This year’s CheckMate Advisory Board Meeting was a rousing success! While we made sure to feed and entertain everyone while they were in New Orleans, 3D Modeling was, as usual, at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We also got to add a number of new board members, representing IKEA, Armstrong & White, as well as welcoming Michele Bousquet back in an Advisory Board role, given her track record with CheckMate. There were many roundtable discussions over the two-day, on-site meeting, and what the Advisory Board had to say about using TurboSquid models was surprising, even to us.
Over the next few months, we’ll be posting more specific information gathered from the meetings, but for now, we feel it’s important to give our dedicated artist community a quick recap on several major topics.
This is information that comes directly from the folks who are buying and using your 3D model content daily, and the insights they provided covered a broad range of industries and needs, from film and television, to architectural design, game development, advertising, news, and furniture manufacturing. Since you’re making models to sell on the site, we feel this kind of feedback is timely and worth reading.
Several Advisory Board member companies now rely more heavily on CheckMate models and won’t allow a non-CheckMate file to be purchased if there is a CheckMate one available. Why? Because they know with a CheckMate model, they “can run with it,” without being concerned over quality or usefulness when it comes to further changes or modifications, regardless of their pipeline.
Lower resolution or un-subdivideable content is becoming less useful as directors and clients constantly change their minds and want to see scenes from all angles… meaning background objects can unexpectedly and quickly become foreground objects.
Realistic models are strongly preferred. While clients know that your creativity is a great thing and provides huge benefits within your work, a real-world modeling pipeline requires models that look exactly like the thing they represent. In short, if you’re modeling a product that exists physically, you should be using a ton of references, so you can model it exactly the way it was designed. The Board wants artists to know that they can be as creative as they like in getting to the digital double of the real-world object, not in taking liberties with the way the object looks.
Today’s production pipelines are no longer based around a single 3D app and are far more “fractured” in terms of where specific aspects of the production takes place, with content flowing in and through multiple platforms. Whether you’re modeling in Modo, Maya, Mudbox or ZBrush, texturing in BodyPaint3D, Mari, Photoshop or GIMP, the content a company makes or purchases is being pushed into multiple tools downstream as part of production.
How does that affect you as a TurboSquid artist? It means these companies are looking for a consistent standard like CheckMate that ensures clean transport between products, and that if you’re not building to the standard yet, you should look at it again.
When looking at TurboSquid models, the Advisory Board mentioned that it can be a challenge to do a good comparison of materials and shaders between models, since lighting can be dramatically different. As such, they suggested that we look at building HDRI/EXR only standard light-rigs that could be used across renderers and 3D apps, so that there could be a better way to determine how a model’s materials are constructed and how they react to a consistent and known lighting environment. This is how most of the Advisory Board members review their own internal models, so we’re looking at how this might be achieved within the TurboSquid artist community. We’ll keep everyone posted on our progress here.
As we’re growing our CheckMate certification, we’re looking to grow with our artists, and help them to achieve an even higher standard.
Artist training is an ongoing challenge for all companies as tools, techniques, and pipelines change annually. Our Advisory Board told us that artists who can’t evolve and adapt to new technologies and processes tend to find themselves quickly out of a job in production as the demands change. Specifically as it relates to modeling, they mentioned that having a solid foundation of modeling skills and techniques is the most important thing any artist can bring to the job, since new hires are not necessarily working inside of the 3D app that they originally started in.
This certainly struck home with us, as we also feel that helping you get to the CheckMate standard is vital, as the 3D stock content space evolves. Describing how to model something is a good start, but understanding why you should make a model to meet a certain standard (whether it’s part of your employers’ pipeline, or for CheckMate) is often overlooked.
Because of this, TurboSquid is going to begin expanding our training and our artist outreach for the CheckMate Pro certification process soon. There were some good ideas discussed during the meetings, and we will be working to get them implemented. The important thing here, as it relates to our artists, is that we want you to be successful, but we also understand that some of you have been frustrated by the specs. We’ve heard you, and we will be working to get you comfortable in understanding why the CheckMate specs call for certain things (and how to achieve them).
The CheckMate Advisory Board and some of the TurboSquid staff gather for a New Orleans dinner, 2013.
Thank you to Deborah Anderson, for helping to pull these bullet points from a fascinating two-day summit.
