Create Realistic 3D Models and Animation using Asymmetry

By Geoff Beatty

When you’re creating an animated character there are many things you need to consider. 3D modeling and the animation process, by default, requires constant evaluation and decision-making. That’s why it’s helpful to group the thousands of visual choices you need to make into available into basic, fundamental principles. One of the most important elements is asymmetry.

Modeling Perfection
The dictionary defines asymmetry as an inequality between two parts, and in the world of mathematics, this is usually not ideal. But in the context of design (and in 3D modeling and animation in particular) asymmetry is vitally important in establishing interest and believability. Asymmetry helps to establish believability because we live in a world where things are naturally assymetrical. 

Asymmetry helps to establish variation from one thing to another, in this case left to right, and makes the subject look more interesting.

symmetry_faceFor a basic example of asymmetry look no further than the human face. Take a look at the image above, which face looks more natural? The image on the left is natural, while the one on the right is mirrored, or symmetrical.

Achieving Asymmetry
Now how does this translate into the context of 3D modeling and animation?  How do we achieve asymmetry while creating a character in a program like Maya? Don’t fret, there are some simple ways to do this:

1. Create, Mirror, then Modify

A common approach to modeling characters is to work on one half and then mirror the geometry to the other side. This is a smart way to work, as it resembles the rough symmetry of most characters and simultaneously cuts the work in half.

Still this leaves us with a completely symmetrical model when we want something more believable. It looks, for lack of a better word, “computer-ish.” You can avoid this by simply altering certain elements of one side of the model through scaling or sculpting or using lattice deformers.

symmetry_modelModifying small elements will help bring life and believability to your model.

2. Animate with Style

How do we incorporate asymmetry into animation? While posing a model consider a more dynamic, more readable pose. During animation, motion curves representing opposite sides of the body can be offset to provide a sort of temporal asymmetry.  This creates a pleasant overlap and flexibility to a characters action, an important step in creating a believable sense of weight.

symmetry_pose

Asymmetry, is a vital step in making your characters believable. The presence of asymmetry not only brings your characters to life, but indicates to the viewer, you thought about the design, both as a modeler and animator. You can learn more about 3D modeling by going to a 3D art and computer graphics camp, with the latest animation and modeling tools at your disposal, you’ll be creating 3D art in no time.