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Maya Modeling: Polygonal Modeling Theory

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Date Added: 24th July 2013
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Step 3: Edge Flow Topology

Edge flow topology is the direction in which our edges are flowing. Sounds simple, but controlling the flow can be a tricky affair.

If you are aiming to model a realistic character, it is best advised to study anatomy. Following anatomical landmarks and the natural flow of the muscles will give you a more realistic result if the mesh is to deform. Also, studying the skin flow and where creases occur can be a great starting point to base your edge flow on.

For characters that are more cartoony or stylized, you may have more room to maneuver but either way, I highly recommend that you get a good solid grounding in anatomy.

To get good deformation you must create a topology that is fit for purpose with the essential edge loops

Step 4: Non-manifold Geometry

Non-manifold geometry is when you cannot take your polygonal object and unfold it to make it flat.

Create a polygonal cube, select any of the edges and go Edit Mesh > Extrude. You now have a non-manifold object. If this were made out of paper and you unfolded it as if it was a paper die, you would have a flappy bit hanging off it. Try and perform a Boolean operation on it and it will let you know that it is not happy in its own special way.

Non-manifold geometry can give you plenty of problems so do your utmost to avoid it. To help you resolve non-manifold issues, you can use the Cleanup tool found in the Mesh menu set.

Non-manifold geometry can create a whole world of pain - keep an eye out and make sure to constantly look over your models from all angles

Step 5: Every Edge Should Have a Purpose

Generally, you will start modeling from a simple primitive, like a cube, and then push this further by adding edge loops or creating extrusions.

It's important that as you continue to add extra complexity to your model, each one of those new edges or faces created has a purpose. Remember, less can be more. Knowing what to cull and how to optimize models comes with time and practice so go on, get modeling.

Don't overcomplicate your models; add detail only where necessary

Top Tip 1: Study the Real World

Everything that we do in the machine is generally a representation of something that exists in the real world in some shape or form. Therefore the biggest tip I can ever give is for you to go out there and experience and analyze the real world we live in.

This is relevant not just for modelers, but also riggers, animators, lighters etc. Think about how a surface has been made: how does the light hit the object and how does it deform? Answering questions like this and more will help inform your modeling decision-making.

Click HERE to see the previous tutorial in this series.

Want to start from the beginning? Click HERE to see the first tutorial in this series.

To see more by Jahirul Amin, check out Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
and 3ds Max Projects

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
3d User on Sat, 27 July 2013 5:53am
About N-Gons... First, the use of N-gons was clearly demonstrated in the Catmull-Clark white paper in 1978. The paper also states that the subdivision surface will be C2 everywhere and AT LEAST C1 at extraordinary vertices: meaning where you will have a vertex that has 3, or 5 or more edges coming off it. This is the pinch you are refering to. Second: Every subdivided surface has TWO possible coarser level that will create it, one with quads and one with n-gons. Try it on paper (reversing the subdivision algorythm) and see that this is true. Third: The LEGEND that n-gons are bad comes from early rendering technology (like mental ray in the 1990s) that would use shortcuts in the computation using only quads and did not support triangles or n-gons. At the time, n-gons where bad, but things have changed, it is time 3d artist keep up with the current art. What it Means: The edge flow of a model leads to extraordinary vertices, it is unavoidable. When you accept the fact that 3-junction tends to bunch up polygons, make that area larger, or, use a triangle if the arrangement skews your edge flow. The same goes for 5-junctions or pentagons. The evenness of the model should also have a measured resolution (how long are the edges) which relates directly to what your detail resolution really is and what you leave for your texture work. Bringing models to another package poses a problem if you are using n-gons, they will not work with z-brush or mudbox, however, sending a subdivided model (only one level) will work perfectly. Note that MODO supports n-gons and has sculpting capabilities superior to Maya. Using n-gons is an expert thing, that once mastered, brings about a freedom you didn't have before. At that level, 3d artist also separate shape and topology, and take full advantage of resufacing (retopo...) softwares. Separating the art from the technique elevates the quality of your models above what you think is possible, something that follows your artistic and technical needs in all aspects of the creation of a model. Finally: More experienced users should start writing tutorials other than the basics and give a chance to educate the field properly instead of steady regression I have seen in the last decade.
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