7 reasons to learn low-poly modeling
Mondlicht Studios CEO David Schäfer takes a look at low-poly modeling and explains why it is an essential skill that all modelers should learn…
Low-poly modeling does not necessarily mean to do what you usually do, but just in a lower resolution. Depending on the task, there are different areas, quality needs, and specifications to think about. The rendering power of our technology is advancing every day, but the less data we use, the more we can use. To find out how low-poly modeling could benefit you in your career we talked to low poly expert and CEO of Mondlicht Studios, David Schäfer.
AR/VR is becoming more and more popular, and demand in the industry is rising. There is no secret that the less data you use, the better performance you get. Unfortunately, nowadays there is no option to get very heavy, high-poly models working on a high framerate. The reduction of data without worsening the final result is a very difficult, challenging, and exciting task. And that is why low-poly modeling is so popular. Using the right workflow, you can achieve both outstanding quality and high performance.
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Created models can be used in any 3D application, but low-poly models can be used in real-time applications pretty well too. This means that the amount of projects you can work on will be much broader. Moreover, high demand for low-poly experts will allow you to work on very interesting projects challenging the boundaries of what’s possible.
Also, you can easily share the model with the client online, for example, using webGL technology or Google Sketchfab. You can also create beautiful and very complex configurations with a minimal amount of data.
“For over three years, Maksym and I were working on several automotive low-poly car configurations and data prep. We have developed tools and workflows to create nice low-poly models from CAD data. We do not crunch or reduce the data, we completely recreate every part of the car in every available combination. Now the smart car configuration is online, and it works very smoothly, that wouldn’t be possible without the low-poly workflow we developed”
- David Schäfer
David Schäfer telling about the creation of the smart car configuration
It improves your modeling skills
Even if you already possess excellent skills in high-poly modeling, improving your low-poly modeling will enhance your skills further and challenge you to think more outside the comfort zone of your modeling. Thinking about meshes with the priority on the lowest possible resolution versus the best visually possible result, you will inevitably face new challenges.
Things you would just create as high detail can be achieved by creating a nice texture too. Creating and using normal maps is one thing, achieving great visual results with a very limited shader is another.
“For some productions, you don't care how you get the result, as long as you get it. In the low-poly process, you take a lot of care of how you get the results”
- David Schäfer
It is a bit like crafting models with your bare hands when you create textures and make a low-resolution model “come to life.” Further, creating good meshes sometimes is like solving puzzles. It might seem like a technical task, but your creativity will be challenged a lot in the process too.
One step to high-res model
Smooth your low-poly model, and you have a pretty high-res model too. If you start right away with a high-poly model, you will only have one final result, and starting there to make it low-poly means a lot of work all over again. It is very common to create a lower resolution version and work with subdivision surfaces or smoothing.
During your low-poly studies, you’ll necessarily learn baking. It is a cool technique that will also be very helpful for a high-res workflow as well. Understanding this technique will make you a more efficient specialist. Having proper UV sets and using UDIM is another perk that will be yours.
The industry demands more and more low-poly models for real-time and XR apps. The market is increasingly looking for “VR/AR engineers” ready to handle challenging and creative tasks. Good news: there is much less competition than in traditional modeling, so if your skills are good enough, you won’t sit without a job. Another nice thing – low-poly models could be used in very diverse spheres, so you’ll be working on very different projects.