CAP 201a - Computer Animation I

Lesson 6 - Chapter 9, Character Poly Modeling (Part 3)



Chapter 9 continues the lesson on modeling, adding more features to the character. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Create the head
  2. Merge head accessories
  3. Additional material on spline modeling


Project: the Soldier model (continued) 

Before you start the exercise: The chapter begins with the usual advice to continue modeling with your files or to open a specific supplied file.
In this case, open the supplied file for a minute to examine what the authors have done so far. Open your last file, which will close their file, and compare your work to theirs. At this point I chose to modify the neck line of my model to resemble theirs more closely. My collar area was more open, so I removed the horizontal polygons that closed off the neck (the cap), extruded the polygons around the collar line of the uniform, and closed the new border with a cap. You may want to try some of this as well, if your model's uniform neck opening is too large or too small. If you do, save incrementally before continuing with this chapter.

Project Exercise 1: Creating the neck 

This exercise has fewer pages than the last two. All you have to do is make a neck and a head. Well, let's give it try.

  1. Refer to the illustration on page 186 to see which polygons on the model to select. Select them, then turn on Soft Selection. Open the settings for Soft Selection and try the recommended setting of 4 for Falloff.
    Move the polygons down a bit so there is a dip in the uniform's neck line, which will also emphasize the shoulders. Repeat this with the analogous polygons on the back of the uniform.
    Question 1: The authors could have told you to move both sets of polygons at once. Why do you think they did not? What is a possible benefit of moving them separately?
  2. The text says to create a cylinder with specific dimensions. This made one that was too small to my eyes, so I scaled it after making it. Move it to the appropriate place on the model before you scale it, to make sure it fits properly. Convert the cylinder to an Editable Polygon.
  3. Delete the top and bottom polygons from the cylinder. Delete half of the polygons so that it resembles the top illustration on page 187. (Once again, the text says to delete the left half. It's the model's right half. It is the left half from your point of view, if you are looking at it from the front.)
    The text also says to move edges and vertices so the neck is formed better. What do they mean? Wait a minute on this. It will work better after the next step.
  4. The text says to perform a shift-drag move to create a new row of polygons for the neck. Do that. Now, look at the next illustration on page 187, and those on the following pages. What changed in the basic neck shape? The neck is tilted a little toward the chest. Try selecting the border edge on top, rotating it, and moving it a little to get the same kind of slope. Not too much, you don't want the head to be looking down, and he is a soldier not a goose.

    Now, select just the top edge at the front of the neck. Shift-drag it to make a single polygon that follows the line from the throat to the chin in the side view reference art of the soldier. You should use the Right viewport for this. Refer to the first polygon created by this method in the illustration on page 188.
    You should shift-drag the edge to make the new polygon, then adjust its position by using the move tool without using the shift key.

Project Exercise 2: Outlining the head 

The instructions for this exercise start by telling you that you will shift-drag edges to make new polygons fifteen times. This is in addition to the one that you already made in the last exercise.

Back to the exercises.

  1. The text says to make the shape of the head in fifteen more polygons. Your viewport should be set to Right.

    That description does not help a great deal.
    Consider this a list of possible landmarks for the length of each polygon. Yes, an artist must know something about anatomy. Why wouldn't you want to know that? I will only ask you to learn three bones today. Follow the links below as needed to learn about skull bones.

    Before you start, remember that you can shift-drag to create each new polygon, then use the move tool normally on the new leading edge to adjust its position. I'm sure Michelangelo would have loved to have been able to do that in marble. Do it here, and you should be much happier.

