Character Modeling in Maya

This chapter is from the book

Continue Refining Your Model

Continue extruding and positioning faces to create the rest of the character’s body geometry. Leave the arms out for now. You may want to make use of the Append to Polygon tool instead of merging vertices. To use this tool, select it by going to Edit Mesh, Append to Polygon Tool. Once it is active, select the open edge you would like to close. Triangular manipulators will appear on the edges in the mesh that you can select to create the new polygon. Click on any of them to create the new polygon; then press Enter to finish the tool. Once you have created the rough geometry for the entire character, you can go back and use the Interactive Split tool to redefine the edge loops. Look for areas where the edges are getting crossed and disorganized. You can use the Interactive Split tool to make some splits, and then delete the old edges to make things look like they are working better. In general, try to get the geometry evenly spaced and the edge loops looking smooth in all directions. As you get more practice, it becomes easier to predict how your geometry will turn out.

Multi-Edged Intersections: Poles

You may notice that you are getting many “poles” in your geometry. A pole is any vertex that is at the intersection of more than four edges. A certain number of poles is unavoidable because of the different elements you need to fit together in a single mesh. A character that has many circular edge loops close together is especially prone to having poles. Even our character has poles in his face near the eye socket. We do want to try to reduce the number of poles as much as possible because they are another problem for smoothing at render time. And we definitely want to try to get rid of poles in any place that is going to have a lot of deformation happening; they will introduce smoothing errors. Figure 8.18 shows some poles in our model.

Remember from Hour 4 we talked about how it is ideal to have three- and four-sided faces in our models? One way to reduce the number of poles you have from the outset is to try as hard as possible to make sure you only have four-sided faces, and that your edge loops are as long as possible. This will help ensure you are not creating tangled nests of polygons. Chances are your edge loops are terminating at poles; therefore, if you double-click on an edge, follow the selected edge loop to its ends to discover poles.

A place where poles are guaranteed to appear is anywhere a face is extruded from a plane. The vertices already have four edges intersecting at them, and you are essentially adding one more. If you think of the most low-poly bipedal shape possible, you will see that poles are unavoidable wherever appendages are extruded (see Figure 8.19).

Seeing as having a few poles is unavoidable, we’re going to extrude the polygons that make up the arms from the open edges on his side. If you want to start from the same point as I have, open character_Mid.ma in this Hour’s source files. Go into the Edges component mode and double-click on the open edge loop on his sides. Use the Edit Mesh, Extrude tool to extrude his arms all the way to the wrists. This time, we’re going to add detail using the Insert Edge Loop tool to give ourselves detail where we need it. Select Edit Mesh, Insert Edge Loop and click a few times along the arm, putting at least three loops near the elbow. When that is done, you can go into the vertex component mode and make the adjustments you need to get the vertices to line up with the design.

This character was designed with “mitten hands” so that it would not be too challenging to try to get the hands in place. Keep extruding, appending, and adjusting vertices to get the hands in place, as shown in Figure 8.20.

Low-Poly Workflow

As we move ahead, we should start thinking about the workflow that this character is going to go through. One of the more popular workflows is to export your geometry in a low-polygon state to a piece of 3D sculpting software to add details and then apply those details to the low poly at render time with something called a “displacement map.” This workflow saves a lot of scene overhead because Maya does not handle millions of polygons in panel very well, nor could you possibly animate a character that had that much detail.

Working “low poly” means that you aren’t necessarily trying to model detailed parts of the character into the geometry. This is particularly true for details such as buttons on a shirt, belts, arm bands, and so on. These small details would be better suited to be separate objects that you either constrain or rig to move along with the character geometry rather than being built into the single character mesh. A good rule of thumb is that anything that is “skin tight” can be a part of the character model, and anything that is not should be a separate object. Just imagine how hard it would be to have good edge loops if you had to add really tiny details to a low-poly object.

The last advantage to a low-poly workflow is the fact that you are simply dealing with fewer polygons. When we get to rigging and skinning this character, you will see that having fewer polygons to deal with is extremely advantageous. Particularly when we are creating shapes for the eyelids and mouth for animation, our low-poly character will be very simple to set up to take on some very dynamic shapes.

