Sylvain Gaussens is a French 3D designer based in Paris with six years of experience in differents agencies and most recently as an artistic director at 17mars. As a self-taught designer, Gaussens is always learning new things and constantly looking for new ideas.
3D models are now widely used anywhere in 3D graphics and CAD but their history predates the widespread use of 3D graphics on personal computers.
In the past, many computer games used pre-rendered images of 3D models as sprites before computers could render them in real-time. The designer can then see the model in various directions and views, this can help the designer see if the object is created as intended to compared to their original vision. Seeing the design this way can help the designer or company figure out changes or improvements needed to the product.
A modern render of the iconic Utah teapot model developed by Martin Newell (1975). The Utah teapot is one of the most common models used in 3D graphics education.
Almost all 3D models can be divided into two categories:
Solid – These models define the volume of the object they represent (like a rock). Solid models are mostly used for engineering and medical simulations, and are usually built with constructive solid geometry
Shell or boundary – These models represent the surface, i.e. the boundary of the object, not its volume (like an infinitesimally thin eggshell). Almost all visual models used in games and film are shell models.
Solid and shell modeling can create functionally identical objects. Differences between them are mostly variations in the way they are created and edited and conventions of use in various fields and differences in types of approximations between the model and reality.
Shell models must be manifold (having no holes or cracks in the shell) to be meaningful as a real object. In a shell model of a cube, the bottom and top surface of the cube must have a uniform thickness with no holes or cracks in the first and last layer printed. Polygonal meshes (and to a lesser extent subdivision surfaces) are by far the most common representation. Level sets are a useful representation for deforming surfaces which undergo many topological changes such as fluids.
The process of transforming representations of objects, such as the middle point coordinate of a sphere and a point on its circumference into a polygon representation of a sphere, is called tessellation. This step is used in polygon-based rendering, where objects are broken down from abstract representations ("primitives") such as spheres, cones etc., to so-called meshes, which are nets of interconnected triangles. Meshes of triangles (instead of e.g. squares) are popular as they have proven to be easy to rasterize (the surface described by each triangle is planar, so the projection is always convex); . Polygon representations are not used in all rendering techniques, and in these cases the tessellation step is not included in the transition from abstract representation to rendered scene.
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