Subdivision Surface Modeling
This is a modeling technique for making high-resolution models, by manipulating a lower-resolution "cage" model and using software to subdivide for a smoother surface.
Subdividing increases the number of vertices on the model, making curves more rounded. Usually each subdivision level increases the vertex count 4x the original count.
For game artists, "high-poly hard-surface" usually means creating mechanical/constructed models, which are used to bake into Normal Maps and other types of textures, which are in turn used on lower-resolution game-friendly models.
Subdivision surfaces can also be used for organic shapes.
Not to be confused with SmoothingGroups. Sometimes the term "box modeling" is used, though this applies only to the cage modeling process, not to the subdivision.
There are many ways to subdivide models. 3ds Max uses mostly the Meshsmooth or Turbosmooth modifiers, while Maya uses mostly the Smooth Mesh Preview (3 key) or Subdiv Proxy.
Beware: Maya's "Subdivision Surface" system is a specialized case which allows different subdivision levels in different areas; this is different from most other modeling tools which divide the whole model instead.
Many tools now support Pixar's OpenSubdiv library which may help solve this issue. However the full modeling pipeline should be tested early, to avoid costly errors later on.
Some 3d modeling tools support edge creasing, which allows setting subdivision tension on specific edges. This creates degrees of edge "hardness".
These crease weights typically only work within the original modeling software and are not exportable.
Models made for games are often exported to work with multiple modeling and baking tools... trying to export a model with creases or local subdivisions may not retain the original modeler's intent.
subdivisionmodeling.com: The POLE from the defunct subdivisionmodeling.com
gotwires Got Wires is all about Subdivision Modeling: Video Tutorials, Sub-D Wires and Modeling Resources.
Subdivision surface - Wikipedia has good technical info about sub-d.
How The F*#% Do I Model This? - Reply for help with specific shapes thread on the Polycount Forum.
Using ProBooleans in 3ds Max for sub-d modeling Polycount forum thread.
Matte Metal Tutorial - by Philip 'Philipk' KlevestavModeling and texturing a sci-fi metal plate wall using 3ds Max and Photoshop. More modeling and texturing tutorials at http://www.philipk.net/tutorials.html.
modeling hi poly weapons is painful, any tips? from the Polycount Forum.
Technical highpoly workflow tutorial and scripts from the Polycount Forum.
Tips & Tricks
- How The F*#% Do I Model This? - Reply for help with specific shapes - (Post attempt before asking) Polycount forum thread.
- Polyhertz's 3dsMax script - 'Quick High-Poly'
- select every other edge on collapsed subdivided mesh - 3dsmax Polycount forum thread (how to reverse-engineer a subdivided mesh)