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Modeling Guns (Polygonal modeling)

Ian Mankowski

04/16/2003

The goal here is to take the student step by step through modeling projects, so that they may
learn by example. The Modeling Process series will cover my entire modeling process, but they
are also geared for individuals who are of an intermediate skill level as I will only be
highlighting the steps taken. You will not find a pictorial history of every point I pulled and why
I did it as such, simply because it would only be useful if the student were to create a copy of
my model. I doubt very many budding modeler's are interested in such, rather, they are
interested in learning techniques that they can apply to their own models and the Modeling
Process tutorials will cater to that approach.

These tutorials will feature LightWave as their host. Many concepts can be translated into other
packages, but I do make use of LightWave specific conventions and tools, so you are
forewarned.

I do make use of a great little plugin called Smoo, available from


http://www.m2estudios.com/plugins.html

A great tool to precisely control your beveling. Not necessary, but I do recommend it.

With that out of the way, let's get on with the tutorial.

Individuals in any professional industry, whether creative or technical know that preproduction
is key to creation. Getting your ideas and problems down on paper before you ever touch the
computer is critical. There are many reasons for such, but in my particular experience,
preproduction is the defining key that determines whether my model looks detailed and
professional, or vague and amateurish.
Here, I've lifted rough concept sketches for a "flash gun" straight from my sketch book. The
gun design is dredged out of a childhood memory of a toy gun I used to have that had flashing
lights and made a dreadful racket, it even had force feedback in the grip!

After determining rough dimensions and details I'm happy with, I follow up with a more
detailed and polished sketch on marker paper. No particular reason, I just happen to prefer
markers as my rendering medium of choice for mechanically oriented drawings.
Pass 1. Looks pretty plain doesn't it. I'm happy with the general shape, but a lot of the details
(or lack thereof) inspire me to do another pass on it.
The added detail help make this gun interesting and, fun to make. Time to open up modeler.

Notice that a gun, and especially this gun is a profile defined object. The overall side profile
defines almost everything about this gun. The only things that aren't are the little details. With
that in mind, I created an outline drawing of the gun in the concept sketch above along with
the perspective rendering, with full intention to use it as a guide for my model in Lightwave.

In this case, because the profile is pretty tight and the actual drawing relatively small, I've
scanned the profile in at 300 dpi to be displayed in my right viewport. I then inverted it and
turned on anti-alaising (pixel blending) to get the sharpest, crispest lines possible.
Allright. Time for some sectional modeling. I'm going to start with the pistol grip. Because I
want this to be a fairly technical model, we're going to use polygonal modeling and guides to
trace our pistol grip outline with instead of eyeballing it with subdivision surfaces.

In layer two, I've created a series of circles that conform to my profile, these will help me trace
my pen so I get accurate curves to define the profile. Perhaps somewhat crude for those of us
used to AutoCAD and perfect nurbs surfaces, but this guide method is an accurate
representation of how the sketch was created. Though it won't stand up to engineering
standards, it's close enough for our purposes. Most of the circles I've left with the default 24
sides, but for the bigger circles that define the overall sweep of the handle, I bumped them up
to 96 sides.
In point selection mode, I selected all of my circles and copied and pasted them to another
layer. Now I'm left with only the points that defined the circles.
I then delete all of the points that do not define the pistol grip's handle. Here I've removed the
background template to make the points more visible. Select all the points and Set their Value
to 0 on the X axis using the Set Value tool.
I
added a few points to the corners of the pistol grip's profile as well. Now, I've loaded my
background image up again. This time I've turned off invert and toned down the brightness
and contrast to make my points easier to pick out. I then select them in clockwise fashion and
create a polygon.
From there it's a series of four bevels. One to give it the main thickness, and the other three to
give it curvature. If you use Lightwave's standard bevel, be prepared to have to manually pull
the points around in the corners as Lightwave will make them cross over each other. There are
quite a few plugs that will remedy this problem, but none of them work consistently on my
machine, thus why I'm not using them.

Here I've beveled out the front selection of polygons. More point pushing to make it all work all
right. Make good use of your Statistics panel. (w on the keyboard) throughout modeling you
will find it invaluable to selecting certain points and polygons.
Lot of point pushing done here. Don't forget the power of the Snap tool (G key by default) The
View Align option will enable you to snap a point to another only in one dimension, the
viewport that you are currently working in.
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Copyright 2003, Ian Mankowski, All Rights Reserved


Modeling Guns (Polygonal modeling)

Ian Mankowski

04/16/2003

Here's a drill template I created on a separate layer, using the same technique I used on the
grip profile to get the rounded corners.

I put the template in a background layer, and select my main layer and apply the drill tool.
Deleted polys and created new polygons created to fill in the cut.
Here I've used Bandsaw and Set value to create these perpendicular cuts.
This was beveled with Smoo. Simply selected a row of polygons and applied unified numeric
bevels to each row. I've also given it a different surface for easy selection. And because,
eventually, it's supposed to be a different surface.
This groove that runs along the length of the gun was created by simply using a modified box
that was booleaned against the grip.
Here I've prepped the front for extrusion. I've merged all the quads into one polygon and
used bandsaw numerous times to achieve the smooth corner in the corner of the trigger
housing.
This detail was simply a series of bevels that was repeated. Made with much the same
technique as the rear heat sink.
To create the side indentation I use the capsule tool that LW so thoughtfully provides. I scale
it to my dimensions on another layer, and again, do a subtraction boolean. Notice that I've
squashed the capsule with the stretch tool to get a more shallow indentation.
The completed boolean.
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Copyright 2003, Ian Mankowski, All Rights Reserved


Modeling Guns (Polygonal modeling)

Ian Mankowski

04/16/2003

The trigger guard is beveled out. The shape was formed through simple point pushing. Use
the stretch tool to your advantage. Remember that holding the control key while using it
restricts its effects to one axis.

