Phase II Enterprise

OK, this is the thing I’ve been working on, for those who didn’t get it already. I’ve always been intrigued by Star Trek: Phase II, the second attempt at a Star Trek TV series by Paramount that was doomed before it really got into production. Of course, the pilot episode became Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and many of the sets were used on the movies and even TNG, and some of the characters and stories were revisited on that show as well, but one wonders what would have become of Star Trek had that series gone through, as opposed to becoming a movie. We’ll never know because it didn’t happen, and everything worked out OK. We had the movies with the original cast, followed by TNG, DS9, Voyager, more movies and Enterprise. All told, a lot of good Trek, some of which likely wouldn’t have happened if Phase II had happened instead of TMP. Of course, the current state of Star Trek is sad, but at least we have hours upon hours of great shows and movies.

One thing I’ve always liked from Phase II was the model work being done at Brick Price Movie Miniatures, particularly the Enterprise model being constructed by Don Loos. Unfortunately, the model wasn’t high enough quality for the motion picture work as it was being built for television, so it couldn’t be used. Still, I love looking at Matt Jefferies’ sleek redesign for the ship, and at the 75% completed model that was being built. They were also working on a space dock that was significantly different than the one designed by Andrew Probert for the movie.

Anyway, I’ve built this ship before, but it’s been many years. As before, I’m using Jefferies’ updated drawings, cleaned up and made available by David Shaw. The drawings aren’t complete, but they give a complete enough view of what he had in mind for the Enterprise’s refit. There are also a few existing pics from the build in the Phase II book, which I of course have a copy of. In fact, I’m re-reading it while working on this. But, what I don’t have as far as references is where artistic license comes in. My goal is to do something between TOS and TMP, like maybe an intermediate design. Anyway, this is what I have so far:

PhaseII_WIP01

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TOS Purists Be Warned…

If you’re a TOS Purist, one of those people who thinks the Starship Enterprise should look exactly like it did 50 years ago, avert your eyes now. In fact, you should probably just stop reading this and leave. If the thought of the original Enterprise with cut in grid lines makes your colon clench, leave now. I’m not joking, GO!

And, with that, you have been warned. By continuing to read this and looking at the images below, you are certifying that modifying the Enterprise doesn’t bother you and that I am not responsible for you seeing something you don’t want to see and having bad feelings as a result. 😛

Anywho, I just had to do it:

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Overall, it’s pretty much the same ship it’s always been, just with a few logical additions. Grid lines, RCS thrusters, docking ports and torpedo launchers. There will be modeled phasers also and I plan to do better looking running lights. I did have to move a few windows, especially on the saucer edge. Those were moved to avoid the thrusters. It doesn’t make any sense to have a window between the upper and lower thrusters. For one thing, there’s a thruster there, so it’s not like anybody is getting that close to the window due to the internal mechanics. Plus, the internal mechanics are likely automated and people only enter the area to do maintenance, so who would even be looking out of said windows, if they could? So, they got moved. I also rotated those lit rectangles on the upper saucer a bit to line up with the thrusters, purely for aesthetic reasons.

And still more…

I added the “baseball bat” to the impulse engines yesterday. I think this version is closer to what was on the original ship, but it’s not perfect. Though, it’s a very odd shape to make, so I’m glad it’s as close as it is. Today, I added the windows to the saucer section. I know, “purists” will say that the saucer rim and B/C deck on the 11-foot model don’t have symmetrical windows. While that’s true, I feel that they should. The port side saucer rim and B/C deck look so plain to me with only two windows a piece (yes, I know there were more towards the back of the rim, but the port fore is seen more often.) Had they detailed the port side of the ship, I think they would have given it the same number of windows as the starboard side. They did that on the 33-inch model. And, since it was never really seen on screen, one could argue that the port side would have had the same number of windows. So, mine does. However, I left the other windows asymmetrical. Those windows were clearly seen in a lot of episodes and are intentionally asymmetrical.

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Constitutional

More work on the Constitution revamp. I spun the new saucer base, but I was able to save the teardrop. I did the same thing I did on the engineering hull to get rid of the windows. Since the port side has only three windows, I did that on that side and then mirrored it. Aside from the basic saucer, everything else you see hasn’t been changed. I need to redo the detail that goes along the back top of the saucer to the impulse engine, which is why it isn’t there.

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Here we go again…

Well, it’s Constitution class time again. No, I’m not building a whole new ship, I’m just fixing a few things with my last one.

