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NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
edited March 2023 in Work in Progress #1
A long time ago, I got inspired by a book with a story for a pen&paper role playing campaign taking place in a very particular sci-fi world. Actually I was so inspired that I rendered an intro video for the players to set the mood. Looking back at that now, it looks very dated, very low-poly and low-res, and I was (and still am) very much an amateur.

So I decided to go for a remake and see what I can achive with blender and today's tutorials.

Imagine a planet at the backend of nowhere, cut off from civilization in the aftermath of a war and not even habitable, as the lower layers of the atmosphere are not breathable. But a large transport with thousands of fugitives from the war in cold sleep gets shipwrecked in the that system, with no chance of repair. Those people need a new home, but all you have to work with is some nearby asteroid mining and a few experimental scientific observation platforms exploring the planet. Those platforms get converted into flying cities, and more of them are built to accomodate the fugitives. They are dubbed "Windriders" and a whole culture develops in midair, surviving in their rather fragile and comparatively low-tech homes.

So I am working on a windrider again. That is basically a huge bubble, with a small section for people to live in at the bottom and lots of space for air as it is bascially a huge, hard-shelled hot air balloon. It is powered by solar panels, heated by the sun during the day and electrically during the night.

Adding a current render first for the thumbnail

Here's a picture of the original version created in 2000.
Post edited by Nop on
StarCruiserLizzy777Warp Propulsion Laboratory


  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    And here is the first piece of the new windrider.

    I am having a lot of trouble with the sheer size of the thing. It is 5km in diameter and most modelled details just disappear with the scale. Following the numbers strictly, the habitat section in the bottom would even be much smaller in order for it to fly, but it just isn't any good visually.
    publiusrStarCruiserLizzy777Warp Propulsion LaboratoryMustang13Camaro68
  • BlueNeumannBlueNeumann673 Posts: 1,323Member
    Oh that is such a cool idea... I'm digging the rends you have so far. And I think it looks pretty good, just a giant clear ball in the sky, that's weird and different! Embrace that.
  • publiusrpubliusr551 Posts: 1,749Member
    Here is the thing…at Venus, one atmospheric pressure means your whole airship is an oxygen filled gondola…as with the HAVOC:

    Now—I think an airship could be a LOFTID type ballute…but it would be ugly.
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member

    Here's a render of the top part with the solar panels. The solar panel unit is originally from BlenderKit/Davide Tirindelli. I immediately fell in love with the hexagon concept and just made them look slimmer and larger to fit the windrider. The bands running all the way to the zenith of the dome are elevators to give access for maintenance - and I figure that parachuting from the solar panel gallery is quite in fashion as a hobby in those habitats.

    At the very top is an exterior airlock - but again with the size of the whole bubble its barely visible even though it is a sizeable 25m mainenance shed.
    StarCruiserLizzy777publiusrWarp Propulsion LaboratoryMustang13Camaro68
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    publiusr wrote: »
    Here is the thing…at Venus, one atmospheric pressure means your whole airship is an oxygen filled gondola…as with the HAVOC

    Thanks for pointing that out - I was not aware of that project but I think that those concepts give a lot of credibility to my scenario. The first bubbles even were used for planetary exploration and traffic between the windrider cities happens with airships. The main difference is that NASA uses blimps and balloons, as they must unpack and inflate from spaceships during "landing", while my scenario is using airships with a framework and solid-skin domes, as they are constructed on site in a dock and are supposed to be used for decades rather than months.

    Here's the original render of my solar-panel covered, self-sustainging airship. Need to remake that, too.

    But all in all the similarities are so striking that I am really happy that my role playing scenario predates the NASA concept by 15 years, so it's clear that if anything, NASA copied from me. ;)

  • publiusrpubliusr551 Posts: 1,749Member
    edited March 2023 #7
    You could inflate them in space…where there is no resistance.
    JP Aerospace thinks they have an airship to orbit solution.

    Now, ion engines have got a boost with the H9 MUSCLE.

    But an airship from orbit might work and slow itself.


    Here is your bubble concept—heck…they could be bigger
    Post edited by publiusr on
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    I am currently working on the habitat section, here is a render after adding half the windows for the inhabited decks.