Smoothing out the geometry done by simply applying bandsaw and pushing and pulling sets
of points into position.
Trigger guard further extruded using Smoo. Rotational bevel increments of 15 degrees.
To prepare the upper section for the trigger guard, I do an additional bevel of the trigger
guard in a separate layer so I can get a solid template for a solid drill.
The resulting cut with the points stretched along the Z axis.
The area connected with polygons.
Bandsaw with 4 cuts. Manual point manipulation to create a smooth transition.
To create the additional pieces to the pistol grip, I first created another template by copying
the main polygon to an additional layer. Then, I created several circle templates. for the
curves and corners.
Here you can see I've copied only the points that make up the profile and copied them to
another layer.
Select points in clockwise order and create poly.
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Copyright 2003, Ian Mankowski, All Rights Reserved


Modeling Guns (Polygonal modeling)

Ian Mankowski

04/16/2003

A few bevels later.

The grip's details are created with modified balls that will be booleaned with the grip itself.
I've resized half of the points to create a more beveled cut into the handle.
Their grid patter was creating by copying and pasting the original divot and using the Rove
tool to precisely align each divot. Remember the numeric panel gives you additional options
for more precise transforming.
The applied bevel.
Bevels for the screw insets created using similar techniques.
To create the screws themselves, I fit a flattened ball into the screw inset. Notice I've
oriented the ball along the Z axis. This will allow me to bevel the notch without the poles in
the way.
Finished screw in screw inset.
To create the trigger I copied the polygons in the back of trigger well and pasted them to
another layer. Then I subdivided them twice using the faceted subdivision method. Then I
welded the rows of points together as I don't need the additional geometry in that axis.
Here I've created a large disc to use as a template so I can fit the trigger's geometry to the
curve.
From there the trigger is simply formed through a series of bevels.
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Copyright 2003, Ian Mankowski, All Rights Reserved


Modeling Guns (Polygonal modeling)

Ian Mankowski

04/16/2003

The front part is created by using a beveled disc. The front section has been rotated to match
the profile drawing. To keep the polygons parallel, the points at the back end of the cylinder
were manually pushed into place.

Additional detail is created simply through beveling and scaling. Generally four bevels to
make a curve. I'd use more if it was bigger detail, but for as subtle as this detail is, four is
enough.
The emitter housing is simply created by creating a sphere on another layer with its axis
aligned the front of the gun. This will allow us to scale the first set of points slightly after the
boolean so we get something of a beveled edge.
The finished boolean with additional bevels and scaling of points with bandsaw. Don't delete
the sphere from your other layer which you used to cut with. We'll use it in the next step.
Now with the sphere in the other layer, move it to fit within the emitter housing and align it
along the axis of fire. This will ensure our texture alignment problems in the future are kept
to a minimum, delete the unnecessary polygons.
Here I come upon an interesting problem. Upon beveling and scaling the main gun, I find that
it doesn't magically mesh with the front of the gun like it does in my drawing. You'll find this
happen from time to time. Drawing something does not necessarily mean it's doable. I
imagine this problem crops up quite a bit more often with concept drawings to real model
pipelines. In anycase, we need a solution.
My crude, if effective solution is to copy the two pieces that make this problem and use a
boolean intersection on them to create the following piece.
Here I've beveled the piece and moved all of the pieces onto the same layer. I've then used
the merge points command to merge the pieces together.
I want to continue the groove running down the side of the gun, so I select the following
polygons.
Copy them to a new layer, and build a new polygon from them that extends along the entire
length of the front of the gun.
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Copyright 2003, Ian Mankowski, All Rights Reserved


Modeling Guns (Polygonal modeling)

Ian Mankowski

04/16/2003

Finished boolean.

You'll notice that the gun no longer matches the profile outline. Another of those translation
differences between pencil and paper and the actual model. The change is simply cause the
model looks rather unwieldy if it were to actually match the guns profile drawing. Note
however that the changes are technical, problem solving issues, not complicated design
decisions, so our work on the paper remains valid and useful.
The groove along the side was cut with a boolean operation using a simple capsule.
The top cover plate is created by smooth shifting a profile drawn using the pen tool.
Then a series of bevels to create the specific shape.
The back was bandsawed multiple times and points pushed to get a rounded extrusion shape.
Then the shape was beveled multiple times to achieve the heat sink effect. I do recommend
Smoo for this part, I would hate to try and do this with LightWave's built in bevel tool.
Here the back of the gun is created. The technique here is slightly different. Instead of beveling
the back facing polygon, I split it into two polies. One that defines the rounded curve up top
and the rest of it. Then I extruded the rounded curve to match the profile, deleted the lower
poly, and created a new poly in the empty space defined by the profile.
Welding points along the middle of this piece, enabled me to clean the mesh up and prevent
the smoothing errors that would have appeared otherwise.
A smooth shifted box is used as the boolean cut for the back of the gun.
Here the box has been sheared and duplicated in preparation for the boolean.
The finished boolean.
Right, so the additional screw is simply a duplicate of the old screws on the handle that have
been duplicated and moved into place. Do a cleanup pass. First merge points. 675 errant
points were merged together in this case. Then open up the statistics panel (w key) and delete
all of the one and two sided polygons. On the inside face, delete all polygons and all points that
are supposed to lie on the axis of symmetry, select them all and set their value to 0, this will
ensure that when we mirror, we get exactly what we want.
After texturing and rendering.
Copyright 2003, Ian Mankowski, All Rights Reserved