Archive for the 'Model Commentary' Category

Archer-class Starship

Comparison of my model with Masao Okazaki’s original schematic drawing

The Archer-class starship is a small TOS-era scout designed by Masao Okazaki for the Star Trek: Vanguard novels created by David Mack, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, and Marco Palmieri. I began the model some time ago, after getting the idea of doing an opening credits sequence animation for the then-recently-announced Star Trek: Seekers spin-off series.


• December 19, 2015 • Comments Off on Archer-class Starship

Enterprise-Refit Interiors

Last year, around the time the 5K iMac and 2016 Ships of the Line calendar contest were announced, I got the idea of making window boxes for Dennis Bailey’s refit-Enterprise model so as to show more detail in the high-resolution images of the future. This has been my favorite science fiction design for as long as I can remember, so simple textured boxes were right out. I wanted to have furniture, even crew people visible through the windows. It took a while but, the results were worth it.

The layout of the rooms is based more-or-less on the Strategic Designs blueprint set, with some details from Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise and my own interpretations.

The model includes three swappable objects, based on locations that changed between the original Enterprise and the A. The officer’s lounge under the bridge can be replaced with a dining room, the large shuttlebay from TMP can be swapped for the enclosed version from TFF, and the swirling, gaseous warp core from the early movies can exchanged for the pulsing TNG model. The idea is that I could easily mix-and-match to represent other Constitution-class ships of varying configurations. I’m a big fan of the idea that sister-ships shouldn’t be perfectly identical except for the name painted on the front.

The whole configuration also comes in two versions, one in smooth earth-tones as the original Enterprise appeared in the first three movies, and one with more greeblies and silver and blue-gray coloring as the Enterprise-A appeared in The Undiscovered Country.

The crew people are very low-detail, little more than stick figures, but come in male and female, and have various skin tones and hair colors. I also set them up so it was simple to change the style of their uniforms, from the movie-era all the way to the various TNG-era uniforms.

The only drawback is that the lighting for the windows is a little dim compared to the official model, but I’ve been rendering in passes for years anyway, so it isn’t any trouble to brighten up the windows after the fact.

I included some small shots from inside the rooms but, to be clear, this is an exterior-only model. It’s no secret that interiors and exteriors for buildings and vehicles in film rarely match up perfectly, and these are no exception, with compromises made for the Recreation Deck, the Cargo Bay, and the height of all the rooms along the saucer’s edge, especially. Anyone building a model of the interiors of the movie-era Enterprise would have to ignore the outer shape of the ship to get those to look correct. The shuttlebay observation galleries being a half-deck below the window line on the exterior ship could be argued to be a feature of the “real” ship, but I’m not sure I like it.

After I finished the interior, I decided to gussy up the texturing on the main model, as well. I’ve been fiddling with the textures and lighting setup since I first downloaded it, but this time I set out to match the reflective, pearlescent paint job the studio model had for the first Star Trek movie. It ended up being surprisingly straightforward to get multi-colored highlights out of the model’s original textures, and adding reflectivity to the surfaces also required only a little trial-and-error to nail down.

I’ve rendered off shots from three angles so you compare Dennis’s original model to all the stuff I’ve done to it.

My version is on the left, the original on the right.


And here are some full-sized versions of my revamp for you.


You can see more work-in-progress images and read more details about the creation of model in this thread at Foundation3D. The model itself, along with an FBX conversion, and just the crew figures, is also available for download there. You’ll have to modify Dennis’s model to use them, which is why they’re in the “unfinished” section of F3D, but the Read Me explains what you need to look for.

• June 14, 2015 • Comments Off on Enterprise-Refit Interiors

Clearing Out the Workbench

Over at Foundation3D, a new downloads category opened up for unfinished models. A couple days after seeing the thread, I remembered that I had a very rough version of the hangar deck from the 2003 version of Battlestar Galactica, and also the foundation for the Halo: Reach version of the Pillar of Autumn. I’d finished the initial work for both, which is usually the part of modeling that gives me the most trouble, but I’d also burned out on them getting that far and moved on to other things.

I uploaded both of them. The Autumn includes a large number of screencaps from Reach, a few downloaded from the internet, but most I took myself to use as reference for the project.

The hangar was actually for a school assignment, to match a professionally made 3D rendered environment, either a virtual set or something from an animated film.

You can download the Pillar of Autumn and hangar from Foundation3D. The models are in Lightwave format, though I included OBJ versions for users of other packages. All I ask is that if you let me know if you do anything with them. I still have a few images in mind that I’d like to make with these objects.

