Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Big Spaceships 003 - Covenant CCS Battle Cruiser - part 2

We left part 1 with things looking fairly spiffy, but I warn you, things get far more impressive from here on in. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. It's been a real busy work week, so if you've been waiting for part two (don't forget to hit the subscribe button!) I am pleased you are bearing with me. Also continuing with my usual goofy style, which is probably no more appropriate than Seth MacFarlane hosting The Oscars, but then we do seem to live in a world where Seth MacFarlane can host an Oscar ceremony, so deal with it;)

Long time friend and fan of this galactically infamous blogzone, William Shatner, may also be popping in to help prop up and attempt to lend some credibility to my uncouth act so keep an eye out for that!

So, this is about where we left our spacecraft, somewhere in Golden Gate Park (don't worry, it's cloaked and I'm sure for the duration of the article no one will accidentally walk into it or anything)... I think it looks pretty good so far, but then I would...
Keen eyes will occasionally spot the odd floating greeble in these WIP pics, truth is my projects are often surrounded by a cloud of spare parts, usually all hidden in renders... 
But as this turns out, after some discussion with my client, it was really more detail than needed for the smaller vessel.  Does this mean I had wasted time? No - as the extra detail would be up-scaled to supplement the ludicrously detailed CCS Class Battle-Cruiser. The following pic is the stripped-down model which became the small Covenant Cruiser (new readers will be really confused by this point, so go back and read part one!)
The final version of the small cruiser, as then textured and featured in Halo 4's DLC series: Spartan Ops, the removed detail will be used on the larger CCS Class Battlecruiser, which is also to be used in the cinematics for the same series, clear? Good. 
Uhuruhu, read part one to me, Sulu, images on main viewer - and stop b*tching about me on Howard Stern. I, William T Kirkner, am intensely interested in this article. 
So now we get to the CCS Class Battlecruiser, proper. After scaling the removed detail from the smaller one, I sought to enhance it in an effort to give the ship a tremendous sense of scale that would apply at different distances from the camera. I'm always impressed with the industrial detail of the enormous oil tankers which ply this planet's Sperm Whale infested oceans, with much pipeline and infrastructure visible on the decks, they look massive even from miles away. It's difficult to add such detail to these curvy forms but I thought I'd try and it seemed to be working well in darker recesses to add scale.
The worlds largest Oil Tanker, Knock Nevis, was built in the year of your correspondents birth, though he's managed to outlive it by at least 3 years at this point, the Sinister Men in Black may be closing in as we speak... 
A great way to add scale is to add features that are instantly recognisable as having a certain size, by our everyday experiences. Because we're used to seeing a large building from far away our brains instantly associate a row of windows with a room or a corridor - a space large enough to hold a person.  The idea is to trick our brains based on our own experience of the world around us, this instantly ups the perceived scale. I clumsily call these details 'human scale features' - Such things might include windows, airlocks, hand holds, ladders, exterior lights, vending machines, etc. Anything that relates to the viewers direct real life experience helps sell that sense of scale.

Decks 38-42 are presently uninhabitable after a sewer main backed up on Deck 43. The solution: This fall, everyone's favourite Marine Plumber, Mario Chief will be despatched to unclog it in Super Halo Brothers 5, apparently it plays a bit like Call of Duty Black Ops 6, but with more Sparticans and less mushrooms. 
What the... Incoming communication you say? I was just getting into this Blog, now you ruin it with an interruption? Oh, hey I'm helping host the Oscars, Honestly I was just hanging around on my Bridge in my uniform, like I do every Sunday.
So, a large spacecraft is really more of an environment than a vehicle, thinking city or industrial complex rather than spacecraft helps to get a handle on the scale, this is a little beyond "Greebling" itself, A greeble as some will be familiar with, according to the makers of Star Wars being:"Something that looks cool but doesn't actually do anything."  And lets face it, they probably knew what they were talking about.

The purpose of human scale features by contrast is that they have an obvious and familiar purpose and definate size, thereby giving the viewer something to relate to - because a window can only be so large, whereas a greeble is somewhat fractal in nature. Capiche? 

A little patchy and experimental, but this first tentative area gives me an idea of where I need to go with the rest of it, the model will never look finished, or unified without a similar level of detail over  e v e r y t h i n g. 
It's important to consider how the model will look at different ranges, even pulled back like this the sense scale is still evident, largely because of the windows. Yep, I have changed the lighting again, not sure why I do this, but the project extended over several weeks, its easy to get bored - for consistency I also provided the occasional 'clay' render with a simple single light setup
It's also important to see how it looks close-up, I don't know what shots it will be used in, but I wanted to give the Director the ability to use the model in many ways. 
And so all too soon the gods of the Bloggospheroid have rudely told me through their signs and portents of bugs and errors that this article is getting too large. Though it pains me I must once again leave you dear friends, to try and earn a crust in this harsh cold winter; to get the money that buy the logs, that will feed the burner, that will boil the steam and drive the turbine of power;* that will enable the great machine of truth to send the required binary signals to post part three in the very near future.

