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.

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.

Enterprise_DockLightTest01
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Rosie Approaches the Enterprise

This is pretty much just me fracking around. (I was bored)

About half a dozen people know where the name for the shuttle came from. The rest of you will have to wait and see. 😉 It’s my shuttle I build last year, but I took off the “extra” details and gave it more of TOS look (worry not, the other version is still saved to a separate file.) The signage is just some textures I whipped up using Inkscape.

Endeavour in Drydock

This is part of a fan fiction thing that I’m working on (more on that later.) I’ll eventually be releasing the fiction as .pdf files with both text and some CG illustrations, this is for the first “episode.” I rendered it in desktop size, for people who want to use it as such, it will (obviously) be much smaller in the .pdf file, but I’ll rescale it later. Anywho, here it is:

On an “isn’t that weird?” note, I was getting ready to do the post processing on this in Gimp earlier. I’m running Kubuntu 11.04 and I installed Gimp 2.6.11 earlier. So, I went to run Gimp by clicking the icon and it wouldn’t start. It looked like it was starting, but it wouldn’t. So, I tried a direct command (/usr/bin/gimp-2.6) and it still wouldn’t run. So, I rebooted and then my Gimp icons were gone. I uninstalled and reinstalled Gimp and I still had no icons. So, I created one in the menu with the command /usr/bin/gimp-2.6 and now it runs like it should. Sometimes, (usually just when I think I have a handle on something) I swear I don’t know what the frack computers and/or software are “thinking.”

Shaking Off the Cobwebs

OK, things just haven’t been going too well for me in the 3D area lately.  I’ve been in a huge slump for months not (unless you count buying and playing 3D games, then I’m actually ahead of the game. ;))  My Star Wars project fizzled.  I had some ideas but I couldn’t get the parts right for one of the ships and eventually lost interest.  So, it’s back to the drawing board.  However, I did manage to render a little something earlier.  It’s not much but it’s at least something:

I think it’s working, I’m starting to feel the modeling bug again. 🙂 I’m going to hit my references folder later and see if anything jumps out at me.  If not, there’s also the internet.  I’ve also been looking at changing 3D software but none of the free programs I’ve been trying are really doing anything for me.  Blender is the closest but I still don’t like it that well.  I might have to look into commercial software.  Lightwave is a possibility.  It’s over $2,000 less than 3DS Max and Maya and it is some great software.  I downloaded a 30-day trial to see how I like it. 🙂

Anywho, hopefully, more to come soon.

Ready to Depart

I decided to do another docked shot, this time with the Heracles, which has more weathering than the Stargazer, and from the rear.  The funny part is, I was fiddling with this background with the intent to do something entirely different with it, but this is what I wound up doing after the other idea fizzled.

From the Depths of the Backup Drives 04

I haven’t done one of these for a while.  A lot of my really old CGI crap was lost either due to a HD failure in 2005 or to corrupt backup CDs (that’s why I use flash drives now.)  However, I was over at 3D Gladiators and I found some old crap in the gallery.  Most of this junk is between 4 and 5 years old.  The models are low poly and horrible, the textures are just dreadful and we won’t even talk about the lighting. (wretched)  Anywho, here they are.

This was about 4 Enterprises ago. It was made by glancing at pictures and modifying primitives.

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