Thursday, 13 December 2012

Shapeways Figurine - Gangnam Style

This is the result of a commission from a few weeks ago to produce a dancing PSY caricature. Buy Me! You know you want to... Kinda hard translating a 2d caricature into a 3d shape, and trying to keep it looking consistent but I think we were all pleased with the results.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Elite 4 - Coolhand Style! (Part 1)

The ships robot (a 12 foot tall ill-tempered ABC Warrior (look it up)) takes it out on the dock droids at Heathrow Starport. 
Thats right friends, I'm sure eveyone reading this blog is oozing with anticipation at the thought that finally, after years and years of shameless teasing, it really does seem as if a proper modern sequel to Elite and Frontier is only perhaps, maybe at best several years from completion.  
Luckily for us, the pioneering head of developments and King of Frontier, David Braben has decided to utilise the series massive fan base of massive nerds to attempt to propel this project into solid virtual reality with a well placed Kickstarter to the tender underparts of Frontier Developments. 

For the last couple of years i've been sourcing parts and restoring a classic Amiga 1200, the very
machine I received 19 years ago this Christmas.  I used it a lot for more than 5 years and learned some of the basics of digital art that I persue today as something that almost approximates a professional career.  It was also a great games machine and one of the finest titles is easily Frontier, the sequel to the revolutionary 1984 BBC Micro title - Elite.

1993's Frontier was more evolutionary but presented a reasonably realistic (physics working as Sir Isaac Newton would have prefered) and an unbelievably well realised massive galaxy to explore. For a game that will run from floppy disk (remember them?) in 1mb of memory on a computer that operates at 6mhz Frontier was especially impressive, simulating a level of scale from a working clock on a church tower to an entire WORKING solar system to an entire galaxy was something simply unheard of, and in many ways has not been beaten so far.

Needless to say it captivated me in way that no other game ever had, but it was a game that required some imagination to get the best out of it.
Lasers are red, spacetime is blue.... I have no idea why. 
So the above, a typical screen, at least in my head, resembled the most fantastic looking space-opera I could imagine, the low res chunky graphics, laughable interface style and bug ridden rendering of low poly spacecraft and environments became a mere framework for a vividly detailed universe.  Ask anyone who played it (and enjoyed it) or its wire-frame 8-bit predecessor and you'll probably get a similar response, it really didn't look like the above at all when you were fully immersed in it.

Years later after the Amiga became obsolete and stopped functioning properly I would still play Frontier (and its sequel FFE) on an x86 PC, occasionally via emulation or modification and reverse engineered code projects with perhaps dubious legal status, enjoying much faster framerates, higher resolutions, better controls and so on, but none actually looked anything like the old Amiga Frontier did in my head, nothing looked as good as in the imagination.

Several times I've attemped to realise some of these as 3d models

First, is the Asp Explorer... You already saw it at the top of the page, This older project (construction will probably be detailed in a later blog entry - keep em peeled) represented to a degree what the game, or at least what one of the vehicles featured kinda looked like to me - in this case a very battered almost Millenium Falcon-esq cargo ship.

This is how it looked in the original game:

Here are a few more old pics of my interpretation of the original 7-odd triangle model:

Asp CL-577 departs Boring Boston Base, where no one ever shoots at you, unless you shoot them first.  

Built in 2004 I produced a floor plan part way during modelling (the 3d model visible here is far from finished) this was apparently later used by a group of naval architects who contacted me to use it for their role playing game. No, really. 
I'd have made the stars less, umm, intense today.
A recently leaked Elite: Dangerous screenshot. 
I have built several other vehicles based on this Universe, end of part 1, more to come!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

El Diablo at Shapeways!

Fresh out of the fusion reactor, get em while they're blisteringly hot and mildly radioactive. (erm, in actuality of course its perfectly safe plastic, I take no responsibility for any injuries caused by radiation, gaping jaws or excessive drool production clogging keyboards) Previously listed here in this blog, here is the tiniest version that will be available, it has a hollow interior (with walls 3 times the minimum thickness for strength) and optional aerodynamic bolt on parts.

or  3 pack, which spreads the setup cost over 3 models, meaning its more economical. 
background to this model, setting and stats and some nice renders are here:

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Steinway Model D

This is a pretty well known model of piano, frequently seen at concerts and often characters from NBC's quality comedy show "Frasier" would gather round while one of them performed the theme from Wings or something.

I made this for printing, for a museum piece. Actually thought I'd lost it but turned out I had it on a backup disk. I only completed the exterior, as a craftsman was hand building a miniature soundboard for it - the final printed and completed exhibit was 1/4 scale. From the attachment angle it basically looks finished, but the inside is completely empty!

