AI 3D MODELING VS. TRADITIONAL 3D MODELING: THE DETAILED COMPARISON

AI 3D Modeling Vs. Traditional 3D Modeling

In the dynamic realm of 3D modeling, a groundbreaking shift is underway. Traditional methods, while still prevalent, face a challenge from the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI). The infancy of AI-generated 3D modeling is witnessing transformative strides, with tools in beta or accessible to experts. AI, encompassing text-to-3D, image-to-3D, and video-to-3D methods, not only accelerates and economizes the process but also democratizes 3D modeling for those lacking extensive technical expertise. This article explores the AI 3D Modeling Vs. Traditional 3D Modeling with detailed comparison.

The traditional methods of creating 3D models

Box Modeling

This is a basic technique where the 3D artist starts with a primitive (like a cube) and then refines its shape by subdividing the surface and manipulating vertices, edges, and faces.

AI 3D Modeling Vs. Traditional 3D Modeling

Use for

  • Industries: Video games, animation, product design.
  • Use cases: Creating characters, props, and environment elements for games and animations.
  • Model types: Characters, props, environment elements, basic product models.

Pros

Intuitive for beginners, good for creating basic shapes and structures, widely supported by 3D software.

Cons

Can be time-consuming for complex models and requires a good understanding of topology for best results.

Tools

Polygonal Modeling

In this method, the artist constructs the 3D model by specifying and connecting its constituent pieces (polygons). It’s a bit like creating a paper model but in a digital space.

AI 3D Modeling Vs. Traditional 3D Modeling

Use for

  • Industries: Film, animation, video games.
  • Use cases: Creating detailed and complex models for films, animations, and games.
  • Model types: Characters, props, vehicles, environment elements.

Pros

Allows for great control over details, is widely used and supported by most 3D software, good for creating both organic and hard-surface models.

Cons

Can be time-consuming, requires a good understanding of topology, not ideal for creating smooth, curved surfaces.

Tools

NURBS or Curve Modeling

NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-splines) or curve modeling uses curves and surfaces defined by mathematical functions. This method is often used in automotive and industrial design.

AI 3D Modeling Vs. Traditional 3D Modeling

Use for

  • Industries: Automotive design, industrial design, product design.
  • Use cases: Creating smooth, precise, and complex surfaces for products and vehicles.
  • Model types: Cars, boats, aircraft, consumer products.

Pros

Ideal for creating smooth, precise, and complex surfaces, widely used in industrial design, allows for easy modifications.

Cons

It is less intuitive than polygonal modeling, not ideal for creating complex organic shapes, and requires mathematical understanding.

Tools

Sculpting

Digital sculpting is a more artistic method where the 3D modeler “sculpts” the 3D model in a way that’s similar to sculpting play-dough in the real world.

AI 3D Modeling Vs. Traditional 3D Modeling

Use for

  • Industries: Film, video games, toy design.
  • Use cases: Creating highly detailed characters and creatures for films and games, designing toys.
  • Model types: Characters, creatures, organic forms, high-detail props.

Pros

Allows for high levels of detail, is intuitive for artists with traditional sculpting backgrounds, ideal for creating organic shapes.

Cons

Requires powerful hardware for high-resolution models, is not ideal for creating precise, hard-surface models, and often requires retopology for animation or game use.

Tools

CAD Modeling

CAD (Computer-Aided Design) modeling is often used in engineering and industrial design. It involves creating precise mathematical models, often using features like extrusions, revolutions, sweeps, and lofts.

Use for

  • Industries: Engineering, architecture, industrial design.
  • Use cases: Designing and prototyping products, creating architectural models, and designing mechanical parts.
  • Model types: Mechanical parts, architectural models, product designs.

Pros

Ideal for creating precise, mathematical models, widely used in engineering and architecture, allows for parametric design.

Cons

The steep learning curve, not ideal for creating organic shapes, requires an understanding of engineering principles.

Tools

Procedural Modeling

This method uses algorithms and mathematical functions to create 3D models automatically. It’s often used for creating complex scenes like landscapes or cityscapes.

Use for

  • Industries: Film, video games, visual effects.
  • Use cases: Creating complex scenes like landscapes or cityscapes, generating large amounts of content quickly.
  • Model types: Landscapes, cityscapes, fractal geometry, complex patterns.

Pros

Allows for creating complex models or scenes quickly, is ideal for creating large amounts of content, and allows for non-destructive workflows.

Cons

Requires understanding of algorithms and mathematical functions, less control over individual details, and can be computationally intensive.

Tools

Image-Based Modeling

This technique uses 2D images or photographs to create 3D models. It often involves techniques like photogrammetry, where multiple overlapping photographs are taken of the object or scene in order to create a panorama and stitch it together into a 3D model of an object or surface.

Use for

  • Industries: Archaeology, architecture, film, video games.
  • Use cases: Creating 3D models from photographs, digitizing real-world objects and locations.
  • Model types: Buildings, terrain, real-world objects.

Pros

It allows for creating 3D models from photographs, is ideal for digitizing real-world objects and locations, and can produce highly realistic results.

Cons

It requires high-quality source images, can be time-consuming, and results can vary based on lighting and the quality of source images.

Tools

Retopology

This is a method often used in conjunction with digital sculpting. After a high-resolution model is sculpted, it’s often necessary to create a lower-resolution version for practical use. This process of creating a new, optimized mesh is called retopology.

