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Old November 13 2012, 03:30 PM   #1036
Admiral Buzzkill
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Quite possibly. I'm trying to decide, though, if we should see any ships that closely resemble Polaris in that sequence. I think of it as kind of a custom job rather than a military design.

But then, background is background.

I spent the day yesterday on the conversion. I think the basic process will take about a week. The mesh itself is awesome - really beautifully designed and optimized.
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Old November 13 2012, 04:31 PM   #1037
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Somehow, with the color and orientation change, that Aridas Alternative version looks to me like something I'd see while watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars, while the official "upright" version doesn't so much. I'm not sure why. But it's pretty cool in any case.

--Alex
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Old November 13 2012, 04:47 PM   #1038
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Dennis, any problems with the smoothing groups or surface normals? I'm not sure what was happening when I tried re-importing the OBJ file but there was a little bit of weirdness there on certain objects. The smoothing groups are particularly important because they are the key to nearly all of the soft edges and panel lines.

By the way, I tend to agree with the notion that Polaris should remain unique in this production. The sail-less variant is kinda cool but I think it would stand out a little too much for its similarity unless it is really far in the background.
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Old November 13 2012, 04:55 PM   #1039
Admiral Buzzkill
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

I don't know that Lightwave has an equivalent for smoothing groups. This is going to be something of a challenge, but so far the mesh looks good in renders. If there turn out to be problems on some edges I'll probably just have to chamfer them. I think a lot can be accomplished with Lightwave surfaces, though.

The OBJ file imports with only one surface - the LW "default" - and dozens of what Lightwave calls "Parts" which I suspect are the MAX objects (such as "fuselage," "DockingSphere" and so on). I'm able to use the Parts as the basis for assigning surfaces, but most of them do need to be broken down further into subsets of polygons for surface assignment.

As far as the surface normals, I've had to "flip" a few polygons but nothing major.
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Old November 13 2012, 05:29 PM   #1040
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Smoothing groups, I think, are pretty ubiquitous in 3D modeling packages. I'd be really surprised if Lightwave doesn't support them. Chamfering edges should be a last resort; almost every edge on this model is smooth shaded and chamfering would MASSIVELY multiply the polycount, not to mention being a huge amount of work.
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Old November 13 2012, 05:40 PM   #1041
Admiral Buzzkill
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

In Lightwave each surface has its own smoothing angle; two groups of polygons adjacent to one another on a sphere, for example, can have different degrees of smoothing. There may be an equivalence there; that said I've never seen any reference to smoothing groups in Lightwave, but many assertions that it's not used in either LW or in Modo prior to 501.

Here are surfaces set to no smoothing, 15 percent and 90 percent. The polygons are contiguous and welded together.



As I said, the parts of the model I've converted and applied basic textures to look fine. I've seen a number of models, including some I've built, converted to and from LW/MAX and they always look a little different but the conversions don't seem to be problematic.

Last edited by Admiral Buzzkill; November 13 2012 at 05:59 PM.
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Old November 13 2012, 06:14 PM   #1042
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

In Max, you simply assign individual polygons to one or more "smoothing groups." If two adjacent polygons have a smoothing group in common, they are shaded into a smooth surface regardless of the angle between them. Smoothing can be automatically applied according to angle thresholds or manually on a per-polygon basis. Either way, it boils down to smoothing groups.

Here is an example of how I modeled the panel lines and most other edges on Polaris:



The tops and sides of each panel are all assigned to smoothing group 1 and the bottom of the trenches between them are assigned to smoothing group 2. This is the result when rendered:



I've seen other people do this with 3 or 4 segments along every edge, but careful use of smoothing groups can accomplish virtually the same appearance with only 2 segments.