    Originally I had started modelling the windows, but when projecting them onto the hull caused lots of artifacts and I realized that I would have to manually tidy up each of them, I decided to go for textures, bump and specular. Considering the LOD for the renders I think that geometry would have been quite an overkill.

    So there are three more sections of decks for living space and public functions, the rest of the hull is dedicated to storage and industry and will not get windows. The bottom most section is a hangar for smaller blimps, which are used for close range traffic and hauling between windriders. Still missing is the large dock for the big airships under the windrider.
    evil_genius_180Lizzy777StarCruiserAdmiral156Warp Propulsion Laboratory
  • evil_genius_180evil_genius_1804462 Posts: 11,127Member
    This is really cool so far.
  • BlueNeumannBlueNeumann673 Posts: 1,323Member
    edited March 2023 #10
    Oh I love that! And I can see an in-universe reason for it too, those big panels could all be one piece (or designed at once) so sometimes the window hole on the panel doesn't align with the window hole inside, like when a printer is slightly offset. That'd be a fun little quirk of the bubble, that things don't quite fit right.

    I can also imagine that to keep the weight low, that the habitat section is a ring (a thicc ring, but a ring) and the "ground" is lower, above the storage and industries levels. Also means that you have a view both inside and outside, and more distance for your solar panel skydiving.

    The first level or so beneath the garden can be the public transport system, you could have subway-style trains that go around the inner circumference, and others that cut straight through, and of course there'd be multiple train stations in the park itself.

    The park itself is probably bigger than Central Park, and I can imagine it being curated and evolving over time to become like that: a zoo, a concert area, a lake, sculpture gallery, etc...
    Post edited by BlueNeumann on
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    edited March 2023 #11
    To complete the dock for the airships I realized that I had to build the airship first, in order to make the dock fit. So here it is. The airship is 330m in length to give it enough cargo capacity and ceiling. As the story goes, these airships, just called "zeps" in the local jargon, are propelled electrically and covered in plenty of solar panels to recharge. Additionally, they have horizontal rotors in the bow and in the stern to allow for maneuvering sideways during docking, similar to bow thrusters on a naval vessel. The buyancy cells are filled with hydrogen and zeps can descend to the surface to pump water aboard, both for use as ballast and to produce hydrogen and oxygen from it. So the zeps are self sufficient and can operate indefinitely.


    The 3rd engine is not running deliberately, to make the shape of the rotors visible.

    As for the windrider, I also had similar thoughts concerning a different shape, with windows on the inside, too. The thing is so huge that there would be plenty of space for that, the real estate is about 2km in diameter. But in order to keep with the storyline I'll stick to the full surface "topside" as they call it on a windrider, with a mix of agriculture and recreation. That will be fun to model next.

    Post edited by Nop on
    Lizzy777StarCruiserWarp Propulsion Laboratorypubliusr
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    edited March 2023 #12
    I wasn't quite happy with the last visuals, but after fighting quite a while with the lighting, the hull segments and girder structure underneath are now much more visible - as intended.

    Post edited by Nop on
    evil_genius_180StarCruiserWarp Propulsion LaboratoryLizzy777publiusr
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    Finished the lower part of the habitat, with the airship dock. The idea is that the zeps approach the windrider from below and then rise up under engine power until the docking clamps can catch and hold them. The big struts holding the zep can rotate outwards to release or hold a zep.

    Admiral156evil_genius_180Warp Propulsion LaboratoryLizzy777StarCruiserpubliusr
  • Admiral156Admiral156199 Posts: 88Member
    Awesome concept!
  • evil_genius_180evil_genius_1804462 Posts: 11,127Member
    The zeppelin and dock both look great. I like the concept for how it docks, it seems very practical.
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    Small update on the zep, I added a tiny bit of procedural dirt to the hull. I figured that a zep in permanent service shouldn't look too pristine. The solar panels on the other hand are always kept squeaky clean as their production is a matter of survival.

    ashleytingerWarp Propulsion Laboratoryevil_genius_180Lizzy777StarCruiser
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    edited March 2023 #17
    Here's the final part, the top part of the habitat called "topside". Most of it is given to agriculture, but there is also a recreational area for the inhabitants, with lake and forests.


