Modelling Props for VFX 2023

Learn the essentials of Modelling to create a photoreal hero prop asset for VFX.

06.02.2023 - 02.06.2023
Application deadline
Enrol on the Programme for 5% a month*


Modelling Props for VFX is a 16-week live and online programme where students will be taught the fundamentals of 3D modelling to create a photoreal, pipeline-ready prop for VFX. Through practical hands-on learning via live lessons and workshops, we’ll cover a wide range of topics covering the asset modelling process.


This programme is the first of a series that will teach you how to build an asset and push it through the VFX pipeline to create a number of believable shots. You can enrol on this programme as a standalone, or if you’d like to develop a wider skillset, you can do so by joining us on Surfacing Props for VFX and Asset Integration for VFX.

Now you may be thinking that 16 weeks is a long course, especially when it comes to modelling a single prop. However, we are aiming for quality and in order for you to absorb and apply the teaching, you’ll need time. Time to make mistakes and time to experiment, all of which will allow you to really grasp the tools, techniques, and the creative problem skills to become a successful modeller.


We’ll also discuss other areas of the CG pipeline that are integral to the success of any project, such as Onset, Rigging, Texturing, Look Development, Lighting, Production, Bidding and Scheduling.

To underpin each stage lesson and to push your creative, technical and problem-solving skills, we’ll study the fundamentals and the theory behind Modelling. This includes studying subdivision surfaces, pushing our traditional skills, art, shape, function and form. This background research will directly feed into how we approach the creation of CG assets.

The outcome of the programme is to provide you with a strong modelling skillset enabling you to have a core understanding of the VFX modelling pipeline and an ability to apply these skills to real-world projects.

Tutors and Industry Partners

This programme will be tutored by Jahirul Amin and throughout the programme, we’ll have guest tutors join us such as Christopher Antoniou, and interviews and discussions from industry professionals working at companies such as Clear Angle Studios, ILM, DNEG, MPC, Framestore, beloFX, Rebellion Film Studios, BlueBolt, Union VFX and more.


To complement the teaching, CAVE Academy are extremely proud to be working with an exceptional range of companies and individuals. Throughout the programme, they’ll be joining us for in-person review sessions, tech demos, interviews, and discussions. Working with industry will also allow us to give you first-hand contact with potential future employers from the outset.


The programme will be spread over 16 weeks and the weekly schedule will be as follows:

  • Monday | Lectures and discussions | 10am – 12noon UK time
  • Tuesday | Workshops | 10am – 1pm UK time
  • Wednesday | Industry speaker session | 10am – 12noon UK time (occasional)
  • Thursday | Self-study
  • Friday | Dailies and Q&A | 10am – 1pm UK time

All sessions will be recorded and uploaded, however, we recommend you attend the live sessions, as being part of the community and asking questions is how you’ll best develop your skills and knowledge.

Week 1001 | Modelling for VFX

Lecture | How Modelling fits within the VFX Pipeline

We’ll be kicking off the programme off with a breakdown of how Modelling fits into the VFX pipeline. We’ll also discuss important topics such as Modelling briefs, LODs, naming conventions.

Workshop | Introduction to Maya

For week 1, we’ll focus on working within a Project Directory suitable for VFX. Following on from this, we’ll jump into Maya to learn the fundamentals of shapes and transforms, cameras, lenses, navigation and object manipulation.

Assignment | Storytelling with Simple Shapes

Your first assignment is to demonstrate that you can tell a story using simple shapes.

Week 1002 | Observation and Analysis

Lecture | Breaking down the Real-World

In this lecture, we’ll take a look at objects from the real-world and consider their shape and form. We’ll also study how objects respond to light to reveal and hide details.

Workshop | Understanding the Asset

For our second workshop, we’ll take a step away from the computer and take the time to really get to know the prop we’ll be working on throughout the course. We’ll study the planes of the asset, how the form turns, the surface qualities and more.

Assignment | Get to Know the Asset

For Week 1002, you’ll need to take the provided reference images and define what you see. Following on from this, you’ll need to gather additional supporting reference to give you a better understanding of the asset.

Week 1003 | Modelling Workflows and Best Practices

Lecture | Modelling Considerations and Approaches

Here, we will define our asset build requirements and then look at how we could go about modelling our prop. We’ll also look at the technical aspects of building a production ready asset, such as: non-manifold edges and uniform topology.

Workshop | Modelling Tools in Maya

In this workshop, we’ll experiment with some of the modelling tools in Maya.

Assignment | Create High Quality Greebles

Now that you are familiar with some of the modelling tools, it is your turn to have a crack at modelling a number of greebles.

