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What Are NURBS?

Modeling comes in three flavors in Maya: NURBS, Subdivision Surfaces, and polygons. Most 3D animation products work entirely with polygons, objects made from fixed 3D triangles. Subdivision Surfaces are a kind of variation on polygons, in which a smooth surface is controlled by a coarse surface. Maya offers another complex and powerful modeling system known as NURBS—Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines. Think of them as 3D curvy sheets in space. They have their own rules and limitations for how you can build, attach, and cut them, but in general, they are quite flexible. A major advantage of NURBS is that they remain as pure curves—mathematical constructs—in Maya. You can choose to have more or less detail in your 3D views or renderings at any time. The faceted, low-resolution look that often occurs when creating curved surfaces with polygons is easily handled in NURBS models, which can display curved surfaces as virtually any number of polygons.

NURBS modeling is not simply putting objects together. Unlike fixed polygons (which were covered in Chapter 5), NURBS create 3D objects from curves and surfaces. Therefore, NURBS can be modeled in a variety of ways. Those who enjoy building the topology of a character's face and body will definitely find NURBS modeling an enjoyable alternative to SubDs.


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