If only all I had to worry about were which actresses in the audience had exposed their anatomies on film for money, and sing a song about it for enormous amounts of money.

It's a song, about boobies? the ones belonging to women in the audience? Eh, whatever, I'm sat in a state of the art Federal Reserve warship anyway, lets get it over with and cash this cheque! - Mr Sulu, put that mic down and plot a course for the neutral zone, you know, Switzerland, where we all hide our earnings from the IRS!** 
Did you like this article? Hated it but feel unexpectedly generous anyway? Please share and like this post on social things like Google+ and Facebook, thanks! 

*I apologise for the possible mis-use of a semi-colon.
**I have no idea where he hides his earnings.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Big Spaceships 003 - Covenant CCS Battle Cruiser - part 1

"Wait, come back, I've left my iPhone on board! Oh, I'll call the captain.... Oh, sh.....eez" 
If you, like any sensible person have a fetish for GIGANTIC ALIEN SPACECRAFT you have come to the right place.  As previewed earlier in the year, one of last years major projects for Coolhand Graphics revolved around building assets for Halo 4, specifically the Spartan Ops campaign that has ended with the last segment released just today! Which means after an agonising wait I'm finally able to spill the beans, squeal like a stuck little piggy-wiggy and lift the lid on a particular fascinating and challenging construction.

I invite you, Dear reader (wasn't he in charge of North Korea? -ed) to the following briefing which has until today been TOP SECRET....

Sit down gentlemen, ladies, and anyone in between... Even if you're on a mobile thing and crossing the road, just sit down, right there in the middle of the street* - that bus will wait, the driver has seen you, I promise! Are you sitting comfortably? OK, please review the datasheet below:

This nearly two-kilometer long monster of a vessel is perhaps mid-range for the Covenant arsenal, that said its still absolutely gigantic. Naturally, given its tremendous size and because it has more curves than Kim Kardashian's wobbly bits, and about as friendly to caress, this is not an easy shape to build up to movie quality standards, as required for these cut-scenes. Fortunately, Axis Animation up in jolly old Scotchland, knowing they had a problem, knowing now one else could help, and having a pretty good idea of where I was (hiding in a small lead-lined cupboard, as I so often do on a Thursday), thought maybe they could hire... The S-Team!

Anyway, enough with the shtick, we don't have time for it... This is against the clock, people, against the clock!  And indeed it was, as I had all of 4 weeks to complete the largest, the most complex single model I have ever built, in fact two models, but we'll get into that later. Was I ready for it? Did I massively screw it up? Find out next week on the S-Team!


Naw, just kidding, where shall we start? at the beginning  OK... It may come as no surprise to some that the huge CCS BC is in fact very similar in shape to a much smaller Covenant ship, the Covenant Cruiser, (I'm not sure it has a better name?) So I first built this smaller craft and based the larger CCS on it.

Starting with a model from the game, I dropped in my Akula model, to get an idea of the detail I wanted to put into both ships:

Comparison of ships
See that tiny ship in the corner, thats one of my most detailed ships, the 5 million triangle Akula Class. Yikes!
I had to up-scale the low detail mesh and make sure its smooth - nice and high-res looking, here's some of the initial work on the bow... Remember this corresponds to the smaller of the two covenant ships in the above image:

A closeup of the bow
I added textures pretty early on, it was requested that i put only basic UV mapping data as many effects would be achieved procedurally - as usual most of the final look of the surfaces were established in-house after I handed over the model.  
Was I worried, was I, bah..... Yes of course, I was completely terrified, so I decided to concentrate and complete the bow first as a self contained part, this way I could see how long it took and how much to panic about doing the rest. 
'Clay' Render of the bow
I was allowed a lot of freedom with the detailing and trusted to handle it in my own way, after analysing the Halo 4 covenant style guide I added shapes such as the hair like detail on the borders where the armour steps down. I also drew some inspiration from my one of my favourite designers - H R Giger, appropriate as Halo is often said to draw inspiration from the Aliens franchise.
Underside of the bow WIP
Textured underside of the bow - something a bit squid-like about this, again channelling a little Giger. 
After finishing the bow to an acceptable standard, I realised this was a huge task but I was pretty sure, well fairly sure, it wouldn't end in a huge embarrassing disaster, but still the fear of that was a powerful motivator, a bit like a Death Star commander awaiting a visit from Palpatine.
Overview of the WIP
Sometimes I'm asked, hey you why you put that colour on so early, you stoopid or somethin'? Well, it helps a modeller to make selections, for example all the underlying layers are a darker material than the overlaying armour, so its easy to select these areas by material, or by colour, also, grey is boring, also, It helps to show where I've put UV's, also, shut up.;) 
So, I'm tackling the model methodically, working from one end to the other, often I'll work haphazardly on many different areas at once, depending on my mood.  Here I tried to be as disciplined as possible, if only so my client could see clear progress with each update, as you follow the pictures you can see the "HD" areas growing and overtaking the low detail without jumping ahead.