    First loop of head polygonsPolygon locations, including the one you made already:

    1. Top of neck to midpoint under jaw. (Made in last exercise. You probably need to adjust its size.)
    2. Midpoint under jaw to point of chin. (Ends inside the reference line, to allow space for the face mask.) Why are you making this one, when the last one could be extended? The authors want two here to extend as parts of the side of the face.
    3. Chin to lower lip.
    4. Lower lip to bottom of nose.
    5. Bottom of nose to bottom of eyes.
    6. Bottom of eyes to top of eyebrows.
    7. Top of eyebrows to hairline.
    8. First of three arches that go up to the top of the head. (Where the frontal bone meets the parietal bones. This is called the coronal suture.)
    9. Second of three arches that go up to the top of the head.
    10. Third of three arches that go to up the top of the head.
    11. First of three arches that go down to the top of the occipital bone.
    12. Second of three arches that go down to the top of the occipital bone.
    13. Third of three arches that go down to the top of the occipital bone.
    14. First of three arches that go down from the top of the occipital bone to the top of the neck.
    15. Second of three arches that go down from the top of the occipital bone to the top of the neck.
    16. Last of three arches that go down from the top of the occipital bone to the top of the neck.

      That was a lot of work for one step. At the end of substep 16, I target welded the vertices of the last polygon to the vertices on the edge of the neck where it should connect.
      You should stop and save incrementally, and feel good about yourself if you have made it this far. As an element of foreshadowing, be aware that some of these polygons will be modified later in the project.

  2. Head loop after moving verticesIf you switch to the Front viewport, you should still be happy with your work, except for one thing. Each new polygon you made copied the angle of the original edge you dragged. This angle was right the first time, but not so much every other time. Compare your model in Front view to the illustration on page 189. Note that the authors' model is probably a bit different.

    Examine each polygon. Use the top view, front view, back view, and right view to adjust the vertices on each polygon's left side to point a little toward the left ear (if it were actually there).

    The authors do not mention this at all, but it is obvious that they made this change from the illustration on page 189. Complete this adjustment before actually beginning step 2.

    Now that you have thought about the location of the model's left ear, select the neck edge that is approximately below it, as instructed on page 189. I found this was easier to do in the Right viewport instead of the Front one. The choice you make here will affect the rest of the model, so choose wisely.

    Switch to the Front viewport and shift-drag the edge to make five of the six polygons that will become the next polygon loop. Follow the reference art to get the outline of the side of the head. Use the Bridge tool to create the sixth polygon.

    Do you need to adjust vertices on this loop as well? Maybe you do. (Again?) Look at the model from the top, front, and back views, and determine if some vertices are not in the right spots. Move them as needed.
  3. Examine the first picture on page 190 to determine the next two edges to drag out, horizontally, and this time together. They are the two edges that define the area from the top of the throat to the chin. In the Front viewport, drag these edges as far to the model's left as the next vertex in the throat. This is a good time to point out that you should read the text and look at the pictures. This time the text is right. Target weld (not just weld) the two vertices indicated in the first picture on page 190. This should create a section of anatomy the book calls the jowls. (One side, anyway.) Consider the angle of this new body section, and adjust vertices as needed.
  4. The text wants you to select two edges. They should be selected already, but select them if they are not. You should follow the instructions to manually extrude the edges up the side of the face, but the text seems to have left out something. To make sure you are doing it right, watch in both the Front and Right views at once, to determine how far to drag on each of two axes. You may want to change your viewport configuration before starting. As before, adjust each new set of edges before dragging out the next polygon.
    Do not drag out a last polygon to the top of the head. The next step handles that.
  5. Use the Bridge tool again. You have two sets of polygons to bridge. You can use the Bridge tool twice, once for each set, or you can select all four edges and bridge once.

    If your model has a polygon-wide gap between the two edge loops you just created and the loop that will include the ear, you match the authors' model.

    I must have chosen a different place to put the soldier's ear, since these loops fell right beside my "ear" loop. If your model is like mine, take a moment to Target weld the vertices from the jowl loop to the ear loop as I have done in the image on the right.

    Whether your model looks like the one in the book or mine, you should adjust the vertices on the edge loop that is closest to the front of the face. Make sure there is a little curve to the edges, leading toward the nose area. For our purposes, heads are mostly shaped like ovals, not boxes.
  6. Head after step 6Step 6 tells us to use the same method to extend edges toward the front of the face. This almost works.

