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  • Lizzy's WIPs

    The idea of using the Discombobulator to layout micropanel detailing is inspired! Whole thing is coming together very nicely. Also, welcome to the Blenderfold :mrgreen:
  • U.S.S. Coronado, Katana Class Starship

    Thanks, @psCargile !

    Texture work continues.

    Because it's come up several times when soliciting feedback, I should stress that the only (deliberate) texture on most of these is the flat color texture. I've pulled out the roughness and bump passes that I had on here before, as well as extracted out the metal color texture that I had mixed into the mess, as well. That's why the surface tends to look so much more bland than it has in prior renders; it's not indicative of a final look, but rather a stripped-down version aimed specifically at hammering out one particular kind of texture component. Even in just the color channel, I'm still planning to mix in some micro-paneling detail (see below for some experiments with this!), some procedural edge weathering, a general light scuff pass, and selectively mix how intense the actual color pass comes through.

    Finished vectorizing my sketched-in panel lines from last time (Nov 14):


    Vectorized the sketched-in texture detailing on the "notch" (Nov 15):


    Spent some time experimenting with different configurations for what I want the blue accenting on the engineering hull to look like, finally settling on the below for the dorsal side. Also vectorized the top-side pylon texture (Nov 21):


    Same, but on the ventral side of the engineering hull. This also shows some stuff I've been messing with for mixing world-projected "decals" into the texture for signage. I had previously been using a UV Project modifier and multiple UV channels to do this. What you see here is entirely in-shader, no extra UV layers required. Instead, I just use a non-rendering square plane scaled (this is important) to the desired size, and then fed through the shader via Texture Coordinate > Object, fed into a Mapping node, and then alpha-mixed ontop of the base color. There about half a dozen of these in the shader now. The banner itself is its own 4K texture, albeit not 4K on the vertical dimension (also Nov 21):


    That night, I started thinking about how I might work in some procedural micro-paneling into the hull. While aztec paneling is probably Trek's most famous hull paneling, conventional aztec was less of a thing on the filming model of Enterprise-E and was also absent on the physical and digital models of Voyager, both of which have been my aesthetic touchstones for surface detail on this ship. Instead, one particular image stuck in my mind as a fascinating inspiration: the shot of Picard, Worf, and Hawk walking across the Enterprise-E saucer in First Contact. I pulled a selection of the hull out of the image and perspective-corrected it into a rectangle and have had this setting in my reference folder for a while as something to return to.


    I spent a good chunk of yesterday messing around with how to do this procedurally. It started with a Manhattan-style voronoi texture and a bullheaded certainty that I could figure out how to create an "edge extract" effect entirely within Blender's shader nodes. Turned out that yes, indeed, I could!


    The shader node for that is pretty large, but it's also fairly straightforward. Posted here, with annotations, for anyone interested in using a similar effect:


    I took a crack at a first-pass implementation on Coro herself, with promising (if in desperate need of tweaking) results. I tried letting the voronoi component of the network use the actual UVs, which in hindsight was a mistake given the varied scale of the UVs (which the main texture UDIMs account for, but generated object coordinates would not). I also need to back off how strong the color variance is, and let the roughness -- which s not hooked up to this at all yet -- do most of the heavy lifting there. But on the whole, I was very happy with the initialy results of what started as a though experiment.


  • U.S.S. Coronado, Katana Class Starship

    Time to do an actual update now!

    Even before the crash, I made several changes that I only ended up posting on Discord. First, as mentioned in the last post with updates, I backed off on the big dark area behind the upper shuttlebay and instead made it more of a U shape, with additional landing lines and such. This was from March 21:


    Looking at that, it became clearer and clearer that my little "porthole" windows in the insets on the saucer just weren't working, so I replaced them with more Voyager-esque inset windows instead. This was from March 25:


    I also started having serious misgivings about the "spine" and why such a huge dividing feature would run through the middle of an otherwise contiguous flight deck. After a lot of experimenting, I ended up with this more subdued piece. This was April 2:


    Then the crash and such happened. When I finally got back into it, I decided that I still wasn't happy with the above solution and decided to throw the full-length spine out entirely, in favor of having it terminate with the other hull plates in that area. This was October 31:


    That, of course, left a big gaping hole in between the two Specter doors, and someone suggested putting a flight observation room there, so I mocked one up just to see how I felt about it. I wasn't sure straight away, so I let it sit for a bit to think it over. This was also October 31:


