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Maya Modeling: Body Blocking

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Date Added: 8th August 2013
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This week we start modeling our character by blocking out the major forms.


Modeling is where everything begins. Without a model, we have no object to rig, animate, texture, light or render. Because of this, it is important that the model is suitable for the needs of the project. Before starting a model we need to know its purpose, and thus its criteria. Is it for game or film? Does it need to be animated or is it for illustration only? How close do we get to the model? The list goes on.

For this set of tutorials, I am going to create an asset that will be suitable for film. In this first part, we are going to bring some references into Maya and begin blocking out the model, making sure the proportions are roughly correct with big, broad moves.

Step 1: Bringing in the Reference

For this tutorial, I have been given permission by the awesome folks at 3dscanstore to use a couple of images from their Male reference library. If you haven't, I suggest you check out what they have on offer, as they have some fantastic resources. For this tutorial, we'll be using two reference images, one for the front view and one for the side. You can download the references and Maya scene files here.

Open up a clean scene in Maya and navigate to the front view. Go to View > Default View to reset the camera. Next go to View > Image Plane > Import Image and select 'maleRef_front.jpg'.

In the Attribute Editor, scroll to the Image Plane tab and reduce the Alpha Gain to 0.8. Repeat the same steps for the side view, only this time, bringing in 'maleRef_side.jpg'.

Once both images are in, line them up using the Center attributes under the Placement Extras tab and push them back along their corresponding axes so we have some space in the center to work in.

Create image planes in Maya

Step 2: One Half Only

Start by going to Create > Polygon primitives > Cube, making sure Interactive Creation is unchecked so we get a cube that is centered in World space.

With the cube selected, go to the Channel Box and click on polyCube1 found under Inputs. When it opens up, increase the Subdivisions width to 2.

Go into the Front view, hold the RMB over the cube, go into Faces mode and select the entire screen left-hand side of the cube and delete it. Hold the RMB over the cube once more, go into Object mode and then go to Edit > Duplicate Special (Options). Change the Geometry Type to Instance and pop a -1 into the first Scale box and hit Apply.

We should now have our complete cube back, only now if we edit one half of the cube in sub-component mode, we will affect the other. Please note that editing the cube in Object mode will have no affect on the duplicated half.

Working with half a model to save time

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Dannycool3d on Thu, 18 February 2016 9:45pm
Very nice tutorial, very clear and fast.. however I think it would be much better with an image aside every single step. anyway many thanks
Diego on Wed, 04 June 2014 11:54pm
Hi, i was looking for the part in the tutorial where you colapse the instance part of the body but i couldn't find it.
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