Archive for the 'Stargate' Category

100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 73


I should really model the power pods that were on space-based stargates in “Atlantis.” It would greatly open up my options for Stargate renders, especially ones involving the Puddle Jumper. In this case, I got away with it by using tight framing.

Incidentally, “Tight Framing” is the name of my cinematography-themed spoken-word jazz concept-album.

• October 19, 2016 • Comments Off on 100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 73

100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 72


I took this picture in Fairchild Gardens years ago, thinking it’d be a good place to put a Stargate. Then when I looked at it after I got home, I realized that it actually wasn’t, since you’d have to sort of sidle along it to get to the front. But, hey, maybe on this planet they just thought it was a decorative ring someone buried for some reason and only found out when someone dialed in.

(I imagine that, by acclimation, falling four feet into a pond was deemed to be the stupidest way the SGC lost a MALP)

• October 18, 2016 • Comments Off on 100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 72

100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 61


Along with my lens-dirt experiment, I’ve been fiddling with bokeh in the wake of the fake depth-of-field effects in the new iPhone. It’s kind of fun to see the bright points in my image become constellations of discs when I feed Photoshop an HDR. I think I might like to do some more human-scale work in the future so I can use effects like this more often. (I also finally got the Smart IBL system to work as intended. Pro-tip: Don’t put every SIBL setup you ever downloaded into it’s source folder. It does not like browsing through many dozens of HDR environments. I just started moving in whatever one I wanted to use to the SIBL folder, using the plugin to generate the scene, and then saving that for future uses.)

There should probably be something in the foreground that’s in focus. I originally planned a more elaborate setup that would include foreground elements, but it would’ve required some amount of prepwork, and my new job has limited my time and energy in the evenings. I’m doing some interesting stuff there, and I’m looking forward to being able to share more about it, but the only thing keeping me going on this project for the next thirty-nine days is my sheer stubbornness. Getting ahead on scene-setup did help considerably a couple weeks ago. Hopefully I’ll be able to bank more than a few shots this weekend.

Hm, that out-of-focus puddle would look really good in an animation…

• October 7, 2016 • Comments Off on 100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 61

100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 57


One of those images that includes a positively desperate amount of bloom and grain to salvage it.

Also, I need higher-resolution explosion photography. These years-old sample images aren’t cutting it anymore. Though in this day and age, it’s probably almost easier for me to just switch to pure-3D fire effects.

• October 3, 2016 • Comments Off on 100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 57

100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 38


A Stargate-inspired picture, set thousands of years ago, imagines the last of the Ancients, crossing paths with the Goa’uld during the rise of their own empire.

I used the portrait orientation to mix things up a bit. Same with the choice of subject.

• September 14, 2016 • Comments Off on 100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 38

100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 2


I had the idea for this image a while ago, not long after I finished my Puddle Jumper model. As I recall, I got the idea looking at the cover of The Terror, a historical novel by Dan Simmons describing the horrible fate of the Franklin Expedition as the crew succumbs to the harsh environment and also some sort of bear-monster. I think that part was a metaphor for how we’ll never know entirely what happened to those people.

Anyway, I more-or-less saw it in my minds eye as you see it above. Crashed Puddle Jumper buried in the snow, askew Stargate in the background, a set of lonely, filled tracks marching back. My premise for the image is that the ship tried flying through an older gate, unaware that it had fallen prey to the elements in the years since it was last used. The Jumper emerged at an odd angle, the left wing clipped the ground and sheared off as it was extending, and the rest of it plowed into the snow a short distance away. (more…)

• August 9, 2016 • Comments Off on 100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 2

Stargate puddle effect: Now with quality!

I don’t even remember what prompted it, but I started fiddling with my four or five year old Lightwave Stargate model this past weekend, and decided to take another shot at something that had heretofore frustrated me, the “puddle” effect.

Originally on my model, I did the highlights in the middle with a specular hit. The trouble is, that only looked right from a head-on view, with the spec coming from a head-on light, with all the scene lights deacivated. I ended up pre-rendering a loop of it, and then applying it to a plane for actual scene work. It took a lot of space, and meant a separate pre-render if you wanted to show another set of ripples form something passing through the stargate. It also tended to look flat from oblique angles. Huge pain, and I always wanted to figure out some way to do it procedurally in-camera.

