View Full Version : Importance of Anatomy in 3D?

08 August 2005, 05:55 AM
With the ever increasing standards of there being realistic characters in both games and film, knowing anatomy is extremely important IMO. Recently I've hit a flat plane in 3D realising that in order for me to move on to greater things such as believable characters in 3D I will first have to master anatomy in its most advanced forms whether it be through 2D, sculpting, workshops, specialized art school ect.

Maybe 10 or so years ago it wasn't as important to know anatomy bone for bone, tendon for tendon, especially in games. We had 1000 triangle characters back in the day, but now we have 15-20 thousand triangle characters with 100 - 200,000 poly highly detailed base meshes for normal mapping and such/Zbrush. The expectations of artists in the field have no doubt risen dramatically. Even 5 years ago, you could get away with modeling a humanoid looking character with really bad anatomy for a game. As long as it looked close to correct, it worked. But now, the detail is so high, players are more critical of things looking real, down to the last mole in a texture or glint in an eye shader.

Many artists just getting into this field I predict in the next 5-10 years will hit a brick wall dead if they do not grasp a really strong backround in anatomy and how it works in animation. Yes I could pump out 5-10 characters for my next years demo reel but unless they show a good understanding of anatomy and structure, they are basically useless or 2001 material. At some schools they are not going to teach you anatomy deeply. They are most likely going to cover a broad range of programs and a little traditional life drawing but will hardly cover the nitty gritty behind anatomy. Traditional sculptors coming over into the film,game industry will and probably already are benifitting from their years of knowledge in the human form. From what I've seen from my fellow peers at school, hardly any of them took the sculpting class seriously and a lot don't see how valuable the connection will be when they settle for a career working in 3D.

Right now I'm at the point where I'm trying to learn both anatomy and 3D at the same time and I think its rougher that way than learning human form entirely first. Because I am only somewhat familiar with anatomy, I find myself constantly looking at references & or books when I model and its a much much slower process than just being able to have that knowledge of the muscle groups and how they work and such already stored in my knowledge base within the brain. Furthermore iI find it lame when I've worked my butt off on a model only to later find out that parts of the model are anatomically incorrect.

Being able to create a believable character is starting to become as tedious as learning how to become a master pianist.

My question is particularly to those skilled in the human form and whether or not their previous knowledge were beneficial to them before they even touched a vertex. As well as their thoughts/predictions to what will be expected of future artists seeing as 10 years from now, ingame graphics will most likely reach Lord of The Rings cinematic quality.

08 August 2005, 02:10 PM

You're in luck as CGTalk now has an entire sub-forum dedicated to the study of Artistic Anatomy and Figurative Art (, which I co-moderate with Roberto Ortiz.

We have a thread with folks like you specificially in mind: 3D DIGITAL ARTISTS (

And this one: Orthographic Drawings - 2D TRADITIONAL / DIGITAL Drawings For 3D Modeling (

Additionally, we have the following Figure Drawing thread: NOW OPEN!!! Open Figure Drawing Workshop with Hong Ly and Rebecca Kimmel ( Big guns like Steven Stahlberg and Don Seegmiller have been posting on this thread!

In a few weeks, I will be conducting a CGWorkshop ( on Artistic Anatomy: NEW CG WORKSHOP - Artistic Anatomy with Rebecca Kimmel (

This is a useful thread for the Anatomy and Figurative Art ( forum: FORUM LINKS - FIND THREADS FAST! (

Additionally, I have been running three free Lesson threads on Traditional Figurative Drawing and Painting:

REBECCA KIMMEL'S Anatomy Review 001: GESTURE (



Hope this is useful, and please stop by the Anatomy forum. There is a lot of good stuff going on there, as people are doing some incredible work!! :)


08 August 2005, 03:01 PM
i agree with you, the standards have just got a whole lot more higher.. i was about to start a degree in 'computer games art', and found that i would do little to no traditional anatomical studies, unless done by myself..
i studied fine art in college, and loved it.. anyway, in chains of events and decisions, im now embarking upon architecture (i am currenly working full time creating accurate 3d walkthroughs), but aim to hold on tight to my love for reproducing my interpretation of the human form, i can recall time when id be simply blew away by how amazing the human body is.. anyway, im rambling..

but yes, there is certainly a shift in who is making games, the transition from 3D software buff to artist is likely to be rocky for many... expectations are ever increasing.. an amazing game sets the bar, and if the others dont meet or pass it, its the underdog straight from release.. thats possibly one of the reasons i decided not to go down the games route

08 August 2005, 07:46 PM
Thanks Rebeccak and TheCleaner for your responses. I've actually been watching your gesture drawing sessions since they started Rebeccak and found them quite helpful although I beat myself for not jumping in myself on some of them.

I was not even aware of the 3D DIGITAL ARTISTS (showthread.php?t=257442) thread, seriously the anatomy and figurative section of the forums have been growing so fast its hard to keep up.

08 August 2005, 08:00 PM

Lol, I know, it's hard for ME to keep up :) ~ I do need to find a better way to publicize some of the more obscure threads. I don't want to lump everything together, as that becomes even more time, hopefully I can figure out a better way to organize and streamline stuff. Glad you found the Gesture Drawing Lesson helpful, and I am trying to figure out a way to revisit some of the Lessons once they are closed, since hopefully new people will find them continually useful. That will, for the time being, have to wait until after the CGWorkshop I'm conducting, though I'm hoping lots of folks will continue to post great work to the Open Figure Drawing Workshop as they have been in the meantime.