Week 1004 | Directing the Flow

Lecture | Supporting Edges V Creased Edges

2 common workflows for modelling assets are to use supporting edges or creased edges. In this lecture, we’ll explore the pros and cons of both.

Workshop | Edge Flow and Model Density

In this workshop, we’ll look at how to direct the flow of our topology and when to add more resolution.

Assignment | Designing the Topology

For Week 1004, you’ll need to get the pen and paper out and consider the topology by producing a series of drawovers.

Week 1005 | Subdivision Modelling

Lecture | Modelling with Purpose

When creating an asset, it is important to ensure every edge has a purpose. We’ll also want to make sure we don’t add unnecessary detail. Here we’ll study how to go about creating optimised models that are subdivision friendly.

Workshop | Modelling Render Ready Assets

For workshop 1005, we’ll take a look at Catmull-Clark subdivision modelling workflows.

Assignment | Create Subdivision Friendly Objects

For your 5th assignment, you’ll be required to build a series of objects that are subdivision friendly.

Week 1006 | Working with Scan Data

Lecture | What you can Expect from a Scan Dataset

This week, we’ll turn our attention to building our production model. Before we dive into the software, we’ll examine the scan dataset, which has kindly been provided by Clear Angle Studios.

Workshop | Working with Clear Angle Studios Scan Data

In this workshop, we’ll ensure we have our modelling reference cameras good to go, the scan is correctly scaled, and all the reference is locked off, so we don’t accidentally move anything during the modelling process.

Assignment | Prepping your Modelling Scene

This week, you’ll need to prep your modelling scene.

Week 1007 | Blocking out your Prop

Lecture | The Power of Contrast

When it comes to design, in most instances, you’ll find a mix of big, medium and small shapes. Here we’ll explore the power of contrast and how it relates to our asset and approach to modelling.

Workshop | Blocking out the Core Shapes of the Prop

With our reference ready to go, we’ll turn our attention to blocking out the primary shapes of the asset.

Assignment | Model Blocking

This week, you’ll be focussing your attention to blocking out the core shapes of the prop.

Week 1008 | Refining Shape and Form

Lecture | How Light Affects Shape and Form

Pushing points is the role of a modeller, however, in order to assess our asset, we’ll need to play with light. By doing so, we can review how our model responds to light.

Workshop | Playing with Light

In this workshop, we’ll step away from modelling and look at some of the lighting tools at our disposal, and how we can use them to aid our modelling workflow.

Assignment | Refining your Model

Now that you’ve added lighting to your modelling toolkit, it’s time to pop your modelling hat back on and continue your asset.

Week 1009 | Finalising your Topology

Lecture | What Makes a Production-Ready Model

As we come closer to completing the topology, we’ll look at some examples of what makes a production-worthy model.

Workshop | Assessing your Topology for the Pipeline

This week, we’ll review our current topology and push things to completion for a v001 review. We’ll also look at testing our model in sculpting applications to ensure it is production ready.

Assignment | Production-Ready Topology

Your assignment this week is to complete your first pass of the model.

Week 1010 | Creating a Model Turntable

Lecture | Pushing your Critical Eye

In week 1002, we discussed the importance of observation. Here, we’ll continue that theme by pushing your critical and analytical eye.

Workshop | Creating a Model Turntable and Contact Sheet

This week, we’ll be setting up our render and outputting a clay and wireframe layers. Following on from this, we’ll look at creating a model turntable template in Nuke. This template will then be used for all future model turntables, allowing us to easily compare the differences from one version to the next.

Assignment | Submit Model v001

Your assignment this week is to render out your model and submit viewables for review.

Week 1011 | Introduction to UVs

Lecture | The Importance of UVs

Creating the geometry is one aspect of a production-ready model. Another aspect is making sure your UVs are good to go. Here, we will examine how UVs are used within a VFX pipeline and their importance when it comes to texturing and rendering.

Workshop | Unwrapping your Prop

Back to our 3d application and this time, we’ll be turning our attention to the UV tools.

Assignment | Block out your UVs

This week, you’ll need to block out your UVs.

Week 1012 | Finalising your UVs

Lecture | Model Hierarchy and Naming Conventions

In this lecture, we’ll discuss the importance of creating a well-structured model hierarchy and establishing and sticking to a naming convention. It may seem like the boring stuff, but by doing so, you can ensure the smooth running of a project, especially when multiple assets are required.

Workshop | Organising and Testing your UVs

This week, we’ll look at organising our UVs and creating a series of UV Sets. We’ll also look at testing our UVs by exporting our asset to other applications to see how it holds up.

Assignment | Create UV Sets

For week 1012, you’ll be tasked with completing your UVs and generating UV Sets.

