Creating City Blocks in 3ds Max - Part 19 - Low-poly Buildings Using Simple Extrusions
With a texture library in place, you now create the low-poly building geometry. The approach you take deals with simple extrusions to create building blocks. Later, you will be able to use a script called Building Maker that automates the workflow you're about to learn, but for now, you learn how to create the buildings from scratch.
- Recorded in: 3ds Max 2014
- Scripts used: http://areadownloads.autodesk.com/wdm/3dsmax/HTM-PRJ_cityblks-BMscripts.zip
- This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2014 or higher.
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In this movie, you learn how to create a low-polygon building using simple extrusions and proper textures and mapping.
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The workflow you learn is meant to keep the face count to a bare minimum, and relying instead on textures to give the illusion of realism.
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This is important when you plan to have dozens or even hundreds of buildings in a scene.
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3ds Max of course has the tools to build detailed geometry but that's not what we are interested in here.
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Case in point, take a look at these two facades here in the file named low_vs_high.max:
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From a distance, they look nearly identical; both in the viewport and at render time.
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Close by, you can see the differences, mainly the positive and negative volumes around the various architectural elements.
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Obviously, the facade on the left is more detailed and you can verify this by switching to wireframe mode or Edged Faces mode (F3 or F4).
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By checking the Object Properties, you can see that the façade on the left has as many as 1163 polygons,
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whereas the façade on the right has only 5.
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As mentioned before, this becomes significant when you have a high number of buildings in a scene.
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Keep in mind that when viewed from a distance, the difference at render time is not very pronounced.
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If the camera gets close to a particular building, then you can always add detail to that specific one.
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And so, in this movie we focus on low-polygon building creation.
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Open the file named CityBlocks_Bldgs-start.max.
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This picks up where the last installment left off, namely with three city blocks and Urban Design Components in place.
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In fact, to make the scene easier to work with, press H and then type UDC to select all the urban design components in the scene.
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Press OK to confirm the selection.
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Create a new Selection Set by naming it UDC. Remember to press Enter to confirm the selection set creation.
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Hide the selected objects so they don't affect viewport performance.
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Make sure the Perspective view is maximize so you have a better view at the building lots.
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The workflow you'll be using is based on extruded 2D splines. That's arguably the easiest way to create building blocks.
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2D splines can be created directly in 3ds Max or imported from CAD applications such as AutoCAD.
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The main thing to remember is to have closed splines.
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This means that if you use the Line tool to create a foot print, make sure it is a closed one.
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Otherwise, you can use other closed shapes from the Standard or the Extended Spline lists.
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For this example, use the Angle shape.
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Since the building lots are slightly elevated, use the AutoGrid feature to make sure the spline is at the correct elevation.
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Click and drag to create a basic L-shape, and then drag a bit more and click again to define the thickness.
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You can always fine-tune these dimensions later.
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Disable AutoGrid when done.
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Give the spline a rotation of 180 degrees in Z so you have a better look at the building extensions and zoom in for a better look.
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You are ready to extrude the shape but you won't actually do it on the original spline but on a duplicate.
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As you will see later, this gives you a lot more flexibility in the long run.
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With the spline selected, choose Edit > Clone or press Ctrl+V to access the Clone Options dialog.
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Choose the Reference option and then click OK.
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Using Reference in this case is a major advantage as you can add modifiers to the duplicate without affecting the original spline.
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In this case, add an Extrude modifier to the duplicate shape and give it some value.
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Note the solid line that divides the base object from the Extrude modifier.
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Any changes or operations beneath that line affect all shared duplicates; any modifiers over that line only affect the selected object.
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In this case, you added an Extrude modifier and you want the extrusion height to be dictated by the texture you need to apply.
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Open the Material Editor and create a new view called: Buildings.
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Add an Arch & Design material.
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Drag out the Diffuse Color Map socket and choose Bitmap.
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Browse to the folder where you have stored the texture library and choose the file: OLD_BRK001_L1_W9xH4.6_DIF.jpg
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This is the same image you worked on in the last movie and it represents a brick building's street level texture.
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More importantly, the real-world dimensions are show in the file name as 9m in width by 4.6m in height.
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Once you've added the bitmap to the material tree, double-click the bitmap node and enable the option Use Real-World Scale.
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Set the Width and Height accordingly, in this case 9m by 4.6m
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Set the material to show in the viewport and apply it to the extruded shape.
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Nothing is shown yet as you still need to define mapping coordinates.
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Unless your designs are inspired by the likes of Antoni Gaudi or Frank Gehry, simple architecture is typically mapped in Box Mode.
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This enables walls to be mapped using left, right, front and back projections.
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Actually, you can add top and bottom projections to that as well although you won't need those as far as walls are concerned.
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Add a UVW modifier and set it to Box mode.
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Instead of fiddling with the gizmo size, simply enable Real-World Map Size so it reads the real dimensions you set at the bitmap level.
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If you need to, go to the Gizmo level and adjust its Z position to adjust the floor level starting point.
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Exit that mode when done.
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Since the height of the picture is 4.6m in the real-world, set the extrusion height to the same value.
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Also, you don't really need to see the top and bottom caps on this extruded volume as they won't be seen at render time.
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You can therefore disable Cap Start and Cap End and thus reduce poly count even further.
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You're ready to move on to the next step but before you do, add a reflection map to the material tree.
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Drag the Reflection Color Map socket and add the bitmap: OLD_BRK001_L1_W9xH4.6_REF.jpg
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Make sure you double-click its node and set its Real-World dimensions to match the color map.
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If you want, collapse the material and make space for a new one for the upper floors.
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Save your file. In the next movie, you learn to automate certain tasks that make your work even easier.