NEW ORLEANS, OCTOBER 25, 2012 – What do Weta Digital, Electronic Arts, and CNN have in common? Leading artists from these companies, all members of the CheckMate Advisory Board, convened last week at the TurboSquid headquarters to discuss best practices for constructing 3D models, the digital props and characters used in films, TV production, video games, and architectural visualization. While the filmmaking industry has, over its hundred-plus years of evolution, developed best practices for constructing facades and physical props, the relatively young visual effects industry hasn’t had parallel guidelines for digital props and characters.
“The realism achievable in modern visual effects starts with carefully researched models with realistic textures. Investing the time to collect detailed reference is essential,” said James Ogle, Lead Modeler at Weta Digital, the New Zealand-based visual effects studio known for its groundbreaking work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. “It’s also important that these 3D models are built using modern techniques and tools for easy compatibility with today’s advanced animation and rendering workflows. The requirements for models have changed a lot over the last few years.”
In response to these changes, TurboSquid, the leading 3D model marketplace, surveyed over a thousand production artists across all industries to find common denominators. The results were released in August 2011 as the CheckMate 3D Modeling Standard, and then TurboSquid formed the CheckMate Advisory Board to continue the standard’s development.
“I just assumed every company had their own way of doing things that didn’t overlap with our methods,” said Jed Denjean, Computer Graphics Supervisor and standards-keeper at Blur Studio, who recently worked on the opening sequence for the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. “Until I joined the CheckMate Advisory Board, I didn’t realize there was so much common ground.”
The meeting’s discussions centered on best practices not only for the construction and texturing of 3D models, but for ensuring accurate reproduction of real objects such as cars, stadiums, electronics, and even people. The Board also discussed how 3D models could be constructed to retain their integrity when opened by different 3D modeling and image finishing software packages.
“It’s not unusual for us to run a bunch of 3D models through three or four software packages just to produce one scene,” said Fred Ruff, Computer Graphics Supervisor at Portland-based Bent Image Lab, whose credits include commercials for Bing and Coca-Cola as well as special effects for NBC’s hit TV show Grimm. “We get 3D models from so many different sources—contractors, in-house artists, and marketplaces like TurboSquid. The industry needs a standard like CheckMate so we’ll know that all the 3D models from all these different places work in our production pipeline.”
As part of their commitment to the CheckMate standard, TurboSquid has made training materials and quality-checking tools available to the public on their site, and will also publish the results from the most recent CheckMate Advisory Board meeting.
“Getting some of the best minds in the field together to distill best practices was unprecedented, and more productive than any of us had imagined,” said Matt Wisdom, CEO of TurboSquid. “The wealth of information we gathered will lead to a big step forward for all industries that use 3D models.”
“Meeting with such great artists made this meeting a real treat,” said Carlos Cristerna, Director of Visualization at Neoscape, an award-winning architectural visualization firm that relies on 3D models to showcase their clients’ not-yet-built structures. “We are excited about the CheckMate 3D modeling standards effort. Nothing like CheckMate has ever been done before. We had a lot to talk about.”
With a catalog of over 250,000 unique 3D models,TurboSquid is the world’s source for quality stock 3D. TurboSquid’s community of over 2.5 million artists and customers come from every line of production, including movies, games, news, advertising, architecture, engineering, simulation, and defense. TurboSquid introduced the CheckMate standard to improve quality across all production pipelines and make the lives of artists easier around the world.