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 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.
I visited the UK’s National Space Centre, partly to get better references for a CGI “Skylark” rocket, and thought it was worth a blog entry. I’ll be publishing reference photos, for the benefit of other modellers, in a separate post.
It’s located on the outskirts of Leicester, and a bit of a pain to get to if you are not familiar with the local public transport system. Easy to spot by it’s distinctive shape, dominated by the Rocket Tower.
Before I get started I must give credit. The illustrations here are largely by Galina Balashova. Little known in the west, she was responsible for the interior design of pretty much every Soviet spacecraft. Combining Art and Architectural skills, it was her job to make the spacecraft a productive, pleasant environment.
If you have any interest in this area, the book “Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program” is absolutely essential, and is packed with elegant and informative paintings and drawings.
This is not the Hyperion by Phil Bono, (which you can read about here), but an earlier design from Krafft Ehricke, dating all the way back to the 1950’s. It’s for a manned mission to Mars, (no landing), and a fleet of 3 or 4 ships would be sent for mutual support. I got the information on this project from the always excellent “Atomic Rockets” site, including this plan, which is the basis for my mesh:
An unusual one for me, as I take a crack at an original science-fiction design.
My objective was to get something seriously large, primarily for use in Vue. My thinking is that I notice many great concept art pages have fairly abstract ships that are so big the more distant parts are afffected by haze, giving a great sense of scale. And as volumetric effects are a strength of Vue, I figure model in LW with Vue in mind. In practice this meant:
Keep the number of different surfaces low
Avoid clever effects that I don’t know how to do in Vue, including advanced surfaces
Avoid elements that would give a clear idea of scale, such as windows, hatches, stairs
Make it a long design so it’s easy to get the most distant parts lost in fog
I’m continuing to spend most of my graphics time in Vue recently, and I think I am starting to feel comfortable with it. I’m still getting occasional frustrations, but I’m feeling a lot more in control.
One lightbulb moment was when I realised I did NOT have to use the included billboard planet options for planets! But could use full 3d objects which then pick up the light from the Sun, and are properly affected by the haze and fog. A good example is the ringed planet in the banner image for this post, at the top. (Note the tiny astronaut at the top of the cliffs!)
After chatting to Matt, co-author of “N1 for the Moon and Mars“, I decided to dig out the meshes I did for that, and come up with some new renders. It was a mad dash to get it all out in time for publication, and I didn’t have time to explore all the options.