Unwrapping the Potential of 3D Medical Animation

So I attended a cool online UV Unwrapping class from Kurv Studios and Flay.com that took place over the last couple of Saturdays, and it introduced me to a very helpful technique when texturing models in Lightwave, as well as helped to reinforce concepts learned in previous 3D applications.

When texturing a realistic 3D model, whether for medical 3D animations or any other purpose, it is very helpful to have a single, organized texture map to apply over the entire model. Usually for medical animations, the texture map will consist of a variety of different source images taken from medical research photos and documentation, which is then arrayed over the UV mesh and blended together to create a single, detailed image that an artist can modify. One of the trickiest parts of the process, however, is setting the UV Texture coordinates of your 3D model, a process known as Unwrapping.

The easiest way to imagine unwrapping is to picture a rubber mask, the kind you would find at the Party City around Halloween time, maybe one of Frankenstein’s Monster, or the Wolfman. Imagine this mask is just matte gray, and you wanted to paint it. Well, when the mask is all shaped out and rounded, it is harder to paint on all the little details, so the best way to achieve this is to flatten it out. Now imagine you took a pair of scissors to the back of the mask, and cut a line straight from the base of the neck to the top of the head. After this cut, you could then flatten the mask out wide on a table and begin painting. In a nutshell, this is the process of unwrapping.

Lightwave’s standard UV Unwrap tools don’t give you the freedom to choose where you make the cut, though. That’s where Flay.com’s PLG_Tools plugin comes in. PLG allows you to pick exactly which edges you’re going to use to unfold the “mask,” which is tremendously helpful and time-saving. Additionally, it assists in breaking a model’s textured portions up into “parts,” which can be individually arrayed and automatically scaled across your texture map. This allows the 3D modeler to remain organized when working on the texture, as he or she can now more easily tell the difference on the map between arms and legs, hands and feet.

As I’ve said, a more detailed, organized, and consistently scaled texture map can go a long way toward helping any realistic 3D medical model (or any other 3D model for that matter) to achieve maximum optimization. And for the medical field, better 3D medical models mean more accurate studies in medical processes, training videos for doctors and nurses, and better overall knowledge by the medical community. I’m proud to be a part of the effort in bringing such knowledge to my fields, both in medical and marketing aspects, with DDA and DDA Medical.