Join Ryan Kittleson for an in-depth discussion in this video Using Smooth Mesh Preview, part of Modeling Vehicles in Maya.
Now, this car we're working on is very smooth and curvy. However, we're modeling with polygons, which are inherently blocky and angular. In the old days of modeling, and I mean in the '90s, we used to have to model in so many polygons. In order to approximate smooth surfaces, the models had to be very dense and difficult to work with. Now, we can simply use Smooth Preview to convert a low polygon mesh into a smooth one. Let's see how it works. Smooth Preview is controlled with the one, two, and three keys. So, you want to have a model selected. And, let's hit 3 to go into Smooth Mode.
Now, I'm just going to deselect the model, so that we don't have that wire frame in the way. All right, not looking too bad. So, what this is doing is it subdivides the model into smaller polygons. For the most part, that creates the illusion of a perfectly smooth surface. Now, you can still work with the polygons of the original model, and it will automatically update the subdivided version. Let me show you what I mean. I am going to zoom in a little bit, and go to Vertex Mode, and here you can just select vertices, and you can move them around just like normal. You could do anything really just like normal. You could extrude or insert Edge Loops, and it's going to update that subdivision surface automatically.
I'm just going to hit Z to undo that. Now, hit 1 to switch back. So, you can just hit 1 and 3 as much as you want to toggle between Smooth and Unsmooth Mode. Okay, now let's try hitting 2. In this mode, you can see both the original and the subdivided versions. I find this mode to be a little bit visually cluttered, so I don't use it, but if it works for you, go for it. Smooth Preview is really great and all, but there are a few things to consider when using it. Let's go into our front view. And, I just want to zoom in on the headlight.
Let's go to Regular Mode, Unsmooth Mode. And, I'm just going to make a quick little adjustment here before we go on. I just want to tweak some of these edges, so that they line up with the reference better. So, I just double-clicked on an edge and it selected the entire Edge Loop. Okay, for the most part, these edges are lining up with the reference. Now, I'm going to hit 3. Notice that the shape changes slightly. Usually it shrinks a little bit when you turn on Smooth Mode. The amount of shrinkage depends on the angle between the connecting edges. The greater the angle, the more the shape shrinks and rounds out. The less of an angle, the less change that will occur when it smooths.
This is important, because we're trying to use the reference to create precise and accurate shapes. If the shape changes significantly when you smooth it, there are a few things you can do to deal with that. So, let's look at this one vertex. Right up here, you can see that there's kind of a significant angle between these two edges. So, when I smooth it, that vertex moves a lot. So, something that you can do to avoid that problem is to Insert More Edge Loops. I'll put one here, and one here. And then, I'll just go into Vertex Mode and tweak these, until they line up a little bit better.
So now, with more vertices, we can match that curve more closely without having quite so much of an angle between the edges. And, let's see what happens when we smooth it. So, there is much less of a change now. Now, the thing to watch out for here is that when we inserted more Edge Loops, it created more edges that go down the length of the vehicle. And, this might create unnecessary density. And, it could make things more difficult to work with. And, you'd also to have go in and tweak those vertices, so that they made a nice smooth curve as well. Because, notice what happens if we go back into Unsmooth Mode, and zoom in a little bit more closely.
You can see that it created flat spots. So, it's just going to require some more tweaking. You can definitely work this way. I'm just going to hit Z a few times to undo that. Another thing that you can try is to tweak the existing vertices while in a Smooth Mode. So, let's go back into our front view. I'm going to turn on Smooth Mode. I must go into Vertex Mode. And, I'm just going to tweak vertices while in a Smooth Mode, so we can get our surface lining up with that reference. Now, let's go out of Smooth Mode. So, you can it when we're not in Smooth Mode, the original vertices no longer line up with the reference, and that's okay.
In the end, we're going to leave the model smooth. So, you should probably start lining things up with the position that vertices are going to be in Smooth Mode. But, I usually only start doing this a little bit further into the model like with the point where we are right now. I wouldn't start blocking out the model in Smooth Mode. That's because when you're first starting out, there's still going to be a lot of changes. And, working in Smooth Mode, you'll just be working against yourself if you're trying to line things up, and the model keeps changing between Smooth Mode and Unsmooth Mode. One last thing to note on a Smooth Preview is that if an object is parented to another object, it will inherit the parent's Smooth Mode.
Let me show you what I mean. I'm going to go back out to our Perspective View. Let's go full screen here, and let's go out of Vertex Mode, and let's turn off Smooth Preview. And, I'm just going to create a cube. Doesn't have to be pretty. Okay, so let's make this cube a child of the vehicle. So, I'm just going to hold down Shift, and select the vehicle as well, and hit P on the keyboard for Parent. Now, I can move the cube independently, but if I move the vehicle, the cube goes along for the ride. And, it also inherits the Smooth Mode. So, if I hit 3 on the keyboard, you can see that cube gets smoothed out as well.
Now, there are some instances where you want to parent something, but you don't want it to inherit the smoothing. So to do that, let's select the cube. And, let's make sure we've got our Attribute Editor tab open. And, what I want to do is open up Smooth Mesh. Now, let's come down to Subdivision Levels. Let's just bring this down to zero. So now, this model will not smooth. So, I'm hitting 3 on the keyboard, and nothing happens, because the Preview Subdivision Level is set to zero. Now, you could set this to anything you want. To one, if you only want just a little bit of smoothing.
Two is a standard that works pretty well. If we zoom in on the cube, you can see that it's still not totally smooth, so you might even want to crank that up a little bit higher. For the most part, I just usually leave it at two. So, after a model has been developed to a certain point, I like to use Smooth Preview a lot. This is because with Smooth Preview on, you get a more accurate sense of what the surfaces will eventually look like when the car is finished.
- Setting up Maya for modeling
- Using Blinn materials for modeling
- Importing a scanned or sculpted model
- Extruding polygons
- Modeling with image planes
- Dealing with body panels like the hood and doors
- Creating detailed tire tread
- Making the wheel rims
- Modeling the seats, steering wheel, and shifter
- Making rivets
- Working symmetrically