3D Modelling for Games vs Movies | MAGES Institute

3D Modelling for Games vs Movies

3D modeling is a fundamental aspect of digital media production, catering to both gaming and movie/digital production. The key difference lies in polygon usage, where polygons are two-dimensional shapes that form the building blocks of 3D models.

3D modelling is a core aspect of digital media production today, and covers nearly all forms of entertainment. However, the considerations for creating a 3D model differ, depending upon the use case, broadly classified into two categories : 3D Modelling for Games, and 3D Modelling for Movies/Digital Production.

The major difference lies in the building blocks for 3D models – polygons. What are they?

Polygons are two-dimensional shapes with straight sides and angles, like triangles, rectangles, and squares. They can have any number of sides, from three to hundreds or even thousands. Polygons join together in a 3D space to create 3D models. Complex and realistic objects, characters, and environments etc can be created by simply joining the right polygons with the right shape and size together.

In 3D modeling and game development, polygons are used to create the surfaces of objects that will be seen by the viewer or player. By manipulating the vertices, edges, and faces of these polygons, you can change the shape, size, and texture of the object, allowing you to create everything from simple geometric shapes to highly detailed and lifelike models.

Understanding polygons is also important for optimizing performance. When creating a 3D scene or game, there are typically many objects on the screen at once, each made up of numerous polygons. By using efficient polygon modeling techniques, you can reduce the number of polygons needed to create a particular object, resulting in faster rendering times and smoother gameplay.

The Difference

The number of polygons used in games and movies can vary greatly depending on the specific needs of the project. In general, games require lower polygon counts than movies, as real-time rendering in games can put a strain on hardware resources, while movies can take longer to render frames and can use more complex lighting and texturing techniques.

For games, the number of polygons used for a character or object can range from a few hundred to a few thousand. It is important for game developers to balance the polygon count with other factors such as game performance and the visual quality of the game.

For movies, the number of polygons used can range from several thousand to millions. This is because movies are typically rendered offline, allowing for more detailed and complex models that would not be possible in real-time rendering for games.

Ultimately, the number of polygons used in any project depends on the specific requirements and constraints of that project, as well as the desired level of detail and visual quality. It is up to the artist or developer to determine the appropriate balance between polygon count and visual fidelity.

Here’s a brief rundown of the steps to create a 3D model for games :

  1. Concept : This is the first step in any 3D modeling project. You need to have a clear idea of what you want to create before you start modeling. This can be done through sketches, concept art, or reference images.
  2. Modeling : Once you have your concept, the next step is to create a 3D model using 3D modeling software. There are many different 3D modeling programs available, but some of the most popular ones are:
    • Blender: A free and open-source 3D modeling and animation software that is widely used in the industry.
    • Maya: A professional-grade 3D modeling and animation software used by many game studios.
    • 3ds Max: Another popular 3D modeling and animation software that is commonly used in the game industry.

During the modeling process, you will create the basic shapes that will make up your 3D model and gradually add more detail until you have a complete model. For example, creating a 3D model of a shipping container would have you start with a basic block, after which you would create or carve out the ridges, the supporting frame, the door frame and locking mechanism, etc.

  1. Texturing: Once you have your 3D model, you need to add textures to it to make it look more realistic. This is done using a process called UV mapping, which involves flattening out the 3D model and creating a 2D image that can be used as a texture. (The “UV” are the letters used to denote the axes of the plan the 2D texture is calculated in, as “X” “Y” and “Z” are already used to denote the axes for the 3D model). Some of the most popular 3D texturing software include:
    • Substance Painter: A popular texturing software used in the game industry that allows you to paint textures directly onto your 3D models.
    • Photoshop: An “old reliable” variant of image manipulation software, Photoshop can also be used to create UV maps.
  1. Rigging: If you’re creating a character or a prop which needs to be animated, you’ll need to “rig it” so that it can be animated. It is the process of creating a “skeleton” with “joints” which will determine how the 3D model can move and be manipulated. There are several software programs available for rigging, such as:
    • Autodesk Maya: A popular 3D animation and rigging software used in the game industry.
    • Cinema 4D: A 3D modeling, animation, and rigging software used by many game studios.
  1. Animation: Once your character is rigged, you can create animations for it. This involves moving the character’s body parts around to create realistic movements.
  2. Importing: Once your 3D model is complete, you’ll need to import it into your game engine. This is done using a file format that is compatible with your engine, such as FBX or OBJ.
  3. Optimization: Finally, you’ll need to optimize your 3D models so that they run smoothly in your game. This involves reducing the number of polygons in the model and simplifying the textures.

As games are real-time and interactive, optimization is a step which is usually extensively used in 3D Modelling for games. Artists need to make sure that the 3D models are not too computationally intensive/heavy. Very large polygon counts will lead to very long rendering times for each frame, which makes it highly unsuitable for games.

3D Modelling for movies and digital productions can be much more computationally heavy as studios can spend considerable time rendering just one frame of the movie, and it can be compiled into a complete movie later. As such, incredibly high quality and highly-detailed 3D Models can be suitable for this purpose (there is no real-time interaction). If you’re interested in creating high fidelity 3D models for games and more, check out our Diploma in Game Art program! Stay tuned for our next blog on Blender, one of the most popular open-source free-for-use 3D modelling software available today!


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