Purpose: To introduce object properties and reinforce the utilization of Hotkeys.

Objective: To become familiar with the basics of editing objects leading up to creating a simple snowman!

Manipulating the Sphere

Primitive Objects are the building blocks for 99% of the Models you will see in Major Motion Pictures, Commercials, and Video Games. Take a human head for example – it has very much in common with a 3D Sphere. What other household, everyday objects can be associated with primitive shapes? The answer: Everything.

The fact is using a bit of abstract thinking; everything and anything can be reduced to simple, primitive shapes. Modelers especially make use of this technique. Therefore it is essential that we understand the ways in which to create and manipulate these simple shapes.

We will start with the Polygonal Sphere. Using the same sphere from the previous Module, let’s start out with mastering the rest of the Transform tools.

  • Make sure your sphere is selected
  • Select the (R) button under the Transform header in the MCP to access the Rotate Tool.
  • In the Camera View select and drag any of the colored circles located within the sphere.
  • Just as the Transform tool moves objects along the XYZ coordinates, so too does the rotate tool.
  • Spend a few minutes rotating and translating the sphere while switching back and forth to the navigation mode to orbit, track and dolly around your sphere from different angles. To assist in this, use the following Hotkeys.

Translate & Rotate Hotkeys

(Spacebar) – Object Selection Mode
(F) – Frame selection in view
(C) – Rotate object
(V) – Translate object

Tip: You can lock any axis (handle) by double clicking it in a view: This is the same as selecting an axis under the Transform menu in the MCP. Double click to return to all axes.

** Becoming familiar with these Hotkeys, and switching between the different modes is PARAMOUNT to becoming comfortable with the MOD Tool. Spend at least a few minutes on this to ensure you understand the hotkeys and how to manipulate the sphere.

And finally, let’s experiment with the Scale Tool.

  • Make sure the sphere is selected
  • Select the (S) button under the Transform header in the MCP to access the Scale Tool.
  • In the Camera or Orthographic views select any of the colored boxes (aka handles) and drag them.

Note: The Hotkey to access the Scale Tool is (X)
Note: By dragging a handle, you will only be able to transform the object on the coordinate line you selected – which becomes very useful later.


  • To scale the object uniformly, select and drag the center yellow box. This is the Model center, or Origin point.

Dragging the Origin point can also utilized in the Translate tool.

  • By translating the sphere by its origin point, it will not be constrained to a specific axis – which can lead to unpredictable results and is not recommended as you might move the object in a way that is not evident at first glance.
  • Normally, dragging an object by its Origin point is reserved for the Scale tool – as it will uniformly scale the object, which is often desired when scaling a primitive object.

SRT Axis Text Boxes

Now that we can manipulate our object via the 3 Transform tools, try inserting numeric values into the text boxes to the left of the (S)cale, (R)otate and (T)ranslate tools. This is often useful to enter in approximate values; for example, rotating the sphere 90 degrees on the Z axis.

After you enter in a value, simply hit the (Enter) key or mouse select another SRT Axis text box.

Now that we know how to transform our sphere and navigate around the Viewports, let’s dig in a little further on the properties of a sphere:

Object Properties

  • Press the Spacebar to return to Object Selection Mode and ensure that your sphere is selected.
  • Press the Enter key to open the currently selected object’s properties.
  • Begin by adjusting the slider next to Radius. This is a quick way to adjust the Radius dimensions of your object.

Note: Remember when we first created the sphere this object properties window opened? Before you even get started with the Transform tools you can affect many properties of your object through the properties window alone. And of course you can always return to the properties window as we just did using the (Enter) key on any selected object.

Tip: While in the Object properties window, holding (SHIFT) while dragging a slider will allow for a more precise value to be yielded. As well, holding (CTRL) will provide the opposite effect. Be sure to try out these techniques as you explore ANY slider bar in XSI.

  • Next, under Geometry adjust the Subdivisions sliders and observe how the sphere becomes smoother as the number of Subdivisions increases. As well, if we bring them down to 4 or 5, our sphere becomes very simplified and barely resembles a sphere.

U = Horizontal
V = Vertical

  • We can also type in numeric values for the U/V subdivisions. And though the sliders only go up to 24 by default, you can type in much higher values – try entering 100 into both the U/V fields. The sphere becomes nearly perfect and is completely smooth.
  • Dolly in closer to the object and orbit around to observe these changes better. Feel free to maximize the Camera Viewport using the Resize Icon towards the upper right hand corner to get a better view.

Now say we only wanted half a circle?

  • Return the U/V subdivisions to a smaller value to better observe the change we are about to make.
  • Under the Extent (Angles) header in the options box, drag the Start U slider to about 180 (or type in 180 in place of the 0).
  • Now assume we actually wanted the other half of the sphere to disappear? Adjust the Start U slider to 360, and the End U slider to 180. This reverses the effect.
  • Let’s take this one step further and cut this half-sphere in half again. Adjust the Start V slider to 90. We know have ¼ of a hollow sphere.

Spend a few minutes adjusting the Extent Angles and see how many interesting shapes you can create using just the sphere as your “template” to sculpt from.

