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Old August 15 2008, 04:29 PM   #616
Vektor
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

I've made numerous posts over the years describing my techniques for various things including box modeling, gridlines, windows, avoiding smoothing artifacts, etc, etc, but I've never really done an actual tutorial. I barely have enough time to dedicate to the actual modeling projects without trying to write tutorials as well. Not ruling it out, just sayin'.
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Old August 18 2008, 05:30 AM   #617
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Vektor wrote: View Post
As I believe has been mentioned, REL has offered to do a physical model of the Grandeur when I finally get it finished, so those of you who want one will eventually get your chance.

If you don't know who REL is, do a search for his postings here on TrekBBS or as REL777 over at Scifi-Meshes.com.
My office desk is ready and waiting for the Grandeur.
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Old August 18 2008, 02:17 PM   #618
Cary L. Brown
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Vektor wrote: View Post
Well, I’ve hit a bit of a snag. I’ve been working on detailing the underside of the saucer and in the process I’ve discovered that I didn’t plan ahead very well in structural terms. Both the top and bottom sides have a number of features that are supposed to align with the implied radial and concentric structural members of the saucer, but I have never previously worked out exactly what the configuration of those structural members are. As a consequence, the details on the upper and lower saucer surfaces failed to magically line up as I had been hoping they would since I first realized it could be a problem.

Now, I could fudge things just enough to connect the dots, so to speak, and hope that nobody notices that certain details are a little off or slightly askew, but I have a really hard time cutting those kinds of corners after all the work I’ve put into this thing. The alternative is to basically erase most of the radial details on the saucer and rebuild them in a way that lines up with a unified internal structure. Some of the larger parts and pieces might have to be adjusted as well. Ultimately, the amount of work required is what scientists and engineers like to call “non-trivial.” It’s a significant step backward in order to move forward, which is the kind of thing I was really hoping to avoid at this late date. I swear, sometimes I wonder if I’m gonna have to leave this project to my descendants to finish.

Anyway, I have pretty much made up my mind that if it’s worth doing then it’s worth doing right, so I started the detail removal process last night. In most cases, I can go back to earlier iterations of the model and steal the pieces I need, but I can’t do it wholesale because there are a lot of other modifications of the same parts that I need to keep. It’s actually going more quickly than I expected, if I can just figure out a structural configuration that will work with all of the design requirements I’m trying to satisfy.

One bit of good fortune in all of this is that it gives me the opportunity to fix something else that has been bugging me. I’ve been thinking for a while that the gridlines were too wide and too deep for a ship this size, to the point where they actually detract from its sense of scale. Since I’m redoing most of the gridlines anyway, I figure I might as well scale them down a little bit. Of course, that means I will have to redo ALL of the gridlines, including the ones on the warp nacelles, but in for a penny, in for a pound.

At least you will all know what to expect in the next set of WIP images, but don’t count on seeing them before next weekend.
Sorry to hear that you've gotta take a step back... always sucks, huh?

You're a much better rendering-guy than I am (and probably than I'll ever be) but I'm a pretty damned good engineer. I've been through this sort of thing on many design programs. And as a result, I've developed a basic "standard practice" that I use on everything.

Before I make any physical elements of any kind, I create a very detailed "skeleton" made up of datum planes, datum axes, datum points, and sketches (never intended to be seen in the final model). I then build my geometry using those as references. That avoids the very problem you're encountering now.

If dealing with habitable spaces, I generally create datum planes to reflect the floor and ceiling of each individual deck. I create sketches (on individual datum planes) reflecting basic structural elements. It's a long and involved process but it's invaluable... because you already have geometry (which will never be visible in the final model) which you can reference as you create every downstream feature.

The problem with this approach is that you lose the ability to "massage" certain elements... you're pretty much tied into the general layout you create up-front. But if you do that layout in a parametric fashion, you can then "tweak" the layout in those datums and sketches and everything else downstream will update "automagically." (Or "most everything" anyway.)

Just tossing in my own 2cents... you obviously have a workflow that works pretty well for you, but what I'm suggesting might avoid the sort of problems you're encountering now. Take it or leave it.
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Old August 18 2008, 05:22 PM   #619
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

The way this model should have been done was on paper first, to a highly refined degree, then and only then in 3D. Just about any modeler will tell you not to try to design something like this at the same time you are building it, except for relatively simple ďstudy modelsĒ where youíre trying to work something out that can only be effectively visualized in 3D. Maybe you donít actually use paper, maybe you use a digital tablet or a 2D CAD program, but the principle is the same.