It started with the bussard collectors. Dan “Madkoifish” Uyeno is building a Connie and we got into a discussion about them on 3DSciFi. I’ve known for years that the bussards were 10 colored Christmas tree lights on a bed of broken mirror bits, with curved blades that spun over them and a frosted glass dome over it all. However, until Dan mentioned it, it never occurred to me that the lights weren’t just set in there straight, they were bent towards the center of the assembly. It makes sense, they fit under the blades and dome a lot better that way. So, taking that all into account, I came up with this:

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After fixing some materials and changing the colors of the lights, and making the dome visible again, it looks like this:

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After all of that, I decided to “fix” some other stuff on the rest of the model. One thing I don’t like about it is how big the windows are, I made a mistake there. So, I painstakingly removed all of the windows from the engineering hull and patched up the holes without damaging the mesh. It’s all nice and smooth again. (better that than to rebuild it) I also have more recent images showing me that my warp pylon shape was wrong, so I fixed those too. The main pylon, or “neck,” shape was also wrong, though that one is harder to gauge. So, I redid that part in an attempt to make it more accurate. I also have some nice HD screen caps (again, compliments of Mr. Uyeno) with the original effects that show pretty well the shape of the navigational deflector spike. I had that totally wrong, it was modeled more like the one currently on the ship. So, I rebuilt that and also colored it correctly.

So, after all of that, this is where the engineering hull and nacelles stand:

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Aside from the bussards, the nacelles have no changes. They look good enough to me. For the saucer, I’m going to spin a new saucer base, rather than patch the windows back up like I did on the engineering hull. After all, saucers are really fast and simple to make. Though, some of the bits like the main part of the impulse engines and some of the other bits won’t have to be redone. And, after I’m done fixing shapes and re-adding windows, I’m going to model all of the hull markings, rather than the textured markings the ship has now. Then I’m also going to do new textures.

Busy Day at the Starbase, 2015 Edition

I spent an almost fruitless week dorking around in Blender. My goal was to switch from Lightwave to Blender and from Windows to Linux Mint. Well, that was rendered moot. I tried at first playing around with some tutorials about modeling. Modeling wise, Blender ain’t bad. There are tools I have in LW that I wouldn’t in Blender, but I’d have adapted. Then I dove into Cycles, Blender’s realistic render engine. I can’t express enough how much I love that render engine, for the most part. For people who don’t know, “standard” CGI rendering engines are hampered by unrealistic lighting. In CGI, light travels in one direction and hits an object from that direction. Any face going the other direction isn’t lit. Period. This is in contrast to lighting in the real world. In the real world, if you have an object with a light behind it and other objects in front of it, such as furniture, walls, ceiling, etc, light will bounce off of those objects back at the previous object, lighting the “dark” side. Most CGI software has a solution for calculating this light bouncing. In Blender, it’s part of the Cycles render engine. It calculates the light bouncing to create a more realistically lit object and scene. I imported a few of my Lightwave models into Blender which, for the most part, went well. As long as I triangulated my faces with more than 4 sides in Lightwave and applied the Edge Split modifier after import, most everything looked grand. Cycles has wonderful emission materials. However, I ran into issues with applying textures to my imported models. Again, for people who don’t know, this is how textures are applied. There’s a projection setting that tells the image where to go, how to be oriented and, most importantly, how to be mapped to the object. Most software has various options for this. There are four basic types of mapping: plane, cylinder, sphere and cube. They are what they sound like. Plane puts your map “flat” on a surface, where the others wrap it around in the appropriate shape. Then there’s unwrapping, where the map is put on there based on the object’s geometry. This is the most difficult and problematic method. Cycles, meanwhile, only has unwrapping. There are several options to unwrap the object, but they don’t necessarily work like they do in other software. IE: selecting “cylinder” doesn’t wrap the map around the object in the shape of a cylinder like it should. And, there are pretty much no controls over this stuff like you have in a lot of other programs. And, by the way, that’s not just me talking. I took a screen shot of what I was trying to do and a friend who is very proficient in 3DS Max commented on the lack of control. So, after a few days of spending many hours trying to get one simple map onto a nacelle the way it should work and does work in Lightwave, I got mad and gave up. So, for those people who keep saying I should “give Blender another try,” I did. Until they fix the texture mapping in Cycles, I won’t be using it. For the record, the Blender Internal rendering engine has “normal” texture mapping, but it doesn’t apply to Cycles because the material settings are different.

So, where am I going with all of this? Back to the light bounce thing. As I said, Cycles is wonderful at calculating light bounce. Well, Lightwave is professional software, so it naturally has settings that do this as well. Though, unlike Cycles, it’s an option that can be activated in the standard LW rendering engine, not an entirely separate engine. So, things like texture mapping work exactly the same. It’s called Radiosity, which is a very popular way of simulating light bounce. So, I spent last night messing around with Radiosity in Lightwave. I like it a lot. Truespace also had Radiosity, though I never messed with it and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to do so in Lightwave.

So, I decided to redo one of my renders with Radiosity enabled. I’m much happier with the results. As you can see, things like the shuttlebay alcove and inboard side of the starboard nacelle on the Scout have a faint light hitting them, which is bouncing off of the hull back at those areas. Areas on the other objects are also lit by the light bouncing, which makes the whole scene look more realistic. Of course, some areas are still very dark, this is due to nothing being there to bounce the rays back. And, for those who are wondering, rendering with Radiosity only took about 5 minutes longer than rendering without, and that was due to the amount of time it took calculating the Radiosity.

SB5_Approach02

If you want to see the old version and do a comparison, here’s a link:
(the link will open in a new tab)

Busy Day at the Starbase

So, around 2 AM (when all of the good ideas happen) I got the idea to do an image. Even though I’ve built a lot of ships over the past several months, I haven’t done an image for a while, so I thought it sounded good. I’m talking about a full scene image, WIP images and beauty shots don’t count.

