What Is Digital Modeling ?
Digital modeling refers to the process of creating a mathematical representation
of a three-dimensional shape of an object.
The result of this creation is what the industry calls a 3D model or 3D mesh.
Most often 3D models start out as 2D concept drawings.
In the simplest of terms, digital modeling is 3D modeling.
Once limited to careers in the science and entertainment markets, digital
modelers have more opportunities now than ever before. The demand for
high-quality 3D graphics and animation is on the rise, and according to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the job market for 3D artists is expected to
grow at a rate of 12 percent through 2018 (www.bls.gov).
You see 3D graphics literally everywhere these days, and at their core are
digital models. Digital modelers work in television and feature films, game
design, medical illustration and animation, print graphics, product and architectural
visualization, and many other markets that make up this growing
To be successful in this field, you need to become a problem solver with good
observation skills and a desire to create things. You never stop learning in
this field. You face new challenges with every new project, many of which
require innovative solutions that you must discover on your own. If you get
to a point where you stop seeing these challenges as lessons that help build
your ever-growing skill set, it’s probably a sign that you’ve lost your passion
for the medium.
Remember that talent is only one very small part of the equation and counts
for nothing if it isn’t backed up by perseverance, determination, resilience,
and practice. If you want to be good at anything, learn as much as you can
and work at it every day until you’ve mastered it.
What you need.
Software: Leading 3D software
• 3ds Max: www.autodesk.com/3ds-Max
• LightWave 3D: www.lightwave3d.com
• Maya: www.autodesk.com/Maya
• Modo: www.luxology.com
• Silo: www.nevercenter.com
• XSI: www.autodesk.com/Softimage
• ZBrush: www.pixologic.com
Most 3D modeling applications come in versions for both Mac and Windows,
so whatever type of system you prefer, you should have no problem as a digital
modeler. If you are buying a computer, make sure that its specifications are up
to the requirements of the software you want to run. Don’t feel like you have
to run out and get the latest and greatest monster machine, as many may suggest.
You might be surprised at how a modest system configuration can be all
you need to work comfortably. That said, the more powerful the system, the
more you can throw at it.
Random access memory (RAM) is where the data set you are currently working
with resides in your computer. This data can be in the form of images or
3D point data, such as models. The more RAM you have, the more data you
can simultaneously access without having to wait for the system to load it
from the hard disk. Loading from the hard disk is slow.
CPU Speed and Number of Cores
With today’s multi-core CPUs, computer processor speed is becoming less
and less important. The more cores you have, the better off you are, so CPU
speed is to be considered in relation to how many cores your computer has.
Simply put, speed and number of cores are the main features that make rendering
and data processing faster.
Graphics Card and GPU
A decent graphics card is an important factor for digital modelers, because
it’s responsible for displaying your data onscreen. Because most applications
use OpenGL (Open Graphics Library)—the industry-standard Application
Programming Interface (API) for writing applications that produce 2D and
3D computer graphics—a strong graphics card allows you to view your digital
models as smoothly as possible.
The more geometry or hi-res (high-resolution) textures, the harder your
graphics card has to work. Having a good graphics card definitely increases
productivity as projects become more complex. NVIDIA is a graphics card
industry leader and has the most stable platform for the CG industry.
Another factor to consider is Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) technology.
The industry is starting to make a shift towards GPU-based rendering, essentially
harnessing the power of the graphics card, which often is 50–100 times
more powerful than a CPU for performing certain tasks. When choosing a
graphics card, it’s best to consider the amount of GPU cores it has; the more,
If you’re unsure of what type of system is best for you, visit one of the many
online community forums—for example, CGSociety (www.cgsociety.org),
3DTotal (www.3dtotal.com), or Foundation 3D (www.foundation3d.com)--
talk to artists who use these systems, research what’s available, and most
importantly, know your options.
Something I have strong opinions about when discussing workstations is the
need for a dual monitor setup. I believe dual monitors are a must for any digital
artist and can’t imagine accomplishing my work using just one monitor.
A digital modeler working with just one monitor is like a draftsman working
on an end table instead of a large drafting table. Having two monitors gives
you more than just a comfortable workspace—it affords you the room needed
to display multiple applications at the same time, as well as the ability to display
your reference material on one screen while you work on the other.