A far more subdued colour scheme though, the final version as created by Axis was somewhat brighter like the first renders, but I had no idea what tones they would choose at the time.
As always, progress is slow and demands immense patience... But then if I wanted excitement I would never have given up on that career delivering pizza on the Gaza Strip.

Converting the covenant
Ok, Jumping ahead just a little! Most of the panels you can see cut into this hull are carefully made to be faithful to the in-game textures. 
What, you can't see this image?
I think this ship looks best from the side! 
Some of the "engraved" detail on the cargo bays. 
Some of the detail on the upper-mid section, not sure what these freaky looking shapes in the cut-outs are meant to be, they just seemed like an interesting way to use up that space and create some contrast area. I recall after showing this image to the crew at Axis, they were wondering just where I was going to go for the larger Cruiser.  I had some ideas... 
One of the purposes of detail on a spacecraft model, for film use, is to create areas of contrast. The gaps between detail create darker areas, they can cast shadow or soak up light, so even if you can't see all the detail itself, you'll see the darker, contrasting areas on it, this creates visual appeal no matter what the lighting angle, it's important to have smooth areas that will light brightly, and darker areas which add definition, which adds scale, make sense? Good, there will be a test.*

A view of the top of the cruiser
Work in progress of the upper side of the cruiser, thats what WIP means if you haven't been keeping up with the world of nerd. 
.... Flip it over and attack the underside for massive poly-counts! 
Ah, now its starting to look the part.  I always imagined this area in the centre was the bridge of the ship, but according to various un-nammed geeky sources it's probably just the ship's bar, the covenant space hooch is good, hardly make your insides melt but served warm with side orders of live salty flies. 
Getting close to what I thought the final version of the small cruiser would be... This is perhaps a week or so into the build, anxious to finish and get started on the real ship, little did I know at this point I'd already started it. 
Underside small cruiser
Look closely at the (landing leg?) adding the first bit of actual mechanical looking detail - 'Greeble' or 'Nurnie' this shape was ripped straight off my Akula, and has been used on numerous models, you will need to click and see the expanded version - but you were doing that anyway, right? 
Underside, small cruiser
A nice view of the energy-rose, err, thing... Yeah I have no idea what that round part is called, just that it has light coming out of it - I really did my homework as you can tell! 
A nice view of the Airlock thing on the side, again with the covenant engraving, which also sees use on the upper rear of the bridge area - I figured this could be another airlock or shuttle bay, like a huge door that slides upward, but nothing like that is hinted at in the plans.
And so friends, we all too soon reach the end of part 1, not to be cruel but Blogger's editor hates having too many large pics in one article and its acting up, making it hard for me to add anything else... I fear if I add any more awesome to this piece I may break the internet forever!    

Moving on, lots of ground to cover in part 2, which will not be too far down the road, and hopefully if I haven't been assassinated by the studio's sinister agents for giving away too many insider secrets we can get all the rest into the next exciting update! 

Hope you've enjoyed it so far, please click the buttons below to 'like' and 'share' this article on Google, Facebook etc, each one means a lot to me, and don't forget to hit the follow button on the sliding tab thingy on the right.:)

* Coolhand Graphics takes no responsibility for you becoming fatally injured, slightly bruised or sore in an intimate area after reading this blog.
** There will not be a test.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Space Babes 001 - Major Erika Cooper

She may be a battle hardened marine, with years of experience maiming Umpa Lumpas on Rigel 7 (hey, its either maim or be maimed), but she has a soft side too, all the same don't get complacent or say the wrong thing or she'll kick your a**...

Here, she is pictured on board the UNSS Ecliptic, on tour near the Heart Nebula (thank you Hubble), sporting at least part of a MkIV Combat Harness, with the optional Tactical Command Helmet which includes integrated brain-stem interface hardware, speeding tactical decisions.  The Martini, is very dry - though where she's been keeping the olives is a secret. 

For all you lonely Space Marines out there, Valentines sucks if you're on patrol somewhere out on the cold, lonely fringes of the cosmos... Unless you have a holosuite of course: Wife? What wife? - You know, the one you forgot to get a card or present for....  

If you really are lonely tonight (and I'd be surprised if you are because 100% of science fiction fans are of course in long term stable relationships), then perhaps try brewing up a genetically engineered pleasure GELF in your sink, build a sexbot in your garage or just hit the bottle* until you think you see one, then pass out. 

*Coolhand Graphics expects you to drink responsibly, no more than 3 jugs of Space Hooch per recreation cycle, for example, and takes no liability for overdoses of any kind caused by Valentines depression, Vogon construction fleets, and / or waking up in a pool of vomit, just pray its your own. 

Friday, 8 February 2013

1/270 Spacefighters Part 1 - Huntsman

Now available from Shapeways in two distinct flavors. 

Paint and use these models in your favourite Star Fighter combat game! Also these are basically 6mm figure scale.