    Examine the bottom picture on page 191. The problem is that we need to extend the edges in three different directions. If you try to drag all the edges at once, you will be dragging some polygons in a wrong direction. If you don't drag them at once, you will have to weld the new polygons together. Since dragging at once is the instruction, just realize that you will have this problem and correct vertex placements after the drag. I tried it both ways, and dragging them at once left me fewer things to correct.

    As another modification, I think my horizontal loop marking the middle of the cheek makes the soldier look too thin. I will move it out a bit before the next screen shot.
  7. Face strip bridged to side stripThe text points out that we have a mismatch between the number of edges that should connect next. In my model, the front vertical strip above has four vertical edges to connect to seven edges on the last extruded loop of polygons. You will handle this in a couple of moves. Once again, my model is different. Yours may be as well, so consider what to do based on the book example, and on my example.

    First, examine the last illustration on page 191. The authors have a worse problem than I do. They only have three edges left on the front of the face, so they chose to chamfer one of the horizontal edges, effectively giving them a new polygon in the strip. This puts the authors where I am already.

  8. Their answer for the next step is to use the Bridge tool, but to only use four edges on each side. Ignore the first two edges on the top, and the last edge on the bottom in the strip on the side. Well, ignore them for a minute.
  9. Face vertices weldedStep 9 says to use the Cut tool to cut down the middle of the bridging polygons, and to extend the cut down to the bottom of the neck. This will be easier to do if you isolate the head first. Do that, then continue.
  10. Go to Vertex mode. Select the vertex that began your cut, and the one above it that the cut should now match, and open the Weld settings caddy. Weld the vertices together. Note that you can play with the Weld Threshold value until it works, and then click the Check Mark to finish the weld. Note also that you do not have to weld anything at the bottom of the face.
  11. Save incrementally, and show me your recent work.

Project Exercise 3: Rounding out the face (Face? We're moving toward the back of the head.)

  1. Once again, my model is different from the authors' model, due to where we each believe the ear goes. At least the difference has made this a better lesson. The authors need to bridge a gap in this step. I need to extend a line of edges. Then we will be in more similar models.
  2. The authors want new edges cut in the remaining open polygons on the neck, as shown in the first picture on page 195. Move the indicated original edges to make more space in the remaining gap in the head.

    Before doing step 3, I note that I have four remaining polygons on the strip on the back of my model's head. The text shows five polygons. What do you suppose I could do to make my model match up better? You should immediately realize that I can chamfer one edge in the strip on the back of the head, and move the resulting two edges to best resemble the image in the book. This is what I did. You may be in a similar situation now, or you may not. You will be in a similar situation eventually, so you need to remember this technique.

  3. Select the five inner edges on the back strip of polygons. Shift-drag them (the top view works well for this) to close about half of the remaining gap. Move and Target Weld vertices as needed to resemble the picture on page 196.

Project Exercise 4: Creating the back of the head

  1. The authors state that we will need one more chamfered edge added to the back of the head. This is because they intend to use the Bridge tool again, and this tool will only create a bridge that has four sides. (Even if it kind of looks like three for the last poly, it must actually have four vertices.)

    Chamfer another edge as shown, and move edges to get a good fit for the bridge tool.
  2. Perform the bridge operations as directed in the text.
  3. If you have a problem with edges being too close together, as shown on page 197, use the technique that you should have used several times so far: move edges and vertices until you have good spacing, but still maintain the desired shape for the model.

Project Exercise 5: Mirroring the head

  1. Completed head of modelI have not told you to save in the last two exercises. Save now, incrementally.

    The text says to adjust the position of the head's pivot point. Check it, but I think you will find that we did this some time ago.
    The text does not tell you to align the vertices that are in the center of the head. Let's do that, children, for the same reason we did it for the body itself. Make sure Ignore Backfacing is turned off. Isolate the head, select all the vertices at the border to be joined shortly, and click the big X button on the Align tab in the Graphite toolbar.
    Now, leave subobject mode make a mirrored copy of the head.
  2. Use the Geometry (All), Attach procedure to logically attach the new side of the head to the original side.
    Make sure Ignore Backfacing is turned off. Select the vertices to be welded. Open Weld Settings. Make sure your Weld Threshold will not accidentally weld vertices that should not be welded, then complete the weld.
  3. Their head came out a little wide, so they scaled it. Mine must be tall and thin. Each of yours should be unique in some way as well. Save incrementally and show me your work.