    A few days later, we (some of the old Coro RPG folks) got to discussing the flight procedures for the Specters and it turned out many of us had misunderstood how it was intended to work. The "top" doors were meant to be where they launched from and the aft doors were meant to be how they returned to the ship. I had been treating the aft doors as egress, including a little aircraft carrier-like catapult launch track for the Specters. The original intent had been for them to be raised on a variable gravity platform for launch, and then that platform would launch them in pretty much any direction, with huge initial velocity, that the situation called for. This called for a couple of changes to the area: ripping out the catapult "strips" on the deck (which I was all too happy to do!) and restoring the interior elevator platform. I also reduced the overall height of the aft doors, in part because they were playing merry hell with the sense of scale in that area. I ended up going with a revised two-piston platform, drawing inspiration from some of the model kits I've seen of the Constitution refit's shuttlebay and the shuttle lifting platform inside it used to elevate shuttles to the launch deck from storage. This was November 6:


    I revised the shape of the exterior flight control station, which at this point I had settled on as a worthwhile feature to keep. I drew inspiration for the window shape from the flight control station on the Sovereign dorsal shuttlebay, which resulted in the following. This was from November 7 (and please ignore the UV wonk on the spine!):


    And, to sanity check how it looks in deep space:


    At this point, having burned a lot of unexpected time on remodeling, I decided that the model is now geometry locked. I'm not going to make further structural changes, no matter how compelling. The only changes to geo henceforth'll be driven by render errors or UV issues and the like.

    So, back to texturing!

    Most of my texturing source files got corrupted, but most of the textures themselves were still around, so I can reverse-engineer a lot of that without too much trouble. My vector documents for making precise panel lines and things are also still intact. To that end, I decided to just start doing some direct on-model texture painting in Blender to sketch out what I wanted to do with more precision in the final texture comp. The following are the results of the initial work in that direction, all from November 10:

    coro_2020-11-10-2228.jpg&size=320 coro_2020-11-10-2225.jpg&size=320 coro_2020-11-10-2232.jpg&size=320

    The stardrive/engineering hull in particular has only had a little bit done to it so far (top and underside of the pylons and the ventral "notch") -- the lateral/dorsal surfaces remain flat color at the moment, but I don't intend for them to remain so. The big dark patches on the underside of the saucer are meant to be similar to the big sensor pod on the Nebula class.

    Obviously, a whole lot of shader work left to do, as well.

  • Quick Greebling in Blender

    Here's a nifty trick I stumbled across and then fleshed out a bit more, which I think will be of use to a lot of the community. Props to YouTuber Ryan Devenney and this video for inspiration.


    Greebles. If you're modeling a spaceship, chances are you're going to need some greebles at some point. While precise replication of an existing studio model may demand exacting modeling of each little cube, pipe, and hemisphere dotted across a ship's surface, most of the time that level of exacting replication isn't necessary. That's where this technique comes in handy.

    First, a demonstration of the general principle.

    I. General Purpose Tutorial

    1. Base object

    Create a cylinder. This is your hypothetical starship hull. It could be a cube or a plane just as well, but doing it with a cylinder proves this technique works in more than just easy cases!


    2. Make greeble objects

    Now, create some other objects. These will be your greebles. They can be whatever you want. Make some boxes, with varying scales. Make an icosphere. Make another cylinder. Anything you like. Don't spent more than 30 seconds on any of them. The point (for the moment) is not building a crazy greeble library (though this technique can be applied to one!). I moved the pivot points/origins on some of these objects to be on their "bottom" face. The only thing I strongly recommend is that you not make the "bottom" of each object coplanar with the others, relative to their origins. Vary them a bunch. We'll touch on why later.


    3. Collect 'em all!

    Add all of these objects to a Collection (Ctrl G, by default). Call it something memorable.


    4. A hairy situation

    Back on your cylinder, go to the Particle Settings tab of the Object Properties panel. Click [+] to add a particle system and change it from Emitter to Hair. Yes, Hair. We're going to adjust some Emission settings later, but you can leave them as-is for now. Do turn on Advanced and (then) ]Rotation, however.


    In the particle settings, go down to Render and change Render As to Collection. Under the now-present Collection submenu, choose your Greeble collection. You'll immediately see some cool stuff, but make sure you turn on: Pick Random (so objects are chosen at random from the collection), Object Rotation (so you can rotate your greeble objects to reorient, if needed), and Object Scale (so that you can scale them and see that respected). Go back up to Rotation and set Orientation Axis to Normal, so that our greebles are oriented to our object's face. The rest of the settings can be left at default. Phase can be fun, as can Randomize Phase. Randomize itself is not as useful because it leads to chaotic greebles, but play around with it to your heart's content.

    Having done that, you may also want to rotate some of your greebles at this juncture!


    If you want to adjust the proportion of the objects, so that some appear more often than others, you can do that under the Use Count section after checking the checkbox. If you have one object you only want to appear once for every 100 objects, you can set it to 1 and then evenly divide 99 amongst the others available, for example. Maybe I want my icosphere and smokestack greebles to be relatively rare, so I'll set them to 1 and the rest to 5.


