Monday, January 3, 2011

3D starships: Betelgeux or bust!

The model ship is called the Allied Fleets Frigate ... and at last! A starship model that I can open and manipulate in DAZ! Usually they're way too big. 3D models are made up of polygons, and when you exceed the number of polygons your computer can handle ... well, that's it, really. The system doesn't barf -- the model just won't load. I could open them in Bryce, but a Bryce render takes sooooooo long, you can really only get one in a day, and I like to do loads of shots. I guess I'm (still?) more of a comics artist than a fine artist. And who said there's anything wrong with comic art?!

When I was a little kid, there was a fantastic comic artist working -- a guy by the name of Mike Noble. He used to illustrate all kinds of comic strips, and there was this one story in particular that I remember. It was called Zero-X, and it chronicled the adventures of the crew of an interplanetary patrol ship. And of course, the Internet being a magical as it is, I can show you what I mean, instead of just telling:

So there you go, a snipped from my childhood. Other kids were reading Enid Blyton, and what was I reading? Four adventurers in a mighty spaceplane, battling monsters on Saturn. Right. Explains a lot, doesn't it?! (Get your act together, Enid ... launch your stories into the outer planets, and more kids would be reading!)

So I was really pleased to find that this starship -- which you can get from Renderosity; just search on "science fiction" or "spaceships," and you should go right to it. If not, drop me a line and I'll track it down for you via my wishlists, where three more of this designer's models are still waiting for me to get some cash! The first one you see today was finished off with a bit of post work in GIMP ... I used some .abr brushes, Photochop brushes -- Ron's Boke Lightsabre -- to add the engine flares. But that's absolutely the only post work that was needed -- the rest was done with lights, right inside DAZ.

The next thing was figuring out the lighting, which was no mean feat. And I really got a kick out of making the planets ... that part was all done on the desktop here, and turned out to be easy. Here's what you do:

Create a sphere and set the diffuse, specular and ambient colors to WHITE. Then add a diffuse map ... I used a cloudy sky picture for the earth-type planet, and a big blur for the other planets. Then you can jiggle your diffuse - specular - ambient colors, and the balance between 'em, to your heart's content, to get any color you like. For the atmospheric layer, create another sphere, slightly larger than the planet (you can see where I'm going with this, right?) and make the color pale blue; then set a cloudy sky photo as the opacity map, and crank the opacity DOWN to something like 14%. Render one. Whoooo! And by changing your maps and colors, you can turn earth into Mars into Neptune. Lovely -- and dead easy.

The backdrop is just an old, old starfield I painted about 10 years ago, which was mosaiced together to get an image big enough to fill the frame on renders this big. You just set this as the backdrop. Tip: if the planet surface is bright, the stars will look dim, on account of the "exposure settings" of either the camera of the living human eye!

Another tip make the ship's belly reflect the light of the planet ... gives it a really nice feeling of "context" there...

Last tip: when you're lighting the scene, be careful where you put, and how you angle, the lights on the ship, because they can shine right on the planet and turn it weird colors, or just glare!

Hope this helps with your space and spaceship work...

Jade, 4 January
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