Look forward to your posts! :)


08 August 2005, 11:06 PM
Figure sculpting classes really are amazing for teaching anatomy - it's a shame that most students don't pay much attention during them. I took a figure modeling class over the last two months, and in just that simple amount of time everything I do in art, even something as simple as drawing cartoon characters, has taken a dramatic leap forward. It seems to me that, even if we did take a step back and started working on more ridiculously low-poly models, an understanding of anatomy and form still goes a long way.
It's wierd though, now that I have a very basic understanding of anatomy, I end up observing the anatomy alll the time. During Batman Begins, when there wasn't any fighting or explosions, I was busy watching the way that all of the facial muscles moved in different expressions. :argh:
But it definitely is becoming more demanding in all forms of 3d design. You can start seeing in modern games how the artists are making an effort to express the anatomy down to some of the finest details. And even if its only expressed very subtly, that minor little detail makes all the difference for making a character more believable. I can only see this becoming even more important as the level of details in games continues to grow.

08 August 2005, 12:13 AM
You are right -Vormav-. I took a sculpting course with Clint Burgin who teaches at and The Art Institute and after taking the class I noticed overall my modeling skills had made leaps and bounds aswell. It was not so much the technique of learning how to sculpt that was so benificial but more the physical feel for shapes and form through the clay.

I don't draw nearly as much as I should so drawing is a little bit of a rusty procedure. I'm thinking if I first nail down anatomy in 2D and drawing in general, the rest comes easy. Because from drawing you can in turn apply it to sculpture, which then can be applied to 3D.

Edit: Btw can a mod fix the spelling error I made in the threads title please>?

08 August 2005, 04:59 PM
Being able to create a believable character is starting to become as tedious as learning how to become a master pianist.

What? You expected the human form to be simpler than a piano concert? :curious:

I'd say drawing would help best, and actively studying and memorising the human anatomy. Drawing is cheapest and easiest, so you get more out of your practice since you can do more studies. :) Good luck, I definitely expect future games ot be solely convincing or a flop, unless they're stylised.

08 August 2005, 05:47 PM
You are right -Vormav-. I took a sculpting course with Clint Burgin who teaches at and The Art Institute and after taking the class I noticed overall my modeling skills had made leaps and bounds aswell.

Watts looks like a great place. Speaking of ateliers, I would love to be part of Water Street Atelier ( in Brooklyn, NY if I was still living there. It's run by Jacob Collins (, one of my favorite living master painters in the US.

Or, if money and time wasn't an issue, Florence Academy of Art would be my top choice. Sigh... :(

Edit: I could have sworn that The Water Street atelier was in Brooklyn, but it looks like it had moved to Manhattan.

08 August 2005, 06:22 PM
I'm an avid fan of studying the human physique, but keep this mind. As far as applying anatomy to 3d, fine details of tendons, insertions, and definition are important, but it's all subordinate to structure, which in turn is subordinate to gesture. Much like perspective is subordinate to composition. It's a tightrope of trying to look like you know what you're doing without going overboard and clearly communicating your idea without overwhelming your audience with technique or virtuosity. Da Vinci acknowledged this and warned against making figures look like '"a sack of potatoes."

Don't kill yourself trying to remember the names unless you plan on teaching anatomy. You'll exhaust yourself and not get any work done. What's important is that you understand the physiology though.

08 August 2005, 07:08 PM

I absolutely agree ~ it is far more important to understand STRUCTURE than to memorize each and every name of each and every bone and tendon. I think it is of course invaluable to study REAL anatomy, but the reason I chose to name my forum "Artistic Anatomy and Figurative Art" is because I wanted to properly emphasize that Artistic Anatomy deals more with concepts about the figure and methods by which to draw, than with the minutae of anatomical knowledge which, say, a doctor needs to know in order to practice her/his craft.

Basic concepts like Gesture, Opposing Curves, and Simplified Mass as described by cubes / cylinders, and spheres far trumps specific anatomical knowledge, particularly for beginners. It is important when learning how to draw to learn REAL anatomy also ~ but it's a cyclical process in which one learns simplified things first, then REAL anatomy, back and forth, back and forth over time.


08 August 2005, 01:34 AM
What? You expected the human form to be simpler than a piano concert? :curious:

No and yes. Was just using it as a comparison though. Becoming a master pianist Imo is actually harder then mastering the human form because really you can't get away with a single wrong note in a performance or a critic will point it out. I know because my Father was a Master Pianist.:D Eh I dunno, their both equally difficult.

08 August 2005, 02:34 AM

I frankly agree with you and have thought of this analogy often! There is no such thing as Ctrl + Z when you are a master pianist playing in front of a live audience! Artists who draw and paint have the luxury of making their mistakes in private and calling their good mistakes 'style' :) so I totally agree that in terms of performance, it is much more difficult to be a pianist. It is not to say that learning to draw and paint is easy ~ clearly it's not. The old saying that it takes 10 years to learn how to draw, 7 years if you're a genius, has certainly been borne out in my case ~ and I'm no genius, so you can guess how long it has been taking me! :)


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