    You may have noticed that we just have a band of greebles along our cylinder right now. That's governed both by our cylinder geometry and the Source settings under Emission. We could just subdivide our cylinder to get more greeble bands, but instead, let's change Distribution from Jittered to Random* and crank up Number to something like 2000 -- thisis why you keep your initial objects simple! You can also adjust Hair Length (which governs object scale) if needed. Segments can just be 2 (the minimum), since we're not actually trying to use the Hair system to do Hair here.

    * (Sidebar: you can use Jittered and play around with Particles/Face and Jittering Amount to get nice-looking distributions, as well, and for some seed surfaces this may be the exact right thing to do. For this example, Random worked better.)


    4. Make it real

    Alright, now we've got this virtual greeble surface geometry. How do we make it real? Flip over to the Modifiers tab and you'll find a modifier for our ParticleSettings, with a handy [ Convert ] button on it. Push it! ...and then wait a while for the "hair" greebles to bake into a single object. Unfortunately, this appears to be a single-threaded process, so it can take some time. Eventually, you'll find yourself staring at a whole bunch of selected objects (2000, to be exact!). Cool!

    Once you've done this, remove the particle system from the Cylinder object!


    5. Mass-Booleans (Optional)

    But wait...trying to mess around with 2000 objects sounds awful. Can we do anything about that? We can, and our saving grace here is the BoolTool addon that comes bundled with Blender. BoolTool is aimed at making boolean operations slicker. It's still the basic boolean modifier operations under the hood, but it's a nicer interface for certain operations...including mass-applying boolean operations to several objects at once!

    How you approach this depends largely on your system. With a beefy enough system, you (probably) could select all 2K greeble objects and run BoolTool > AutoBoolean > Union, then walk away for a few hours while it churned through everything. For my part, even with 2K objects, I was inclined to pick smaller batches to do at a time, starting with just 10 and then working up until I found a number that felt like a decent balance of "Blender is just busy" and "...did Blender crash?" responsiveness. 50 took about 20 seconds; 100 about a minute. I settled somewhere between 100 and 200. The other potential issue here is that if one boolean operation starts causing nonmanifold geometry that propagates boolean errors forward, the entire operation will end up with a garbage result, so doing them in smaller batches lets you catch this earlier.


    Note 1: you need to make sure one of the objects in your selection is the active object, or BoolTool will give you an error.

    Note 2: Boolean operations hate overlapping faces (and objects with malformed/inconsistent/wrong-facing normals!), which is why I advised not making any of your greeble objects have coplanar faces relative to their respective origins! If you find your greeble objects are resulting in terrible boolean results, one trick you can try is using Object > Transform > Randomize Transform with all of your greeble objects selected, and restrict the randomization to location and/or scale, keeping the variations very small. This will jitter the faces enough per-object that the boolean operation should complete OK, without drastically affecting the placement of your greebles.

    Note 3: It's not strictly necessary to boolean all of them together, and in some cases you may not want to, but the next step is made easier by doing so, and if you intend to apply a geometry bevel (as opposed to shader bevel) to your greebles, having them be a single object will make those beveled edges look nicer.

    6. Detail applied

    One benefit to combining everything into one object -- although, admittedly, BoolTool would allow you to do this without having to combine everything, too -- is that you can then further carve up your greebles to fit them to specific places on your geometry, which in turn also makes them take on additional unique shapes on top of what they've already got.


    II. Practical Example

    To put my money where my mouth is, here's an example of using this technique on a part of my Coronado model. The sensor wells were looking a little bare with just the big greeble objects in place; too plain. To fix that, I chose a small subset of the faces on which I wanted additional surface detail and duplicated + separated them out to their own object. I applied the method above, then created further boolean objects from the larger original surfaces in order to isolate the greebling detail to just locations where I wanted it.


    Hope this is useful to you!
    P5ych0p4thora tzoFreakGuerrillaComcowolfman
  • U.S.S. Coronado, Katana Class Starship

    If you're just joining this thread, hi! Please read the first post for some background info. Many questions have come up over and over again that are answered there. No, this is not the Insignia class. Thanks!

    Texture, texture, texture! Plus messing around with shaders and not being happy with any of my experiments. I've (at least for now!) resolved to leave the shader fairly simple for now and will circle back to roughness and bump maps after I get all the colors and such sorted out.

    Most of the texture work is done in Inkscape (open source equivalent to Illustrator).

    Mar 10:

    Shader iteration over the course of Mar 10 through Mar 14. I have yet to shake the feeling that it looks too much like a plastic model or toy in the shots, which is super disheartening:
    coro_2020-03-10-2255.jpg coro_2020-03-13-2233.jpg coro_2020-03-13-2306.jpg coro_2020-03-14-1418.jpg

    Phaser hazard markers from Mar 15:

    Blocking in some more color areas and general markings, from this evening:

    I'll probably back off of the big dark landing area aft of the shuttlebay. That was lifted from the aft bay of the Sovereign-class, where it's a much smaller accent. Might keep some of it, though -- maybe make it U- or V-shaped instead.

    The grind goes on.