DIGM 210        3D Modeling + Design             
Section 501 – Thurs – 3:30 PM- 6:20PM  Rm. 015

Professor: Paul Diefenbach
emergency phone:215.514.1386


Course Objectives:


Beyond the basics of computer-generated three-dimensional object creation, this course will introduce the students to the principles and techniques of virtual scene-building for animation, visualization, and gaming.  Through combined lecture and studio work, students will achieve a high comfort level with the universal applications of 3D modeling and non-application-specific software tools and processes.  A series of hands-on exercises and projects will teach students to work through various stages of project development from conceptual drawings to finished renders.  Students will also learn the basics of shot composition and storytelling through still image.  Topics are to include modeling (polygonal, NURBS, and Sub-Divisible Surfaces), shader creation and mapping, lighting, and virtual camera setup.




            Students are to complete assignments as given, and submit the work written to a CD (Rom, RW,…), unless otherwise stated.  It is highly recommended that each student             maintain working copies and backups of the coursework on portable media (i.e.: external             Firewire or USB hard drive or memory modules).


Each week, the students will be expected to present their completed assignments as either an informal assessment at their workstation, or possibly to the entire class for group discussion.  Besides attending every class, and every lecture, students will be responsible for supplemental reading, and research.  The first half of the course will be dedicated to helping students develop basic skills that can be applied not only to final projects, but future CG projects in animation and gaming.  The lion’s share of the final four weeks will be dedicated to a manageable scale project.  Each student will give a short studio presentation-in-critique of their work in a class-wide Final Critique.



-Sketchbook – Large format (at least 8½ X 11”) with tear-out pages

-Students are required to supply an external storage device (Firewire, USB2) for backing up work.

-Students may be required to purchase additional presentation materials, including black

matte board and markers.



Grading will be based on the following:

1) Weekly assignments (35%)

2) Final Project (35%)

3) Sketchbook review (15%)

4) Presentations and class participation (15%).   

Attendance is mandatory; each class missed will result in a one letter grade reduction of final grade.  Missing more than three (3) classes will result in a failing grade.  Missing any class lecture will also result in a significant gap in knowledge of given techniques, and lecture material must be learned on ones own (a grueling process).  Students must not miss a critique under any circumstances.  Project due dates will be strictly observed, and late submissions will be graded one grade lower for each class date missed.  Quality of final projects and presentations is extremely important, and student may be required to re-submit any/all work considered below professional standards.


Rules of Engagement:           

Unless pre-approved by the professor, the following are (more than) kindly requested to be observed.  In fact, due to their high level of distraction, they are strictly forbidden in the class except under special circumstances 

·         No customizing of interface on class/lab machines

·         No cell phone activity

·         No non-course-related Internet: IM’ing, IRC, gaming, etc.

·         No food or drinks (other than life essential H2O) are permitted in the labs



Course Schedule:


Week 1 

Lectured Discussion and Demonstration: “Primitive World” 

·         Course Overview

·         Introduction to Autodesk Maya interface, workflow, clerical control, and Help

·         Coordinate systems, and commonalities of various 3D apps and functions.

·         Discussion covers object analysis, and conceptual de-construction into basic geometric sub-shapes and solids.

·         Begin virtual world creation by way of 2D/3D geometric primitives and their components: curves, planes, shapes, boxes, spheres, cones, etc.

·         Renderers, Simple Lambert shader for color 

            Homework Project 1 (Due Week 2): 

            Choose one of the following:

·         Select an ordinary real-world object (of moderate complexity) and create a 3D interpretive representation based solely on geometric primitives as its constituent parts.

·         Create an urban density of architecture based solely on geometric primitives. –Design a small city.  Virtual city-planning in a week.


Week 2


            Lectured Discussion and Demonstration: 

·         Positional Tools: Grids, Alignments, and Snaps

·         Introduction to Polygonal Modeling (theory, low-poly vs. high-poly, tools, techniques, adding definition through edges)


            Homework Project 2 (Due Week 3): 

“Low-Poly Creative Creature” 

Design and model a low poly character using the poly modeling techniques discussed in class, and/or other poly modeling techniques you discover.  The character need not be a typical humanoid male.  Be creative!  Create a seven-legged Boogie man.  Create a legendary winged, horn-faced grabazoid (not to be confused with the “graboid” from Tremors 1, also known as “Dirt Dragon” in Tremors 4).  Only add polys where you need them!


Creatures must be sketched from side, front, and perspective views before being modeled, scanned in and used as image planes in Maya as discussed in class.



