Battlestar Galactica: Blackbird Progress

“Oh, you’re much too modest. After what we’ve been through, it would be very easy to give up, to lose hope. But not here. Not today. This is more than a ship, Chief. This is an act of faith. It is proof that despite all we’ve lost, we keep trying. And we will get through this, all of us, together. I promise.” ~ President Laura Roslin, Battlestar Galactica, “Flight of the Phoenix”

I’ve been in a pretty bad funk for a while; I’ve been in funks off and on since graduating and moving home, but this one had been exceptional in both its length and severity. Hence, when I hit the point where I had to either do something or snap, cheesy as it may sound, I latched onto something symbolic of a similar arc for the characters of a show I love. I also figured, as long as way too long without touching 3D would be leaving me pretty close to square one, I might as well do something that I love —a sci-fi vehicle— to hopefully minimize the chances of getting frustrated and letting the project fall by the wayside as has happened way too many times. I figured grabbing something that was already designed, rather than my usual approach of modeling from my own thumbnails and designing it along the way, might also help mitigate that risk.

 

A fairly quick block-in model, just to get the shapes.

Hi-Poly model, probably like 85-90% done. All that’s left are the panels and blocky shapes at the aft, the cockpit, and a few details along the struts that support the engines. And the vent in the nosecone. Almost forgot that one…

It should be noted that, upon further examination, along with the liberties I’ve taken in a couple area —mainly the shape of the engines and some proportion bugs caused by image planes that refused to line up— there are a few significant differences between the version of the Blackbird that appeared in the show and the model kit that’s made up the majority of my reference. The fenders that sit lateral to the fuselage are very different between the two versions: The model kit has that crazy paneling, while they’re smooth in the show, and only the show version has what I think are guns at the very front of the fenders. Unfortunately, I’ve got way more reference of the model than of the version that was on TV, and the few shots reference I’ve found from the show don’t really give me a lot of detail on those differences, so those issues probably aren’t going to be fixed.

Finished Hi-Poly model. I may need to slow down on this a bit while I explore texturing solutions. I can’t afford Photoshop’s monthly payments right now, which means I have to either job-hunt faster, get comfortable with GIMP for texturing, or overcome my feelings of guilt over pirating software, none of which are particularly appealing prospects…

Low-Poly. Got it down to 8,807 Tris, and didn’t even have to completely kill all my greebles. It was time-consuming, but for the most-part, really, really, really easy since the big shapes are mostly hard-edged; it was a lot of just cutting out control edges and stitching stuff together without worrying too much about harm to the silhouette.

In UV-ing, I managed to find and get rid of about 500 Tris, mostly hidden faces that I didn’t know were there until I saw them in the UV editor and verts that somehow got missed by Delete Edges operations. Also, a couple of the greebles that are still there got crunched a little more. Down to ,8328 Tris.

First bake test. I’m way happier with this bake than I expected to be. Only a few glaring artifacts that need to be addressed, and I was not expecting the greebles to bake down so nicely (especially the ones in the exposed panels on the engine that go from mesh to texture… well enough with a little cleanup). Family responsibilities have slowed me down this weekend, and I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about not being able to afford Photoshop this month (leaning towards a 30-day trial of CS6…)

Photoshop trial acquired. Textures grudgingly started. UV’s frakked around with to try and eliminate (got ’em reduced!) some baking errors I was getting and a few shells I managed not to realize were packed more tightly than they should’ve been.

Ran into some interesting apparent inconsistencies in the material quality of the ship’s panels while looking for better (read: Higher-res) reference in “Flight of the Phoenix”. Mostly blogging it so that I can link to it in the Polycount thread I’m about to start, but it raises an interesting aesthetic question: Do I keep with the inconsistencies and chalk it up to the ship being made from scavenged parts, even down to the paneling, or do I try to even things out so that the top and bottom of the ship don’t have wildly varying levels of specularity?

As a side note, this reference gave me more than just a headache. I don’t know if that much of it is in this collage, but there’s a surprising amount of wear and tear on it for a ship that gets shot down on only its second mission. Whatever the choice regarding the specularity, the edges between panels are pretty roughed up and the black paint looks to not be very even, so I ought to be able to get some broad strokes of interesting detail. Although, I shudder to think that I might have to go back and paint in all those rivets that I didn’t model in because I was modeling from the model kit reference that didn’t include them…

Long hiatus from posting (but not from work [but procrastination always gets worse when I’m texturing. It’s a vicious cycle of not wanting to spend so much time on textures and not having developed the skills to texture quickly and well]), largely because what I’ve been doing hasn’t been very interesting to show, like the billion times I had to go back and fix UVs and rebake to accommodate. Somehow I forgot how much text this baby has on it. Luckily, it’s all on separate mesh chunks which made fixing the UV’s (for the umpteenth time…) tedious, but not difficult.

Decided to call the carbon wear-and-tear done (mostly some finesse of how contrast-y it is is probably still in order). Started working on the metal parts utilizing Racer445’s awesome metal-texturing tutorial. Will post screens when I’m closer to done with the metal parts. Mostly just updating to have the tutorial link already in the post rather than going hunting between browsers to find it.

I think I’m mostly going to call the textures done. Finished up the metal tutorial and set about getting spec and updated normal maps on the Blackbird. Still planning to knock out the Interior this weekend, making the glass, and spend a little time crafting a simple level to use for making a cube map and staging beauty shots. Goal is to be done by the time I leave for Chicago Monday night to fly to Germany on Tuesday.

Contrary to what my own paranoia tells me people might think, this project has not fallen by the wayside to become the most recent in a very long line of WIP projects. It just got lost in the shuffle between my trip to Europe and starting a new job when I returned.

Since getting back into the swing of things, I modeled out the cockpit, as well as addressing some minor issues with the exterior, specifically, the low resolution ugliness that resulted from having the greebles inside the engine simply as textures. Now, to resume making payments for Photoshop so I can get back to work on the textures.

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