Use for

  • Industries: Film, video games, animation.
  • Use cases: Optimizing high-resolution models for animation or game engines, cleaning up scanned or sculpted models.
  • Model types: Optimized versions of characters, creatures, props, and other models.

Pros

Allows for optimizing high-resolution models for animation or game use, can improve the deformations of a model, essential for professional workflows.

Cons

It can be time-consuming, requires an understanding of good topology, and can be a repetitive process.

Tools

The common struggles of traditional methods

Although traditional methods provide extremely high-quality results for their respective use cases, you might have noticed a few common denominators there when it comes to the downside. Most of these methods:

  • Have a steep learning curve and are not accessible to everyone: Each method has its own unique techniques and principles that need to be learned, and mastering a 3D modeling software can take a significant amount of time and practice.
  • Are time-consuming: Many of these methods can be quite time-consuming, especially when creating detailed or complex models. This includes the process of creating the mesh model itself, as well as refining and optimizing it.
  • Have hardware requirements: Several of these methods, especially those that involve creating high-resolution models or complex scenes, can be resource-intensive and require powerful hardware to run effectively.
  • Balance of artistic and technical skills: 3D modeling often requires a balance of artistic and technical skills. Artists need to understand the principles of form, shape, and proportion but also need to master the technical aspects of 3D software. 
  • Have limitations: Each method has its own limitations and is better suited to certain types of models or tasks. For example, some methods are better for creating organic shapes, while others are better for hard-surface models.
  • Need multiple methods to be mixed: Often, a single method is not sufficient to create a model or a scene, and artists need to use a combination of methods. This requires learning and mastering multiple techniques and tools.

Suggested Post: Estimating 3D Modeling Rates & Cost For Your Project

AI in 3D modeling

Based on the input needed from the end user, AI-powered 3D model generation can be categorized into 3 subcategories:

  • Text-to-3D: This method uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to convert textual descriptions into 3D models. AI algorithms interpret the text and generate a corresponding 3D model automatically in the background. This method is particularly useful for quickly prototyping designs or for users who may not have extensive 3D modeling skills.
  • Image-to-3D: This method uses AI to convert 2D images into 3D models. The AI analyzes the image and uses depth perception and object recognition to create a 3D model. This method is useful for digitizing real-world objects or creating 3D assets from 2D concept art.
  • Video-to-3D: This method uses AI to convert video footage into 3D models or environments. The AI analyzes the video, tracking the movement of objects and people to create a 3D representation. This method is particularly useful for motion capture and creating 3D environments from real-world footage.

Benefits and limitations of AI-powered 3D content generation

With the 3D model output and experience for the end-user being largely similar with all 3 aforementioned AI-powered methods – the only difference from the user’s perspective being the input format – w’ll go through the pros and cons of Generative AI-powered 3D model creation method as a whole:

Pros of using AI-powered 3D content generation

  • Faster: AI can generate 3D models much faster than manual methods.
  • Cheaper: It can be up to 100 times cheaper per model compared to traditional 3D creation methods.
  • Accessibility/no expertise needed (potential): The process is simple and user-friendly and doesn’t require 3D modeling expertise or a team of 3D designers. To note, we marked this as a potential pro, as many of the AI-powered 3D model creation tools are not accessible to the everyday user, with limited or no coding and/or 3D modeling experience. However, at Alpha3D, we have released a demo category (shoes) to the public that you can go and play around with for free today using either text prompts or single-shot 2D images.
  • Scalable: AI can generate 3D models at scale, making it ideal for large projects or for businesses that need to create a large number of 3D models.
  • Unlocking creativity: AI, specifically natural language to 3D, has the potential to unlock novel ways of adding the extra sprinkle to visualizing and shaping the world around us. These tools have the potential to help remove the repetitive manual tasks of 3D content creation, enabling 3D designers to focus on the creative part of the process fully.

Cons of AI-powered 3D content generation

  • Limited control: While AI can generate 3D models automatically, it may not offer the same level of control over manipulating the details of the model as manual methods.
  • Quality: As previously mentioned, the quality of AI-generated 3D models can’t compete with traditional methods today. Additionally, hallucinations may occur at times.
  • New technology: As a relatively new technology, there may be limitations and challenges that are not present in more established, traditional methods.

Where and for which use cases can AI-generated 3D models be used for?

AI-generated 3D models find versatile applications across industries. 

  • In architecture and design, they aid in rapid prototyping and conceptualizing ideas. 
  • The gaming industry leverages AI-generated models for immersive environments and realistic characters. 
  • In manufacturing, AI facilitates the creation of detailed product prototypes. 
  • Additionally, AI-generated 3D models are valuable in healthcare for anatomical visualizations and simulations. 
  • Their application extends to e-commerce, allowing for interactive product displays. 
  • Whether in education for enhanced learning materials or virtual reality experiences.

AI-generated 3D models prove valuable, showcasing their adaptability and usefulness across various sectors.

Conclusion

The landscape of 3D modeling is experiencing a profound transformation. Traditional methods have been stalwarts, yet the rise of AI-generated 3D modeling is undeniably reshaping the field. The advent of AI democratizes 3D modeling, making it faster, more cost-effective, and accessible to a broader audience. As we explore AI’s capabilities in 3D modeling, we envision a future where model creation is more intuitive and efficient. However, it’s crucial to recognize that each method has its strengths, and the choice depends on the specific needs and constraints of each project.