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In 3ds Max 2011 Essential Training, author Aaron F. Ross demonstrates how to use this top-tier application for digital content creation, widely used in diverse industries such as architecture, industrial design, motion pictures, games and virtual worlds. This course covers modeling with polygons, curves, and subdivision surfaces, defining surface properties with materials and maps, setting up cameras and lights, animating objects, and final output rendering. Exercise files accompany the course.
Last thing I want to do before signing off on this model and declaring it finished is to check the edge smoothing. As I mentioned earlier, polygon objects have no true curvature. One of the ways that we can achieve the illusion of curvature is through something called edge smoothing. Basically, if we didn't have edge smoothing, then each polygon on this surface would appear as a single facet or a single discrete hard-edged unit. So, let's take a look at that. In order to see this, I need to turn off edges.
So, I'm going to hit F4, so I'm not looking at edges. Get in a little bit closer here. I might want to change the object color here too. So, I'll do that. I'll select the object, hit the J key so we can know that that's still selected, and I'll go up to object color here and give this a light gray. While I'm here, I should name it vase. I want to look at edge smoothing.
You can see here that the top appears to have hard edges and the sides have this kind of, I don't know, stippled, kind of funky look to it. Part of that is because of the level of detail that we have and part of it has to do with smoothing. So, let me deal with a level of detail issue first. I'm going to go to the Loft parameters. Remember, we've got Shape Steps and Path Steps.
So, taking a look at this, I can adjust the number of steps until it kind of smooths out. It might be helpful to hit Alt+W so we can see this in more than one view at a time, so we can see wires. Let's do this. I'm going to hit F3 in the Front view and then F4 in the Front view. So, I got a way of visualizing what's it's going to look like in terms of the renderer, how is that going to look like when it's rendered, and also what does it look like in terms of actual wires, so number of Shape Steps.
What I want to do here is try to find the optimal point at which it looks smooth, but is not insanely heavy. I've also got Path Steps. That's the number of steps running along the path. So I can maybe reduce that. And so far so good! It's looking all right. I think I found a sweet spot in terms of level of detail here.
I'll hit Alt+W in my Perspective view, zoom in on that. So far so good. I'm just not entirely sure about this here, about that being a hard edge there. So if I want that to look more rounded, then I could apply a Smooth modifier to soften that up. So I want to apply the Smooth after the shell or on top of the Shell. So, I'll select the Shell modifier. I'm going to look for Smooth. Here is Smooth.
Now, when you first add the Smooth modifier, it's actually turned off. So it's been applied, but the Smooth effect is basically disabled. Make it a little bit easier to see by hiding the grid here. I can press that G key in my keyboard to turn the grid on or off. So now you can see this is what a polygon object would look like if there was no edge smoothing. We would get this faceted appearance. Each one of these polygons would appear as a flat face or a flat facet.
If we have a lot of them, it will almost kind of smooth over. But we'd have to have a huge number of polygons in order to get a really smooth effect if edge smoothing didn't exist. But edge smoothing does exist, and this is why it exists so that we can make faceted polygon objects look curved. So the Smooth modifier has been applied, and I also want to enable the switch that says Auto Smooth. Now, what it's doing is it's testing the boundary between each polygon and its neighbor.
If that angle between two polygons is less than this Threshold value, then that edge will be smoothed. So, if we go back down to the bottom here, two polygons here have an angle of greater than 30 degrees. It's almost 90 degrees. It looks like it's somewhere around 80 degrees. So that edge is not being smoothed. However, these guys in this area have angles that are much shallower on the order of like 5 degrees or 10 degrees.
So they're lower than this threshold. Therefore they are being smoothed. So, if I increase the threshold, more and more of the model is going to get smoothed. So, it'll take a while to get up there. I probably have to go almost up to 90 before this is going to get smoothed over. But there you see it now. So, this is smoothed, because our threshold is up very high. I can reduce that back down again. Take a look at the top.
A similar effect is going to happen up here. If I increase the threshold, eventually, if I go up to near 90, you'll see now that's getting smoothed over. Now this is actually not a desirable outcome. This is a situation where edges that we don't want to be smoothed are being smoothed. This is a very common thing that you'll see, especially with polygon modeling. This sort of will creep up on you, and you'll need to deal with it. At the end of your modeling workflow, you want to check to see if edges are being smoothed or not.
So, I think what I want on this particular model is I don't want these top edges to be smoothed, but I do want the edges at the bottom to be smoothed. So I think I just want to reduce this threshold until this is being smoothed, but this is not. So that is my model. I can continue to work on it by adjusting the sub-objects within this editable spline.
Alt+W to go to the Top view, and maybe go back and adjust a couple of these with the Move tool. Once I'm truly, truly finished with this, I'm going to want to make an editable mesh or editable poly version of it. So, I'm going to save this now in this state and then I'm going to convert it to editable poly or editable mesh and save in that state as well. Just because, although this is fairly bulletproof, because this part of the program has been around since its birth, there is a potential that later down the road we might have issues with the complexity of all the stuff that's going on in here.
So, just to future-proof my work, I'm going to convert it to editable mesh or editable poly as my final output stage. So, I'm going to save this and I'm going to call this-- We are up to number 8, and I'll call this 08_artVaseLoft and now I'm going to convert it to editable and that will bake this in and make it permanent.
I'm going to right-click and choose Convert To. I have two options: Editable Mesh or Editable Poly. Once again, Editable Poly is the more advanced of the two. If I'm trying to go for bulletproof and future-proof, then I want to choose Editable Mesh, because that's the older and dumber of the two. Old and dumb is good when you're worried about compatibility. So now since that's been converted, these shapes no longer have any influence.
So, just to un-clutter my scene, I'm going to actually select those and delete them. Now this is my final result. This is what I would import into another scene if I was going to place it into an interior scene or something like. So I'm going to save it out again, Save As, and I'll call this one 08_artVaseMesh to distinguish that from the loft version. That's a basic introduction to modeling with splines and lofting in 3ds Max 2011.
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