Friday, December 17, 2010

The NARC armor: first look

It's described as "mirror-black kevlex-titanium body armor." You can't shoot through it; you can't hack through it; wearing it, you could walk through a furnace. It weighs ... a lot, which is why it has its own gravity-resist, allowing the user to "dial-down" his apparent mass to maybe 20kg and literally jump over a house ... or dial it down into negative numbers and rise back to the gunship out of which he jumped. The armor goes on in sections, and it "smart seals," with nano which meshes one piece into the next. It's flexible in all the places a human body is flexible -- don't think any kind of standard armor you know. This is the twenty-fourth century, when machines are micro-miniaturized and neutralize their own weight. In many ways, the armor is a machine, and a significant part of it is nano -- this is how you put it on, and get it off.

Do you remember in Death's Head, when Stoney was shot down, and the cartel thugs who captured him couldn't figure out how the heck to get him out of the armor? It doesn't lock or clamp or snap any way you would recognize. Soooo different, and so cool. Trust Mel Keegan to come up with this -- and you know this was designed 20 years ago, for the first book?!

Yep, it's the NARC armor, as worn by the Raven units -- the descant troops. You always knew what it had to look like: fiendish, and also sexy as all get-out.

And I always knew it would be the second toughest design job in the world. The first toughest is the carrier, NARC-Athena, and to do that, I have to learn a whoooole new suite of software. Carrara. I have access to Carrara 6 Pro -- but having it, and being able to use it, are two very different things. So --

First, the armor --

Yes. It's still waiting for a helmet. The helmet comes next -- it's also going to be as tough a design challenge as the rest of the armor combined! It starts with a Formula racing helmet which is imported (into Cararra ... gird your loins and grit your teeth, girl) and then manipulated ... stretched, bent a little bit, punched in, in two places. Then it has a couple of umbilici attached to the control points you see on the armor here, in this shot, below, which shows the whole shebang before the textures were added:

This is not a bad job, for someone who isn't actually a 3D model maker! Each component (or "geometry") is scrounged from other sources and then scaled, sized, added in, with every map changed. There are bits from seven or eight sources in this suit -- and the helmet will be extra. It's been interesting -- it's been infuriating! This is the sixth version of the armor, and the only one to get past me, never mind getting past Mel Keegan. Every version prior to this one was too "organic," and required waaaay too much painting in post to get around the places where it can't be made to work in pure 3D.

But this version is juuuuust about right. It's everything the books describe, just waiting for the helmet, which comes next. I just have to buy a Formula racing helmet model, and they're not cheap, folks, so this could take a little while. Christmas and all, you know.

Next assignment: put Jarrat and Stone, and Cronin and Ramos into the armor. And it's not quite as simple as you might think, or as I might hope. Due to the way it's designed, there are special body morphs which have to be set and re-re-reset for each character. I think it'll take about 15 minutes to cram any individual character into the armor, so my plan is to do it one time and save the whole DAZ file as "Jarrat-in-armor," or "Cronin-in-armor," and so on, and then draw on that one file the next time I want to stage a scene with the characters in the hard-suits. (That's just a standard Michael 4 "doll" wearing the suit right now.)

Looking good so far -- and we get Mel Keegan's stamp of "wonnerful" here. Next: the helmet!

Jade, 18 December
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