Last week we had the second meeting of the CheckMate Advisory Board, a group that meets quarterly to discuss development of the CheckMate standard. The goal of the CheckMate Advisory Board is to keep the standard relevant to the constantly evolving needs of 3D production artists, not only for TurboSquid but for the industry as a whole. In between quarterly meetings we discuss the standard online, forum-style.
In attendance were James Ogle, Viken Majoulian, Chris Bernier, Carlos Cristerna, and Rob Wright. We got several great takeaways from the meeting, many of which will eventually find their way into the CheckMate Pro standard.
Best bitmaps for textures: EXR, TIF
Worst: JPG. Most board members deemed JPGs useless for their pipelines.
All UVs should be unwrapped and non-overlapping, even simple objects.
Different objects can have different textures, and the UVs for any one texture must be non-overlapping within that texture space. In other words, the UVs for one texture can overlap the UVs from another texture, but within one texture space there should be no overlaps.
Good to show the model textured with checkers so a potential customer can see that the mapping is nice and even.
Creasing values don’t export, so they aren’t useful for keeping sharp edges for production pipelines. Sharp edges need to have a double edge built in even at the lowest levels so the model will stand up to subdivision.
For a complex model (such as a vehicle), it’s good to have three versions available:
Background/Low poly – Very rough, like a game model, for use in background. Low poly with only major forms modeled, the rest done as textures. Example: tire treads are Diffuse-mapped but not Bump-mapped.
Medium – Good for medium shots. Major details modeled, but some textured. Example: Tire treads are bump-mapped.
Hero/Hi Poly – Every detail modeled. Example: Tire treads are modeled.
TurboSquid is looking into providing some examples of these three cases, so TurboSquid artists can choose to create each one as individual products if they like.
Whenever possible, show the reference materials used. Ideally, the artist uses photos he/she owns, so they can be delivered with the model.
When this is not possible, at least state what reference was used. Example: “I used the pictures on the Peugeot website for reference.” This increases the model’s credibility.
Include a thumbnail of the wireframe over the reference photo to show how they match.
If artist owns the reference photos, include a few that can be used to generate new textures if necessary.
Show a thumbnail of the model next to a cube mapped with a 1 ft or 1m ruler. This helps confirm the scale.
In the Description, always give the unit scale used.
Naming convention is needed for files, objects and textures.
Layers are desirable in the 3D model file, especially if there are multiple objects in the scene that can be organized by textures. An example is a building where could be a layer for all glass objects, and another for brick.
You’ve probably noticed how much energy we’ve put into raising the quality of models on the site with CheckMate. We’ve also been removing lower quality models, but that rate is about to go up, by a lot.
I wanted to give artists notice that this is coming. We’re going to focus on the very lowest quality first, and work our way up over time. If this happens to be you, and of course we don’t want it to be you (or anybody), we’ll send a support ticket explaining why. We have a lot of beginners, and people who put stuff up that they had lying around — and why not? There is nothing wrong, it seems, to throw stuff out and see if it sells. But we know what sells now, and we don’t want stuff that isn’t ready for that. It’s not personal, it’s just how we have to evolve the business.
And for the most successful artists on TurboSquid, here’s an analogy. In the music world, many great artists record songs that aren’t great. They hold them back from release, and when you hear them later, you can tell it was a good decision. Watch the movie Pulp Fiction, and then take a peek at the DVD extras to see which scenes were edited out. All of them were great cuts.
There is going to be a point where some great artists, that have great collections, but have a couple low quality models, are going to have them pulled off the site. We’ve got a lot of wood to chop before we get to that point, and will focus so there should be few examples of other low quality stuff left when we do. Please don’t take this personally if it happens to you.
We’re going to be as objective as we possibly can, and have some strategies about how to be as effective as possible. The marketplace will ultimately be healthier, even if it is a little painful in the interim. This won’t happen overnight. There will probably be cases where a model comes down before another model of similar quality; please allow the process time to play out. We can’t have any sacred cows, especially like the one above. I hope you agree.
We’ve been running CheckMate officially since August 4, and we’ve made a few updates to the specification based on feedback and submissions. These aren’t major changes, but it’s important that you know about them to make your CheckMate submissions go as smoothly as possible.
Descriptions need to use correct spelling, grammar, punctuation and correct use of 3D product names like 3ds Max and V-Ray. See our Knowledge Base article on Correct Spellings of 3D Product Names to get correct spellings, or refer to the product manufacturer’s website.
