Thursday, November 26, 2015

Adamant Completed! And a New Demo Reel

Hi all,

The (major) work on the Adamant is done. :D  I suppose I'll always be tinkering, making her better.  I suppose this could be chalked up to the fact that the ship always is in for refit as new technologies become available, right? :)

Also, a new demo reel for 2015, featuring the new ship!  The old demo reel was really starting to show its age, so I decided to bite the bullet and make a new one.  Not much room for stuff in only 2 minutes of video, so I had to be choosy.  I decided to show the work for Gingerbreed and a possible future concept web series I've been tinkering with called Starship: Adamant, which would feature short little snippets of various missions the Adamant goes on in her voyages. :)


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Adamant Work Nearly Done

Just a little post today, showing work done so far on the Adamant refit.  Got the new warp winglet pods animated and ready.  I also bit the bullet and completely remodeled the wings and the thruster pods on the wings, as the curvature was a bit funky. 

"Reduce speed, bring us out of warp." -- Every nerd sitting in the bathroom at one point or another in their lives...
The ship's mesh is extremely heavy, now...3.4 million faces. :|  I've got to bring that down considerably.  The gun turrets add a whole 1.5 - 2 million faces by themselves.  Alas, it can't be helped.  Reducing back faces on the extruded hull plates will help somewhat.  The finalized mesh will probably use triangular faces because of the difficulties of combining quads with tris.

She's a beauty, even unoptimized :)

The new cowlings over the aft wing thrusters are purposely drawn back and less obtrusive so they can show the thrust nozzles more prominently.

Pretty much all that's left is finishing out some minor details, killing backfaces, creating the new interiors of the main sublight engines, animating those, and finishing out the forward deflector dish.  Then she'll be in great shape for film!


Friday, November 13, 2015

Finished Gingerbreed Sample Work

So, continued work on Gingerbreed.  The guys over at HiFI3D sent me some finals yesterday featuring one of the digital sets I built for them.

Here are some original OpenGL versions of the Colony set as it was being built:

Since this set was to be different from the rest of the sets built previously, I started with a single panel to get an okay from Jon and Szymon

The set was to be heavily damaged and distressed, but I started from a pristine state to get an idea what the location looked like before its demise

Jon and Szymon would give me helpful feedback on the project.  Since the scene was to include live action shots already completed, certain geometry had to be placed correctly to accommodate the paths of objects as they moved through the digital environment.  Some of these changes may stay, others may be removed at virtually any time in the production

The central core of the set was left for last.  Again, due to shooting constraints, the over all floor plan had to be followed closely

I model in Blender, because I find the modelling suite there to be easier and faster to work with.  But the film uses Maya, so the sets have to be exported to Maya scenes and set up in a certain hierarchy to facilitate lighting, texturing and shooting.
From there, Jon and Szymon take the modelled scene, light and texture it and then render it out for backgrounds for the action.  The results look like this:

So, that's what I do for a living. :)

Hope everyone enjoyed this little foray into the world of a digital environment modeller!


Friday, November 6, 2015

Shooting Spaceships: What Lens Angle Will You Use?

Hi all,

A bit of technical info today!  How to shoot a shot of your spaceship that's good looking.  This is a text version of a part of the tutorial I made a few years ago called "How I Make My Space Scenes", starting at about 16 minutes in:

So, you have a beautiful 3D model of your favorite starship in your software and now you want to shoot it effectively in a manner which is as aesthetically pleasing as can be.  There is a pretty simple method to make sure that that happens.

There are at least two main factors to consider when you are shooting your ship: 1.) Lens Angle of View; and 2.) Camera Location Relative to the Subject.


As with any form of visual art, a rudimentary understanding of how light works and how perspective affects the appearance of objects is necessary.  In this case, an understanding of Angle of View (AOV) in photography is important.  Please note the pretty good summation of this here.

To sum up, however, use a narrower AOV than normally used in photography of other objects.  My theory on why this is is because these starships are designed on orthographic drafting boards and not in perspective.  Therefore, the lines are more beautiful with less perspective.  That's my working theory on this phenomenon, anyway.

