- [Instructor] The Modeling ribbon provides a topology tool for situations when you need to manually retopologize a polygon mesh. That means to restructure the mesh, or better flow of edges, usually in preparation for subdivision surface smoothing. This mesh is not well suited to sub-Ds because it's built from all triangles. It has multiple intersecting edge loops going in different directions, and it also has some places where five or more edges meet together in a thing called a pole, but using the topology tool, we can build a clean, new mesh built out of quadrilaterals with edge loops that follow the contours of the shape.
I'll open up the ribbon, and select the athena_body model, and we could just start directly drawing on this surface, however, it's a much better practice to create a new object and leave this one as it is, so I'll create a sphere object in my scene. Just go to the Command panel, Create, Standard Primitives, Sphere, click and drag anywhere to create that, right-click to end object creation, go over to the Modify panel, and rename it athena_retopo.
Also, let's change the color while we're here. Click on the color swatch, and set it to a light green, and click OK. Before we start drawing into this object, we want to position it so that its pivot point is lined up with the object we're tracing over, and in this case, that's just simply at the origin. I'll right-click on the Move tool with that sphere selected and set its position in absolute world space to an X value of zero, press Tab and also set Y to zero and press Enter, and now that sphere has been moved to the origin, and we can't see it any longer, but that's okay, we can delete that later if we want to once we're finished with our retopologization.
To draw into this object with the freeform tools, we also need to convert it to editable poly. With that sphere still selected, right-click, and choose Convert To, Convert to Editable Poly, and when we have the Freeform tab up in our ribbon, we can see all the tools are available. We want to draw onto this athena_body object, so up here in the Freeform tab, there's a button that's currently labeled Grid, and that's the Draw On button.
Click on the down-facing arrow to open up the flyout, and choose Draw On: Surface, and then we need to pick which surface we're going to draw onto, so click the Pick button and then click on the athena_body object and that name appears here now. So now all these tools will work in reference to this selected object, and if you're familiar with Maya, this is very similar to a Maya Live Object. Now let's activate the topology tool and start drawing.
Here it is, Topology, click on that, and with that topology tool active, start drawing a crosshatch of lines that conform to the object's shape, and you don't need to be very precise. You're just defining the rough outlines of the topology, and I've got a bunch of parallel lines here for one set of edge loops, and I can draw lines running in the opposite direction to form quadrilaterals. And once a region is bounded on four sides by unbroken lines, we'll get a new polygon there, so I can zoom in a little bit there and take a better look, and I can keep drawing lines here.
Don't be alarmed by the fact that it's showing in yellow. That's just the selection highlighting. All right, so we can do that all day, but that's enough to demonstrate how this works. Don't be concerned that the points are not lining up exactly where you want them to be. We can't actually edit the shape of these lines at all. All we can do is undo with Control + Z, and try to draw that line better the next time, but that's okay, because we can tweak the positions of these vertices on that surface after we've determined the rough topology, and once you have basically what you want, you can right-click, and that will complete that section, creating a polygon shell.
Then we can go to the Move Conform tool up here. Activate that, and we're still painting or drawing on the surface, and as we click and drag, we can tweak the positions of these vertices and there's a sort of soft selection here, inside the white circle. We'll have the full strength of transforms, and the strength of the transform will fall off linearly until it reaches the black circle, which is the falloff radius, and we can adjust those using the keyboard shortcuts.
To change the full strength radius, hold down Shift and drag, and to change the falloff radius, hold down Control and drag, and we can go back to moving individual vertices. Try to get this lined up with the actual shape. And we can prove that this is actually conforming to the surface because we can take one of these and move it out very, very far, and we can see that that point is still on that surface. Of course, the polygon itself may be behind the surface, because it's triangulated that way, but we know that those vertices are actually snapped to the surface at all times.
To keep on building on this, all we need to do is go back to the topology tool, and if you hold down the flyout here, we can see that there's an option labeled Auto Weld. It is enabled by default, and we can just go back to drawing, just enable the topology tool, and just draw some more lines, and we'll need to draw over the existing line that we want to extend. So I'll need to have a line running right through here, and again, it doesn't need to be precise, and once I've done that, I can right-click, and now I've got four new polygons on that polygon shell.
And that's how to use the Topology tool in conjunction with Move Conform, to retopologize a polygon mesh.
AuthorAaron F. Ross
Skill Level Intermediate
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