Problem Areas

Characters have some areas that traditionally can give us a lot of trouble. Therefore, you need to know what these areas are and some good methods for keeping out of trouble.

Inside the Mouth

Inside the mouth can be tricky to model because it is hidden by other geometry, and you have to decide what kind of mouth interior you want before you go about creating it. It can be a good idea to create a hollow mouth interior and have separate geometry for the teeth and tongue to avoid the problems mentioned before concerning detail and edge loop efficiency. The mouth interior does not have to be very big; a common beginner mistake is to make the mouth large, but we won’t fall into that trap. Figure 8.22 shows a good-sized mouth interior.

Armpits and Shoulders

We created the arms by extruding an open edge loop on the side of the body, which created four poles. For our purposes, this shouldn’t work out to be too disruptive in either the animation or the smoothing processes, but you should know anyway that armpits and shoulders are challenging. The reason they present such a challenge is that they have a very wide range of motion, and they take on very different shapes depending on if the arm is up, down, forward, or back. We create our character in T-pose (with arms perfectly out to the sides) because with most cartoon characters this pose represents the middle of the range of motion. On some feature film rigs, the arms are modeled to be more relaxed, slightly lowered and a little bit bent forward at the elbow. This is done because, in reality, our range of motion for most common tasks is very narrow. Because our character has very little armpit or shoulder definition, just a tiny bit of bulge on top and a little bit of indentation on the bottom of the arm will suffice. In Figure 8.23, the poles that were created on his arm area are shown, but there shouldn’t be problems with smoothing or deformation here.

Hands

Our character’s hands do not have much detail, but with realistic characters with multiple fingers, the hands are a challenge. The issue is getting enough edges into the fingers to nicely define the shape, without having to terminate too many of those edges at the wrist and create nasty poles. Most hand models use the same extrusion we did for this character’s arms on each of the fingers, making it so the poles that would be created for the finger detail end up between the fingers and not all bunched up in the wrist.

Eyelids

Our character has very simple eyes with nice bulky eyelids. For characters with more realistic, thin eyelids, they are normally modeled closed so that by using rigging tools and deformers, they can be opened nicely. It is done this way because it is easier to rig an eye to open than it is to untangled the scrunched up geometry of a closed eyelid and make it close nicely. Ours is modeled open solely because of the fact our character is cartoony, unrealistic, and, most importantly, low poly.

Elbows and Knees

These two areas are just like the armpits and shoulders in that they will either flatten out or get bunched up when deforming. Also, elbows and knees actually take on very different shapes (due to the bones changing position and pushing the skin out) when they are bent than when they are relaxed. We can use something called BlendShapes (described in Hour 15, “Making Diverse Shapes with BlendShapes”) to change the shape of the elbows and knees depending on whether they are bent or not. Therefore, to avoid problems, model the knees and elbows in their clearly relaxed poses, not something halfway, which might be intuitive to avoid problems.

Density

When you’re modeling characters, it’s common to be focused on the section you are working on, and only worry about the overall model density later on. However, it is a good practice to have an idea of how dense the geometry is going to be on your character before you begin. Certain areas need more density, or they will not behave correctly when they deform. This is why we added extra edge loops near the elbow of our character. To make very sure we get the exact shape we want out of him, go back in and add some more detail on his elbow, as seen in Figure 8.24. When it comes time to rig these elbows, I know we’ll have enough detail to get the results we want.

Besides areas that are going to deform, you also want more density in areas that are going to get the most screen time. For this reason, the face and head are typically the densest regions on your character model. Taking a step back and looking at our character model proves this is true, even with cartoony characters, as you can see in Figure 8.25.

The one other consideration for density is for any effect that relies on polygonal detail. Some particle systems generate particles per face, and if your mesh is too lopsided in detail, it can create some odd effects. Some third-party fur plugins generate hairs based on polygons as well; again, having far too much detail in one section and far too little in another can mean unpredictable results.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview

Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security

Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children

This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing

Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

• Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
• Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
• Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
• Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out

Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

• As required by law.
• With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
• In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
• To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
• In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
• To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
• To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
• To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
• To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.