It should be noted that this phenomenon covers other stuff, too. For example, particularly in the 80's, cinematographers would film actors' faces with extremely narrow angle lenses from far away to flatten the features of the face, making it appear more beautiful.  Perhaps perspective affects the beauty of things in other ways, too, but we shall leave that for others to debate. :)

To demonstrate the difference, the Adamant in orthographic and perspective views, from the same exact camera position:

Perspective: 35mm lens.  It appears we are directly in front of the ship, viewing it at a slight angle

Orthographic view from exact same position
Note the difference between the two views.  In 35mm lens angle, the front of the ship dominates the image, all but completely obscuring the aft section of the ship.  Of the two angles, the orthographic view is more visually pleasing simply because it shows off the contours of the design much more clearly.  But, the issue with orthographic view is that there is no depth.  The ship could be traveling toward us, but it theoretically never will reach us or appear to change shape or apparent size because orthographic view mashes all depth data into a zero sum.

A happy medium must exist, right?  It does!  But it's a bit more involved than simply using the same lens angle for every single shot of a starship.

Most starships appear more beautiful when you make the aft sections look bigger in comparison to the front.  So, pick a lens angle which does this for you.  If you are looking at the front of a starship, you typically want to use a narrower angle lens, so that the back of the ship appears relatively larger than the front, despite being in perspective.  Some trial and error in your 3D software will reap results.  I have noted in the case of the Adamant that depending on what angle I'm viewing her from, a different AOV reaps different emotional responses.


Starships tend to have good angles and bad ones to view them from.  The placement of the camera will generally is dictated by this.

Let's take Star Trek, for an example of this.  I cannot include images of Star Trek ships on this post because of copyright, but I think you fellow nerds out there will know what I'm talking about.  I found several times in my studies that the design of Federation starships has good angles and bad ones.  The Enterprise D had very few good angles to shoot from.  The design of the ship was extremely saucer heavy and it was a chore to keep that saucer from dominating the shots it appeared in.  The Enterprise E, on the other hand, had a somewhat more interesting and aesthetically pleasing shape, at least strictly from a cinematographer's point of view.

Your ship may have good angles and bad ones to view from.   An understanding on where to place your shot will give you the tools necessary to make it work.

Generally speaking, looking up at a starship makes it look more heroic and impressive.  Looking down at a starship makes it look more helpless and vulnerable.



So, combining what we know about AOV and camera placement, how would we form a shot of a starship like the Adamant?

If a shot is a single sentence in a movie, the question you need to ask yourself is: What are you trying to convey in the shot?

For instance, if I had a smaller shuttle craft approaching the Adamant from the front, how much movement I had on the scene, as well as how dynamic it appears, would be affected by the lens angle and camera position.

If I wanted the smaller ship to zoom by and disappear toward the larger Adamant, and I wanted the Adamant to appear majestic, heroic and large, I might choose a 50mm lens angle and position the camera looking up at the ventral starboard bow.  This angle makes the ship look huge, heroic and impressive.

Forward ventral starboard: 50mm works best if I want to convey dynamic motion and size difference:

50mm angle of view, front starboard quarter

Forward, ventral starboard: 120mm works as well, but would make the Adamant appear more imposing on the scene, because it takes up more screen space.  The aft section looks beefier, less diminutive compared to the front. 

120mm lens angle: any ship would not move as fast toward the Adamant, and would appear larger than it really is
Both shots are effective and either could probably be used, but I would almost certainly opt for the 120mm angle simply to follow my rule of narrower angle views from the front.  I'd just have the shuttle move faster. :)

From the forward dorsal view, I have discovered that the ship always looks better with a very narrow angle lens.  The narrower, the better (even up to 200mm), as it is not a very flattering angle to view the ship from.

The overall shape of the Adamant is a hammerhead design with very wide reaching albatross wings in the back.  This shape does not look good from above in anything perspective except at very narrow lens angles.  It's even worse from the front, because it makes that nose look too big again.

Not the lady's best angle...

It takes 150mm lens angle to make the view work more beautifully
This angle would be used to depict the ship in a more unflattering way.  Perhaps if she were damaged, or in a more helpless position.  Attacking ships would be shown from this angle, diving down at her.  The problem, however, is that to make the ship more pleasing to the eye, I would have to use a very narrow angle lens, which crushes perspective.

