3d modeling is the process of creating virtual 3d objects, often referred to as meshes. 3D modeling packages have a variety of features to streamline the process of modeling. Some of these techniques are similar to the way a person would actually sculpt or build a real object and other features are more abstract. There are a number of ways to create meshes and every piece of software that facilitates this process is different. 3d modeling is often one of many features available in a 3d software package.
Texturing mapping refers to the process of giving a 3d model a texture. Specifically it refers to laying out the faces of a 3d model into a 2d space and then projecting an image onto them. This gives the 3d models the appearance of having color, detail, and properties simply by putting a specific image onto them. Although texture mapping often refers to adding varied color to a surface, texture maps can also control bumpiness, transparency, reflectivity, illumination and many other properties of a material. Some packages focus on laying out your 3d model in a 2d representation so that the texture can be created in a 2d painting program. Other packages allow you to paint in 3d and see the results in real time.
Without light, we would never see anything. To visualize 3d models we need to define how light is interacting with our objects. Many 3d packages give the user the ability to set up lights and take a virtual picture called a rendering. Rendering engines use a variety of techniques to calculate how the lights that a user defined will interact with their object in a realistic way. This includes calculating direct and indirect illumination as well as simulating the way that light interacts with different types of surfaces.
Animation is the process of an object changing over time. Animation can range from a bouncing ball to a digital character giving a performance. The process of animation consists of specifying key frames (a particular position, rotation and scale of an object a point in time) and defining how the keys are interpolated. Animation can be generated by an animator or capture through motion capture where markers are placed on real objects and their movement is recorded.
Rigging is the process of creating a skeleton for a digital character as well as controls for that skeleton. This also entails Skinning which is the process of binding that skeleton to a 3d model of a character and defining how the skeleton should deform the model so that the 3d character can be animated. Without the process of rigging, a 3d character could not be animated because they would only be in the pose they were modeled in.
Dynamics usually refers to modeling a variety of phenomena using physics based simulation. This can range from cloth, hair, collision, particles, liquids, and any other natural phenomena that can be generated procedurally.
Sculpting is arguably a subset of 3d modeling, however it emphasizes the type of artistic expression that goes into clay sculpting. 3d Sculpting also tends to refer to a more detailed level of 3d modeling where surface details are carved in 3d and then baked to a texture map so that they run faster.
A Game Engine is a piece of software that a game is built on top of. Although game engines were traditionally very expensive to license, today there are a number of free or cheap commercially available game engines. Although assets like 3d models and animations are often made outside a game engine, the engine is where the game logic, level design, lighting, effects and general development is done. Depending on the sophistication of the engine, Assets can be created in the development environment however they tend to be things like terrains or particles, not characters.
Even if you are primarily working in 3d, 2d programs are an essential part of the pipeline. Textures, concept art, and terrain height maps are a few of the things that can be made in a 2d painting program.
Sound is an important component to any project, whether it is a game, film, training movie or visualization. Even if you are a developer who plans to off load the sound work to a professional, the ability to put together rough sound files is very useful for rapid prototyping.
One of the best ways to learn a tool is through simultaneous audio and video learning. There is a large collection of training material distributed among a good number of sites, many even free. These training resources will take you through most programs and features and use a classroom like structure and project files so that you can follow along. With the amount of resources out there, it is easier than ever to learn about almost any software package in a comprehensive way.
If you are developing a project you don’t need to generate all the content yourself. Many assets such as textures, 3d models, sounds, animations, scripts and more can be download for pay or for free to use in your projects.
Any other type of resource that does not fall into one of the above categories.
The CG Resource Finder is designed to help game and visual effects artists find the software and assets they need. Software, assets and training material can all be found here, sorted by 3 price tiers (free, under $1,000 and over $1,000). Each Resource blurb specifies the price and operating system as well as links to the official site, the Wikipedia page and any Mixamo workflows that exist.
Our goal is to help developers find what they need. We plan to continue adding resources as they become available, making this finder as comprehensive as possible. If you have any suggestion about something we missed, we would love to hear your input.