Meshwork Manual

[ Overview ] [ Topics In Depth ] [ Reference ] [ Tutorial ] [ Import/Export ]

1. Overview

1.1. Meshwork Capabilities

Meshwork is a 3D trimesh modeling program:

Meshwork is especially well suited to modeling tasks that require efficient use of polygons. The primary use for such models is in 3D action games, where the framerate (and thus playability of the game) depends directly on the number of polygons used. Meshwork is very good at producing efficient, high-quality, low-polygon objects for use in games.

Meshwork may have other applications as well. It can import and export several common 3D formats. One could, for example, model an object in Meshwork, then add it to a scene to be ray-traced with POV-Ray.

Meshwork provides a standard set of 3D editing commands, including creation primitives, transformations, lathing, and extrusion. It also allows vertex-by-vertex manipulation with the mouse or keyboard. Models can be viewed from any of the six orthogonal camera views, or from several angles at once in a "blueprint" view. If you have red/green or red/blue 3D glasses, Meshwork can display the model in stereo for true depth. Meshwork also has a powerful "hide" feature that allows you to mask off one part of the model while working on another part. It provides a variety of options for up to eight different materials, including seamless or point-by-point texture mapping.

The PowerPC version of Meshwork includes a 3D Preview feature that lets you view your model with full texture mapping, and spin it around to examine it from any angle. The preview can also be copied for posting to a scrapbook, to the web, etc.

Meshwork includes facilities for assigning bone information to the model, for use with bone-based character animation. The bones file format exported by Meshwork is publicly documented, and is used by the Magdef game framework. The 3DMF files generated by Meshwork use the proper "TriMesh" structure and are already optimized for maximum performance in games.

I believe that Meshwork is the best 3D modeler for game development available in the Mac world. Other modeler apps generate inefficient 3DMF, or produce too many triangles, or lack desirable editing features. I hope you find Meshwork useful to your project, and I am planning to continue developing and supporting it -- so let me know how I can improve it for you.

1.2. General Approach

Meshwork uses the standard Mac document paradigm: one window corresponds to one file and one 3D model. When launched without a document, Meshwork will start with a blank "Untitled" window. By default, you're looking at the model from the front; you can change the view in a variety of ways using the Camera Menu. It will behoove you to learn the keyboard shortcuts in the display menu, as it is often very handy to flip through the various views to see your model from all sides.

3D models can be created in several ways -- or more often, a combination of ways. You can create them from scratch, building up your model point by point (and to make this easier, you may paste a picture into the document background for use as a template). Or you can start with the geometric primitives available in the Create Menu, and edit and connect these to produce your model. Finally, you can begin by loading a previously saved model, or importing geometric data from some other file format.

Meshwork models are made up of several types of parts:

In Meshwork, operations are all done on the vertices. For example, to select a face, you select (by shift-clicking, or surrounding with the Marquis tool) the three vertices that are its corners. Attempting to click on the face itself will not work. Similarly, to select an edge, select its two endpoints. To cut or split an edge, you first select one endpoint, and then (using the cut or split tool) click the other endpoint.

Because many operations apply to the current set of selected vertices, you should note that command-D deselects all. There are also keyboard shortcuts for several of the tool modes, including selection; turn on balloon help and point at the tools to discover these.

Hiding and unhiding points (using the Display Menu) is very important to successful modeling. When two or more points appear to overlap, given the angle of the camera, it is difficult to know which one you're selecting. The solution is to switch to a different view, hide the section of the model you're not working on, then switch back and continue editing.

About Balloon Help
Meshwork has balloon help for all toolbar widgets, dialogs, and menu commands. You can turn balloons on or off at (almost) any time by pressing the Help key, or by using the Help menu. Moreover, if you turn on help balloons in a modal dialog, Meshwork figures you just needed help on that dialog, and turns them off again when the dialog closes. So give it a try!

To do texture mapping, or adjust other material properties, double-click one of the entries in the material palette (towards the right side of the toolbar). Here you can adjust the material color, choose smooth vs. faceted shading, or apply a texture map. See the material properties section of the reference manual for details.

Meshwork is shareware -- you're welcome to try it for free, but if you use it for any reasonable amount of time, please pay the registration fee. That is currently only $30, and it entitles you to free upgrades to all future versions of the software. To register, visit the Meshwork home page or use the "About Meshwork..." menu command and click the Register button.

1.3. Finding More Information

In This Manual

The next section of this manual provides some specific advice on editing complex 3D models, texture mapping, and using bonens.

Section 3: Reference provides information on all the Meshwork tools and menu commands, as well as the file format. If you don't understand something in Meshwork and balloon help isn't sufficient, that's the place to look.

The final section presents a tutorial, taking you step by step through the process of creating a simple model. If you've never used Meshwork before, I recommend you follow this, or at least read it, as it will be the fastest way to learn Meshwork's capabilities and how to use them effectively.

On the Internet

Here are some web sites which may be of interest to users of Meshwork:

Suggested Reading

Rogers, D., and J. Adams: Mathematical Elements for Computer Graphics. This is a great reference for coding 3D graphics yourself. Granted, with all the libraries and tools available these days, few people need to do that anymore -- but if you're curious, this book explains how it's done.

(Other reading suggestions? Let me know!)

Contact Information
Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions, or other comments.

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