  • Every Primitive object you create has similar properties you can adjust, and doing so is highly encouraged from the start. The less tweaking of an object you need to do later, the better.

Combining what we know of the Transform and Navigation tools, practice navigating around your object in the Camera view utilizing Hotkeys to switch between the object and navigation modes, while adjusting its properties. View your changes from as many angles as you can.

The key here is to master the Hotkeys and understanding the basic Object properties.

Hotkey Review:

(Spacebar) – Object Selection Mode
(S) – Navigation Mode
(C) – Rotate object
(V) – Translate object
(X) – Scale Object
(F) – Frame selection in view
(A) – Frame all objects in a scene
(R) – Reset Camera

Now let’s apply everything we’ve learned so far with a few fun exercises!

Exercise 1:

Fun with Primitive Shapes!

  • Close the properties window and create a new scene from File > New Scene.

Note: you do not need to save the last scene.

  • Enable shading in the Camera Viewport
  • Create at least 4 Polygon Mesh Primitives from the Toolbar

Get > Primitive > Polygon Mesh > Cone, Cube, Cylinder, Disc, Dodecahedron, Soccer Ball, etc.

  • Using the Transform tools move your objects away from each other so they are not intersecting so you can get a better view of each.
  • Remember that you can use the (F) Hotkey to frame a currently selected (or newly created) Object in your Active Viewport (Orthographic or Camera Views)
  • Use all of your other Hotkeys to quickly switch between selecting an Object, transforming it, returning to Object Select mode, selecting a new object and transforming it. All the while your Objects Properties box will change depending on the object you have selected, allowing you to edit its properties as you move about your scene.
  • Observe the differences in the options available to you as you select the different Primitive shapes. Most do not have as many as a sphere, but nearly all will allow you to increase the Subdivisions to create a richer and smoother surface.

Remember, you can elect to go Full Screen at any time to get a better view! But above all else, Master these Hotkeys, they are the building blocks to becoming a Pro-Modeler in the XSI MOD Tool.

Exercise 2:

Create a Snowman!

  • Close the properties window and create a new scene from File > New Scene.

Note: you do not need to save the last scene.

  • Enable shading in the Camera Viewport.
  • Create 3 Spheres, each one a little smaller then the last (use the radius slider to shrink your spheres), and “stack” them on top of each other to form the body of our snowman.
  • Use the Resize Icon to maximize the Camera Viewport and utilize the Navigation Hotkeys to back away from your spheres to get a better view.

Remember: As you create each new Primitive, it will always spawn at the Origin (0,0,0). So even though you might not see it at first (buried in the snowman’s body), simply press (V) upon creating a new object and translate it outside of the object its hiding in. The Orthographic views can help here too as they are a wireframe view of everything in the scene. Press the (F) key to frame a newly created object and (V) to translate it out of the snowman’s body!

  • Create a cone primitive, and translate it up to the head, rotate the cone till it resembles the familiar carrot shape protruding from our snowman’s face. Use the scale tool and object properties of the cone to further tailor the shape of the cone nose (adjust the height, scale and radius).
  • Create 1 cylinder, translate and rotate it upwards towards the face. Reduce the Radius and height to resemble a coal sized eye and spend a few minutes lining it up on the snowman’s face where the left eye should go.
  • With the cylinder still selected, press and hold Ctrl+D to Duplicate the Cylinder. Press (V) to translate the new eye to the right side of the face.
  • Repeat this process about 5 more times to create the pieces of coal for the mouth.

TIP: You can transform multiple objects if you first select each one while holding ctrl. This makes it easier to uniformly adjust where the coals will sit on the rounded face instead of one at a time strictly.

TIP 2: While in any transform tool, while also holding the (S) key, you can temporarily activate the Navigation Tools so long as the (S) key is depressed. This saves you time from manually switching between modes over and over while you are transforming an object. PRACTICE this technique rigorously.

TIP 3: To deselect an object simply drag a box that does not intersect with any object (while in object selection mode only) – press the spacebar first to exit out of any transform tool, then drag a box somewhere away from your snowman.

Remember: You can input numbers manually into the object properties if the slider control is too difficult to use for such a small scale. Decimal values ARE accepted (0.25, etc)

  • Create 2 more cylinders, 1 for the stick arm, and 1 for a stick finger. Adjust 1 to be about an arm’s length and width. Position it so that it is jutting outwards towards the top of the middle sphere at a slightly upward angle. Adjust the other cylinder to be a much smaller representation of a stick finger and move it to the end of the arm.
  • Duplicate the finger 2 times and position them so it resembles a bird foot extending from the tip of the arm. Ideally, you will want the fingers to be arranged so all 3 can be seen from a head-on view (1 low, 1 mid, 1 high). Spend as much time as you need positioning the fingers and making the arm as a whole look good to you.
  • Duplicate the arm cylinder and reposition it on the other side of the snowman, rotating and translating as needed. And finally do the same for each finger.

It will take some fine tuning and patience to get the fingers to line up in a visually pleasing way (angle). This is perfect practice for becoming familiar with the Object and Navigation Hotkeys we have learned thus far.

Voila, Snowman.

  • Feel free to save your work in the Scenes Directory under the Haus of Mapping Curriculum Project Path.

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