Here I wanted to integrate the process of subdivisional sculpting into a bigger pipeline involving what would traditionally be termed, I suppose, modelling. It may take an hour to throw together a maquette in ZBrush, but interpreting that model for an engine is a long and complicated marathon.
I’d never modelled architecture before, and felt I needed to familiarise myself with the kind of pipeline I would need to employ to do such a thing. It immediately struck me how tied to subdivisional modelling I’ve been, and how hard structures/surfaces are the fountainhead of 3d modelling: There are countless vestigial terms and practices that just seem outdated (It all just seems so retro), but many more that immediately filled gaps in my knowledge. The primary one of these would be the application of smoothing groups, and how innovatively they use face normals. Of course, with Low-Poly modelling the wrangling of normals to produce the all-important normal map becomes crucial. This fact will escape a sculptor who, like me, has concentrated on a subdivisional workflow, where the production of this type of map is/can be a simple matter of hitting “bake normal map” at the end of a sculpt.
It is a massively demanding test of RAM simply because there can be five or six software packages on the go (along with a browser window or two for consultation). I need to convert a world-space normal map to a tangent-space normal map, which will require the outputting of a certain subdivision-level, but oh yes, I need smoothing groups so that means exporting from Max…
It can all get massively complicated and frustrating, so each stage of production needs to be locked down before moving on. This rigidity is being eroded slightly by new nondestructive workflows – the allegorithmic softwarez are so impressive – but there are many actions that simply demand an unforgiving level of completion before moving on.
Unless you enjoy doing the same mundane job three or four times this kind of thing can ruin your day.