Modeling a fish with Animation Master, of Giulio Porta, all rights reserved.

Before you begin, please read this tutorial to become acquainted with the most commonly use tools in A:M.

A:M has a unique way of dealing with interface navigation and modeling, please try not to indulge in figuring things out on your own. Reading The most frequently used tools in A:M will speed up this program's understanding.

The illustration here below shows the fish at a more advanced stage of production, the modeling is almost complete and photograph has been applied to it as a texture. The reason why I selected a fish as a subject matter is because of its simple form, easy to model and its fluid movements that can be simulated well in A:M using a simple rig.

In this project we'll use A:M patches to model a fish. The fish will be eventually textured and animated in separate tutorials.

Patches are the most advance type of geometry available in 3D graphic programs. They are similar to NURBS but easier to use. Martin Hash's patches are proprietary of Hash Inc. and they cannot be found in other 3D programs. 

You must have the Project Workspace open to work effectively in A:M. The Project Workspace when selected will be at the left of your screen.

To open it go to the top menu to View and scroll down to select Project Workspace.

 

In the project workspace look for the Object folder  R + click on the Objects folder and select New > Model.

 

 

 

 

A New > Model work space will open up. This is where you'll build your model. This space is two dimensional, very much like the surface of a wall, if you look at the bottom right of the space, you'll see a symbol representing the two dimensions you'll be working with: the Y represented by a green line (axis) and the X represented by a red line. In this two dimensional space is activate by # 2 in your numeric key board. In this space or view you'll be drawing the cross section of a fish. A cross section is an imaginary or real plane that cuts through the shortest dimension of an object.
New Model work space
Select the Add Mode icon. The Add Mode tool will allow to draw a continuous Spline (an editable line) that can be extruded, or pushed out into the 3rd dimension into what will be the body of the fish.

A Spline is lay out point by point by clicking on the screen, don't drag you mouse in between clicks. You can begin like in figure 1 and close the shape like in figure 2. To close the shape go back to the starting point and click on the first point you laid out.

 

Let's begin by drawing a cross section of the fish at its largest point, the area around its belly.

Hit the numeric key 2 in the numeric key pad to be in the front view, please refer to The most frequently used tools in A:M tutorial for further explanations concerning how to navigate from the Front to the Top and sides views using the numeric key pad.

 

 

Use the same number of points that I have used in the example here to the left.

Make sure that the shape is symmetrical, but it doesn't have to be perfectly symmetrical.

You can drag around the shape to select it, scale it proportionally and translate it (move it), but to change its shape vertically or horizontally you got to use the scale tool.

Once the Scale Mode tool is activated you can grab the red X or the green Y axis knobs and scale the shape to make the belly of the fish narrower or wider.
Select the entire shape by dragging around it.

Use the Turn Tool

rotate the view so that it can see be seen at a slant (do that by dragging on the screen). What you should see is the fact that the shape of  the fish's belly has been constructed along the green Y and the red X axis, this is important because Extrusion will take place along the blue Z axis.

Click on the Extrude Mode tool to see your shape extruded.

The new volume that you'll be creating by extrusion will be hollow like a tube.
You can extrude either end of body of the fish at one time one side at the time. You can stop extruding at one end a begin on the other.

To start extruding the end cross section must be selected, you can deselect what has been selected by clicking away from it.

Each new extrusion will have to be scaled, scaling will reshape each cross section to make up the body of the fish.

Scaling will "rubber band" a selected cross section or a group of them.

Working in the front and side views (key board shortcuts 4, 8, 6 and 2) will not be enough to shape the fish's body. You need to be in the Top view (key board shortcut 5)
In a Top view you can scale specific areas of the fish, such as the tail, by using the Scale Mode tool.

The fish's mouth is done by continuing with the extrusion process, but the new cross section must be translated (moved) inward. I'm jumping the gun here, before you start shaping the mouth of the fish, you'll need to shape its beginning.
Before you start sweeping the fish mouth you'll need to shape its beginning shapr accurately. If you have never modeled a fish before, it's not a good idea to make one up, at this point before your fish becomes a sea monster a background image can be imported and used as a stencil to model your fish.
Rotoscoping is the name given to the process of importing background images to be used as stencils. These background images will not render in the final image or animation, therefore they are strictly used as guides to improve your modeling.
R + click on the name of your model and in the cascading roll out menu select New > Rotoscope.

Browse for the image that you want to use.

 

Open the rotoscope Properties panel, View > Properties. You should see a thumb nail representing the image you have selected.
Under View* make sure that you have selected the particular view that you are in, otherwise the image will not show.
You'll know that you are in the Left (# 4 on you numerical key pad) view if the Y and Z axis are visible, otherwise you'll have to change to the Right view. But if you have drawn the cross section of the fish in the Y X Front view (#2 on you numerical key pad) you should be ok.
Keep the mesh (wire frame) slightly inside the rotoscope because eventually you'll texture the fish with the same photograph.
Keys 8,9 and 0 control the 3 manners in which the model can be displayed.

Switch display mode if that can help you lining up the wire frame with the rotoscope.

If your rotoscope photo comes from the Internet most likely it is not a large (high quality) image with a lot of pixels, rather just the opposite.

You'll be able to see that if you zoom in.

 

Please don't go back to the Internet to find another photo, the one you have will do just fine.

The rotoscope photo always looks a bit rougher than the same photo when it will be applied to the fish's wire frame.

Here's the same photo applied to the fish's wire frame.
Let's not jump the gun and let's model the fish's mouth step by step. Using you rotoscope image shape the end of you fish like the beginning of the mouth is supposed to be. You can drag around one or a number of points so you can move them to their desired location.

 

 

Hit the # 4 key on your numeric key pad to see the fish from its front, select point symmetrically, click on one left or right hold down the Shift key and select the other on the opposite side. Working symmetrically will cut down your work in half.
Once the mouth starting point is shaped you can continue with its extrusion, but you got to select the entire group of points making up the lips edge, Turn your model (shortcut T on your keyboard). Select any segment on the edge by clicking on it, hit the Comma key on your keyboard, the entire edge will be selected.
The selection will look like something like this.
Click on the Extrusion tool to push the selection out.

The extrusion won't be sensitive to your situation, the program has no idea of what you want to do with it.

Keep the selection active (don't click outside of it).

Place the cursor inside the selection and drag it close to the original edge to sculpt the lip. This may work well for the top lip but not for the bottom.
To fix the bottom lip select the points that are hanging out below the original edge and move them above it.

Once you are finished with it you should group the lips and create as well name the group.

Groups and Grouping. I cannot emphasize enough how important grouping is. Any selection done with any tool or keyboard shortcut can be grouped and named. The advantage of creating groups is so that these groups, after they have been made, can be selected by name. This option can become very handy when the complexity of the model may prevent you from making clean and fast selections with marquees.
Group the lip
As soon as your lip is grouped in the project work space under Groups an acknowledgement will be made for that group, the name of that group will be by default Untitled. You will need to give it a name. Double click on it and rename it Mouth or Lips.
Groups will allow you to select specifically designated areas of a model, so you can work on them, texture them or animate them separately from the rest of the model.

One you select a group the rest of the model can be hidden, that will make modeling or the addition of details even easier.

Click on the Hide CP tool to hide the portion of a model that is not selected.

You can easily ad and third cross section to the the lips, select the lip's inner edge Extrude it and move its points inward.
Regroup the lips and rename them.
The third edge will ad more realism to the lips, because they will not end as sharply as before.
The fish now is partially complete. What are missing are the fins and texture, those will be dealt with in a separate tutorial.