As a quick little side-project, the other night I built the SGC Plaque. Joseph Mallozzi, who was a writer and producer on the TV shows, has been posting high-res behind-the-scenes photos, concept art, and documents since the shows were still on the air, and recently posted a construction diagram of the plaque, which made it pretty easy to model in only an hour or two, most of which was spent squinting at the measurements and comparing with some photos of the finished plaque to see how things changed between the drawing and the actual piece.
There was also a 3D rendered version used on the show as a screensaver and decorative element on computer displays which was colored differently, so I made both versions. I didn’t sweat getting the textures exactly right (and there were some shape differences with the digital version I didn’t bother changing), just going for the spirt instead of a perfect duplicate. The gaudy ’90s texturing is pretty rough, and now we’ve entered a glorious era where flat color in CGI actually look okay.
Since last summer, I’ve been working on a new 3D model of the stargate in Lightwave, my thirdattempt. Since I last built a stargate model in 2006 (with small updates afterward), my skill as a modeler has increased, and reference material is far more plentiful. That includes behind-the-scenes photos, low-res but still useful construction diagrams from auction websites, HD home video releases of the movies and television shows, and, most importantly, high-res photos from Les Enfants de Mac Gyver, a group creating a duplicate of the SG-1 stargate setpiece using pieces of the screen-used version purchased at auction as well as their own copious research. There are many sections of this model where I simply wouldn’t have been able to even guess at what went where without their detailed and plentiful photos of their stargate being assembled, disassembled, and otherwise worked on.
I’ve been working on a new 3D model of the stargate. For the moment, I’ve been working in parallel on the variations seen in the original movie and the SG-1 television series, since they share nearly all of the same parts.1The Atlantis stargate, while superficially similar, actually has enough unique aspects that it makes more sense for me to build a separate model based on the parts I’ve made for the movie/SG-1 version. One of the elements I’d like to recreate is that in the original movie, the stargate on the alien planet Abydos had different symbols on its inner ring than the one on Earth. I’ve never seen any listing of these alternate symbols, so I investigated the film to see what I could figure out.
NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE
First, let’s talk about the point of origin symbol. For the TV series Stargate SG-1, the concept of the stargate was simplified, so that rather than each stargate having a unique set of symbols on it based on the stars as seen from its particular location in the universe, every stargate used the same symbols, based on the constellations as seen from Earth, aside from one unique symbol, which represented that particular stargate itself. Finding the symbol that represented the “point of origin” was a major plot-point in the film, though it was only occasionally touched on in the series; unique point of origin symbols were designed for other stargates just twice during the entire run of the show,2The stargate in Antarctica in “Solitudes,” and the stargate on the planet where the population was living a VR simulation in “The Gamekeeper” with other planets normally having one of the regular 38 “address” symbols substituted in their place (another reason I wanted to recreate the Abydos stargate was to have a supply of plausible stargate symbols to use as point of origin symbols for alien stargates on my SG-1 gate model).
In SG-1, the origin symbol for the stargate used by Earth during most of the show was carried over from the film, a triangle pointing upward at a circle, representing a pyramid with the sun directly above it.3The pyramid symbol, and all the other stargate symbols, were remade from scratch for the series stargate setpieces, and don’t precisely match the symbols used in the movie in size, orientation, or proportion. The symbol for Abydos in the series was three equilateral lines extending out from a center point, with two triangles flanking the vertical line.
That is similar to the way the symbol was described in the film (a pyramid with the three moons of Abydos above it), but it doesn’t quite look like the drawing of the symbol we saw in the film, which consisted of two wide, stacked triangles. And, in fact, there is a symbol of two wide, stacked triangles on the Abydos stargate in the movie. So where’d the symbol used in the TV show come from?
The Atlantis stargate, while superficially similar, actually has enough unique aspects that it makes more sense for me to build a separate model based on the parts I’ve made for the movie/SG-1 version.
The pyramid symbol, and all the other stargate symbols, were remade from scratch for the series stargate setpieces, and don’t precisely match the symbols used in the movie in size, orientation, or proportion.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been working at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as part of a team producing video lectures for on-line classes in the Scout and University Extension programs. As my time there comes to a close, I wanted to post a retrospective summary of what I’ve been doing. Day to day, the majority of my time was spent assembling and editing individual lessons, though at one time or another I at least touched on all aspects of production, including filming, quality assurance, and asset creation.
As far as 3D work goes, while I did have the chance to produce short explanatory animations for various lessons, something I volunteered for in the first few days on the job was creating virtual sets for our courses. Our presenters were shot on greenscreen, and I though it would add a level of visual interest to place them in a realistic environment, rather than up against some sort of plain color or gradient backdrop.
Back in the 1960s, Doctor Who introduced the Cybermen as coming from a “counter-Earth” called Mondas, a twin planet of our own that had escaped detection as it orbited the sun exactly opposite the Earth. Mondas was flung into deep space when the arrival of Earth’s moon disrupted the balance between the planets, and the inhabitants gradually surgically altered themselves to survive the increasingly harsh environment, until they were cold, cybernetic monstrosities who strapped enormous engines to their world, intent on returning to their home star and draining Earth of its precious energy reserves. Mondas itself was depicted as being exactly identical to Earth (except upside-down1While upside-down, it is still rotating in the conventional way, suggesting that the Mondasians also consider “north” to be “up” on their maps. I’m not sure whether that means that, spatially, the planet was upside down relative to Earth and rotating in the same direction, or the surface was aligned the same way but was rotating backwards, like Venus . I doubt anyone gave it that much thought.), complete with humans identical to those on Earth.
There is no prize for finding the most scientific inaccuracies in that paragraph. “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls,” the two-part season 10 finale of Doctor Who, revisited the Cybermen’s origin. While set on a ship either constructed by or commissioned for the people of Mondas rather than the planet itself, we do see a computer screen showing a display of the planet. At a casual glance, Mondas still appears to be identical to Earth (though right-side up this time2And still rotating in the conventional direction. Maybe they reversed the planet’s rotation when they attached the engines, like that episode of Futurama.), but the Doctor Who art department took the time to subtly modify the layout of the continents as a freeze-frame bonus. I’d hoped that the BBC’s Production Art gallery for the episode might contain a complete map, but, alas, it is not to be, and it seems unlikely the show will be revisiting Mondas anytime soon, leaving reverse-engineering the planet to fans like me.
First, I had to correct for the prespective distortion of the computer screen, so here’s the straight-on view of Mondas, in both Quicktime and GIF formats.Continue reading →
While upside-down, it is still rotating in the conventional way, suggesting that the Mondasians also consider “north” to be “up” on their maps. I’m not sure whether that means that, spatially, the planet was upside down relative to Earth and rotating in the same direction, or the surface was aligned the same way but was rotating backwards, like Venus . I doubt anyone gave it that much thought.
The score over the climactic sequence of “Rogue One” always reminded me of something. I tried laying over “The Life and Death of Amy Pond,” from the end of the Doctor Who episode “The Pandorica Opens,” and the pacing and tone matched pretty well. I suspect it may have been the temp score for the sequence.
You can see the waveforms for both tracks here; the film track, “Your Father Would Be Proud” is on top, with “The Life and Death of Amy Pond” is on the bottom. Also, I did slightly adjust the speed (about 1% faster or slower, I can’t remember) of the music so it would hit a couple beats slightly more precisely.