Project Exercise 6: Merging and Attaching Accessories

Some projects are not done by a single person. It might be that you were supposed to model the soldier, and someone else was supposed to model the helmet, goggles, and face mask for the character. The last exercise simulates this circumstance, and shows you how to add items to your scene from another file.

  1. Open the Application menu, hover over Import, and click Merge from the menu that appears on the right.
    In the file list, find the Soldier_Accessories file and select it. Click Open.
    You will see a dialog box listing the objects in the other file. You can select any or all of them in a dialog box like this. For this exercise, select all of them and click OK.

    I saw the warning that the authors mention in the text. If you do as well. follow their instruction to choose "Use Scene Material".

    The text says the objects will appear "lined up with the model". I would not count on their appearing anywhere useful.

    Click the button on the main toolbar for Select by Name. (It is to the right of the main Select button.)
    In this dialog box, you can select any object in the scene that is not hidden or frozen.
    Find each accessory in turn: mask, goggles, then helmet. Scale and move each object as needed to place it on the model.
  2. Select the body and Attach the head, as well as the merged objects to it.
    (When I did this, the model turned white. We will look at a chapter on using the material editor next.)
  3. Save incrementally and show me your work.

Head with Meshsmooth mod, attached to bodyI was a little unsatisfied with my model at this point, so I went back to the stage where I just had the body and the head. I added a Meshsmooth modifier to the head, then attached it to the body, getting this result. Of course the head took on the color of the model at that point.

The head is much more organic looking, but it has lots more polygons. You have to decide which you want more: fewer polygons, or a better model. In this case, the project continued by hiding the head with the accessories, so the smoothing would not help. If you were going to have a character without the mask, goggles, or helmet, this would be a step to consider.

An advantage to using the modifier, then attaching the head to the body is that the resulting object is an Editable Poly without a modifier in the stack. This makes it easier to continue working with subobjects to model eyes, ears, and other features.

Additional Material on Spline Modeling

Navigate to the YouTube tutorial on splines at this address:
Carry out her lesson to reinforce the use of splines and to note a few new ideas;

  1. Note the narrator's use of the line tool, and the conversion of vertices using the Fillet tool. In our version of the program, her use of shift-drag serves no purpose. It will be easier to turn on the Snap to Grid option and to place all of your vertices at grid intersections.
  2. Use the Lathe modifier as instructed to make a usable mug shape.
  3. She adds an Edit Poly modifier to the object. Try this, and note that it provides the same subobject types as an Editable Poly object.
  4. The narrator selects all the vertical edges in the model and uses the Connect tool to insert five horizontal rings of edges in the model.
    Question 2 Why is this a better method at this stage of her model than using the Swift Loop tool?
  5. The narrator selects two polygons to build the handle of the mug. She insets them, then scales them, She reminds you how to change the viewport to another preset view, and how to change between display modes.
  6. The narrator introduces the "hinge from edge" feature that will be used in future models. In this case, she points out that the edge you choose to hinge from does not have to be part of the polygon that you intend to swing through space. She creates an arch from the top polygon selected on the model, but only goes160 degrees instead of 180.
  7. She uses the Bridge tool to bridge from the handle to the body of the cup. When you do this, be aware that the polygons marking the start and end points of the handle on the original body of the mug no longer exist. 3DS Max does not allow you to have hidden polygons that are inside a mesh.
  8. The narrator adds a TurboSmooth modifier to the model, and increases the Iterations value to 2. Note that low values should always be used for Iterations, because any sufficiently large value will crash the program.
  9. Show me the completed model for credit for this exercise.