As an aside, the reason I was looking at my hangar model was that I was playing with some of the new BSG designs from Blood and Chrome and comparing them to the parent show. While doing that, I did some scaling with the new Viper (based on a production diagram posted by Doug Drexler) and found out that it’s a big sucker (10.6 meters long, with a 6.8 meter wingspan). I thought I may have made a mistake, but the cockpit matches the size of the cockpit on the Mark II version, and they seem to be using the second Mark II cockpit set from BSG without any modifications, so they should take up the same space.

• November 22, 2012 • Comments Off on Clearing Out the Workbench

Well, it’s a “ship” that goes through the “gate,” so we’ll call it…

…a puddle jumper!

Front view

Rear view

Now that the modeling of the exterior is finished, I believe I have enough invested in it to start up the WIP thread. I’ve started on texturing, and I believe I have a good base for the hull texture above. I’m painting alpha maps for it so the mottling isn’t so uniform. I already finished animating the unfolding of the engines, though I’ll need to work out a new way to clip the objects so they don’t show up inside the cabin of the ship when they’re retracted. The method I’m using now only works when the ship is pointed along the Z-axis.

Also, I’ve finished texturing on the drone weapons, complete with a low-detail version for those scenes when you have thousands of the things flying every which way.

Drone Showcase

Active Drone

Added July 22, 2007

I’ve finished texturing and the light set-up on the exterior. I’m going to try to figure out how to get this clip-mapping fixed, though. Being able to only point the ship in one direction is a bit limiting for cinematography. After I’ve gotten that done (or given up in hopes of figuring it out later), I’ll get back to modeling the interior.

Also, I’ve rigged the engines so I can throttle their brightness with one slider. In fact, with the complicated retractions this ship does, I have to say, sliders and Master Channels are an absolute Godsend.




Added July 23, 2007

As for the engines on the Jumper, those are a magical wonderland of cheating. The engine bays on the original are about twice as deep as mine (the reason the bays on my model are shallower is so the rear compartment fits in at something close to its actual proportions), so the actual engines fit in with a bit less of a problem. However, it seems clear that the pivot they rest upon jumps off of its track while it’s retracting, so the engines can point straight up. Also, the wings themselves just pull into the body, without any sort of fake compartment or rationalization as to how they could possibly fit into the ship. Part of the fun of making this model was realizing exactly what compromises were made in its design, right after I made the same ones and thus knew what to look for.

The best look at how the engines retract (and how the VFX artists hide the fact that its physically impossible for them to move the way they do) come in the opening shot of the episode “Trinity,” and in a number of shots in “38 Minutes” (thought the best angles from those episodes aren’t included in those caps).

Seriously, after reverse-engineering this whole thing, I’m thinking about doing a writeup on the Jumper, mostly a taxonomy of the 3+ distinct 3D models of done on the show.

Here’s a movie of the cycles for the drone and engine bays. I’ve already decided I’ll take a page from the Atlantis VFX teams and only show the engines unfolding while the ship is distant, in motion, in shadow, or all three.

The same movie as above, but with the main body of the ship hidden so you can see precisely how the engines have to be clipped out so they don’t show up inside the cabin.

• July 9, 2007 • Comments Off on Well, it’s a “ship” that goes through the “gate,” so we’ll call it…

The 2006 Gates Are Here

…and it’s about danged time, too!

Well, I’ve been lazy about putting everything together, and I didn’t want to advertise the model until it was ready to go out, but now it is. Anyway, I’ve remodeled my Stargate from scratch, and I do believe it is far superior now in accuracy, detail, and general prettiness.

First, to refresh your memory check out the old version.

Now, get a load of the new version, in all its glory.

This uses the lighting setup and cove object from the LWG, by Jason T and Lightwave7871. And, after using it, it’s the only way to show off your models. Well, if you’re me, at least. Gad, it just brings everything right out on the modeled details and textures.

There are three versions of the main model, a low, medium, and high-detail version.


Now, some of these next images were made while the model was still being fined tuned, so there may be minor details that are different.

Top of the Atlantis gate
Back of the SG-1 gate
Front of the SG-1 gate
Front of the Atlantis gate
Earth Origin Symbol
Abydos Origin Symbol
Antarctica Origin Symbol
P7J-989 Origin Symbol

And, don’t forget it’s animatable. You’ll need an up-to-date version of Quicktime to view these.

Chevron 1 Locks using a movie-style animation setup
The beginning of the Atlantis Stargate’s outgoing dialing sequence
The Atlantis Stargate’s incoming dialing sequence
The puddle effect (with lighting!)


Go here to download it.