    It has 4 buildings in the cardinal directions that allow access to the inside of the city, a maintenance building for agricultural work and the patch crew station. The worst thing that can happen to a windrider is a hull breach - and it does happen as materials do age. So there is always a so called patch crew on standby. In case of a sensor alert, they launch in their copter (sorry, not modelled) within minutes, fly to the damaged section of the globe where the copter attaches itself with suction cups so repairs can begin. Very much like a fire station in real life.
    Post edited by Nop on
    Mustang13Camaro68StarCruiserevil_genius_180Lizzy777publiusrBlueNeumannWarp Propulsion Laboratory
  • BlueNeumannBlueNeumann673 Posts: 1,323Member
    You know, it occurs to me that a structure that size might generate its own weather. system I remember hearing that it would rain in the building they kept the space shuttle in because it was so big, and that has nothing on this bubble.
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    Yes, you are correct. I consider it a given that the bubble creates some internal weather of its own, probably rather tropical with the hot air balloon idea, which is also represented in the RPG story. This is also based on the NASA assembly building developing its own weather at some 120m in height. As the whole bubble is engineered to capture the heat from the sunlight, you probably have some updrafts and corresponding downdrafts inside. You might also have water condensing on the colder walls of the cupola itself, that's part of the idea behind the streams on the topside, funneling water coming down on the inside of the walls. I am not sure about forming clouds, as the air becomes increasingly warm towards the top. But I am not a metereologist. :)
  • Warp Propulsion LaboratoryWarp Propulsion Laboratory915 BrooklynPosts: 324Member
    You know, it occurs to me that a structure that size might generate its own weather. system I remember hearing that it would rain in the building they kept the space shuttle in because it was so big, and that has nothing on this bubble.

    Yes. The Seagaia Ocean Dome was the largest indoor beach, and it did have its own weather.

    I'm really enjoying this thread. It's a beautiful idea having these self-contained spheres floating around. It makes fertile ground for storytelling.

    Please visit my YouTube channel!

    Formerly furswift
  • GateGirlGateGirl111 Richmond, NSW, AustraliaPosts: 58Member
    I am enthralled, this is starting to look like something I'd love to do. Alas I have too many sticks in the fire as it is. Wonderful work.

    By the way. what modeling software do you use?
    Life is a dream — that knows no shade.
    Life is a dream — of pain and woe.
    A dream from which — we pray to wake.
    A dream from which — we wake and go
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    GateGirl wrote: »
    By the way. what modeling software do you use?

    I use Blender for modelling and for textures.
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    edited March 2023 #23
    Here's a render of the finished habitat, complete with some trees on top.


    Recently I was busy improving the cloud quality and setting up perspectives and camera movements. Draft renders looked promising, so now I started the high-quality rendering.
    Post edited by Nop on
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    edited March 2023 #24
    I thought I would just launch the Blender renderer and then let it work overnight, but as it turned out that was a little bit optimistic. Blender has a tendency to render somewhere around 200 frames and then crash spontaneously. A quick search around the net showed, that this happens quite frequently, for many users.

    So I wrote a little program, that monitors blender and if it detects that the process is no longer running, it restarts it. It can also check how far blender got and will exit if the rendering has finished. Seems to work quite nicely so far.

    As this seems to be a widespread problem, I would like to share my solution with other blender users as freeware. But I am at a loss where the best place to share the info and publish the application might be. So my question to the blender users around here would be: Do you have a suggestion?
    Post edited by Nop on
  • evil_genius_180evil_genius_1804462 Posts: 11,127Member
    I'd try one of the links on this page:

    Maybe Blend Swap. That seems to be a place where those sort of things can be shared. Of course, people share meshes, materials and whatnot, but there's also a place for sharing tools.
  • NopNop63 Posts: 15Member
    I ran the first render pass and now I am busy fixing the things that didn't quite turn out as envisioned.

    One of the things was the motion blur on the rotors, which just didn't look right. As it turned out, the rotors were just going too slowly (the values came straight out of a tutorial). Higher RPM gives better results. But I am undecided on quite how much. Here's a sample render of the airship with a different RPM on each engine.


    The one on the left is rotating the fastest and is completely blurred. The one on the right is rotating at half speed and you can barely make out irregularities from the blades. The on in center is rotating quarter speed.

    Which one looks best to you?
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