I was proud of my last article on InstaLOD XL Studio. I was short on time and wanted to get something out that showcased the power of the tool without diving into the technical aspects. With this in mind, I bashed together a pitiful looking creature mesh that was over 8 million polys and then reduced it down to a ridiculously low polycount with no idea how to really use the software.
While the software was well received the mesh caught the attention of some fellow modelers that took me to task for using an unrealistic mesh. One that would never see the “light of day much less a game engine in the real world.”
The mesh was indeed a rat's nest of kitbashed parts that a super newb adolescent modeler would be proud of… but not so much for someone that should know better. Accepting my fate, I asked for a model, one that could be shared (i.e. legit) in case anyone wanted to try it for themselves and an acceptable scenario for its use.
I was presented with a download of a military helicopter that weighed in at 85K.
I thought they wanted this optimized and it turns out that was indeed the case. They wanted to be able to use formations on the ground and in the air for a cutscene. While this was not a real-world case, I could see an indie running into this problem with no video VFX artist on board to do it digitally. That left doing it with mesh in the real-time engine.
The model in question is an SH-60 SeaHawk. It is multi-mesh with UV mapping even though the download page indicates otherwise. I used the OBJ version for this article. The model itself seemed clean enough but I did have to remove some U.S. Air Force insignia that was erroneously painted near the NAVY markings. It bugged me.
The original mesh coming in at a little over 85K.
With the original mesh weighing at 85K I drag and dropped the OBJ version into the workspace and move the slider down to 10 percent on the OP tab. This produced a nice reduction down to a little over 8K. All was well until I spied the wheels… which were anything but wheels after the processing. They were more like a rough triangle.
Everyone is happy until the landing… those optimized wheels might cause a problem or two.
Next, I jumped over to the RE tab and chose Optimize. If I was just looking around without any help or documents… oh, wait ... that is what I'm doing. I would think this would be the best way because it has the keyword… optimized.
I would be wrong too. It was actually in the middle range of weight reduction at almost 7K… 6,979 to be exact. It looked good and even the wheels were round… at least round enough for our purposes. But could it do better?
Much better lines overall and the wheels are round!
From here I stayed on the RE tab and changed from Optimize to Reconstruct and this is where I hit the jackpot in this little challenge. The mesh weighed in at a mere 4K with decently round wheels. This was a solid reduction. With the original coming in at 85K this means you could put almost 20 of these flying beasts on screen with the same polycount! That is substantial and real world.
A great-looking, optimized model at a little over 4K.
Once again I was out of time, so I couldn't pursue any further optimization, but the results were good enough at this point to prove the concept. Overall, we have gone from one helicopter at 85K to 20 helicopters at 86K! All the while retaining enough form of the original model to still look good.
When you consider I have been in digital 3D since the Dark Ages, you know I have fought mesh polycount for as long as I can remember. Decimation has not always been friendly.
All I can say at this point is… damn… this old hacker dawg is impressed.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.