Can you assign smoothing to sub-selections of polygons in a Lightwave surface or must you apply the same smoothing angle settings to the entire surface? If the former, then Lightwave may already be interpreting the smoothing groups correctly. If the latter, then you're going to have problems in certain areas. Fortunately, most objects in this model are already fully smoothed except for the trenches in the panel lines. If those present a problem, my suggestion is to break the bottom of the trenches out as separate surfaces, which should correct at least 80% of any potential problems.
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Old November 13 2012, 06:50 PM   #1043
Admiral Buzzkill
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Sure, in LW the top and sides of the trenches, the bottom of the trench and probably the surrounding plate are just assigned different surfaces.
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Old November 13 2012, 07:10 PM   #1044
Vektor
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Did that happen automatically when you imported the OBJ file or will you have to do it manually? There are a LOT of those kinds of edges on this model. A significant portion of the time I spent building it was invested in smoothing those edges correctly.

Any chance you could do a render of the same part of the model I showed above? That's the outer surface of one of the curved "ring fins" that branch off the booster engine housings. I'd just be curious to see what it looks like in Lightwave.
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Old November 13 2012, 07:16 PM   #1045
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Lightwave doesn't have per-vertex smoothing groups. The smoothing angle is tied to the material and is controlled from the same panel as other material properties like specularity and color. The only way to have two different normal angles on adjacent geometry is to assign two different materials to it, alas.

It's one of the few areas where Lightwave is notably inferior to other 3D packages.
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Old November 13 2012, 07:26 PM   #1046
Vektor
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Well, what about separating the bottoms of the trenches into a separate object or "part" or whatever Lightwave calls it? Even in Max, adjacent polygons with the same smoothing group are only smoothed if they are part of the same object.

I actually considered doing this myself, mostly for ease of material assignment.
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Old November 13 2012, 10:57 PM   #1047
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Vektor wrote: View Post
By the way, I tend to agree with the notion that Polaris should remain unique in this production. The sail-less variant is kinda cool but I think it would stand out a little too much for its similarity unless it is really far in the background.
Without knowing the whole background of Polaris, could the sail-less Polaris be the Polaris before its military upgrades? The Polaris was a nice, quality civilian ship before the military put all the weapons and the sails on it. Just a thought...
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Old November 13 2012, 11:11 PM   #1048
Admiral Buzzkill
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Setting the plate surface smoothing to a very high value - 179.5 - and making the bottom of the trench its own surface with no smoothing seems to work pretty well.

The Navy put weapons and probably some hardened sensor and communications gear on the ship and converted a lot of the laboratory space. The overall design of the ship with its sails is original, though.
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Old November 14 2012, 01:36 AM   #1049
Vektor
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

My unofficial rationale behind the "sails" is that they were a pseudo-experimental modification to the standard FTL drive system to extend its range and accuracy. In essence, they capture and focus the spatial distortion from the drive spheres, enabling it to jump much further than other ships in its class and much more accurately.

Unfortunately, there are two downsides to the technology:

1. The sails are rather fragile and vulnerable to misalignment, potentially resulting in wildly inaccurate FTL jumps.

2. The sails are virtually opaque to radiant energy, trapping heat in the power coils surrounding the saucer. This is why the sails are left partially open much of the time.

I'm thinking the sails were one of those "good idea at the time" kind of things that came and went fairly quickly in the evolution of ship design. They are still, pound-for-pound, the longest range, most accurate FTL drive systems ever built, but too high-maintenance to justify on most designs unless you really need those capabilities.
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Old November 15 2012, 03:46 AM   #1050
Admiral Buzzkill
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Re: Star Ship Polaris

Vektor graciously suggested that I post progress images of the model conversion here as I go. I'll do that as I have the opportunity, with a couple of caveats.

Vektor sets a very high standard as far as working renders go - his images are beautiful - and he's an expert at lighting. What I'll post are pretty much quick renders I make of various angles on the model for my own reference as I work.

The model was exported to an OBJ, which LightWave imports with a single surface, the LW default, which is the unsmoothed light grey that you see on most of the model here. All surface/texture information is lost. I've approximated some of the materials that Vektor had applied, again for reference.

The basic conversion is about 20 percent complete at this point. Vektor's mesh is so well organized, including meaningful object/part names and so the process is pretty straightforward and fun. I haven't started trying to refine the surface settings or apply any texture maps, yet.

So with all of that said:




BTW, the rendering and animation for the show is being done by Neo F/X, so my severe limits as a CG artist shouldn't be of any concern.
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