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Explore the world of modeling and texturing 3D game props and assets in Autodesk Maya. Author Adam Crespi provides strong technical modeling techniques, from blocking basic forms and leveraging simple parts and reusable textures, to simulating real-world detail like dirt, wear, and grain with UV maps and ambient occlusion. The course includes workflow and integration considerations such as planning UV space for projection, and also steps into Mudbox and Unity for further refinement.
In this video I'll look at sculpting a high poly model, starting out by subdividing and hardening some edges. What I'll do is take these three boards and combine them. This way instead of projecting one at a time, I can project all three. As each of them will have a cage that runs around the board for projection. I'll select them. As a note, I'm here in face, and I need to right-click and make sure, I'm in Object mode before I combine. Otherwise Maya will return an error saying there's no object selected. With them all selected I'll choose Mesh and Combine.
Remember that combining or extracting or separating doesn't disturb UVs, it's transparent, meaning that the UVs are still applied to the faces regardless of what object they're part of. I'll delete the history. As we can see over here in my Attribute Editor, this is getting a little bit long. I'll press Shift+Alt+D. Alternately, I can choose Edit > Delete by Type > History. There's my objects, and we can see I've got them as different pieces, there is the color, there's a bump, and there's blinn4, and really these materials are just my experiments in the normal map.
For now, it doesn't really matter, as I'm going to replace these with a normal map later. What I may want to do though is streamline a little bit. As part of the baking process in a later video, we will see Maya put a normal map in the material that's applied. So to streamline it a little bit, with this object selected, I'll right-click, and choose Assign Existing Material > Color. This takes it back to just the raw color on here. There is no bump or normal applied, and I'm ready to get in and start subdividing and sculpting. There's different ways of doing this. A lot of folks will go in the Viewport and press 1 or 2 and what we're seeing here is that it's doing a smooth preview, it's trying to show how it looks when it's subdivided, where every polygon is divided into four for every one iteration of smoothing. However, this gets me blobjects, or pointy or cigar-shaped pieces that are really not the boards I want.
These started out as boxes, and the original boxes did have hard edges on it. However, in the smooth preview, they're not respecting the hard edges, and I would also like to have high poly objects plus the low poly. What I'll do then is rename this object, calling it top_boards_low. Now with this object renamed, so I can find it. I'll pick it press Ctrl+D to duplicate and rename the duplicate top_boards_high. I'll hide the unselected one, which is the top_boards_low and start to sculpt the high.
I'll choose Display > Hide > Hide Unselected. In the baking process, we start with a good low poly foundation and a good unwrap. Then once we start to add in poly's, we're propagating the original UVs. Ideally then, the projection is not too many percent outside of the original, we shouldn't have to force Maya to project greatly outside the original, as what we are looking for is local surface detail we can sculpt in. Now I'll look at my hard and soft edges. A quick way to test this is to choose Mesh and Smooth. And in the Smoothing dialog, we can choose Propagating Edge Hardness. I'll see what this looks like.
Typically what I'll do is smooth first and then start to add in some bevels. I'll propagate the edge hardness and smooth the UVs. I'll click Smooth, and I get subdivided boards. What this tells me is that the original hard and soft edges are not quite there. I may have moved them around, or I may have distorted them somewhat. What I would like to do then is make sure I get in here, and on this high poly board harden up all those edges, holding Shift and right-click and choosing Soften/Harden Edge > Harden Edge.
Now I'm going to subdivide this by smoothing it, and I should see those edges maintained. Down here in preserve I'll make sure I've check hard edges, and I'm going to put the division levels up at 2. I'm going to run it exponentially. This is essentially NURMS, Non-uniform Rational Mesh Subdivision. We'll see it referred to in other applications as this, but the process is the same all-around. Take every one poly, divide it into four, for each division level. We have the option here of redirecting that subdivision and the redirection comes from hard edges, creasing, and waiting if it's acceptable in the application.
I'll hit Smooth, and there is my subdivided mesh, it looks pretty decent with a couple of exceptions. The straight boards are just fine as they subdivide nicely and are ready for beveling and generally moving around. The curve board here needs an extra edge, and we can see right there that I'm getting a cross. The subdivided mesh is flowing into the bevel. I'll undo one step and introduce an edge loop or two across here. I'll hold Shift and right-click and choose my Insert Edge Loop tool.
I'll check the dialog, which I usually do because I may have left it in something like use multiple edge loops. I'll put it at relative distance and close, and I'll land an edge loop across here. We can see as part of beveling that corner that I've broken that edge flow, and so what I'm going to do is zoom in, and now use my interactive split tool to land that edge loop across. I'll hold Shift and right-click and choose Interactive Split. As a word here, to those of you who may have used a previous version of Maya, if you go back to the whole object by pressing F8 and then hit Shift and right-click, you've got split, and under Split is the original Split Polygon tool or the Interactive Split tool, we can use either one, it's really up to you.
I'll use Split Poly and land it on a vertex. Come over here to the other side, and snap it on, hitting Enter to finish. I'll zoom around to the other side, and do the same. Wrapping this new edge loop completely around, pressing G to repeat last, and snapping that split right across. I'll hit Enter, and I'll just test that subdivision choosing Mesh > Smooth, it's definitely better although I can see where I need to merge some vertices. On the top at least, those edge loops are not nearly as ragged.
On the side there's still pinching in, and the reason is I need to make sure these vertices are merged. I'll press F9, select those vertices, actually I can select all of them, it doesn't really matter. If they're already merged they're not going to merge further. I'll hold Shift and right-click and choose Merge Vertices, and Merge Vertices. With the vertices merged, I'll try smoothing once more. It's decent, although I'm still getting some interesting issues here, I may need to just go in and straighten that out by hand, or just except it.
Really, what I'm after is beveling these corners, so I don't mind if the interiors here have a little bit of a zig to them, I can probably use that when I start to push it around and sculpt. I need to make sure that I've got my hard and soft edges in place, before I subdivide. And planning in an elegant edge flow to stop that subdivision is important, you may find prior to subdividing, you need to introduce new edge lines in just for the purpose of holding that subdivided mesh out there. We also need to have two objects, high and a low poly, we're going to project from the high into the low, and we need to make sure that the high has enough geometry on it to be sculpted.
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