Our new featured model– a fighting fit spider tank– was made by 3D artist Thibaut Claeys (or bitonicus, as he’s known on TurboSquid). We had a chance to ask Thibaut some questions about his work, and he gave us some tips for his fellow artists, as well as an insight into the fantastic world he’s built with the models in his catalog, giving them a “new life.”.
How long have you been an artist?
I’ve been drawing since I was able to hold a pen. I started with animals and went on to draw anatomy and portaits. Later on, I made my first digital paintings on an old program called Dr Genius– I only used a mouse and 256 colors, drawing pixel by pixel, which was pretty hard.
When I started to work in 3D about 15 years ago, I completely abandoned 2D drawing (except when I’m making textures). I don’t even hand draw anymore, even when I want to sketch a concept. I make everything in 3D.
How did you get your start as a 3D modeler?
I saw a TV spot showing the “best of” of Imagina (a long-running European 3D showcase), and I was absolutely stunned by it. It was just a “wow” moment, a simple camera traveling inside a tunnel, but it was amazing.
I said to myself, “That is what I want to make,” so I began to learn 3d Studio DOS. I bought a book about 3d Studio, read it, and follwed all the tutorials in it… that was in 1993. My first model was a simple boat, and since that one, I’ve been addicted to modeling.
What’s most the most important thing to remember when making 3D models?
There are lots of important things to remember when you make 3D models, and it’s difficult to say which one is the most important. But you can’t go wrong if you make good topology (which is well described in the specifications of CheckMate Pro), good textures, and, of course, a good presentation.
Make your models as accurate as possible, using good references. It’s also important to pay particular attention to the small details that give some credibility to the model.
It looks as though many of your models could almost come from the same fantasy universe. Is that a decision you made deliberately?
Lots of my models come from a medieval universe or a sci-fi universe. The medieval part was originally a game project of mine that unfortunately died, but thanks to Turbosquid, the models all have a second life.
What inspires you to make these highly detailed industrial pieces?
There are many cars, vans, and plane models in the TurboSquid catalog, and I just wanted to add some more original ones. I’m very proud of my unusual collection.
What has been your experience with CheckMate? Do you have any opinions on CheckMate Pro v1 versus Pro v2?
I only have positive things to say about CheckMate. You have to make nice, clean models, even with CheckMate Lite.
I’m still studying CheckMate Pro v2, and I’m working on some models for it.
How long have you been with TurboSquid?
I’ve been with TurboSquid since April 2012. I immediately liked the site and how easy it was to add objects and manage them. I uploaded a few models, and just waited to see what would happen next. After 3 months, I was surprised to get my first sale, so I decided to add more models to increase my sales.
Would you recommend TurboSquid to other modelers?
I have recommended TurboSquid to some of my friends who do 3D. And to everyone who wants to share their models: you can do as I do, breathing new life into the older or unused models that are collecting dust on your hard drive.
Want millions of people to see your best 3D model? TurboSquid attracts customers and artists from all over the globe, and we’re always on the lookout for our next featured model. Find out how to have your work spotlighted on our homepage!
In case you missed it: The default sphere is problematic because of the two poles. By itself, a standard sphere does not seem to pose any problems, but when it comes time to subdivide, the differences in polygon density at the equator and at the poles produces pinching, and squashes the sphere around the equator.
To round out our list, we’ve put together tutorials for two more programs: Softimage and LightWave.
Softimage Quad Sphere
1. Go to the model module
2. Create a cube
3. Suggested specifications – Length: 8; Subdivisions: 12 x 12 x 12
4. Create a sphere (Note: the cube should be bigger than the sphere)
5. Suggested specifications – Radius: 3; Subdivisions: 24 x 24
6. Keep the sphere and the cube at the same location
7. Select the cube
8. Go to Modify > Deform > Shrink Wrap
9. Select the sphere (you can use the Explorer to do this)
10. Right-click on the viewport
LightWave Quad Sphere
Click any screenshot below for full resolution.
1. Under the create tab, look on the menu for “Primitives” and select “Box”
2. At the bottom of the program, select “Numeric” or hit “n” to bring up the Numeric window
3. Choose the desired width, height, and depth you need to create your cube. Be sure to add as many segments as you want or need for the cube.
4. Go to the “Modify” tab at the top of the program. Then at the menu under “Transform,” go to the “More” tab.
We’re going to go over how to make a quad sphere in 3ds Max, Maya and Cinema 4D, for CheckMate Pro v2.