Week 1013 | Introduction to Mudbox

Lecture | How Sculpting fits within the VFX Pipeline

Digital sculpting slots in to different stages of the VFX pipeline from Concept to Shot Finishing. Here, we’ll look at where it can fit in and the many ways in which you could approach a model when it comes of sculpting.

Workshop | Introduction to Sculpting in Mudbox

Our workshop this week will focus on introducing you to Mudbox. Now you may be asking: “Why Mudbox and not ZBrush?”. The primary reason for using Mudbox is the ease in which you’ll be able to pick Mudbox up, and secondly, we’ll be looking to export cameras from Maya to Mudbox for detail projection, and Mudbox is well equipped to do that. In other programmes, we’ll be pushing ZBrush, so fear not 😉

Assignment | Experiment with Digital Clay

This week, you get to play. Pick up some digital sculpting tools and go wild!

Week 1014 | Adding High Resolution Details

Lecture | It’s All in the Details

Up to this stage, we’ve modelled the primary and secondary details. Here, we’ll study the tertiary details, of which we’ll use sculpting tools to add to our asset.

Workshop | Sculpting High-Resolution Details

Now that we are familiar with the sculpting tools in Mudbox, let’s look at the projection tools and how we can use layers to introduce high resolution detail.

Assignment | Pushing your Prop

Your task for week 1014 is to generate all the high-resolution detail for the prop.

Week 1015 | Displacement and Normal Maps

Lecture | Pushing Believability at Render Time

In order to push the realism of our asset, we’ll need to introduce techniques that involve using Displacement and Normal maps. Here we will look at both maps and how they affect the geometry at render time.

Workshop | Exporting and Applying Displacement and Normal Maps

In this workshop, we’ll look at exporting out our Displacement and Normal maps from Mudbox and test them in Maya.

Assignment | Submit Model v002

This week, you’ll need to bake your high-resolution detail onto Displacement and Normal maps and render out the detail to ensure it works as expected.

Week 1016 | Bringing it all Together

Lecture | Preparing your Asset for the Next Stage

For our final lecture, we’ll look at cleaning up our model, so it’s ready for the next stage of the pipeline. That means deleting the history, checking the pivot points, object naming, scale, and so on. We’ll also look at technologies such as USD for asset workflows.

Workshop | Testing your Model

With our model ready to go, we’ll want to test it in several applications to ensure it is ready for texturing and surfacing. We’ll also look at rendering the model within an additional look dev scene to see how it responds to light.

Assignment | Publishing your Prop

Congratulations! You’ve made it to week 1016. Your final task is to package up your asset and publish it.

Hardware and Software Requirements

Students will be expected to provide their own computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, digital tablet and pen. We recommend a Windows machine with a minimum spec of 2.5ghz 6-core CPU with 16GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GPU with 6GB of RAM.

Students will need to acquire their own software for this course. The applications we’ll be using will be as follows, however, please note that you are more than welcome to use any similar application.

  • Maya 2023
  • Mudbox 2023
  • Nuke 13
  • Photoshop
  • Substance Painter

We’ll also be working within an ACEScg colour space and experiment with USD. This course is about understanding the core workflows and fundamentals to modelling props. It is software agnostic. But do note that we’ll not be able to support you as much if you are using other applications.

Students will also need a microphone and a web-camera for live online sessions.


*Programme Fee: 5% monthly income per month

From the very beginning, our intentions at CAVE have been to provide training that is both relevant and affordable for everyone – or as close as possible to everyone – across the globe. We’ve thought long and hard about how we can achieve this, and the outcome of our internal discussions has been to go with a ‘per month percentage fee‘.


The way it works is like so:

You take 5% of your monthly income and you multiply that number by the number of months that the programme runs for. For this programme, it is 4 months (16 weeks). Please also note that this is not a free programme and the minimum cost is £60.

The maths works out like so:

<monthlyIncome> x 0.05 x 4 = <programmeCost>

For example:

  • If you earn £300 a month, you take that number and multiply it by 0.05, which gives you: £15. Then you multiply that number by 4 (months), which results in a total programme cost of: £60
    If you earn £1,000 a month, the total programme cost is £200
    If you earn £7,000 a month, the total programme cost is £1,400

Of course, in order for this to work, we need to have trust so I’m expecting you to be honest here.

If you would like to spread the cost (1 x deposit followed by 4 x monthly payments), please get in touch with: [email protected]

CAVE Certification

Upon successful completion of the programme, students will be provided with certification from CAVE Academy stating how they have understood the fundamentals, tools, and techniques to model photoreal props for VFX.


If you have any questions, please get in touch and we’d be happy to organise a video meeting to discuss the programme:


6th February - 2nd June 2023