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This course is a practical guide to constructing 3D buildings that can be used to populate video game environments. Author Adam Crespi starts with a gas station taken from a photograph—retrieving measurements and dimensions with modular blocking and planning techniques in Adobe Photoshop—and then re-creates the building in Maya with polygonal modeling and advanced texturing techniques. The course shows how to model elements such as walls, doors, and roofs, including stacking UVs on a texture sheet, and also sheds light on simulating real-world details like dirt, wear, and grime, using ambient occlusion and normal baking in a high- to low-poly workflow. The final chapter shows how to export the model to the Unity gaming engine for final cleanup and rendering.
Once you've got the basic plan in place, you can start to block out components of your design. What I'll do usually is estimate distances based on my concept art. As an example, doors are a terrific way to measure and estimate distances. I'll zoom in on the door on the cashier's area. Doors typically, in most North American buildings at least, or one of two heights unless they obviously look different or custom made. Doors are 6'8" tall or 8 feet, and these are standards throughout the country.
The way I can tell if a door is six foot eight or eight feet is where the handle is. We can see that the handle and the small handle right here are just about midway across the door, maybe a little bit below half of the knob. What that means, being that the handle was about three feet off the floor, is this door is six foot eight tall. If the handle looks like it's at the lower third of the door, the door is eight feet tall. So this door is six foot eight tall and about three feet wide. If we call this six foot eight, or almost seven, reasonably, we're looking at ten feet to the top of these windows, and hence ten feet to the top of the garage here.
If that's ten, there's probably another four maybe to the top of the building. I'll press Ctrl+0 and zoom out and see if that estimating holds. Again, it looks like ten feet here and another four. That works nicely, giving me two-foot panels on the garage doors as well. If we've got fourteen feet tall reasonably, this building comes out to-- well, let's see. Three feet, probably eight or nine.
We'll call it nine. That gives us twelve and another two feet is fourteen, another nine is twenty-three, and probably reasonably another twelve feet or fourteen feet coming out to, let's say thirty-six, to give us a nice even number. 14 x 36. I will go into Maya and start to block out this form. Here in Maya, I'm ready to begin modeling. Remember that as we showed in the workflow video, I've customized my UI a little bit.
I'll press and hold spacebar for the hotbox, and we can see I have gone into the Hotbox controls and clicked on Show Polygons, Polygons Only. I've also clicked on the space to the right of Maya and turned off the Range slider, the Time slider, and the Command Line. I've left the Tool Box and Status Line on, and I've also turned off the Shelfs. I'm using Ctrl+A to go back and forth between the Channel Box and the Attributes, and that gives me a lot more space to work in. To block out a building then, I'm going to go into my Preferences and set my units in feet.
I'll choose Window > Settings/Preferences > Preferences. In the Settings I'll make my Linear units feet. This isn't the actual model, but it's rather a bounding box. I'll hold Shift and right- click and choose PolyCube. I'll click and drag out a PolyCube and come over to the INPUTS in the Channel Box. I'll make the Depth 36. I'll put the Height at 14. And I need to get a width.
I'll press F to show it, and we can see that my gas station is much too skinny. Back here in Photoshop, I can estimate the side. If I know that this is twelve feet--having three and nine here, we'll say--reasonably I'm looking at probably close to twenty or twenty-two for the side here. I'll check out one of the other views and see if that holds. Again, reasonably, that's probably twenty feet from front to back. Back here in Maya then, I can make that Width 20.
This is the main volume of the gas station, and it's important to put in a bounding box to avoid model creep. What is model creep, you might ask. It's when you start modeling something and the model seems to grow a bit. What you thought was going to be a six-foot person actually ends up closer to eight and looks rather odd. So by putting in a bounding box, we can say all the modules of the building need to fit inside this box by the time we are done. I'll add in another one for the canopy on the front. What I'll also do is zero out the translation on this, selecting by clicking and dragging the X, Y, and Z Translate and pressing 0.
Then I'll come back to the height on the Y, and put it in at 7. I've turned off my grid, which I usually do for working. Turning it on again, though, shows me the grid is at the bottom of the box. That way the floor is at zero. So when this comes into the game, it's going to sit down on the ground plane if I have one. I like to do this with structures so that rather than working in free-floating space, things start out at zero, and that way anything I make is automatically on the floor or on the ground.
I'll add another box to put in the canopy, and then I'll start to model modular elements. Back here in Photoshop then, I can estimate the canopy. It looks like this canopy sticks out almost as far as the width of the building. If this is twenty, this is probably easily eighteen out here. And again, if I said this is four feet tall up to the rooftop, it's probably two in the height of the canopy. It also needs to line up cleanly with the garage door. What I had said is that the edge of the garage door is twenty-three feet in, and so this canopy needs to come over thirteen feet.
I'll make another box, holding Shift and right-click and choosing PolyCube. I'll drag it in and pull it up for the height. I'm going to make a Height of this 12. I'll put the Width at 13, and here's the Depth at 18. Now it looks like I'm little off in my width and depth. I can either fix this or rotate it around. I'll put the Width at 18 and the Depth at 13, and now the box for the canopy and the island is in the right place.
Finally, I'll use my Align tool to get these in the right place. I've got my canopy bounding box selected, and I'll hold Shift and select the bounding box for the station. On my hotbox, pressing and holding the spacebar, I'll choose Modify > Align tool. I'll align them front to back, bottom to bottom, and spin around and side to side.
There is my bounding volume for my gas station. If I stay within this, I'll get the proportion right and things will line up where they're supposed to. It's important to do this to block out or box out that basic form first, any key elements or major volumes, before you start modeling. That way our model stays in the right proportion and right size as you have planned it out.
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