Syllabus: CS22 Intro to 3d modeling

Instructor:             Lorie Loeb

Office:                    Sudikoff 163


Office Phone:        603.686.8726

Office Hours:        Thursdays 11-1 PM or by appointment. 

X-hours:                Attendance at all x-hours is mandatory

Special Session:     If you are new to Maya, you need to attend a Maya Bootcamp on Thursday, January 3, 6-7:30 PM in Sudikoff 005

Image from Coco ©Disney/Pixar

Image from Coco ©Disney/Pixar

Mira Ram. S18 Term

Mira Ram. S18 Term

Jessica Sun

Jessica Sun

Course Description

This course teaches the principles and practice of 3D digital modeling, with some instruction on materials, textures, lighting, rigging, and rendering.  You will gain a fundamental understanding of polygons, subdivision surfaces, NURBS and splines along with deformations and editing in order to create models using Maya’s 3D software.  You will develop skills in 3D design and apply these in a series of assignments that will end in the creation of a fully rigged biped model complete with skeleton, inverse and forward kinematics and motion controls. In addition to class time, you must spend a significant number of hours in the lab completing homework and gaining proficiency with the tools. 

Class will meet every x-hour: you are required to attend.

There will also be a mandatory special session in the first week for students who have not worked with Maya before. (Thursday, January 3rd 6-7:30 PM in Sudikoff 005)

Dist: TLA.

Course requirements and grading

You are given weekly lab assignments that are completed during the week and turned in for review.  Assignments are evaluated against a set of technical criteria as well as on aesthetic quality.  Late assignments will impact your grade.  Turn in whatever you have…on time! 

How to succeed in this course

Do the work (keep up with the assignments), do it early (don’t wait until the night before it’s due), do it regularly (better to work some every day than to do one long session in the lab), turn it in on time (late assignments will result in a lowered grade and keep you from having your work critiqued by the class), show up (ask questions, participate during discussions, come ready to work), be here now (don’t plan do email or work on other courses during class time), revise your work (I accept revised work up until the end of the term and will revise grades accordingly), have fun (you know how to do it).  

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the principles of 3D modeling.

  • Know what makes a model "good", including a clean topology and edge flow, project structure, and texture-mapping.

  • Learn the principles and techniques of environment modeling, lighting and rendering.

  • Gain comfort working in Maya software to create a model, texture and rig.

  • Design and execute a character model that is fully rigged and ready to animate.

Teaching Methods

Our class sessions will consist of short lectures, critiques of your work, film screenings, demonstrations, workshop and play.  The lectures will be about concepts underlying the work we do in class.  You are encouraged to ask questions. I have always found that if one person has a question, others do to; asking your question will benefit the entire class.  Critiques are a critical part of the digital arts courses.  We use this time to look at each other’s work, discuss what works, why it works, what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t work, how it could be improved.  These are a central part of the course and attendance at critiques is mandatory.  It is during this process that you will learn the most. Film screenings will allow you to see modeling applied to finished animations and help you see what a good model looks like.  Demonstrations generally happen during the second half of the class or in x-hours.  These will usually be accompanied by a written tutorial.  You are encouraged to follow along during these demonstrations as many new bits of information will arise during these times.  Workshops are times when you will work on your homework in class.  The TA’s and I will move around the room, helping you as needed or simply looking over your shoulder. The play part of the course will be the quick model competitions and a party in which you will have fun while working as a team to complete models. 


Environment modeling assignment: 30%

Abstract project 20%

Character model and animation: 30%

Class Attendance, Practice Sheets, and Participation 20%

NOTE Grading of each assignment is based on turning in weekly assignments on time, the quality of the final product, and revisions of work.


Missing more than 1 class (without a doctor’s note) or late arrival to class will result in a lowered grade.

Class Culture

We expect all students to participate fully and to take risks in their work. This means trying things that may not work. To that end, it is expected that everyone is treated with respect and civility. Students should conduct themselves professionally, help each other, and refrain from impolite language. Students come into this class from a mix of backgrounds, skills, and interests. Please acknowledge the different viewpoints and state biases up front when possible. Feedback should be provided as a source of learning and feedback should be received in the spirit of learning, too.

What is a “good” model?

A good model is:

  • Made with a good, clean, optimized geometry:

  • Rounded corners when appropriate

  • Clean edges that flow through the model

  • Made with quads or triangles

  • Includes “enough” detail for the intended use

  • But not too much detail so that it is needlessly heavy

  • The surface normals all point in the correct direction

  • You have eliminated unnecessary faces

  • Made with a good workflow

  • Built with the final use in mind.

  • Textured so that the image is not stretched and there are no unnecessary seams.

  • Textured nicely to add detail and life to the model.

  • Uses shading materials in ways that add to the aesthetic design.

  • Includes displacement maps, reflection maps, etc.

  • Is lit in a way that adds emotion to the image, creates a sense of time, place, and 3d space.

  • Looks lived in

  • Rigged properly for motion

Tutorials worth watching (through Dartmouth library) 

Books (optional) worth reading

Digital Lighting and Rendering (3rd Edition) (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 978-0321928986

Rig it Right! Maya Animation Rigging Concepts

ISBN-13: 978-0240820798

The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression (Hardcover)

Anatomy for 3D Artists: The Essential Guide for CG Professionals

ISBN-13: 978-1909414242

Honor Code

Dartmouth follows a strict honor code as described here. In this class, it is expected that all work is original—you made it. If you use any models that aren’t yours, you must cite them clearly and make note of it during any in-class critiques or discussions about that work. In other words, if you borrow something a model or texture from an online source or from a classmate you must cite it and be clear during class discussions about your work that you didn’t make it but got it from another source (and cite that source).

Religious Observance

Some students may wish to take part in religious observances that occur during this academic term. If you have a religious observance that conflicts with your participation in the course, please meet with me before the end of the second week of the term to discuss appropriate accommodations.

Disability Policy

Students with disabilities who may need disability-related academic adjustments and services for this course are encouraged to see me privately as early in the term as possible. Students requiring disability-related academic adjustments and services must consult the Student Accessibility Services office in Carson Hall 125 or by phone: 646-9900 or email: 

Once SAS has authorized services, students must show the originally signed SAS Services and Consent Form and/or a letter on SAS letterhead to me. As a first step, if you have questions about whether you qualify to receive academic adjustments and services, you should contact the SAS office. All inquiries and discussions will remain confidential.

Wellness Services on Campus

The academic environment at Dartmouth is challenging, our terms are intensive, and classes are not the only demanding part of your life. There are a number of resources available to you on campus to support your wellness, including your undergraduate dean (, Counseling and Human Development (, and the Student Wellness Center ( I encourage you to use these resources to take care of yourself throughout the term, and to come speak to me if you experience any difficulties.