I recently delivered a 3 minute presentation for a group of colleagues and the purpose was to learn to present some technical information effectively while using some kind of analogy. The topic I picked was related to one of my favorite hobbies to date. (3D modeling) Much of this content is simply my opinion. Relatively speaking, I am a complete newbie to this form of art and the technical aspects associated with it. So here is a quick recap of my talk.

In 3D modeling today there are many methods to making a believable (realistic) render. In just a moment, stop reading this and take a look around your environment quickly by panning your eyes around the room. Did you notice the details on objects and various surfaces? Some may be shiny, some may be corse, some might look dull or fuzzy and others may have been transparent. Now, take a close look at the back of your hand and focus intensely on the details.


Modeling, texturing, lighting and rendering done with Cheetah3D

You may see imperfections, hairs, follicles, creases, etc... These fine details are important because you are looking so intently at your hand. But more importantly, your mind was filling in the details of the environment you are looking at without you having to do any additional work to understand that what you are looking at is real. When you focus intently on one subject close up, the level of detail for everything else becomes much less important. Your mind still believes it to be real. I have not studied the technical aspects of how this works but essentially, the interaction between the light, textures and shapes you perceive make what you see appear to be real.

To get this effect with a computer using 3D rendering software, an artist may have a much greater challenge to achieve believability. In my opinion, there is a range between low to high levels of detail where believability can be achieved much earlier in the 3D modeling process. As an artist you can take the time to create extremely detailed 3D models with extremely detailed geometry but after a certain point, additional geometry is not going to add any more value to the composition relative to the distance the viewer is from the subject. Imagine trying to model and render a sandy beach scene presented as being 15 or 20 feet away but the beach will be modeled one grain of sand at a time. Hopefully you agree that this would be pointless. (and no doubt futile)

Amber Cube

Modeling, texturing, lighting and rendering done with Cheetah3D

So, how do you achieve a believable render without having to model every detail that we do not need to conclude that what we are looking at is actually real? It depends on several factors but the short answer to this question from my presentation was to use something called a Texture. Textures offer a balance between 3D geometry and color / light simulation that allow computers to render realistic surfaces on 3D objects without having to model details that don't help make the image any more believable. Each of these example images are made with a fairly low level of detail (small number of polygons) but the images take on realism because of the textures and the light. The level of detail is progressively smaller from the foreground to the background where the level of detail becomes less and less necessary. (especially where other effects can be applied such as Depth of Field as shown in the first and last image on this post.


Modeling, texturing, lighting and rendering done with Cheetah3D


Modeling, texturing, lighting and rendering done with Cheetah3D

This final example shows how 3D software can use textures to give a surface 3D qualities without any additional geometry whatsoever. In this example, the texture and lighting provide all the detail simulations to make the green surface believable. So to conclude this post, please consider how you can use textures in your own artwork to provide believable details in your 3D renders without spending a lot of time building extremely detailed 3D models.