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.



  1. I am fairly new to this 3d modelling. Would be really nice to be able to see the mesh at each stage of development to see how you built up the detailing.

    Great, and inspiring work.

  2. Thanks Angus, You may be interested in some of the other work I will document in future... Gonna post a HUGE update in a few days time:)