Anything can be visualized in 3D and although there are many ways to go about building an object, building or character, there are basic procedures common to all. Below are the steps for creating a 3D character.
See a small sampling of our 3D portfolio on the right.
3D modeling is a very laborious process. Hours can be spent on a small detail that may not be worth the effort. So a sketch or reference material is key before building the object or character. Many times we will use Google Images to build a visual list of ideas that we can refer to.+ See Full Storyboard
Creating in 3D is a bit like a sculpting with chicken wire. A "wireframe" defines the outer structure of the object. Tools in the software are used to push and pull the wireframe in multiple views - Front, Side, Top etc. A basic shape like a cylinder can be turned into a hat or a sphere into a head. When the object looks like you want it to from all angles, it is ready for paint and texture.
Texture Mapping is a two-part process. First, textures are painted or assembled in Photoshop. It is very much like creating decals and there are many different kinds that define how the texture should look. Any given texture can have from 1 to 12+ maps that define color, specularity, glossiness, bumpiness and many other surface attributes. Next, the materials that were created need to be applied to the objects. The texture "decals" for a leg for instance, can be wrapped with cylindrical coordinates, a suitcase with box or planar coordinates.
To animate a 3D character, a bone-like structure must be created to move the outer wireframe much the way our bones move skin and flesh. Each bone has a rotation that mimics real-life, each bending in the correct direction and stopping where they should.
After the bones are created, it is installed inside the wireframe mesh. This is a process of defining values that affect the model in specific ways when the bone is rotated. For instance, when an arm is bent the elbow should crease on the inside and bulge on the outside. Fingers, knees and toes should do the same.
After countless hours of tedium comes the fun part - animation. In the animation process, bones are rotated and objects moved, scaled or manipulated and this data is saved in a keyframe. These keyframes are placed at various points on a timeline that runs at 30 frames per second (for TV anyway). So if it takes 1 second to raise your arm, you will place rotation keys for your shoulder, elbow and wrist inside of 30 frames on the timeline. The computer calculates all the action that takes place between the keys you've set. This is why 3D can be much faster than traditional 2D animation. Nice!
Modeling, animation and post production by Alt9.