Back when I built this Starbase for a project a few months back, I had the idea that it’s just a station that “hangs” in space. However, since it’s so small, it would need dry docks near by for servicing starships. So, this was the kind of setup I had in mind. In my opinion, Starbases should be hubs of activity. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few effects sequences from DS9, we never got to see a really busy Starbase. So, I decided to do one, since I have plenty of TOS-era ships. The setup took about 45 minutes or so, which included modifying a nebula texture that I made a while back to make it a different color. (that’s right, no prefab backgrounds here, it was all rendered in Lightwave) The render also took about 45 minutes, which isn’t bad considering that the scene consists of over 2.65 million polygons, 104 HD texture maps and 304 lights. (the docks have full interior lighting rigs, the scout has a lighting rig as well, and I have a “sun” and lights to simulate the light coming from the nebula and a couple of fill lights) It’s good that it only took about 45 minutes to render, since I wound up moving a couple things and re-rendering it a few hours ago.

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Eventually, I may animate this. I also may do some more images with my TOS scout, since I haven’t done much with it since building it.

I.S.S. Enterprise

I’ve always liked the Mirror Universe in Star Trek. In fact, Mirror, Mirror is my favorite original series episode. I like some of the follow-ups that have been done, especially in the comics and Diane Duane’s TNG novel, Dark Mirror. I don’t really care for what they did on DS9 with the universe, but I really like the 2-part Enterprise episode that takes place solely in the Mirror Universe. I know a lot of people in fandom have done stuff with it. I love the Star Trek Continues episode Fairest of Them All, which is a direct follow-up to Mirror, Mirror that is set entirely in the Mirror Universe.

One of my favorite Mirror Universe stories is the DC comics mini-series known as The Mirror Universe Saga. It’s set in the movie era and directly follows Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In fact, in the comic storyline, Kirk and his crew stop an invasion of the Federation from the Terran Empire, which allows Kirk to avoid a court martial for his actions in ST3, keep his rank and get command of the U.S.S. Excelsior. Of course, none of that sits well with Cpt. Stiles, the current captain of the Excelsior. (from ST3) Anyway, it was a fantastic story line that was, of course, retconned after the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That’s one thing I never liked about the DC story line, they kept up with the movies but also kept making comics between the movies. So, they had to recon most of their “in between” story lines due to conflicts with the movies, of which they did many of the comic adaptations. (Marvel did TMP and there was no ST2 adaptation, since nobody had a comic license at that time)

Anyway, a lot of people like to do the TOS version of the I.S.S. Enterprise. One thing I don’t like about CBS Digital is that they had the opportunity to add Terran Empire logos to their CGI model for that episode, but they never did. A lot of people who build their own I.S.S. Enterprise models do, though. Some even go as far as to add the wing-like yellow markings from the Ent episodes, but I don’t personally like that look on the Constitution-class. So, you see a lot of TOS versions of the ship, but not TMP versions. So, since I love that comics series, I decided to do a TMP version of the I.S.S. Enterprise by modifying my TMP Connie model.

Like CBS Digital would later do, DC didn’t really change the ship much for the comics. It basically looked like the “Prime Universe” version, but with “I.S.S.” instead of “U.S.S.” on its hull. Well, I don’t see it that way. So, I did a total color change of the ship with some new textures. For one thing, I think the pearl white and duck egg blue and other “soft” colors didn’t quite feel right for a militaristic Empire. So, instead, I went with a darker, more militaristic theme. I went with a light slate gray for the hull, with dark slate blue and midnight blue highlights. I also changed a lot of the glow colors to alternatives to what the Prime Universe has, just for fun. And, of course, I added Terran Empire emblems and markings to the ship.

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Admiral, it is the Enterprise…

So, it’s the Enterprise. No, the other one. 😛

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This was built as a different ship for a project. It’s now no longer being used as that ship. (they’re killing me) However, that’s not to say it won’t make an appearance in something. It’s really up to me. If you think you know what it is, or you know what it is, knock yourself out as far as comments go, but I’ll not confirm or deny anything. 😛

As usual, I wasn’t going for total accuracy here. I’ve never built this model before and it was a royal pain in the butt, both modeling and texturing, so “close enough” was good enough. Besides, I never copy anything exactly. That’s not my style.

Drydock Lighting Tests

These are lighting tests. You don’t need to know why or for what, just know that there was lighting set up and it was tested. 😛

Seriously, I converted my old drydock mesh to Lightwave for reasons to be revealed later. After I got the mesh all converted, fixed and added some things and textured it, I set about setting up the lights. 70 of them in total. I did a few smaller test renders at a lot lower Anti-Aliasing to get the light levels and fall off rates where I needed them, but I needed to do some larger tests, so I setup a scene with my Enterprise model and a “sun.” It’s a good thing I did some tests, because I noticed some mapping issues on the dock when I rendered the first image. So, I fixed those and it looks like it should in the other renders.

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