So i'm going to build and fit my own highly detailed soundboard, and refine some of the rough edges on the brass pieces and so on, perhaps map it so I can add textures for grime and dirt etc.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Alcubierre one. (Dramatic pause) Engage!

To the surprise of almost everyone, our species is now perhaps slightly closer to someone not wearing a Star Trek uniform uttering that statement, in fact he or she may well be wearing a lab coat, probably won't be in space but secretly might like Star Trek....  I'm sure everyone reading this is familiar with this epic plot device as featured in every Star Trek episode ever.  As everything else from Trek becomes true over time we may one day build a functional Alcubierre Drive - the 'real' name for "Warp Drive".

Avoid tricky time dilation, with WARP DRIVE!

Alcubierre bends space in order to cheat Einstein and make a mockery of his ludicrous theories, of course cheating Einstein always takes a ton of energy... More precisely the number of tons that make up the entirety of Jupiter, which is umm, a lot of tons.... So many tons that it clearly makes such a propulsion system a bit of a non-starter since no ship in Star Trek appears to be towing a gas giant behind it, sucking its mass into its warp core with some type of big straw.

How many tons? How the hell should I know, Wes? - It wasn't written in the script. 
But not any more! Probably... By carefully configuring your warp drive in a manner that would make Mr Scott or Geordi La Forge flush with manly pride you can apparently bring this magic amount down to the amount of energy contained in a pifflingly small volume - according to actual real men and women of science its the same mass as the Voyager 1 probe.  Don't ask me how much mileage you'd get out of that, I'm not a scientition, dammit.

Avoid silly hats, with ALCUBIERRE DRIVE! 
My only question, how do we get Voyager back and use it to invent Warp travel before its turned into V'ger by that machine race, oh what.... It can be any mass? not specifically Voyager 1, OK I get it, well I have no more questions then.... Oh, who's this, Erich?


Oh there's a surprise, go on then....

I ask the question that science refuses to even make breakfast for and kicks out of it's parents home at 6am before its mother wakes up. If we can Warp-Drive with only the mass of Voyager, so may any Extra Te-rrrrestrial seevilisation...  

Therefore I ask: 

Is Prometheus real future and ancient mythology? 

Is Damon Lindeloff noble future-seer?  

Perhaps most shockingly, we discover that Eeendiana Jones 4 is a semi-plausible reality. 

I would stake my reputation upon this being true. 

If I may interject, Erich. This news will clearly be a boon to those in fringe science... Since it utterly blows the 'can't get here from there' argument out of the water.. Presumably a whole new series of Ancient Aliens is therefore in the works?

I have already ordered brand new yacht in anticipation! 

But perhaps the best part of the following article which validates and unfortunately inspired this trek into madness:

"White and his colleagues have begun experimenting with a mini version of the warp drive in their laboratory." 

Which is why I said they'd probably be wearing a lab coat.... Or perhaps an old pair of jeans and crinkled T-shirt (I am as stylish as I am talented). It all sounds straightforward enough... Anyone got some Dilithium handy?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Big Spaceships 002 - Sol - October Class Frigate

It's been just over 10 years since I began showing my work publicly, and really working at improving it.  I have made 3D models since 1993 and grew up drawing pictures of aviation, birds, cars, people... Sometimes even spaceships.

But there never seemed much point to it, no one bar a few mostly disinterested friends ever saw my work but I suddenly found an outlet with internet forums.

I had wanted to show my first ever big spaceship, as it would have been just over 10 years old this month, but having gone through all my backup disks I can find no trace of it.  So I thought I'd show the first capital ship built for my Sol project.   Sol is a cold war type scenario between planetary forces, constrained mostly to our solar system, broken down into two factions, essentially a Soviet type regime on a partly terraformed Mars and everyone else who stayed on Earth after the cataclysm.

I had already produced the Foxhound fighter/bomber (anti-capital(ist) ship warfare) as shown elsewhere in the blog.  But I needed to find a way into a larger ship design so I chose the 'boat in space' style as used in shows like Starship Troopers.  Working it entirely in 3D (not a concept sketch in sight) I refined a shape down to the finished model as depicted below, please click for a marginally larger resolution.