A couple years ago, it occurred to me that I could help reduce the fakeness of the effect by just pre-rendering the highlights, and having the reflection map I used to break up the ripples be rendered in-camera. This helped, but not really that much.

So, that brings us back to now. I started looking at it, and suddenly realized I could just use a gradient to ramp up the reflectivity closer to the center of the object. The reflections would blow out to white as it got closer to the center, it’d be totally independent of the scene lighting, and it’d shift subtly with the angle of the camera.

It’s just. That. Easy.

Old Effect:


New Effect:

Anyway, I fiddled around with it further to perfect it, all the while kicking myself that this perfectly obvious solution hadn’t occurred to me five years ago when I started trying to nail this.

Also, if I’d figured it out then, my interactive lighting solution would still work. Apparently, something in Lightwave has changed in regards to caustics and refractions, breaking my old solution, leaving me stymied.

From the rear, the stargate effect looks the same as the front, except semitransparent, and occasionally with a ripply refraction effect, if the VFX people think it’s worth it this week. Simple enough, right? And so it was. Just the same texture as the front, slightly transparent, and with an appropriate refraction index.

The stargate also vomits light out of the front, like sunlight reflecting off water onto a building. I replicated this with a spotlight shining through the back, with caustics enabled (and rediculously cranked up), through a dummy puddle hidden from the camera with a higher refraction index so it would look right. And look right it did!

Now, though, the transparent back doesn’t work properly, apparently catching a reflection of the front despite the fact that the front side of the puddle is one-sided polygons in every way it’s possible for polygons to be one-sided. Now that I’m talking about it, I think I remember something about caustics or refraction being altered in Lightwave 9 to remove the nessessity of “air polys.” That could have something to do with it.

Well, that’s not too bad. I just live without the refractive back. No big. Unfortunately, the caustics are just wrong. They move very slowly in one direction, and flicker like it’s going out of style. It looks like nothing so much as a helicopter’s blades on film, a wide blur slowly moving around and around.

I backtracked to the versions I did my old test renders with, and made sure the problems weren’t the result of something I changed (which it seems to be in one other case, where the spot I used for the caustics ignored the caustics object and went through the proper puddle, despite having exactly the opposite set in the “exclude object from light” settings. That’ll be a fun one to track down). I’ll continue fiddling with it in the coming days to see if I can figure some new workarounds for it. I’m also thinking about trying to do a kawoosh now that I’m looking at it again, having seen some spiffy CG ones on youtube (including one that used my gate model).

At the moment, though, my gate looks fine from the front, and the lighting looks fine in a still.

Old Effect:

New Effect:




Updated January 30, 2015

I’ve rendered a 5K version of the showcase image.


• June 9, 2010 • Comments Off on Stargate puddle effect: Now with quality!

Movie-poster style Stargate image

A while ago, I came up with the idea to try to recreate the image of the stargate used in the original movie poster in 1994. I finally got around to it after matching the angle last night for an AO render in the “New Headers” thread. To get that extra-shiny look, I rendered it in seven passes; three lights, each with a separate diffuse and specularity pass, plus one for the red chevron lights. I saved them all as HDRIs, and put them together in Photoshop, adjusting the gamma and exposure of each layer, with blending mode set to “Linear Dodge (Add).” Once I had it the way I liked it, I merged them together into a single HDR layer, and used that to make the bloom effect. I think it’s a little strong, but that’s why we’ve got layers. I can fiddle with it more if I want to use it in the future.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever end up using the image for anything, but it ended up being a pretty fun exercise.


The reference image


The final product


Breakdown of the component passes

• September 20, 2008 • Comments Off on Movie-poster style Stargate image

Ambient Occlusion Renders of the Jumper and Stargate

I made these Ambient Occlusion renders for the Foundation3D rotating site headers. Two were put into the rotation.

• September 19, 2008 • Comments Off on Ambient Occlusion Renders of the Jumper and Stargate

Puddle Jumper Showcase

Renders of the Puddle Jumper and Drone models.


– Deployment and retraction of the Jumper’s drone bays and engine pods




Download Page

• December 31, 2007 • Comments Off on Puddle Jumper Showcase