by alokjain

This tutorial will take you through a unique technique for creating a face in 3D Studio Max 1.2 (NOT NURBS). You can also use this as a reference for 3D Studio.

I shall only create half of the face to make teaching process a bit simpler.
To start with it is best to sketch a left profile of the face and use it as a background image. But it is not really necessary.

So lets start with the real stuff now:
First, create different cross-sections of the face as in the picture here:

Remember that all the splines should have the same number of vertices and in the process following, the 1st vertex of a spline would join with the first vertex of other splines. So we can control the horizontal shape of the face with the placement of vertices on the splines, at this stage only.

Next, create an arc - 180 degrees (half the circle). This will be used as a path to loft the above shapes on.

This is as follows:

Select the arc, and click on the "loft object " in the create tab

and then on the loft button.

Now click on the get shape button and then click on the first spline (anywhere). This would place the spline on the arc and loft it along. It would be a good option to keep the perspective viewport in "smooths and highlights " shaded mode.You would see the lofted object in 3d.

Now change the path percentage to 5% (highlighted with yellow - also check the percentage option next to it)

then again click on the get shape button and click on the second spline. Immediately you should see the impact in the perspective viewport. Here we are just specifying different shapes at different levels of the path, and the s/w would connect them all (1st vertex to first, 2nd to 2nd etc).

Repeat the same, changing path percentages, for all the shapes.

This is how my lofting looked.

Horrible!! I won't pull all the vertices and put them in the right position. Well you don't have to in order to fix it.

DO NOT check the skin checkbox in the skin parameter drop down. This will keep our mesh visually simpler and easy to work on further. Just leave the skin in shaded checked (which is  the default) so that the perspective shows the 3d object.

Now comes the true power of the software.

Select the lofted object and click on the modifier tab

The same settings as we had for lofting appear here.

( We can play a little with the path steps in "surface parameters" to get a smooth shape with the least path steps - and have a lower poly count).

Click on the sub object and select shape option. Now we can select any spline we lofted and "edit spline it".  This way you can edit the spline in 3D. Above that the s/w will show the impact on the 3d model in real time. This is the reason I suggested that skin checkbox should not be checked as now we can edit the spline very comfortably.

We can also keep a mirror "instance" of this object next to it to make a complete face and as we edit the spline of one , the effect is mirrored on the other as well and we can see the final complete face.

We can also add another spline at another level on the path.

To give a more organic look (in case of aliens, animals especially) we can make further use of a displacement map. Just pick any bmp with good number of shades and texture, and use it as a displace map.

So here's what I achieved in 3D Studio Rel 4.0 (not MAX) from this technique.

As you can see this gives a little less flexibility then NURBS but is much simpler.

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All material in this tutorial is a property of alokjain and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the author