A rendering from 2003, hence the hon-HDness of it. I clearly had a thing for pink dust clouds - which were perhaps pollution from mining operations, obviously there are no pink nebula around our solar system so I had to come up with some explanation. 
To get there I used a Pentium 3, something or other with a tiny amount of ram compared to today and probably a very early nvidia card.  So it's not like a model I'd build today in that its very simplistic but on a par with the types of models that my peers were building at the time. The simplicity means its probably a nice one to study the method with.  
Roughing out and refining the base hull and superstructure shapes, if you don't get this right then whats the point in detailing? 

Adding and refining secondary shapes to the design, the turrets are designed for around 100 degrees of elevation change, meaning they can shoot straight up and attack the weak point for massive damage.  Note the horribly overexposed lighting here, this was always trial and error for me before i began to understand these things. 
Ah, much better lighting Coolhand, maybe a bit gloomy... 
Increased the fill lighting to get more clarity in the shadow side - nearly looks like a spacecraft, or something. 
Panelling and detailing the superstructure, the little indent on the side of the bridge is probably an airlock, in the heat of battle the crew would be located further inside the ship, this tall bridge being used for navigation - akin to the sail of a submarine, while it may have some windows the control centre is usually somewhere in the middle of the ship instead. 
Since I seem to be missing a few WIP pics (if anyone has copies please let me have some copies back!) We'll skip ahead somewhat, getting very close to the finished model here, topside is nearly done. The dome on the front is probably the main fire-control and radar. 

A closeup on the upper foredeck, some exposed structural elements imply a layered structure and depth.  My main turret designs are sometimes compared to BSG's but this project pre-dates it by about a year, it's counterpart on the opposing faction even has a similar ribbed appearance to the nu-BSG Galactica but was also shown online before the new Galactica model... Jus' sayin'. 

Enlivening the sides of the ship, still not quite interesting enough, note the same airlock structure as shown on the bridge earlier.  Look near the three large windows on the right, human scale features like windows and airlocks are essential for creating a sense that we're looking at a large structure of some sort..
Ah, thats better, what could be more appropriate for a futuristic spaceship than a set of fixed, sideways firing cannons - perfect for delivering an 18th century style broadside.
finished pic showing the stern detailing. Stern, stern but fair.  
Another view of it, the rear is particularly well covered by anti-aircraft type guns. The vents behind the turret became a recurring theme, in this case bad luck for the turret operator who's in the rear enclosure when the reactor is purged. 
Key lighting is nicely balanced on this one, but the blue fill is horribly inky and awful looking - probably a result of too much saturation in the fill lights.

For the Motherland! (umm, Mars) Another nasty inky looking rendering, but at least it has a rough propaganda poster look - or something, not sure if I was going for that look or not. 
Probably the best image I made with this model, has a sense of speed and emptiness, which is well, space travel in a nutshell if you're doing it right. The pink clouds actually looking fairly natural combined with the glow from the sun, backlighting a model against a pretty background is aaaaalways a good idea, imho.

I guess i just about got the blue looking akseptibull in the end. I must have switched to an area filter or something as this render looks so blurry compared to the rest.

And thats all folks, final analysis, I still think this design works pretty well, Its modelled and smoothed in a very simple way, detailing could be better and the textures are only procedural but I prefer it to some of my later ships... Which will be detailed in future blog articles, so join, ooh at least 10 other people and hit the subscribe button on the right tabs or add me to your reading list so you don't miss out!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Big Spaceships 001 - Irrealis "ISS Mjollnir" Part 3 (of 3)

If you missed it, heres a link to post one in this series detailing a highly detailed sci-fi spaceship model.

So where were we, oh yes so not long after finishing the model I upgraded my machine and software to 64 bit, a little later than most folks - this was due to the financial crisis, repeatedly moving accomodation and because the work I was generally doing didn't demand more than one gigabyte of memory but it was years after that, when I finally put the peices together and made some pics, one of which I'll relay here.

View of both wreckage sections, the centrifuge and bow, friends reunited after at least two years. 
But those pics aren't terribly pretty.  So here are some brand new ones made just for this posting, these are full standard HD 1920 x 1080 in a high quality PNG format so please click to see them at full size.

Hopefully one day we'll see the ISS Mjollnir in action in it's production, Irrealis, until then these will have to do!

I hope you enjoyed this series, if you have please tell people about this blog and leave a comment on the comment zone below. As the title implies, more to come as I have many projects to document, if you're interested in commissioning a model please feel free to contact me, my details are on my contact page. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Big Spaceships 001 - Irrealis "ISS Mjollnir" Part 2 (of 3)

Because this is the internet and I'm sure I'm not the only person who reads things in reverse order,  lets recap...  The ship was built in 2008 for a short movie then called 'Rocket Man' now called 'Irrealis' to my knowledge it's never been released on the internet.   There's more detail in post one of course if you want more or feel the need to follow things sequentially in the correct order.

