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)

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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.

SB5_Approach01

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.

ISS_Enterprise_Beauty01
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USS Starfire

I keep forgetting to post these. I did some work on my Constellation-class a while back. It was pretty “clean” before, so I decided to dirty it up some. I added a lot of weathering to the textures, to give the ship a more “used” look. Then I reduced the specular setting to give the ship less of a shiny look. I also redid the warp grills and added the blue glow and some falloff lights. And, just because I could, I gave it a different name and number. 😉

Starfire_Beauty01

Starfire_Beauty02

For some reason, I only did two renders of this. Maybe I’ll do some more later.

Admiral, it is the Enterprise…

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

RefitEnterprise_Orbit01

RefitEnterprise_Orbit02

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.

Never Been This Close… V2 (the less gassy version)

My buddy Eric Reinholt (SciFiEric) pointed out that the background on version 1 is a bit much. I agree, it’s a bit “HELLO!” So, I redid the background to make it less gassy. I also toned down the brightness a bit. There’s a fine line when you’re doing stuff like this and I didn’t want it to go away entirely. If I wanted that, I could have saved myself some time and not made any nebulae, I could have just rendered the ships against the starfield. (with too much ambient light) So, here’s version 2.

NBTC_A

Never Been This Close…

I had a fun thought earlier, to take my recently completed D7 model and my Enterprise and recreate the famous shot from Star Trek VI where Krosos One and Enterprise are flying side by side. (more or less, Kronos One is out front, probably due to the fact that it’s carrying the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire) I got the ships, camera and main light as close as I could to the shot from the movie. However, I had to do something about the lighting. The dark parts of the models in the film have a large amount of ambient light hitting them, which there shouldn’t even be in space. Sure, most of us lighten out stuff more than it would be in real life, Star Treks 3, 4, 5 and 6 all had way too much ambient light in deep space. It’s just not realistic. So, I added a nebulous cloud-thing (technical term 😉 ) that I created for this image to the background, justifying the addition of a few dome lights to add some nice even hues to the darker parts of the ship. (and, yes, I used a wee bit of ambient light also) Overall, I’m happy with how it turned out.

NBTC

Dirty Ships Done Dirt Cheap

(don’t even ask me why I’m misquoting AC/DC for the title, it’s friggin’ late and I’m tired :P)

I did some texture work on my Constellation-class mesh I finished a while back. To me, this ship has always been the Millennium Falcon of Star Trek. It’s old, it’s dirty, it’s ugly. Plus, it’s all saucer and engines and it’s got miscellaneous stuff glued all over it. And, the first time we saw it, it had been through the wringer. So, when Greg Jein built the studio model, he really weathered it a lot. He also added scorch marks and whatnot because it had been in a battle, but I didn’t do that. I just made mine good and grungy, like the ship should be. To me, that’s how this class should always look. Originally, I did “clean” textures, mostly to get it done and ready for a project I was working on. Well, I haven’t heard back on said project (don’t ask about it, because I won’t answer) and I saved the clean textures anyway, so I set about giving the ship a more “used” look. I had lots of high rez textures, too many in fact. My CGI software wouldn’t render them all, so I had to scale them down a bit, but they’re still pretty high rez. Anywho, here she is in all her dirty glory in some “beauty” shots.

Pompeii_Beauty05

Pompeii_Beauty06

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Random Stuff

Truth be told, I forgot about these until just now. I’m sure those of you who follow the Drex Files know that Doug mentioned a while back that there were some “interesting” things being done for the 2013 SOTL calendar. Doug will explain that at the appropriate time. I don’t know exactly what is going on with it, but I have a pretty good idea, but it’s not my place to say.

Anywho, these were some “samplers” I sent to Doug while he was looking for art for the calendar. Obviously, these aren’t stellar art pieces by any means, and they’re all similar. However, the idea was to maybe get a starting point for a more fancy piece to grow from. However, that ship has sailed, none of this shit made it in, I can’t say I’m too broken up over it. I’ll explain why I’ve adopted this particular attitude after Doug explains what’s happening with the 2013 calendar. In the meantime, I might as well post this crap, as it’s not doing anything but sitting on my hard drive.

The phaser beams aren’t that exceptional but, as I said, these weren’t intended to be finished pieces. I’m only posting them because I’ve got nothing else and because I literally just remembered about them. 😉

More Atlantis

Wow. Somehow, I rendered this and did the post work on it the other day and then I forgot to post it. That was around the time I downloaded the Lego Digital Designer and I started playing with Legos. That’s the only reason I can think of as to why I forgot. Anywho, here it is.

I might do some real modeling today (not just Lego stuff.) I have a ship that I want to build and I finally managed to get trueSpace 4 to install in Windows 7 64-bit. To get around the stupid 16-bit install program, I installed it in Linux Mint (which is also 64-bit) and then copied the program folder to my C: drive in Windows. Since the program itself is 32-bit, (only the setup.exe is 16-bit) it fired right up after I re-entered my serial number. So, thanks to Linux Mint and Wine, I have my favorite modeling program installed in Windows. So, I’m happy. I know, I should be learning Lightwave, but I’m waiting for a specific tutorial that a friend is working on to be finished before I dive into that. 🙂