This tutorial will show you how to model a fairly simple lizard in 3D Studio MAX by combining primitives together into a single mesh. Why do it this way instead of using NURBS or spline cages?

First, to learn/improve polygon modeling skills (you never know when they'll come in handy.) Even if you're comfortable with other modeling methods it never hurts to experiment with new ways to create a model. Remember, that each modeling method has its own set of pluses and minuses.

Second, some people find it easier to visualize complex items (such as creatures) as combinations of simple primitives. This method allows them to model with the primitives and then combine them into a single mesh.

Giant Fambaa Swamp Lizards

Figure 1.1 Click for larger view
Figure 1.2 Click for larger view

You might remember the Giant Fambaa Swamp lizards from The Phantom Menace. These powerful beasts were used by the Gungan to carry their shield apparatus into battle. The Fambaa swamp lizards are tall creatures with stout, pillar-like legs (see Figures 1.1 and Figure 1.2 (these images are from "Star Wars Episode I: The Visual Dictionary" by DK Publishing, Inc.))

Recipe Ingredients
In this tutorial, we will construct a Fambaa swamp lizard using 3D Studio MAX 2.5. In addition to 3D Studio MAX 2.5, you will find a copy of Digimation's Blend modifier helpful (this modifier ships with Bones Pro.) Don't fret if you don't have it, you can still do most of the tutorial, you'll just have to work a bit harder when it comes to smoothing the connections between the various components of the creature (i.e., you'll have to do it with Relax and Edit mesh.)

Although I'm not a big fan of tutorials requiring plug-ins to work, I figured that if you're interested in creating a solid mesh, you probably already have a way to modify/animate it. As such, you probably already have Bones Pro.

Method to the Madness

We will be building the creature by connecting together simple primitives. As with all modeling projects, one of the first concerns should be where and how the model will be used. If the model is to be used in a real-time game, then you're going to want the model to be a low-polygon count, rough approximation of the creature with the rest of the details created via textures. If, however, you're doing a pre-rendered scene and are going to place someone on the creature's back or perhaps animate a small bird-like animal as it feeds off of parasites on the creature, then you're going to want to have lots and lots of detail. In this case you probably wont be able use simple bump maps for scales and other details.

For this model, we're going to assume that the creature will be part of a cinematic sequence (i.e., pre-rendered) and that the camera will never get overly close to the individualized details (such as the thickness of each scale). As such, we need a good approximation of the creature's shape, but we don't need to be concerned with modeling minutia (eye wrinkles, scales, etc.) which we could use texture maps to create.

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