Hard Surface Modelling Study – NCCA Specialist Project

Another project from my past was the Specialist project, where I aimed my brief towards hard surface modelling, improving my modelling workflow and looking into modelling techniques to speed up the process / make my work more efficient. This was done in Maya 2015, so also included my first experience with the new Modelling Toolkit (previously using Maya 2013 where the toolkit wasn’t available). This was my first major forage into modelling with a hard surface workflow in mind.

Because of the project time scale, I decided to interpret a 2D design into 3D rather than design a piece from scratch, and I used this design created by Galan Pang, Concept Art Director at Directive Games in Shanghai, China, as seen here:


With the design in hand, I also looked towards real world references, in this case mechanics and engineering. I found my reference in a Plant Hire company I had access to view in person and take reference photos of, studying mainly the way the machinery was manufactured, and how the mechanisms worked in tandem with each other, e.g. pistons, pivot points, hydraulics and motors. Being a more futuristic mech design (somewhat akin to the battle droids in the prequel Star Wars trilogy, but meaner looking), I wanted to use the design as a foundation but where the design lacks specific information (due to being concept art and not a modelling specification sheet) I use the general forms and components of the model from the design, but the finer mechanics came from real world inspiration.

In a production, say film or games, a lot of the detail would come from texturing or shading, ie normal or displacement maps, but due to the nature of the project I decided to push the model to it’s extremes and focus directly on polygonal detail to gain as much definition as possible.

Here is the exploded view build of the project, suggested by my tutor as the project was somewhat inspired by mechanics and engineering processes.

In terms of modelling techniques, utilising additional edge loops and topology edge flow was vital, but for this project, polycount was less of an issue as the project was more of a task to develop my abilities and use of Maya. The inclusion of the modelling toolkit in Maya 2015 was what really helped me with my work, and as well as this creating my own quick methods for using features in maya instead of wading my way through menus to find them.

As as example, one tool I found especially useful was the mirror merge tool, where previously to use symmetry in a model I would have to flip and merge the vertexes manually, using the MEL script; “polyMirrorFace -ws 1 -direction x -mergeMode 1 -ch 1 -mergeThreshold 0.000001” (where x can be a value ranging from 0-5 depending on the flip axis needed) you can flip the model based on it’s own axes, and given that the vertexes are all on a singular plane (for instance, all at x=0), the model will be flipped and all the vertexes which are found at the same point will be merged. Utilising MEL or Python code such as this was something that I found greatly helpful to speed up my workflow, despite my rudimentary knowledge of scripting I was able to develop an understanding of how you can optimise your workflow with the simple addition of custom buttons or scripts.

Find the paper I wrote on the project by clicking here.






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