TOS Star Trek Part 10

As I indicated in the finished art post I did earlier, I converted a few of my older ships to Lightwave 2018. This basically entails completely redoing the materials, as Lightwave 2018’s render engine is designed to use Principled BSDF materials and older versions of the software used different materials and a different render engine. These models were made in Lightwave 10 about 5-6 years ago.

I’m seriously considering redoing the Equinox (and not calling it that) as that was designed to be a ship that was a later TOS era, almost to the TMP time frame ship, hence the details. But, I’d prefer to do a model that looks like an older ship. Besides, I haven’t done that style of hull in ages and it’s a fun style to do. Another thing I’m considering is rigging up models for animation. For the most part, these models wouldn’t be hard to animate or take a long time, but the bussard collectors are a problem. They’re done practically with modeled lights and mirrors, and a lot of light refraction. The refraction is what is causing the noise that is visible on the Erickson render. This can be done away with, or at least greatly reduced, but increasing the anti aliasing to the level required results in really long render times. So, I’m probably going to have to fake the look of what’s inside the bussard collectors with a texture, which isn’t all that hard to do. I’ve done it before, all I have to do is animate it, render it to a .avi file and then use that as a applied to a dome. For animation, this will work fine. Really, it would probably be OK for still images, so I’ll have to decide after I do it if I want to keep the practical bussards or just go to the textured version.

TOS Star Trek Part 06

I bashed together a Hermes class scout. For those of you doing the math, yes, it’s the same design as the Saladin class destroyer. The main difference is that the destroyer variant has more weapons. However, in canon, there are two scout ships that have been name whose class was never revealed, but their names and registries come from the Starfleet Technical manual. Those ships are the USS Columbia NCC-621 and the USS Revere, NCC-595. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Columbia is being ordered to rendezvous with the Revere during the establishing shot of the Epsilon IX station. So, I chose to make mine one of those scouts, the Revere.

The build was, obviously, mostly just rearranging parts from my Constitution class, with only a few parts to make. Then I made some new texture maps for the changed name and registry. I also moved one of the lines on the neck forward, to between the vents and the windows. So, it’s pretty simple, but it adds another ship to the fleet.

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)

Scout Refit, Pt. 09

I wasn’t in the mood to do any modeling yesterday, but I got a start on the textures. I’m far enough along that I can do that. Aztecs and whatnot take a while to make, so I figured I’d get a start on them. So far, I’ve only done specular maps and only on the saucer and engineering section. Fortunately, since the ship is so small, I only have to do Aztecs for the pylons and nacelles and then it’s done. I wanted to recreate that look they had on the Enterprise refit in TMP, where the Aztecs were painted with iridescent paint. When you shone a light directly onto them, you couldn’t see them. However, put the light on the other side of the model and they pop. So, I’m only adding Aztecs to the specular channel, which creates this effect. I may add a slight hint of paneling by putting them in the color or diffusion channel at a low setting, or I may leave them as is.

Scout_R_WIP31

Scout_R_WIP32

Scout_R_WIP33

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Scout Refit, Pt. 06

I’m at the small details part of the build, so expect my updates from here until I start the textures to mostly feature little changes. Much of the detailing on the refit E and Reliant is small, barely noticeable stuff, so I want to do lots of that stuff. In fact, one of these days, I need to go back and add a lot of that stuff to my refit, since I was rushed when I built it. I realized my forward windows on the structure under the bridge were in the perfect spot for me to add the upper forward registry lights, so I nixed those and added the lights. I also added the lights to the sensor doodad on the bottom and added phasers and a bunch of other little knickknacks.

Scout_R_WIP19

Scout_R_WIP20

Scout_R_WIP21

Scout_R_WIP22

And, in the “Fook Mi, that was fast!” department, (people who know the Austin Powers films should get that reference) I got my new command office chair today, so I’m sitting comfortably. Lumbar support is awesome when you have a bad back. 😀 I wasn’t supposed to get it until next week, so it was a great surprise when the UPS dude showed up with it earlier.

Scout Refit, Pt. 05

I’m determined to finish something before the end of the year. So, since this model is nearest to completion of all of my WIPs, I figure I have a great shot of getting it done. Unfortunately, I can’t stand to work on it too long in single stretch because my office chair broke, so I’m on a folding chair until my new one arrives from Amazon. (it’s padded, but it’s not as comfy as an office chair and it’s too short)

Anyway, I added the rest of the windows and I added the impulse engines. I also added the interior.

Scout_R_WIP15

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Scout_R_WIP17

Scout_R_WIP18

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.