Gain an insight to how the models and images are created and familiarise yourself with the important terms and processes.
The 1st and most important step in the 3D pipeline is the creation of all assets from simple props, or environments, to complex characters and equipment. A 3D model is made up of a series of points called vertices that are connected to form a mesh. We start with a basic shape and by using the vast array of digital modeling tools at our disposal we can transform the primitive object into a highly detailed asset.
The next step is where colour and textures will take over that gray look, known as a default shader. A shading material that, when applied to a 3D model, enables the ability to control things like colour, reflectivity, shininess, and much more. This way, what was once a 3D model with a solitary colour, now looks a lot more realistic with colours and materials applied.
In its simplest form, rigging is the process of creating a skeleton for a 3D model so it can move. If a character model doesn’t have a rig, it can’t be moved around. Typically a rig consists of many components that need to be manipulated to move the character in the desired pose, hence control curves are created to assist in manipulating joints within the rig. The 3D model is attached to the rig and the rig is operated via the control curves. Mechanical objects can also be rigged to define the movement.
In the animation phase, rigged assets are animated to the storyboard. A lot goes into creating seamless animations, but this is where you really see everything come together. Animation can mean anything from adding motion to a piston for an engine, a camera fly through, all the way to creating complex character performances that you see in the latest 3D animated movies. Using a timeline, movement is keyed in frames that play back as an animation.
As the name might imply, lighting is the step where you can control most of the light elements of your scene, for example; placing lights, defining light properties, defining how light interacts with different types of materials, the qualities and complexities of the realistic textures involved, how the position and intensity of lights affect mood and believability, as well as colour theory and harmony.
In the rendering step of the pipeline, you take your 3D scene, or what is visible through the camera you setup, and output it into a format that can be seen e.g video, still images. It requires an initial setup of parameters, thereafter the processor calculates the light bounces, reflections, motion blurs, and so forth to produce the final image. Rendering can take anywhere from a few seconds, to hours or even days depending on the quality of the render, the complexity of the scene, and the computer it is being rendered on.