One of the important FX shots in the show is an integration of 3D/CGI graphics and live action, a composited tracking shot showing a slow pull away from a live action set which is embedded in the wreckage of the ring section.

The over-exposed booth in the middle of frame matches the on on screen set, the diagonal bars passing in front of the booth are infact matched to a part of the cockpit set that was in the live shot, and became part of the overall effects shot, here integrating with 3D modelled damage.
Once finished with the damaged section I decided it would be a good idea to jump to another section of the ship, the bow module.  This is often the most important section of a spaceship, but this time the bow is not shown in close-up, even so I still added a decent amount of detail for the time and resources I had available and tried to breakup some of the flowing lines into more interesting forms.  The textures and geometry hold up at close range.

It sorta looks like a head of some oddly proportioned robot, the round mouth opening is most likely a docking port - like a huge version of ILIDS (International Low Impact Docking System) as used presently in human space flight. The teeth would be part of the system that interlocks with another opposing dock, bringing and holding the structures together.  See if you can spot the bit of Apollo lander which was in there from the proxy model and eventually plastered over with other bits and pieces.
Once complete I designed some truss sections - perhaps more artistic that realistic, but that's the theme of the entire ship, we're not NASA - to tie the fore and aft modules to the centrifuge.  Beginning to feel the pressure of time constraints and the hardware limitations I had at that time meant these parts were made in a totally separate file, to be combined later for rendering on a powerful render farm.

The engine was probably a fusion reactor, perhaps something like a Polywell (hence the round shape) the bits sticking out from the engine module, perhaps some kind of radiation shielding for the centrifuge or to enhance cooling, or if neither of those will do then they do *something*;)  - I find if you can't back up things with numbers then its easy to avoid nerdy arguments with certain obsessive personality types by letting them work it out for themselves.
(much as I enjoy a nerdy argument, it generally makes all parties look like dorks and cuts into the modelling time immensely)

So at this point I had problems, running out of time, running out of memory, Joseph perhaps running out of patience but always a gent.  I now left the fore and aft modules, though the engine in particular could have done with some more poly-lovin it was never meant to be seen closely.   I returned to the centrifuge and completed some parts of it, but found I couldn't even render the parts without changing renderers, lighting and materials, and had no time for any of it. I sent what I had off, as a complete package but a large 'make it up as you go along' ship like this is never truly finished, only abandoned - I'm usually never happy but look back years later more objectively and think, hmm, that actually looked OK. 

In fact for numerous reasons I didn't see a complete render of this ship at all (and properly assess my work) or even load all parts into the same scene until earlier this year, a gap of three-and-a-half years.  So I will frustratingly leave you now without seeing the entire thing - until part 3. 


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Big Spaceships 001 - Irrealis "ISS Mjollnir" Part 1

Its three, years ago and I'm looking for a new place to live; the charm of the lovely water features that would be produced from the ceiling of my inner city attic flat every time it clouds over wearing thin.  After cancelling a tenancy agreement I have about two weeks to sort other accommodation out and pack up and move.

Perfect timing for a big project with a tight schedule then.

Cue Joseph Ksander: "Steve, I'm making a movie and need a big spaceship."

Me: "Sweet!"

The fool even offered me money, anyway... Joe is really nice guy with a great vision and now rightfully a very successful person in Hollywood, this spaceship was for his low budget short then called "Rocketman," now called "Irrealis."  The design had already been worked out and painted mockups filmed during principle photography so it had to closely resemble those images, here's one of them:

I began with the central centrifuge section based around a proxy model used for working out FX sequences, Mjollnir is a big ship and the centrifuge contains four decks.
 A finished Centrifuge section erm, section. 
The ISS Mjolnir is in trouble having been struck by an Asteroid, so as well as building the ship I also had to partly destroy it, as this was the last ship I built on a 32 bit system (with the 1gb memory limit for applications) I had to work in several different files.
Working out some of the damage on the outside, considering the path of the asteroid through the ship, and that the centrifuge is still spinning I gave everything a downward/out sag, as if holding on by only a thread.
Adding more layers to represent outer and inner panels and so on, and lots of junk, pipework, wiring, big storage tanks, cargo pods and machinery.
This is about where I had to move house and to illustrate my own frustration at having to break off and deal with other things i have decided to split this into two parts and make you all wait, hah! 

If you forgive and bear with me, more to come including the rest of the ship in part 2!