Complex shapes that need to have a smooth organic feel and yet be multidirectional can be a challenge to create with some of the more common forms of modeling. Using splines in creative ways and then finishing off with standard modeling tools can help us create some complex shapes with relative ease.
- [Narrator] In this exercise, we're going to take a look at how we can easily create some quite complex-looking shapes in 3ds Max by making use of its spline tools in order to create certain aspects of our hard surface model. Now, when it comes time to decide which of the many modeling tools in Max we want to make use of on our model, I would suggest that the best situations in which to make use of splines would be wherever we have any kind of sweeping or organic-looking shapes on the mesh, something with lots of curves where it would be really difficult using, say, box modeling or poly by poly techniques to move all of the vertices correctly so as to produce a nice, smooth surface.
Now, as we said in the introductory chapter of the course, we aren't able to supply reference images of the diving helmet that we're going to be modeling here. But, a quick search using your engine of choice for the term Mark V Diving Helmet should give us access to exactly what we need. If we jump into the images section here, the main reference piece that I'm going to be using is this one, here, from the landandsea.com website. Now, one thing that we perhaps instantly notice about this helmet is the really smooth arcing shape of the breastplate and straps that start somewhere in the chest area and then come up and over the shoulders in this complex, multidirectional curve, making this a prime candidate for using splines on.
To create this, then, let's jump into 3ds Max and inside the Create tab, come to the Shapes section and then choose the Circle option. What we want to do is come over to the top view port, and click and drag to create our circle shape, remembering, of course, to right-click once we are done in order to end the creation process. We will want to make sure that this is centered on the world origin, and so let's right-click on the Move Tool icon and zero our circle out in world space.
Let's also lift it up a ways so that our vertices line up with the first of the studs that we have here. Now, these have been deliberately left in the scene so as to act as a bit of a guide. Although, of course, if we were starting this model from scratch, we would need to either eyeball this, so putting it in an approximate position, or, if we were modeling with reference images or drawings in the scene, then we would need to line up with the details seen there. What we want to do next is add an Edit Spline modifier to the circle, which is of course just a spline primitive, or we could just convert this to an editable spline object, but we'll see why that might not be such a good idea in a little while.
Now, whichever your preference, what we need to do then is jump into Vertex Sub-Object Selection, where we get access to bezier handles that give us the ability to perfectly shape the spline in any way that we want. In the front view port, let's press Alt + W to maximize. Select the middle two vertices, now by default a circle is made up of four equally-spaced vertices with bezier handles set so as to give us a perfectly circular shape. And then, once they are selected, all we need to do is pull downward.
And as you can see, the bezier handles really do all of the work for us, because they interpolate between the vertices in order to give us this nice sweeping arc. In fact, if we take a look in the left view port, we can see the arc sweeping backwards, going over the shoulder area. Just quickly jumping back to a front view, we can see that the shape of the sweep is okay, but it's just a little bit pinched towards the bottom. If we look at our reference, we can see that it actually shallows out quite a bit more as it gets towards the bottom of the sweep here, whereas ours, well, it has a bit more of a point.
To fix this, what we're going to do is engage our snap tool by pressing the S key, and then we're going to hold down the Shift key and right-click in the view port in order to bring up the Snaps Quad menu. We want to make sure that Enable Axis Constraint in Snaps is turned on. If it isn't, we can go ahead and click on that, and then, if we need to, we can Shift + Right-click again and also make sure that Snap to Grid Points is turned on as well. Now, to constrain our moves to just a single axis here, we can either use the keyboard shortcuts of F5, F6, and F7, which just cycles through the X, Y, and Z axes, or, we can right-click anywhere on the main toolbar and enable the Axis Constraint mini toolbar.
At this moment in time, this is set to Y, and so as we click and drag on one of the bezier handles, we can see that all we can do is move it up and down in the view port, which of course is the Y axis. What we want to do is constrain to the X axis, though, so that we can click and drag across the view port. Now, because of the snapping here, I'm going to move to roundabout the first grid point, remembering, of course, that we have two vertices selected here, and so we'll want to perform that same move for the second set of handles as well, which, once done, gives us a much more accurate-looking shape.
At this moment in time, our circle is a little too big, but because I chose to add an Edit Spline modifier to the stack rather than convert the circle to a basic editable spline, we can come down to the Circle level, clicking Yes in the warning dialogue that pops up, and with the Show End Result option enabled, adjust the radius and really see how that alters the size of our spline on the fly. Let's set this to roundabout 18.2.
We can then perform one last tweak on our bezier handles if we need to in order to get the shape sitting exactly where we want it. And with very little trouble at all, really, we have been able to create the basis for quite a complex shape on our model. Now, obviously, we will need to convert this basic shape into actual geometry in order to make it look anything like our reference here, which is exactly what we will start to do in the next exercise.
- Modeling with splines
- Creating a working grid
- Duplicating and welding components
- Extruding complex shapes from components
- Building shapes with primitives
- Applying subdivision creasing
- Box modeling