The main 3D sculpting and animation programs we use to build most of our large scale environments and individual objects are Maya, 3D Studio Max and ZBrush
3D Studio Max and Maya
Maya and 3D Studio Max are industry standard applications used to create interactive and rendered content. They can be used to manipulate, create, optimize, texture and animate three dimensional information from multiple sources. This lets us deliver bespoke stills, animated or real-time content for our simulations. The software enables our designers to produce realistic and highly immersive hard surface imagery from environments to assets.
ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that allows modelling, texturing and painting within 3D and 2.5D environments.
Working in 2.5D allows 3D objects to be placed within a 2D image, that may, for example, be used as a texture within a 3D scene. The added 3D object merges with the 2D image but retains its depth information hence the 2.5D tag. This means that when used within a 3D scene light falling onto the 2.5D texture responds to the height information retained and behaves more realistically.
The main affordance offered by Zbrush compared with Max and Maya is that ZBrush can be used like sculpting clay and has the ability to work with vastly higher polycounts: reaching up-to 40 million polygons. We use ZBrush to manipulate scan data prior to a process called retopologising (see section 3). Zbrush also gives us the ability to create organic forms from scratch.
A further application of Zbrush involves meshing information extracted from DICOM files. DICOM is a file format used to handle and communicate medical images. We are taking data from DICOM files produced, for example via CT scanning, to create 3D resources that can be deployed within Unity 3D and used to support teaching via personal computer and/or are projected using our immersive classroom environments powered by our VERT and Immersive Technologies systems.