Modelling is my main technical strength- my background in sculpture helps me to understand and use the digital modelling processes, and the fundamental elements of the artform; form, silhouette, gesture, proportions etc. are all valid for digital modelling too.
It is important to understand the underlying pre-requisites and limitations of the animation software. The required skill in this context is finding ways to apply an understanding of these limitations to the modelling process without compromising the visual results.
I researched the geometric requirements that the software designer have assumed and found ways to model that are sympathetic to these. For the mechanical and architectural models this invloved planning the geometry of the mesh to use the minimum number of polygons and strategic manipulation of mesh smoothing to create hard edged surfaces with minimal polygon numbers. This creates efficiencies in model meshes, which by extension means that you can add more forms before you reach the limits of the computer’s ability to process it- Thus extending the visual complexity in the scenes.
ZBrush is the obvious choice of tool for designing and sculpting characters The combination of zsperes, sculpting and painting tools is the best available. Mudbox is an alternative but it is simply not as mature and well designed. 3D-Coat is a very useful piece of software that is capable of easily producing forms in a way that is analogous to using real world materials. The volumetric method is very good for bridging forms, for extension like tendrils and for making forms with holes. It sounds easy to say make a hole but in most other software it can be a lengthy or technical process
When approaching the character models I researched the best ways to make the character meshes for ease of rigging and animation. There is a balance to be sought between modelling for easing the rigging process and modelling for good sculptural quality. They don’t always coincide. It is of primary importance that the topology of the mesh follows the lines of movement in the anatomy of the figure.
Some 3D artists take the approach of just sculpting without regard for the topology and then retopologising when it is finished, This entails drawing a new mesh over the finished sculpt following the lines of the forms they have made. It is an approach that has the advantage of being free to make the forms you want. The disadvantage is that it creates another set of labour intensive processes in a workflow that is already long-winded.
I took the approach of starting with a base mesh that had good topology for animation and sculpting in a way that does not disturb that topology. This way I cut out a whole process, and it means I could reuse the base mesh for multiple characters. The downside is that not everyone can work this way and would feel restricted. My considerable experience of manipulating form that means I can do this with relative ease. If you are planning to work on an existing topology then it is a good idea to put a lot of effort into the concept sketches. Doing so will give you a clear mental model to work to and make the whole process more efficient.