View Full Version : Modeling: What unit of measure does everyone model in?

07 July 2004, 01:05 PM
Do you model everything to a certain scale like inches, cm, ft, etc.. Just wondering what studios prefer there models scaled/modeled in. I've seen many models that are rich in detail but are small in scale. Just wondering if I should stick to a certain scale for everything that I model. Like if a model a person should I model it 6ft tall or just 6 maya units, does it matter?

07 July 2004, 08:37 PM
For me, it's better to use a Maya unit and then let it represents what you want it to represent (cm, m, km, inch) because if you make it the same as the real world, it will take longer for the sunlight (dome of lights) to travel or raytrace to your built city model. Especially in mental ray. Maybe it's just my imagination that observes this.

The drawback of not using standard unit (e.g. meter) is that when you export models to or import from other software such as XSI, LW, Max, Cinema4d, it will look very large in import and every small in export. And you have to adjust the Maya camera cutoff range to view the imported model.

07 July 2004, 09:26 PM
We modelled a recent project to real world units, and I can't recommend it! Don't know why, and it's a pain in the butt, but Maya does not work well if you build things like buildings and environments to scale if that takes you to tens and hundreds of metres. All kinds of things start to fall apart. Bizarre, I gotta say.

I too would like to hear how others handle this.

(And yes 'rock' , I'm pretty sure that's in your imagination :))

07 July 2004, 11:54 PM
Yeah, I agree BillB. The real world units don't seem to work very well - especially if you get into particles and gravity and such.

In my projects, I tend to use the default units, and then disregard the units entirely and sort of "eyeball" it like this:

- take the largest "scene" or largest area you're going to be using in your production. Scale it up so the grid takes up about a 10ft by 10ft area in comparison, and put the grid in the center of your scene (obviously when you import things like characters, they'll show up in the middle of the grid at 0,0,0)

- import your stuff (characters, props, ) and scale each of them to look about the right size in comparison to each other and to your scene

- make a note of the scale of each prop or character, so when you import them in the future, you can just look it up quickly and type in the proper scale

- if you find later in production that you're a little too big or too small (for instance, in a particular shot your character is supposed to walk up to a door in the back and you find he's a little too big for it), just re-scale the character, or the door, or the scene and continue production. No doubt the camera has been moving around so much up to that point, the viewer won't even notice.

In regards to animating, while you don't want the global scale to be too terribly large where the default grid is the size of an eyeball (into hundreds of thousands of units), more importantly you don't want to go too small such that the default grid is the size of a football field. During animation (and modeling), Maya will only subdivide a unit into a thousand parts and you don't want 1/1000 of a unit to be an inch or more compared to a character. I usually get good results with the default grid as roughly 10ft by 10ft compared to a character.

In regards to the original question about what a studio wants from a model, scale absolutely does not matter since it's simple to scale a completed model or rig to any size you want. While actually modelling, bigger is generally better than smaller since when you're moving around vertexes, you want as much precision as possible.

More important than scale is how much detail you can squeeze in with as few polys as possible. Games want VERY low poly counts. Cinematics want relatively low, depending on what they're doing.

One of the rigs I'm animating has over 100,000 polys and it's a pain in the ass to work with. Of course as computer speed increases over time, the number of reasonable polys will also go up.

For the most part, try to get as much detail as possible from the textures balanced with as little detail as possible in the model (i.e. put dragon scales on the texture, not on the model). If a particular shot requires an extreme close up, build a 2nd special model with more detail that suits the shot.

The face is more important than the body, since the camera will mostly be on the face and close ups will be of the face. If the character will have other important shots, like a shot of a fist clenching, then there should be more detail in those areas as well.

07 July 2004, 02:29 AM
Thank for the replies guys. I guess I'll just keep things small but in scale to each other. Thanks for the info.

07 July 2004, 02:27 PM

Just for info i usual model smaller things using the default unit which is centimeter but when i have to model very big things like big buildings and stuff i make them at scale. I usually model props and many stuff in centimeters in another file and then merge them in the final scene wich can have different scale, it's a question of scaling the merged elements in the final scene.

Best regards,


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