This is a fairly old tutorial, as you may notice by the version of Lightwave used! However, the principles are exactly the same in newer versions, and indeed you should be able to apply the ideas presented with pretty much any CGI software.
I have seen many rather poor attempts to make convincing ringed planets, and thought it might be a good idea to tell you how I do it. I rate it as intermediate in level, as I am not going to explain mouse click and numeric values. You should be familiar with making spheres and disks, and applying image based texture maps. I have done this tutorial as one long page, so it is easier for you to print. It should work with any version of Lightwave from 5.6 onward, and the ideas should also be easy to adapt to any other modern 3D graphics package.
There’s no doubt that it is possible to spend vast amounts on graphics software – many of the industry standard packages run to thousands of pounds, and even image editors like the full Photoshop are very expensive, (and come with monthly fees too).
But provided you already have a computer, it is possible to get going for little or even nothing. This blog post will explore some of your options.
Be aware though, that this stuff is NOT easy, and whatever package you go for, it will take considerable time and effort to master.
This is a seriously powerful 3d package, with some highly advanced features such as fluid simulation, and hair systems. It is completely free, and open source.
In 2018 I was doing an international commute, and wanted something I could work on effectively while travelling. Eurostar is pretty comfortable, (particularly in standard premium), and the new laptop was seriously powerful, but I’ve never found it easy to work with a touch pad, and there wasn’t enough space for a mouse.
So I came up with the idea of tidying up the various real spacecraft I have worked on, and assembling sets of images rendered perspective free, to a standard scale, which would make it easy to clearly show the different sizes of the various spacecraft.
I sometimes get into discussions about if a spacecraft design is realistic. These are frequently interesting, but it’s not straightforward. For example, there are serious designs from the early days of spaceflight which we now know could not work. Manned craft without heavy radiation shielding are a common example of this.
On the other hand, you have some fictional craft carefully designed to be as realistic as possible – the vehicles in “2001 a Space Odyssey” are a great example.
So how to handle it when some fictional craft are more credible than serious designs? here’s my attempt at a system, from the most realistic to the least. Comments and additions are very welcome.
1. Real space hardware that actually flew successfully.
I gather from Twitter that some people find it interesting to follow my approach and progress when building a new model. So here’s a blog post where I will show how a project comes together, with lots of illustrations.
My starting point is to gather references, particularly high resolution photos, and plans with dimensions. Fortunately this one is covered in the excellent “Rockets of the World” by Peter Alway. It’s not highly detailed, but I find if you can get the overall dimensions of major features correct, then it’s not too tricky to fill in the rest from good photographs.