Week 3

          Short critique of

         Lectured Discussion and Demonstration: 

·         Shaders: Hypershade, types of shaders, shader network

·         Mapping: Theory, UVW space, Painted vs. Procedural

·         Procedural networks, map channels

·         Laying out UVs for Painting Textures


            Homework Project 3 (Due Week 4):


“Creative Creature Redux”


Add geometry details to character, clean up trouble spots, add definition where needed.  Layout UVs and create shaders for character (mix of painted and procedural).


Week 4


         Critique of Creative Creature.  (Submit drawings, stills and .mb file to //digmfiles/DIGM210_Diefenbach/Creative Creatures) in a folder with your name BEFORE class.

          Lectured Discussion and Demonstration 

·         Smooth and Smooth Proxy

·         Introduction to NURBS Modeling in Maya

·         Conversion to Polys vs. NURBS Render Settings


            Homework Project 4 (Due Week 5): 

                        1) “Hi-Resolution Still Life”

Create a meaningful small still life (3-5 objects) using the smooth surfaces techniques discussed in class.  At least one must be NURBS, one must be made using the Smooth Proxy, and one must be a NURBS objects converted to polygons and further manipulated.  Objects should be shaded and textured as well, and those students choosing to do only 3 objects will be expected to have higher quality textures/shaders.  Along with .mb file, students must submit a short description of the scene (story), no more than 100 words as a Word .doc along with at least one high quality concept sketch done beforehand.


2) Email instructor: “murky points” and questions (to be addressed next week).

Week 5


            Short Critique of Hi-Res Still Life

            Lectured Discussion and Demonstration                       

·         Lighting (Theory, types, shadows)

·         Lighting Techniques (3-point, mood, …)

·         Course Evaluation: Review and Clarifications of Previous Topics and “murky points”

·         Discuss Final Project


            Homework Project 5 (Due Week 6):


Final Project “pre-production”


1) Submit written description of scene.  This description should discuss everything from the basic concept (Luxurious condominium living-room; Grandiose hotel lobby; Dark, cavernous, wizard’s lair; Murky, underwater shipwreck with mysterious glowing object; …etc.) to what specific objects will be in the scene.  The image should be aimed at producing some emotional reaction.  Describe this in detail and how you plan to achieve that reaction with composition, lighting, color palette. 


Example (Luxurious condominium living-room):

This image is designed produce an overwhelming feeling of serenity in the viewer, mixed with a sense of amazement and longing.  Warm sunlit highlights pour in through large bay windows, through which we can see a magnificent view of the harbor.  This hardwood floored paradise is aimed at the crème de la crème of society.  Everything from our slick appliances, including Sub-Zero refrigerator, to rockwood pottery and authentic Indian Rugs speak luxury… etc.


Description should be 100-250 words and submitted as a Word .doc


2) Create a minimum of five detailed scene sketches from different camera angles.  You will most likely need to sketch a top down plan to help keep continuity between images.


3) Collect visual references and assets (digital and/or analog) for Final Project.  Must have references for at least five key objects; however, overall artistic/thematic references are encouraged.


Week 6:


            Lectured Discussion and Demonstration:

·         Volumetric Lights and Environments

·         Advanced Shaders

·         Introduction to MentalRay, Raytracing, Shadows, Reflections, Indirect Illumination


Homework Project 6 (Due Week 7):


                        1) “Five Objects In A Box”: basic experiments with raytraced lights, materials,                                     and shadows

2) Work on Final Project (for informal in-class review by Instructor).  Scene “shell”  with placeholder geometry for all other objects.  Set up your five cameras to rough out composition.  Begin modeling five key objects.


Week 7:


            Lectured Discussion and Demonstration:


·         Introduction to Subdivision Surfaces Modeling (Sub-Ds)


            Homework Project 7:

Work on Final Project.  Five key objects fully modeled and textured for presentation next week.


Week 8:


            Lectured Discussion and Demonstration:

·         Mid-Review of Final Projects

·         Retro-, and enhanced coverage of earlier topics (“What Has Fallen Through the Cracks”)


            Homework Project 8:

                        Work on Final Project


Week 9:


            Lectured Discussion and Demonstration:

                        ·         Introduction to 3D Studio Max

            Homework Project 9:

                        Work on Final Project


Week 10:


            In-Class: Studio time for Final Projects


            Homework Project 9:

                        Work on Final Project


Week 11:


            >>>>>>>>Final Critique