In order to be eligible for CheckMate, you must choose one of the last four choices in the Geometry pulldown:
– Polygonal Quads/Tris
– Polygonal Quads only
– Polygonal Tris Only
– Polygonal Ngons used
If you choose Polygonal, Subdivision, Unknown, your submission will not pass because these legacy choices are not detailed enough to tell customers what they are getting. The NURBS selection will fail certification because we don’t currently certify NURBS model.
Signature Image Requirement
Since the Signature Image is only used in the search results as a thumbnail, we’ve lowered the resolution requirement to 600 x 600. You can still submit a higher resolution if you like, but we thought this relaxed standard might save some render time for you.
Second Image Background
The second image you upload must match the signature image in both pose and framing. It should have a dark or realistic background or a background that best shows off the quality of the model. This means a white background is acceptable. This image cannot include text, borders, badges or logos, just the model itself as you see in the Signature Image.
Turntables should show the model revolving in a counter-clockwise direction, so when the customer drags the slider to the right, the front of the model rotates to the right as well. This gives the customer the illusion that he/she is actually touching and moving the model. Turntables are only required for CheckMate Pro submissions.
Rigged and Animated Models
If you are using CAT to rig and animate your model, you don’t have to include a Readme file about the rig. We require a Readme file for custom rigs, not standard systems like Biped and CAT.
In 3ds Max it is possible to delete all the underlying geometry in an object, and the object can still exist in the scene. This will confuse the customer, so we’ve made this an explicit requirement: No empty objects. It’s fine to have Helpers, Dummies, Nulls, and Control objects, just no empty objects that add nothing to the scene and might potentially waste a customer’s time.
In the influx of CheckMate submissions we’ve seen lately, we’re pleased to report that many models pass on the first try. For those that don’t pass right away, one of the most common errors has to do with how files are packaged for publishing.
For every file format that you want certified, the 3D model file must be placed in a ZIP file with all textures, and this ZIP file must be uploaded under the Main Product section in Step 1. Otherwise, the model will fail certification.
We require all the files to be together in a ZIP file because the #1 support question we get is, “Where are the textures?” If the textures aren’t with the model file, but are in a separate ZIP file or an Accompanying Product File instead, customers sometimes can’t find them. This is particularly true for customers who are new to TurboSquid. But if the textures are in the same ZIP file with the model, customers can always find them.
When you buy something online, it can be annoying to have to contact support just to use the product. By requiring you to package the textures with the ZIP file, you make a more pleasant experience for new customers. The better their experience at TurboSquid, the more likely it is that they’ll come back and buy more.
That’s really the goal for all CheckMate models: a better buying experience for customers, leading to more sales for you overall.
SIGGRAPH 2011 is an exciting place to be this year. One of most interesting things, for us, is seeing the collaborative efforts and the resulting technology advances that come from them. One such announcement, Alembic 1.0, demonstrated to us just that. TurboSquid was fortunate enough to be invited to the official release of this new technology.
So what is Alembic 1.0? Put simply, this is a new open source exchange 3D format built from the ground up. It provides a standard for exchanging animated computer graphics scenes between content creation software and seeks to rival other open file formats such as OBJ, FBX and COLLADA.
The format, jointly developed by Sony Pictures Imageworks and Lucas Film Ltd, is specifically designed to handle massive animation data sets often required in high-end visual effects and animation. For example, Alembic 1.0 uses dramatically less disk space, as little as 1% of the resources consumed by a comparable OBJ file. This space saving allows artists to be more creative and improve overall workflow performance. Due to this the format is already in use on The Avengers, Men in Black 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man feature films.
Alembic is also currently being supported by other major industry players including Autodesk, NVIDIA, Luxology and Pixar’s RenderMan, just to name a few. Autodesk Maya 2012, due out in September, will be one of the first software packages to officially support this new interchange format.
We are also planning to accept this file format soon and we will have more on this after the show.
Jonathan Lloyd and I just finished giving a talk on 3D Modeling Standards as part of the official presentation program at Siggraph 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. Attendees got a whirlwind tour through TurboSquid’s two-year adventure in developing, testing, refining, and finally releasing 3D modeling standards as part of CheckMate Certification.
The best part of the presentation, for us, was seeing the crowd of 300+ nodding and smiling as the standards were discussed and explained. A number of people came up to us afterward to personally tell us how much standards would improve their workflows, and several asked if we would work with them directly on standards projects.
It was great to see the validation for the standards in general, and CheckMate in particular. We’ve put a lot of work into making CheckMate as useful as possible, and we’re glad artists feel they can use it to improve their work.