Inspired 3D: Character Modeling Tutorial
Continuing our excerpts from the Inspired 3D series, Tom Capizzi presents an in-depth character modeling tutorial.
By Tom Capizzi

All images from Inspired 3D Modeling and Texture Mapping by Tom Capizzi, series edited by Kyle Clark and Michael Ford. Reprinted with permission.
This excerpt is the next in a number of adaptations from the new Inspired 3D series published by Premier Press. Comprised of four titles and edited by Kyle Clark and Michael Ford, these books are designed to provide animators and curious moviegoers with tips and tricks from Hollywood veterans. The following is excerpted from Modeling & Texture Mapping.

In this tutorial, the model is the character Dino from Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. Most production facilities use maquettes. If the model will be produced using model sheets or orthographic views, a maquette built in an action pose is created before the model sheets are drawn up. Building a sculpture in real life 3D ensures that the proportions of the model will appear correctly in the virtual 3D world in the computer. When a production facility has millions of dollars invested in the success of a 3D character, building a maquette is a small price to pay to make sure it looks good before it is built.

The CG character used in this tutorial was intended to seamlessly integrate into shots where the animatronic puppet was used. This animatronic Dino was created by Jim Hensonís Creature Shop. Rhythm & Hues provided a model fabricated from urethane foam that was used for reference. The foam maquette was poured from the exact mold that was used to make the puppet. The model that was constructed from this reference maquette was supposed to match the foam property exactly.

[Figures 1 & 2] The maquette (left) supplied by Jim Hensonís Creature Shop and the model sheet (right) used for modeling the final 3D model.

Model Sheets
These drawings are normally used to define the look of the character in orthographic views used for modeling. Because the model had to be animated using digital character controls, the legs had to be straightened and spread apart. The face was changed a little bit to allow for nostril animation and easier eye animation.

Digitized Maquette
The foam prop was digitized using a 3D digitizer, resulting in data that was not as accurate as data that is digitized from a maquette constructed from sturdier materials. The actual model was available for reference, and the puppet maquette data had to be changed to accommodate the requirements for animation setup. Digitizing provided only enough data to begin modeling; looking at the actual 3D sculpture provided the information that was required for the final model.

Curve Network
The network for the construction curves is conceived before the digitizing begins. The way the surfaces will flow along the curvature of the eyes, mouth, and nostrils are all laid out on the face. The difficult transitions where the arms attach to the body and the legs attach to the hips are planned out at this time as well. Two important aspects of patch layout for modeling are explained. The first aspect is to enable the easy and efficient layout for surfaces on a model. The second, more important reason, is to lay out surfaces so that the final geometry will move along the surface the same way that skin moves when muscles move beneath the skin. The radial sections around the eyes, mouth, nostrils, arm intersections and leg transitions, allow the geometry to move the way the actual parts of the body move. The muscles around the mouth move in directions that flow along the perimeter of the mouth. The muscles that lie beneath the lips travel radially around the mouth. The muscles around the eye that open and shut the eyelids are also laid out radially around the eye socket. These surfaces, if laid out in the way shown here, will move in a realistic manner because they match the musculature of the face.

Network Strategy
Use as few surfaces as possible. When you are texture mapping a model, you will have to deal with each surface as a separate map. Keep all the surfaces close to the same size as the other surfaces. This enables you to maintain equal texture map sizes between surfaces, as well as maintain uniform distribution of geometry for animation and rendering purposes.

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