*edit; 11.11.2001* I recently recorded a timelapse video of myself building a simple male torso through polymodeling -- the same technique showcased below. Click here to go to that page in a new window. Also, if you need the updated epoly.dlo you can get it on this mirror


So, throughout my brief stint at modeling I've basically only been using a technique called polymodeling. Why? I started with it and just kept using it since I just loved the way it was done. Fairly quick, precise and with a good deal of flexibility -- you can model anything from realistic characters and clothes to cars and buildings.

But, I've gotten the question on what polymodeling is about a hundred of times. So, I thought id explain a bit more about it here. First, the most common techniques for modeling:

Primitive Modeling - Creating models out of primitive shapes (spheres, cubes, etc.) This is good for making simples stuff like houses and satellites, and with the addition of shapemerge and booleans a bit more complex objects can be made.

Box Modeling - Most people have tried this. Basically you start out with a primitive and push and pull it into the shape you want. A subdivision modeling technique. Mostly used for organic models but some people have used it for planes and cars. Fairly similar to working with clay.

Surface Tools - You create a 3d spline cage and then apply a "surface modifier" which wraps patches around the "cage" to form the mesh.

Patches - Piece together a model by adding patches onto existing ones, and forming them to the shape of your object.

NURBS - Fairly similar to Surface Tools. You create a mesh by using Nurb Splines and "nurbing" them. Good for adaptive meshes (Nurbs can adapt, similar to meshsmooth but much better). Also fairly easy to add detail to one area without affecting the rest. Used for a wide range of meshes, organic and mechanics. My only personal experience with nurbs is building a city some time ago.

Polymodeling - vertice-by-vertice, face-by-face creation. Also a subdivision modeling technique. Most commonly used for organic but is my personal favorite of the techniques. All objects seen in the gallery here on Trinisica is made with poly modeling.

Spline Extrusion - Draw the bottom view (for example) with a spline, extrude up with a few segments and then push and pull vertices and add meshsmooth on top. I've personally never tried this, but know a really nice mesh done with this technique.

Displacement - Fairly common technique to add details to characters and other objects. Not that common in MAX though since the displacement isn't that good. In Max Id say its mostly used to create landscapes and similar objects. Another example - in the movie "A bugs life" the details on the grasshoppers back (the horns and stuff) was made with displacements.

By the way, this page should sort of be seen as a compliment to the 3dluvr tutorial: http://www.3dluvr.com/content/artz/3dsmax/std/polymo1.php. That tutorial is more walking you through how to build a mesh, but In my opinion contains a few errors that I'm "correcting" here.

Lets Start:

Quick Explanation of Poly Modeling::

I will write this as a step to step guide to just create a very simple "thing"

Create a box or any other primitive. This is done just so you get a starting point and so that you can start creating vertices and other subobjects. Now, collapse the primitive (here the box) to a EDITABLE MESH.

Now, you want to add a bit of your mesh so that you can remove the old primitive. Select the box, click the SUBOBJECT button and then choose VERTICES (its the one furthers left). Then click CREATE under the panel that becomes active. Now, CREATE 8 (2x4) vertices in a rectangular shape as shown on the screen dump.

After you have those 8, select all the vertices that makes up the box and press DELETE on the keyboard.

Switch the subobject to POLYGON. Now, click the CREATE button and play connect the dots with the vertices. Click on the bottom right vertice first and then go in a counter clock wise motion over the 3 other lowest vertices so that it forms the square polygon.

Now you have a basic mesh.

This mesh is made out of polygons, a polygon is basically a number of faces with their edges hidden, you an see here that if I show the edges on the mesh it shows the triangles..

Now you are ready to start your mesh creation.

How Meshsmooth works::

Lets continue to experiment on the basic mesh we just created. Here we have just added another row of vertices to that mesh, go to SUBOBJECT mode and EDGE (the lined triangle), select the rightside EDGES of the previously created polygons and shift+drag them to extrude the edges.
Now move that last row of edges so it forms this shape. Just move them towards the left and backwards.
Now, go to SUBOBJECT - VERTEX mode, look at the top three ones. Select the middle one (the corner one) and scroll down to WELD and push the TARGET button. Now attach that selected vertice with the one just below it. Then, select the further left one and push it down to the same height as the one below and away from you until you see the bounding box move, then stop. Select the right one and TARGET WELD it with the one you just moved and you should have something similar to this:
Now, since Meshsmooth operates on visible edges, go to SUBOBJECT mode and EDGE and select the EDGE that's on the middle of the top of the "box", now scroll down the menu and click INVISIBLE. and you will see it will go into a dotted line to show its hidden.
Now, lets explore Meshsmooth. Add meshsmooth to the modifier stack and make sure the options are the same as in this picture. These settings should be default, but who knows.

Note how meshsmooth works here. It adds the double amount of faces to your mesh, still retaining the quads that you created. Also note that it takes the sharp edges into account and aligns its new quads to be in the middle position that what you created -- I.E. it smooths the sharp edges.
Now, in the MESHSMOOTH menu, increase iterations to "2", and you will see it will subdivide the mesh one more time, now you have 4 times as many quads (and faces) as your original mesh. Note that the corners of the mesh looks much smoother. For a real model, you shouldn't really need to go over 2 iterations. Now, reset the iterations to "1" for our next steps..
Select the top two EDGES as illustrated here. In the menu, go to the CHAMFER parameters, and enter a number. I entered "2" here.
This is how the mesh should look like now with MESHSMOOTH (iterations 1), either deselect your mesh or click the "test-tube" symbol to see this.
Now, go to the MESHSMOOTH modifier and set iterations to 2 again, this is now what you should see. The extra quads we added with that chamfer option makes the curve of the mesh much sharper, since meshsmooth needs to take these extra VISIBLE EDGES in account. If you would want to edge to be even sharper, you would just need to add more EDGES with the CHAMFER option or make the edges closer together (smaller CHAMFER).

[EXTRA] Now, just to show how much Meshsmooth actually operates on the VISIBLE EDGES, do this. Select the 2 EDGES that make up the lower corner of your mesh (shown here in yellow). Go to the EDGES menu and click INVISIBLE..

..and you will see the mesh "collapse", this is because you just told meshsmooth to not really take these into account when subdividing the mesh.

[CONTINUED] Alright. Now, what I've done here is to set meshsmooth to iterations 1 and collapse the whole mesh (by clicking on that little folder icon) to a EDITABLE MESH. Then added another meshsmooth modifier on top of it with iterations 1. This just so we can modify it a little bit more detailed. Then, I selected this POLYGON (as MAX calls more than 1 faces with hidden EDGES). Now, extrude that one out a bit and you will see this. This is now how meshsmooth smooth that out.

Now, lets make that protruding shape more defined. undo what you just did (CTRL+Z) and keep the POLYGON selected. Now extrude it just a little so it looks like this...
..after you've done that, extrude it to the length you want it... .. and in the end of the shape, extrude it a very small amount again. You can now see the shape being a lot more defined and a lot sharper in the edges of it than when it was only extruded once...
... this image shows what you should have done without the meshsmooth modifier active. Note how small those EXTRUSIONS are in comparison to the rest of the mesh. Extruding is another way to add detail to your mesh, just in the same concept as the CHAMFERING we did before.

Feel free to give me comments on suggestions on this document by email - documents at trinisica dot com - or view some examples of where I've used polymodeling in the gallery.

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