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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.
Before we go too deep into modeling in 3ds Max, I'd like to spend a moment talking about the different types of models and why you would choose one technique or modality over another. In this scene, you'll see three pieces of furniture. Each was modeled using a different technique. On the left is a polygon model, and you'll see it's made out of all straight lines and it's very boxy and very rectilinear. In the middle you'll see a curve-based model. Let me zoom in a little bit on that with Ctrl+Alt+Middle mouse button, and then move with just the middle mouse button, so we can see that a little bit more closely.
This is a curve-based model and specifically it's actually using two different types of curves. It's using a standard Spline curve for the top of this cocktail table. It's using something called NURBS for the base. These are both curve-based modeling techniques. On the right, we middle mouse, move over there, and Alt+Middle mouse to orbit a little bit. This barstool seat is modeled using something called subdivision surfaces, which sort of combines the best of polygon modeling and curve-based modeling.
So these are the three different types of modeling that you're going to use in 3ds Max. Take a quick look at each one of these in turn. I'm going back to the Polygon model. Polygons lend themselves to straight lines, because in fact they are made out of all straight lines. If I select an object here and zoom in a little bit, you'll see although we've got a little bit of a beveled edge here, it's got a little bit of a bevel there, it's still made out of all straight lines.
That really is the hallmark of polygon models. Polygons are best for objects that are not going to change shape and that are generally made out of, as I said, these straight surfaces or flat surfaces. Each line on the polygon model is called an edge and the area that is surrounded by edges is known as a polygon or a face. Moving on to the second type, curve- based models, this is called a NURBS model. If I select it, you'll see the word NURBS. That's an acronym.
NURBS are curve-based and they're mathematically precise. So, NURBS are used for modeling industrial design. The cool thing about NURBS is that you can change the level of detail, which you can't really do with polygons, at least not easily. So, if I'm not happy with the definition on this, I can dial it up or down. So curve-based modeling, specifically NURBS, are a way to achieve flowing curves on hard surfaces.
In other words, this is a surface that's not going to deform. So we don't care if it's going to bend very well. So we don't really need to have a very particular structure that would be designed to deform, but we still want to get these nice, smooth-flowing curves. So again, NURBS is good for man-made objects, but NURBS is not so good for character or creature work, because we don't have much control over the way that these edges here are being built.
Finally, the third method here is called subdivision surfaces. This barstool is modeled using Sub-Ds, and subdivision surfaces combine the best of both worlds. It gives us the freedom to work with polygons and the advanced feature sets that are available with polygons, but we also have the ability to have these nice, flowing curves. So, Sub-Ds are used almost exclusively for nearly all character and creature modeling in 3D.
To show you the defining characteristic of a Sub-D model, I'm going to press F4 to hide these edges and I'm going to go down into the modifier stack. I'm going to enter Editable Poly > Vertex. We'll be looking more at this later, but when I've entered this mode, now if I have this Show end result option turned on, then I can see the final result after all of the aspects of the modifier stack have been calculated. The defining characteristic of a Sub- D model is that we have a low fidelity control cage or control mesh shown here in orange.
That is a method whereby I can adjust the shape of the resulting or underlying smoothed, subdivided surface. So I can move these, the three points, around and kind of have a very high level control over this Sub-D surface, so that I don't have to go in and select every single little point on here. So I've got a very high level control. So, those are the three modeling modalities that you're going to use in 3ds Max. Once again, polygon modeling, which is good for non-deforming, hard-edged objects, curve-based modeling, such as NURBS, which is good for hard surfaces that have flowing curves, and then finally, Sub-D or subdivision surface models, which is good for character and creature work and in this case also came in handy for modeling this barstool.
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