Aft shots require that I use a wider angle lens to make that nose less imposing.  Again, if I wanted to establish the ship as heroic, impressive and "good", I would probably show it from a lower angle in the aft.

75mm aft ventral shot.  The ship appears to stretch a little off into the depths of space

Conversely, if I wanted to show the ship from the aft dorsal region, I would use a narrower angle lens because this angle would make the engines appear too small in relation to the upper section.

120mm lens angle to keep the engines from completely disappearing at this angle
Hopefully this admittedly dry post helps a few people understand the fundamentals of shooting starships.  Of course, each spaceship has a different shape, and therefore would have different angles which would look good.  Trial and error is essential.  But hopefully this gives an idea on how different angles affect the choices we make in the mechanical nature of our cameras as well.

Thanks, and have a great day!


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fairwell, TGST; and What a Difference 10 Years Makes

A sad day. :(

Blender Artists is the first art forum I really joined, way back on November 25th, 2005.  It's therefore been a decade in a couple of weeks since I joined that site.  On August 31, 2010, I started what would later be called The Giant Spaceship Thread. That thread was a great help to me back in the day, so I wanted to post an honorary post about it, here, as Blender Artists will be going to its new format by what the mods hope is the end of this year.  The Giant Spaceship Thread will be closed and archived along with the rest of all currently open threads on Blender Artists when that site migrates to its new format, and I'm finding myself a little misty eyed over that.  The TGST was very good to me for the 5 years its been around.

However, while I was in mourning over the TGST, a somewhat controversial, yet thought-provoking piece by Andrew Price slapped me across the face and got me thinking.  While it was a nice place for me to showcase my work and for other geeks to share their own work with each other, has it helped me to become a better artist?

I feel like my work has stagnated in recent months, to be honest.  Here is work from five years ago:

Woo! Old art!
Here are a few a samples from this past year:

Some improvement!

Not too bad...
In comparison, I noticed that there was some pretty impressive work on other forums, and even my very best work would be unlikely to be even mentioned on those forums.  Which was somewhat depressing.  Andrew Price's comments resonate, while also giving me pause.  While a certain level of balance is necessary--one cannot compare themselves with other artists exclusively to determine their own worth as an artist--it should be noted that any artist who becomes self-referential is in serious jeopardy of being left behind in a world that is moving forward at faster-than-light speed.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm primarily a modeller, and there is a certain unthankful nature to that job description.  A modeller doesn't generally get to put a lot of work into finalizing the product--lighting, texturing, compositing--and none of these things are my expertise, I'm afraid.  So, the majority of a modeller's work involves somewhat boring clay renders which most people don't really like much.  Obviously, images of brightly lit, colorful artistic scenes seem to light up the art pages much more than, say, a clay render of a starship interior.  Why?  Well, aside from the fact that the scenes are more colorful and seem more completed (and besides, a lot of them feature various bits of anatomy), they are just more visually interesting than the gray-box style render that modellers like myself usually put out en masse.

But, but...the spaceship doesn't have clothes on, either! :(

So, to sum up all these rambling musings, I've discovered that while I'm glad to have known The Giant Spaceship Thread, and I am grateful for its contribution to my work, and I may port over a version of it to the new Blender Artists forums, I have discovered I should spend more time in places that frighten me.  Namely, CGSociety, and ArtStation (eeeeeek!) and hopefully I don't plunge into a deep depression at what awaits.

To commemorate TGST, however, a couple screenshots (I seem to have lost a few! :( ) I've taken over the years of moments that made me happy. :)

The Adamant got the 92nd monthly header at Concept Ships, and received top-row on Blender Artists, which I never thought would happen

Top row for the 3 space fighters, too! Woo! :)
Additionally, some of the art has been featured on the top row of some 3D websites I sell on.  Quite a feather in the cap, there. :)

So, moving on, as time always seems to, I guess it's time to post some new stuff in the CGSociety and ArtStation sites...oof.  Here's hoping for the best! :|

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