• January 29, 2006 • Comments Off on The 2006 Gates Are Here

Stargate 1.0 Making-Of

Well, after getting royally hooked on Stargate SG-1 (and now Stargate Atlantis) over the summer, I remembered an old tutorial on how to model a Stargate. After tracking it down, I began the process of building my own as part of my initiation into Lightwave modeler. While it’s not quite finished as yet, I think I’ve gotten as far as I can by my wits alone, so this post is part “Hey, look at this cool thing I just did,” and part, “Can anyone help me? Please?”

Anyway, the pictures:



Front (Chevrons off)
Front (Chevrons on)
Front close-up (Chevrons off)
Front close-up (Chevrons on)
Rear close-up

The ‘gate is fully animatable (and, after testing this baby out and finding how tedious animating the dialing sequence is, I’m going to be pulling out my trusty copy of Inside Lightwave [6] to see about some way to automate the process), and I’m inordinately proud of how the texturing turned out. Also, though none of the pictures here show it, I made three alternate spinning rings with different point-of-origin symbols. For the nit-pickers, I even accidentally added no less than three minor errors to find and bug me with. And I have no intention of fixing them, unless and until I make a version 2.0. And since I’m not even finished with this one yet, that’s a ways away.

And, now for the part that everyone’s been waiting for, the obligatory “Begging for help from the learned elders” portion of the post.

One: There’s a pattern of groves in the texturing of the original Stargate. I’m kind of at a loss as to how to paint proper-looking bump maps with good-looking semi-circles and randomly-connecting lines.

Two: I’m not entirely happy with the chevron glows, especially on the big light that isn’t actually a chevron but is part of the whole chevron-unit. It looks less like a clear thing with a light inside (which it should), and more like an opaque thing with a quickly-painted glow map on it (which it is). I’d really appreciate any ideas on how to reverse that little equation.

Three: The event-horizon. That damnable puddle. I can’t even get the pattern of ripples on the surface to look right, much less the blinding while patterns in the center. Everything I find on the internet says “Make a ripple procedural in the bump channel and point a spotlight at it.” Well, apparently, either I’m stupid or it isn’t that simple. This is the part I’m really interested in help on.

And, that’s it. Well, not quite. I took advantage of quite a few places on-line to get as far as I did, and I’d like to provide a little acknowledgment so I can sleep soundly tonight.

First off, to Ed Giddings, for his years-old tutorial that got me started, and the extremely high-quality renders of his own (far more up-to-date) Stargate clone. Honestly, it was some of the best reference material I could find.

Secondly, to the maker of the Stargate Glyph Font. In-freaking-valuable to my making the glyphs on the inner ring, and a pretty neat font in its own right.

Also, to the dedicated minds behind the Richard Dean Anderson Website, specifically the section dedicated to Stargate glyphs. In addition to providing reference for two other point-of-origin symbols, the bank of Stargate addresses allowed me to successfully attempt my dialing-sequence test (which, in retrospect, might not be such a good thing, given how tedious it was to animate. ).

And, finally, to the kind souls who put up the opening sequences for SG-1 and Atlantis on-line. Like I said, reference was sparse, especially moving reference.

Oh, and the cast and crew behind the movies and TV shows. Because, without them making such cool stuff, I wouldn’t have anything to try to recreate in my effort to eventually make my own cool stuff. You guys rule.

Well, I’ve been doing a little more work on the model, and have made (though not yet textured) the iris. Only trouble is, the jagging-out star bit in the middle doesn’t fit together quite right (I tried to get it so it would, but it would make the slats (which are like this: ////) fit together differently (like this: \\\\), and I had to decide which I wanted to be accurate more, the slats or the star. I went with the slats.)

Also, if anyone ever wondered how the Iris could fit inside the Stargate while it wasn’t deployed, rest assured, it can’t. That’s another little problem I’ll have to work around.

Iris 1

Iris 2

Now, for these animations, I didn’t have any movies of the iris opening and closing available, so I had to guesstimate the keyframes based on the sound files I had, so it doesn’t move exactly right.

Iris Closing

Iris Opening

Well, I got the iris textured. It doesn’t look quite like the real thing, with a noticeable seam where the blades meet up, and a slightly fuzzier pattern of blotches. I also had to make a judgment call, in that the iris appears by turns blue or tan, for reasons I am unsure of. I picked blue, on the grounds that I can’t think of any tan metals. Can’t think of any that are quite that shade of blue, either, but that doesn’t matter much. Anyway, see it for yourself, inside the high-poly Stargate.

Iris 1
Iris 2

• August 5, 2004 • Comments Off on Stargate 1.0 Making-Of