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When working in Mudbox, it's not uncommon to have models with millions of polygons, and that's not such a big deal when working on just one model. However, when a whole scene is put together in Maya, for example, or in a video game, all those polygons would be too much for one computer to handle. The solution is often to use Normal Maps. They are like Bump Maps but higher quality. They contain detailed information about the surface detail of a high-poly model, and it can be mapped onto a low-poly model.
The result is a low-poly model that looks like it has a lot more detail than it really does. This saves on memory and processing power. Let's see how to make one. So we have got our keg from the last movie, and this is the low-poly version. If we go into the ObjectList, here we can see we've got a lowpolykeg here. I can hide it, turn it back on. I'm going to hit Shift+F, turn on wireframe. It's kind of faint, but you might be able to see the low-poly wireframe there. Let's hide this, and it will show we do have still the high-poly wood here.
It's going to take just a second for the textures to load. That's why the model is currently blue. Sometimes Mudbox unloads textures from memory, and then it can take a little while to load them back in, and while it's loading those in, it can turn the model blue, and then there is also the bands, turn those on. Okay, there go the textures. Okay, so here is the high-poly version, and we turn the lowpolykeg back on. Now let's get all the little shape details of the high-poly keg into a normal map for the low-poly version.
I am just going to hide the lowpolykeg again really quick. You can see like there's lots of little details like cracks in the wood, and the way that the bands overlap is creating an interesting shape change here. Mudbox can calculate the shape differences between the two versions of the keg and put all that information into a normal app. So let's go up to Maps > ExtractTextureMaps and do a New Operation, and let's save this as a Normal Map, and we will do it pretty much like we just did before.
I want to turn off Smooth Target models, and let's do something slightly different this time. Let's do Add All and then just remove the ones I don't want. Add All, and let's see, I only want the bands and the wood for this one, Remove. Let's see these should be fine just by default. Image Size, let's raise this up a little bit higher so we get some more detail.
It's really up to your preference and from project to project, the image size could be different depending on the needs you have. I am just going to set it to a 2k map for this one, and then Map Type. If this were a PTEX image, if the model we are using PTEX, we would set this to PTEX, otherwise Texture. The low-poly keg has UVs, so we are going to use Texture. We just need to define a place to save the normal map to. So we will just open this up. I am just going to make a New Folder under Documents and call it keg, and we will just give the File name. You can really save it anywhere you want.
I usually save it somewhere in the same place where I'm saving the Mudbox scene file. Let's Extract it. Looks like it finished. Go ahead and hit Ok. We can close this, and now I just need to hide the bands and the wood, and let's bring in the lowpolykeg now. So it should just take a few seconds, and we will be able to see the textures applied. Let's zoom in here. Now this is the low-poly version. Let's go to the layers and the Paint tab in here, and let's expand the NormalMap.
So this is where it just placed the normal map that we created. So let's turn this on and off. So you can see with the normal map on, we have a lot more detail here, and it's still just a low-poly model. This is not a high-detailed model. It's a low-poly model with a normal map applied. So let's solo this layer as diffuse. Right-click on it and go to Solo As Diffuse. So now we can see what the normal map looks like before it gets interpreted as surface detail. The map is simply using red, green, and blue data in the image, to store information about the high-poly model surface detail.
Normal maps are very commonly used in video games, where they have to conserve polygons. So instead of loading a model with 5 million polygons into a game, you can send the low-poly version with 5,000 polygons and a normal map that simulates all the high-resolution detail.
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