View Full Version : Modeling environments - to scale?

09 September 2005, 07:44 PM
Hi all.

I have been experimenting with modeling characters but now I want to model an environment and I was wondering how this is approached by you professionals out there. It's going to be a low-poly game environment, probably a city block. How do I scale this? Do people scale environments in true-to-life scale, like making the buildings 40 feet/meters high if that's what they are? Or do you use the generic unit of measurement the modeling program uses, or do you say "1 ft = 1 inch"??

I'm surprised at how baffling this is to me, but suddenly the idea of making something for use in a game threw me off. I hope someone can offer me some insight into how they go about constructing environments.


09 September 2005, 09:55 PM
hey b,

there are different ways to make environments and which way you do it will depend on your preference.overall its not that different than modelling characters, in that you really need to set the scale before you start so that everything relates consistently to each other and doesn't wander around scale wise.
i found bringing in a character to set the relative scale of the buildings worked fairly well-since most buildings seem to be based on floors that have ten ft, a six foot character will give you a decent place to relate to when you're making buildings,roads,sidewalks or whatever.obviously you can build enviroments that have different rules-floors based on 30 ft, or massive sidewalks where 40 people can walk side by side, but the main thing will still be to relate whatever you're making to a basic reference-ie.the characters that exist there.i found this way worked well for me, and helped keep a consistency among the different elements in the environment.
another way, would be to bring ref into a viewport to set the scale and model on top of that. this way the scale is already set and everything you model after will be based on the same scale and even if you want to make something different, it will still be easy to see how it relates to everyting else you've made,by comparing it to the reference.
or, as you said, you can use grid units in the app to set the scale-i used this and it works too-one grid=one foot and really this way should be bulletproof.
a few other things to think about-there aren't realy any set rules for city block sizes-the main thing i think is to really set the scale in relation to your characters and then determine what kind of environments they exist in.there are so many interesting ways to make environments-blade runner, metropolis, medieval japan/europeetc.its really up to the artist to set the scale,unless you're doing architectural work where things have to be to scale-thats probaly a whole diferent thing that i know nothing about.
also, i found that its kinda important to make sure that the camera that is used to model the environment is the same as the one that is used for the characters-if there is a difference there will be bad mojo when everything is brought together.maybe i'm the only one who made this mistake, but just in case determine your camera and make sure its the same-as well as locking the camera in place so that everything is modelled from the same station point-i don't which app you use,but if you're modelling a view with fake perspective having that camera locked in place will save you some swearing if you move it by accident and have to try and line it back up.
i hope some of this helps-i'm no expert, but i did learn some good lessons doing my environments and the biggest one was probably setting the scale in stone before i got too far into it and watching out for wandering in the scale.

10 October 2005, 06:30 PM
Wow, that's a great response. Thanks for spending so much time explaining all that. This might be stupid, but I just use the default camera views to model in. Is that bad? I use Maya, and I model using the usual orthogonal views of front, side, top and just the default perspective camera. So I don't know if I understand exactly what you mean by making the mistake of using different cameras?

What/how did that happen, and what effect did it have on your environments?

10 October 2005, 09:24 PM
hey b,

sorry,i was away for a couple of days.about the camera-i think most people use the default camera-its probably around 60 degrees-similiar to the cone of vision in our eyes,where things are in focus and there is good detail and little distortion.for environments,where the geometry is pretty much straight i don't think you can go too wrong,unless you go over 90 degrees, or under 60,then you'll probably get distortion that can screw your modeling up.its similiar to modeling characters in orthoviews and not checking your results in the camera you will render in-things can look great in the user, or ortho views, but can look alot different when you do a render.i made this mistake a couple of times(or more)because i was modeling in the ortho views, and using the user cam to get in close and was totally happy until i did a render-the model wasn't even close.i'm an xsi user,but i'm sure its pretty much the same for all of us-the ortho views are great for placing your points and say working on the outline,but they are really limited in that they are only useful from the front/side and don't give too much help developing the proper 3dness of the whole thing-the user cam is great for getting in close, but has its own distortion that i found made the model look "fat".it took me a few trys till i realized why my models were off when i rendered them,but were fine when i did test renders in a viewport-its just because the renderer uses a different camera that the region render does and i found using orthos and the camera my final render uses pretty much solved the whole thing.
i think there will be times when people will change camera settings (i do,maybe i'm mental) for different projects-for instance i had a character model that i made with the default, but when i brought it in to an environment where i was using a different setting the character looked way i said,maybe its just me-you'll never get in trouble working with a default setting 0f 60 degrees if you use it for everything-but if you should have to change a camera lens for some reason-its a good idea to keep in mind any elements you will have to bring in later.a character modeled with a camera lens of 60mm, will look a little screwd if its is brought into an environment modeled with a 90mm lens and rendered.again its probaly just me screwing with things i should leave alone,but its just a thought to keep in mind if you ever want to experiment with lens types and stuff.
sorry if this was long and rambling-its probably obvious stuff to most modelers, and like i said i'm no expert,so sorry if it wasn't helpful.
later b

10 October 2005, 02:55 AM
No, you just explained something that was happening to me and I didn't know why!

I was modeling a character and she looked distinctly different in the Front view than in my Perspective view and I thought it was in my head. Her face was much fatter and shorter in the Front view and much longer and more attractive in Perspective. I was thinking "That's impossible!" but now you've made me aware it's totally possible. I'm not sure why it was happening since I didn't futz with the cameras at all, but I'm glad you told me about this or I likely would've been tearing my hair out later wondering why my render looked different than the viewport renderings.

Thanks! :)

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