His goal was to go into business in new technology. That goal is now realized in Matt's company that produces cutting-edge technology. With the company T-Splines, the future of 3D modeling is here. Computer Science professor Tom Sederberg, Matt's father, is the one who laboriously perfected the T-splines’ formulas over two decades. This new formula revitalizes NURBS and brings new control to modeling. Complex as this sounds, the average modeler can use T-splines technology.
So how do you really get to be CEO at age 24? It may be a combination of hard work, independence, dreams, a vision, and the magic of a product that needs to be shared with the world. Matt says:
“My dad and I, we’ve always been quite close. He’s always had a very high standard of his academic research, but while I admired what he did and even was attracted to mathematics and computers, where his talents lay, I had an independent streak in me that resisted following in his career footsteps: I wanted to do my own thing.
“As I progressed through college and became fascinated with how the economy works and how businesses operate in a capitalist society, I was eager to begin to apply all my book learning about supply and demand curves from economics, and actually get behind the controls of a business myself. I never would have guessed that my chance to start and run a business would come so soon — before I even got my diploma.
“In 2003, Kyle Welch, a lead from BYU’s highly-regarded Entrepreneurship program stumbled across some projects my dad was incubating in his research lab, and convinced him to enter some of these inventions into the school’s prestigious Business Plan Competition. Kyle contacted me, and while the two of us fine-tuned a commercialization plan for T-Splines, I also got a generous amount of mentoring of how to run a business from BYU’s resident entrepreneurs, and local industry folks, who were intrigued by the T-Splines idea. We ended up taking second place in this competition and earning $17,500 in cash and in-kind services—enough that my dad and I decided to go ahead and incorporate the business in late 2004.
“The most rewarding aspect of my job has been being able to help my dad commercialize the culminating invention of his years of research. We both view it as fortunate timing that his discovery and my coming of age aligned so well. It has also been rewarding for me to be able to make my own unique contribution to our company: while my dad and our researchers continue to develop new applications of the T-Spline technology, I have been able to head up the business development, which is where my own interests chiefly lie. Finally, my dad and I have enjoyed being able to create jobs and establish a company culture that reflects the values that we both share: hiring the smartest minds available, working extremely hard, and being supportive of the family responsibilities of our employees.”
Now, who and what are T-splines? The company T-Splines has developed a new way to manipulate NURBS control points and the resultant mesh. The technology T-splines are a superset of NURBS, which contain all the data that a NURBS model contains and more … and less. T-splines technology is a tool for artists to model in ways that were not mathematically possible before. The buzz phrase is "local refinement of surfaces."
NURBS stands for Non-Uniform Rational Basic Spline (pioneered by French engineers Monsieur Pierre Bezier of Renault, and Monsieur Paul de Casteljau of Peugeut). In short, T-splines technology is a method of simplifying and reducing the number of control points in a NURBS model, as well as adding control points where needed, while adding to the high detail necessary for complex shapes. T-splines, is also a subdivision tool. T-splines, is not just a polygon reduction tool, even though it has the ability to reduce polygon count. With T-splines, less data equals faster modeling, easier editing, faster rendering and reduced file size. Simply put, T-splines, is a revolutionary new way of organizing precision control points.
Partially funded by the National Science Foundation, Dr. Tom Sederberg also created a new "surface intersector algorithm based on T-splines." This means that there are a few new tools that the NURBS modeler can use to produce more organic shapes, more precise shapes, and do it all with far fewer control points.
In Dr. Sederberg's paper, “T-spline Simplification and Local Refinement," he states, "A serious weakness with NURS modeling is that NURBS control points must lie topologically in a rectangular grid. This means that typically, a large number of NURBS control points serve no purpose other than to satisfy topological constraints. They carry no significant geometric information. … T-splines are generalizations of NURBS surfaces that are capable of significantly reducing the number of superfluous control points from the NURBS model. The main differences between a T-mesh (i.e., a T-spline control mesh) and a NURBS control mesh is that T-splines allow a row of control points to terminate. The final control point in a partial row is called a T-junction."
Perhaps the easiest practical way to understand the difference between T-splines vs. NURBS, is the visualization of curves vs. flat polygonal mesh. In a flat mesh, to make a curve, one has to place a great many control points along the path that the curve is to be formed on. A sphere, for example, would require an infinite number of points to result in a spherical looking object. Infinite simply is not possible. Therefore, a finite number of points to make a sphere look like a sphere results in a high polygon count and at render time, still shows the flat surfaces and a rough looking model. Obviously, the lower the count, the rougher the resultant model appears when rendered.
Render engines are capable of additional smoothing according to the data in the model. Thus a NURBS model which has the ability to generate curvature information between two points (no longer flat mesh) is able to create a sphere with far less points than is necessary in a flat polygon model. Unfortunately, the curvature information in NURBS is limited to averaging the curve between points.
Some technology allows for cages to be built and curvatures defined by the cage. While this does result in a smooth sphere it still takes a substantial number of points to define what that sphere is to look like. In more complex models such as a human face, the number of control points necessary for compound curves increases dramatically. Thus, T-spline technology has the next level of curve interpretation.
The algorithms in T-splines formulate by Dr. Sederberg are such that a curve can be interpreted outside of the average between control points, or outside of the average in a cage. Curves can be interpreted in weighted and more organic forms, and as such, require even fewer control points to produce the same and modified smooth flow of a NURBS model.
T-Splines will be particularly powerful for CAD applications because, unlike NURBS, T-Splines can represent an entire CAD model without any gaps. This capability is likewise valuable in animation with applications like Maya. For example, a NURBS model that is stitched together with various NURBS patches, such as one patch of neck with upper torso, and another that does the head and face, is subject to stitch separation in extreme movement positions in animation. Not so with T-splines. A NURBS model converted to a T-splines model will not break apart at the stitch locations. The addition of control points does not change the surface. Additionally, the reduction in control points makes the model faster to manipulate and animate. Thus, the ability to add where needed, and reduce where not needed, is of great value to modeling efficiency.
Another advantage of T-splines is to revitalize the older NURBS models. Many modelers have scrapped their old models because they were made in older NURBS programs, and the time to upgrade the model is longer than it might be to just build the model from scratch in modern software. By way of example, the Zygote Media Group has made their 10-year-old male and female models available as free downloads on the T-Splines website. These downloads are the T-spline converted versions so that modelers can explore and compare the differences.
This is where T-Splines shines for companies like Zygote that want to resurrect older models with minimal time expenditures. An older model that might have a huge file count, or has stitching failures, or that simply needs some detail updates in facial features — when converted to a T-splines model — is once again useable at modern technology levels. You never know, we may one day see the Dork back in action again.
The future of T-Splines is a wide-open field just waiting to be developed. One of the focuses on the future is meeting the needs of organic NURBS modelers. Certainly the gaming industry will look long and hard at this Maya plug-in as a way to bring greater detail over limited bandwidth. T-Splines plans to continue with aggressive updates, and is currently only available for Maya.
T-Splines can be purchased through the T-Splines store.
It requires Maya and will not work with Maya PLE .
is a regular featured column
with Renderosity Staff Writer/Sr. Tech Editor
Eric Post [EricofSD].
December 27, 2005