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What "power" do normal maps have?

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    What "power" do normal maps have?

    Hey every1,

    im learning Zbrush at the moment so i can create really good normal maps for custom meshes, and i have always wondered how much "power" normal maps can have when pushed to the limit (the amount they can "stick out" without looking fake as you move around them).

    i need to know this so i know how much detail has to be done as part of the low poly model (the model to apply the high-poly normal map to)... example: weather i need to physically create a bolt head that sticks out a fair way on the low poly model, or if the normal map will do it)...

    thanks in advance

    #2
    normal mapping does not affect the silhouette of the model at all. It is simply a surface effect. So for something like a bolt, that really depends on if you need it to affect the silhouette or not.

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      #3
      You can do a lot with normal maps and virtual displacement mapping (using the BumpOffset material expression), but you may have to experiment to see whether materials will be enough or if you need to model some detail into your mesh. It's kind of subjective question.

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        #4
        thanks for the prompt replies

        experimenting it is then!

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          #5
          Normal mapping is simply a lighting trick, its not really 3d.
          Youi can see when you turn off lighting in the editor, everything suddenly looks flat and ugly.

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            #6
            LOL! good point...

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              #7
              Good reference for low poly would be to look at Epics models. Normal mapping can carry a lot of detail even on a really low poly mesh. I am getting close to having one of my statues done for my Karnak map. I will post it soon once I get the normal mapped model. I will post all three versions Low Poly, High Poly Zbrush model, Normal Mapped Model back in Maya.

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                #8
                Yea I should have mentioned, it may be a trick, but it's a very nice trick and is only noticable usually up very close (or playing on low detail).

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                  #9
                  Zbrush is the perfect bumpmapping programme. There is only one problem I noticed while back was skinning for hl2. some normals were way too sharp. It may requires to blur them in photoshop or gimp or to scale them down in for example crazy bump.

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                    #10
                    Also Zbrush is mainly used for organic meshes. Characters, Statues, etc

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                      #11
                      as far as normals go: the mathematical approach is to define by what point certain details are reserved for normals and what details are reserved for polys. Anything indenting or pushing into a mesh (like holes in a wall or divots in metal) can be reserved for a normal map even if the indented details are larger, mostly because indented details do not effect the outline/silhouette of a mesh unless they are very large. Protrusions such as warts, Frankenstein bolts etc are best if the normal map is aided by polygonal geometry unless they are very small.

                      Hope this helps

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