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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.
Most characters that you model will probably be symmetrical. By modeling one side of the model and having Max automatically do the same thing to the other side, you save time and effort. It sure would be a lot more work to manually model both sides of the character. As you can see, Hank is just half a man at this point. Symmetry can be used to turn a half a model into a fully symmetrical model. Let's select Hank and then go to the Modifier stack. We want to do is add a Symmetry Modifier, so let's scroll down to Symmetry.
Now there is a problem to deal with right from the start. You see this modifier bases the axis of symmetry on the pivot point of the model. We can either delete the Symmetry Modifier and then move the pivot point or we can move the axis of the symmetry independently of the pivot point. Let's do the latter. Let's open up the Symmetry subobject and click on Mirror, so now we can edit the object's mirror point. This gives us direct access to the axis. Now we can just move this tool to position the mirror point to our liking.
It's kind of a fun effect. I want to snap the axis to the center of the grid so that I know the symmetry is perfect. Let's go up here and turn on Snaps. Also, let's right-click on this to make sure it's snapping to grid points. Grid Points is active, so that's good. So now when we move it we you can see that it's snapping to individual grid points. You can see it highlighting as it snaps to these. So if we get it right here in the center, we know we've got it exactly in the right place. Let's just turn off snaps before we continue.
There are a few other controls that you should know about. In the Symmetry Modifier you can set which direction you want to mirror and also flip the symmetry to the other side. So let's go over here in Mirror Axis. So now this is mirroring front to back or top to bottom, and you can also set it to Flip. So if the result you're getting isn't quite what you're expecting, you might want to mess with some of these settings to make sure that everything is correct. I like to work on a character's left side and then mirror over the right side.
That's just my preference. So the default works great for me. Another thing to notice is the Weld Seam and Threshold controls. This makes it so that the two halves get welded into one whole and the threshold controls how close individual vertices should be so that they get welded. Let's see what happens if we crank up the Threshold. At higher values, this setting can cause unintended welding of verts. It's always a good idea to make sure that you set this low enough so that you don't accidentally weld things that shouldn't be welded.
So let's just bring this way down. I like to zoom in on areas where the mesh is more dense, so let's go and look here at the face where things are close together. And I'll just go up to the Threshold and just move this up just high enough so that we don't get any unintended verts getting welded. Let's look around the model to make sure it's all okay. That looks pretty good. When using the Symmetry Modifier you want to make sure that all of your vertices down the centerline of the model are all perfectly centered, so let's go back to the Editable Poly and actually change some of this.
We also want to click Show end result so that we can edit the model with symmetry showing up. So I'll just go into the Vertex mode and pick one of these vertices here on the center line. Now if any of your vertices aren't quite perfect in the center line, you can get weird things starting to happen. There can be, like, strange gaps, or strange things can happen, so you want to make sure when you're modeling and you use symmetry that you get everything right in the center. Let's check how symmetry is working on other parts of the model. I'll just move a random vertex.
Let's pick this one here on the cheek and see if it's working. Any change we make to one side of the model is going to happen to the other. Note that a character doesn't have to be just half of a model to use this. You can put a Symmetry Modifier on a whole character as well. Let's see how that works. I'm just going to get out of the Vertex subobject mode and we'll just collapse this down to in Editable Poly. Now the model is a whole character, and it's removed the Symmetry Modifier. So now if we make any changes, symmetry has been removed.
You can see it's not making the same change on the other side. So I'll just undo that, and I just want to show you what happens if you put symmetry on a whole character, rather than a half one. We'll just move that pivot point again. So you can put symmetry on a whole character just like with a half character, and it kind of erases the other half and replaces it with the mirror. Now if I go back to Editable Poly mode and move any of these vertices--oops! One thing I forgot.
This is one thing that always happens. The Show end result toggle always gets turned off, so I usually have to go and make sure I turn that back on before the change happens. So you can see now we have symmetry on a model that was a whole character to which we added the Symmetry Modifier. You'll use symmetry often. It's very helpful to edit the character as a whole while only having to work on one side of it. Just be careful that all of the vertices at the center line of the character are perfectly lined up so that you won't leave any gaps or cause any problems.
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