Acquiring The Sense of Scale

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  12 December 2012
Acquiring The Sense of Scale

Good day, I find myself struggling greatly with scale in all forms. Not in the unit sense, but rather how things look relative to other things. Let me start with game environment art: when viewing my work from the eyes of the player everything always looks way out of proportion--much too large usually. I keep a human reference around the asset all the time, and constantly compare, but it never looks right in the end.

The same holds true for local detail as well. Limbs and bodily features of characters, details on rocks, ornaments on architecture, etc. usually look way out of proportion.

This seems like such a simple thing, but I keep coming up short. I have an accurate sized simple block human mesh, photo references (but no image planes), and a properly setup grid. In addition, I have watched countless hours of video training and read many tutorials. The artists behind them are usually very good and nail their proportions; they seem to have a natural eye for it.

What are some tips, tricks, and methods that you, the talented artists of CGSociety, use to get such a perfect all around sense of scale? How can one acquire such a natural eye for scale? What sort of practice would be most beneficial?

I realize the nature of this question might make it hard to give a concrete answer, but I truly appreciate any insight into this frustrating issue, thank you.
  12 December 2012
If you're working with a specific engine, it might help to look at assets by importing them into your modeling software. It's also useful to know how to match a specific measurement from the 3D software to the game engine (like 6 feet in UDK equals x amount in 3ds max default units).

For characters it's rarely an issue since most of the time the proportions are set in stone and cannot be changed, the strange look of your character could be caused by the point of view being different than the modeling sfotware (it's not rare to see a 90 POV) or simply dumpy proportions to begin with. If the texture details are not matching the rest of the assets, it's probably because of the texel density mismatch between your work and the rest of the environment. It simply means your texture space isn't optimal enough (or too optimal! XD) to match with the rest. If you could show work samples that would help too.
  12 December 2012
Hey man,

Its just a matter of simple maths. When I build a model, I define one constant, and base all other proportions off that. For example when I'm modelling, my thought process is something like:

"This piece of trim runs 5/6 of the length of the object, and has an inset that is around 1/10 of the height of the trim, witch looks around 1/10 of 1/5 the length of the entire object."

"That window is around 3 times taller than it is wide, and the space in between the windows is around 1/3 the width of the window. The space between the floor and the window is around 1/8 of the height of the window, and the frame is about 1/15 of the width of the window."

"The characters brow is around four times the height of the eye above the tip of the nose, which is one height of the eye lower than the base of the ear. The upper lip is half the height of the eye thick, and is around 1/3 the height of the eye below the base of the nose."

"Each city block is X on each side, and that building is around 1/4 of X wide. The building looks around 3 times taller than it is wide, so the height is 3/4 of X. There are 10 floors in the building, so each floor is 1/10 of 3/4 of X. The windows take up around 3/4 of each floor height, so the height of each window is 3/4 of 1/10 of 3/4 of X."

  12 December 2012
I do it similar to AJ. Most large items I relate to bus lengths, simply because I see those things pass by my home every day. It isn't hard to keep a few things in your head that you can easily relate scale to.
I like to learn.
  12 December 2012
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