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By: Adriana Noton
3D modelling software is the crowning achievement of the computer graphics industry. The industry dates back to the year nineteen hundred sixty when William Fetter of Boeing coined the term. That same year Motion Graphics, Inc was founded by John Whitney, Sr. The capacity to use a computer to create and animate graphics quickly caught on. By the next year, the first video game was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Over the years, many people and organizations have contributed to the development of computer graphics. Perhaps the greatest contributors were the engineers at Industrial Light and Magic. These people brought many of the features now included in most software packages to life.

These powerful programs are used to create realistic models for many purposes and disciplines. Models are created using a variety of techniques. The most basic of these ways is through the use of what are called primitives. Primitives are basic geometric shapes, such as cubes, cones, and spheres. These primitives can be converted to other structures for easier modeling. For models that do not correspond to a basic shape very well, a 3D artist may start with a wire-frame model. A technique borrowed from real-life modelers. A rough shape or frame is built from wire. Clay was then added to complete the form. The most complex models require what are known as NURBS. NURBS stands for non-uniform rational B-spline, which is a mathematical model for representing curves and surfaces.

Once the basic foundation of a model is created, the artist employs a number of tools to refine the model. The first step usually involves converting the model into a mesh. This breaks the surface into a series of triangles or squares. Most programs use triangles for faster rendering. The point of each triangle is known as a vertex and can be moved about to change the shape of the model. This is called deformation. Another common method of modeling involves working with the subsurface. This works by breaking each triangle down into smaller components for more detailed control.

Some objects require their own special treatment. Representations of smoke and dust, for example, are comprised of thousands of small points. This gives the object the flexibility it needs to accurately flow. Water also requires special consideration. It must have flow, yet appear to be solid when at rest. The refractive properties of water have presented many challenges.

Once a model is created, it is time to decorate it. In some cases, an artist "paints" the surface by manipulating the color of the controlling vertices. Often, however, a texture is applied to the model through a process known as surface mapping.

The next stage does not apply to all models. Some models require animation. During this process, key changes in the models shape, position, size, and appearance are plotted. The software than computes the rate of change between these key points, or key frames as they called.

At this point the model is ready to receive its final touches. Simulated lighting is applied to 'illuminate' the scene. A simulated camera is selected and placed to take a 'picture'. This process is called rendering as the final step taken to complete the model.

The best known use of 3D is in the film industry. Many more artists work in other disciplines, however. The greatest demand for their services has been in medicine where they create 3D representations of organs. Engineering endeavors have also turned to the power of computer modeling, especially during the design phase of new products. The scientific community also uses 3D modelling software to simulate chemical compounds and the complexities found in the earth itself.


Geology software that is used in the worlds largest and most successful energy companies.
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