• Nick Greenlee

The Third Dimension

What is the third dimension? First, a brief and totally factual history lesson:

But suppose we extend the square beyond the two dimensions of our own universe along the hypothetical Z-axis there. This forms the three-dimensional object known as a cube, or a frinkahedron, in honor of its discoverer.

- Professor Frink, The Simpsons

You see, unlike Professor Frink, we live in a world of three dimensions. That phone in front of you isn’t just a screen. In fact, it has multiple sides, and can be viewed at any angle (no, seriously, try rotating it…. magic!). It casts a shadow, it’s reflective and shiny. There’s some texture on the case, maybe a colorful design. These are properties of every object in the universe. This is called real life.

What’s my point? If you’re still reading, allow me to explain.

I create virtual 3D worlds. In my world, that phone is a collection of thousands or millions of triangles called polygons. Like a clump of clay, these polygons need to be molded and warped to form the shape of a phone. But we’re not done yet. Remember, it’s just a collection of meaningless, friendless triangles. They need direction!

Like a clay sculpture, it needs to be painted. Should the case be matte black, or a shiny purple? How reflective is the screen, and what is it reflecting? What about the lighting? Maybe I’ll go with a traditional three-point light setup – key, fill and backlight. How should the shadows look? Oh shoot, now the phone needs to be white … this lighting needs to be redone. The background should be darker, the phone needs to pop. Maybe add a little reflective floor, you know, like Apple? Apple’s always cool.

And there you have it: our own virtual 3D phone.

These are the basic principles of working in 3D design. As artists, it’s our job to turn that little triangle into whatever we can dream up. To do this, we need to understand how the world works because, essentially, we’re simulating real life – in three dimensions.

No, pops, it's too risky! For all we know, there could be cubes in there the size of gorillas.”

- Professor Frink, The Simpsons

Nick Greenlee

Creative Visual Director