The default sphere is problematic because of the two poles. By itself, a standard sphere does not seem to pose any problems, but when it comes time to subdivide, the differences in polygon density at the equator and at the poles produces pinching, and squashes the sphere around the equator.
Click any screenshot below for full resolution.
Comparison of a Polygonal Sphere and a Quad Sphere
Here are the spheres unsmoothed.
When the spheres are smoothed, they both deform in different ways.
You can see how the Polygonal Sphere’s smoothing causes problems once a shader is added. Little ridges are created at the top of the sphere.
You can see the ridges with a chrome material applied also.
While the effect is subtle, you should be able to see the faint star pattern within the normal sphere at the poles where the lighting and reflections get distorted as the sphere is subdivided. Moreover, it can’t simply be fixed by removing every other edge that’s converging to that one vertex to make the pole faces quads. The distortion is a direct result of the fact that it’s a curved surface where the pole exists.
As such, a far better approach is to build a quad sphere, which not only eliminates this pole problem entirely, but is completely CheckMate Pro v2 compliant. Here’s how you can accomplish this quickly in each of the major 3D applications.
As artists, you’ve been given a sneak peek into our evolved categorization system, otherwise known as Feature Graph. Now that you’ve had a chance to test drive it, we’re letting you in on another secret. The current content publishing process has allowed artists the ability to suggest keyword tags that you feel best describe your 3D creations. While this function isn’t going anywhere, we are refining how tags are processed and translated into Feature Graph assignment.
In order to fully understand Feature Graph’s keyword safety net, here are the three types of bad keywords that we’re hoping to avoid:
Lazy keywords happen when we forget to add the correct tags to an asset. For instance, a car could be tagged Nissanand Skyline, but the tag sedanis forgotten, making it difficult to assign this asset to the correct category. Adding keywords up the category chain also helps improve assignments, so adding vehicleand carto that asset would help it get assigned correctly down the line.
Fluffing keywords gets in the way of good assignments. For instance, a Dodge Charger could be tagged with coupe, vehicle, and car, but it was also tagged with filler keywords like drift, drag, rally, and racing. A real car could be tangentially involved with drag racing, but for filing purposes, a car is just a car.
We’ve seen a lot of “free association” keywords, as well: scooters tagged with road, highway, or urban; fruit tagged with tree, seeds, plant; and food tagged with restaurantor kitchen. All of these items and their descriptors are only tangentially related, but when you’re tagging an asset, consider what your customer is realistically going to look for. From what we’ve observed, customer searches are quite specific. When looking for a scooter, the customer is going to type the word scooter, or perhaps a brand name. When they’re looking for a cake, it is unlikely that they will search for kitchen.
These filler keywords can file an asset into a category where it does not belong, causing overloaded searches (which is frustrating for customers). Always keyword for what your model actually is, not for what it could be.
Spam keywords are similar to fluffed keywords, but in this case, the keywords are in direct competition with each other: for instance, tagging a phone with both iPhoneand Blackberry.
Spam tagging is unfair to your fellow artists in the search results, and it’s bad for customers, as it causes messy search results that make it very difficult for them to find exactly what they need.
A few other tips:
Your tags should be almost always be nouns (or proper nouns). When looking for a scooter, a customer will not type in adjectives like speedy or shiny.
Always spell check your keywords! Misspelling scooter as skooter will make sure that your asset does not show up in the appropriate search. And, of course, make sure you are tagging in English.
So, what does Feature Graph’s tagging capabilities mean for you? You will still have the ability to suggest tags, however, please be aware that adding non-relevant or competing keywords may return strange or incorrect results within the Feature Graph assignment process. Using the example above, tagging a cellphone with the terms iPhoneAND Blackberrycould slow the process of your item being properly categorized, and therefore would not be immediately available on the site.
A well organized site and a fast, clean search makes sure that your assets will be seen where they’re meant to be seen. With the safety net built into Feature Graph’s keyword system, our customers will be able find exactly what they want, when they want it… and, of course, having a properly tagged catalog can eventually help us find the gaps in products, so our artists can know what to create next.
Recently we’ve had a lot of blog posts about how to get your 3D models certified for CheckMate Pro v2. For your convenience, here is a list of blog posts and resources that can help you pass the specification.