Elective | 3D Classroom. CG Master Academy
Hard Surface Modeling for Films
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Registration Starts On
Monday, Feb 26th 2018
Class Begins On
April 28, 2018
Jay Machado
Senior Hard Surface Modeler

Jay is a Senior Hard Surface Modeler and Texture Painter at Industrial Light and Magic; he has been at ILM for 4 years, and has 6 years of experience as a modeler. His credits include Rogue One, Star Wars: the Force Awakens, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. In addition to his work on feature films, Jay has worked on music videos, commercials, an AAA game, and amusement park rides. He is also exploring physically based rendering, VR, game development, and 3D printing outside of work.


Course Description

This course covers the creation of VFX production assets of an inorganic nature. Lectures will cover creation of form, efficient manipulation of topology, the art of kitbashing, scene organization, texture preparation, light rigging techniques that will aid in the modeling process and final rendering. Students will learn the process of efficiently creating high quality hard surface models from concept to completion and complete exercises that will give them the tools to overcome typical challenges faced by production artists.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Pre-reqs: Knowledge of Maya and ZBrush is required

Course Format

Course Format: Standard
Duration: 10 Weeks
Lecture Type: Pre-recorded
Assignment: Deadlines each week.
Feedback: Individual Recordings
Q&A: Once a week. 

*For classes with fewer than 6 students feedback may be provided during the live Q&A session.

Estimated time for course work: 10-20 hours per week

Course Outline


Introduction to Hard Surface Modeling

-Instructor introduction and background
-Discussion of Hard Surface Modeling principles
-Introduction to the Maya interface as we will be using it


Blocking Models

-Setting up image planes in Maya
-Using NURBS curves to create guidelines
-Box modeling process
-Naming conventions and heirarchy organization


Hard Surface Sculpture and Retopology Workflow

-Importing blocking models into ZBrush
-Using dynamesh to combine primitive shapes together into more complex surfaces
-Hard surface brushes and demo sculpt on car body
-Adding panel lines
-Using decimation master
-Exporting from ZBrush
-Importing sculpts into maya
-Quad-draw workflow in Maya


Large Scale Model Details and Radial Modeling

-Maya modeling techniques: Maya booleans; box modeling methods using extrude and mulit-cut tools; bevel tool to create supporting edge loops; Maya sculpt tools
-Radial modeling exercise: creating a rim and a tire
-Creating a thruster using radial modeling techniques: anatomy of a thruster, reality vs. sci-fi; using instances to model thruster details; using pivot points to facilitate animation of thrust vectoring


Modeling Greebles

-A look to the past: techniques used by practical modelers
-Modeling vintage model kit parts for kitbashing
-Getting UVs onto geometry
-Exporting parts with thumbnails for use in Maya's content browser


Kitbashing Techniques

-Kitbashing using a parts library: a look at practical kitbashing techniques; adding our greebles to Maya's content browser
-Kitbashing workflow: plant on details; greeble assemblies


Mechanical Modeling

-Modeling and rigging the pistons: single axis and ball & socket; hierarchy setup; aim constraint setup
-Creating mechanisms: building the basic skeleton and animating motion; experimenting with piston placement; setting up set driven keys
-Integrating these parts into the model


NURBS Curve Tools for Modeling

-NURBS curves modeling tools
-Extruding along curves
-Animation snapshot and tank tread exercise
-Other pipe modeling techniques
-Using wire deformers to create cable looms


UV Packing, Tips & Tricks

-Creating and unfolding UVs
-A discussion about texel density, what it is and why it is important
-UV packing techniques
-UDIMS; how to organize your model's UVs for multiple texture maps
-Final model setup


Lighting, Rendering, and Hard Surface Modeling Alternatives

-Alternative methods: edge creasing, face weighted normals, rounded corner shader
-Rendering in Maya using Arnold
-Rendering in Keyshot


  • Hard Surface Modeler
  • Prop Modeler
  • Environment Modeler
  • Product Design
  • Automotive Design
  • Architecture