require very specific naming conventions. But even for more laid-back projects, objects should be given intuitive names to help keep things organized.
So let's click on the hair. It's called hairtemp. Let's actually just call that hair. Let's see. Hank is called hanktemp. Let's just call him Hank. So on and so forth, just see if there's anything that needs a name. It looks like we did a pretty good job throughout modeling this to give everything names. Finally, you want to make sure that any mirrored objects get split into two separate objects. We did a pretty good job of that as well throughout the modeling process of breaking objects into two, say, for example, the eyebrows: when we made one and used symmetry, we broke them into two, so that's good.
Although these steps can feel like busywork, it's good to just get used to checking them off your list every time you model. These are some of the most common problems that people later in the pipeline will have trouble with, so it's best to take care of them before they ever see the model. Not only is this important to do to make the model look its best, it also helps keep your colleagues happy because everything is all neat and tidy for them when they continue to work on it.
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