So why didnít I do it that way? Mainly because when I started this whole thing I didnít really know any better, and because at the time I was more concerned with developing my modeling techniques than I was with the design itself. As I have stated elsewhere, I have learned probably three quarters of everything I know about 3D modeling from working on this one project, everything from spline cage modeling to box modeling to some of the finer points of polygon editing. Unfortunately, if you donít pay close enough attention to the shape of the room, itís easy to paint yourself into corners, so to speak.
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Old August 19 2008, 12:09 AM   #620
Cary L. Brown
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Vektor wrote: View Post
The way this model should have been done was on paper first, to a highly refined degree, then and only then in 3D. Just about any modeler will tell you not to try to design something like this at the same time you are building it, except for relatively simple “study models” where you’re trying to work something out that can only be effectively visualized in 3D. Maybe you don’t actually use paper, maybe you use a digital tablet or a 2D CAD program, but the principle is the same.
That's pretty much it, yeah... though I'm using a 3D CAD program, not a 2D one. (Most CAD is done using 2D sketches as the basis of features... though you also have the ability to do purely 3D geometry in most packages, most work is still done using sections which are revolved, extruded, swept, or blended into other sections. The use of NURBS and related tools is a lot less common, even when doing stuff like auto bodies... though I'm convinced it's actually a better tool for that particular job!
So why didn’t I do it that way? Mainly because when I started this whole thing I didn’t really know any better, and because at the time I was more concerned with developing my modeling techniques than I was with the design itself. As I have stated elsewhere, I have learned probably three quarters of everything I know about 3D modeling from working on this one project, everything from spline cage modeling to box modeling to some of the finer points of polygon editing.
Well, that's the fun part, really, isn't it? Try something you've never done before... find out it doesn't work... and struggle over it 'til you figure out what went wrong. Gives a real sense of accomplishment!

Right now I'm stuck in a similar groove with some advanced electromagnetic analysis tools which just aren't working the way I want 'em to... I'm beating my head against the wall over it. But when I finally figure out how to make the software jump when I want it to... damn, I'm gonna be a happy guy (and a much more marketable guy to boot!)
Unfortunately, if you don’t pay close enough attention to the shape of the room, it’s easy to paint yourself into corners, so to speak.
Yeah... been there, done that.

Actually, I have a similar problem with the Vega. I used a "mirror" operation in my secondary hull at one point (at the very beginning of my creation of the "interior sets") and there's an issue with calculation accuracy with that feature. So I'm having trouble properly exporting it. That's part of why I haven't done any more postings on that recently - I need to figure out if I need to rebuild the secondary hull from scratch, or if I can recover by replacing the "mirror" feature without causing everything downstream from there from collapsing!) I can export as a facet-based model, but if I try to send out a NURBS-based one, it simply fails... the nurbs file is big, so there's a lot of data there... but importing it into anything fails.

Thing is, I've got SOOO much work done on that, that I'm not really inclined to trash anything. All the other components (the saucer, the saucer's retractable nacelles, the cutter, the main warp engines, the engine pylon assembly) are all complete. But the secondary hull itself simply can't be exported! AAAAGGGGHHHH...

(sigh)
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Old August 19 2008, 11:13 PM   #621
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

I am so looking forward to having this model and I am happy to be apart of the team now.
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Old August 20 2008, 12:39 AM   #622
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Cary L. Brown wrote: View Post
... but I'm a pretty damned good engineer. I've been through this sort of thing on many design programs. And as a result, I've developed a basic "standard practice" that I use on everything.

Before I make any physical elements of any kind, I create a very detailed "skeleton" made up of datum planes, datum axes, datum points, and sketches (never intended to be seen in the final model). I then build my geometry using those as references. That avoids the very problem you're encountering now.

If dealing with habitable spaces, I generally create datum planes to reflect the floor and ceiling of each individual deck. I create sketches (on individual datum planes) reflecting basic structural elements. It's a long and involved process but it's invaluable... because you already have geometry (which will never be visible in the final model) which you can reference as you create every downstream feature.

The problem with this approach is that you lose the ability to "massage" certain elements... you're pretty much tied into the general layout you create up-front. But if you do that layout in a parametric fashion, you can then "tweak" the layout in those datums and sketches and everything else downstream will update "automagically." (Or "most everything" anyway.)
Cary, I'm fascinated by what I think you're talking about here. Could you go into a bit more detail about these datum planes you use and your parametric approach? Pictures, videos, and personal, one-on-one hand-holding at your expense are all welcomed. Thanks!
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Old August 20 2008, 02:44 AM   #623
Cary L. Brown
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Psion wrote: View Post
Cary, I'm fascinated by what I think you're talking about here. Could you go into a bit more detail about these datum planes you use and your parametric approach? Pictures, videos, and personal, one-on-one hand-holding at your expense are all welcomed. Thanks!
Well, I don't want to "hijack" Vektor's thread here so I'm just going to post once on that topic... if you want to pursue this further, we can create another thread or we can go "private."

I'm going to use my "Bonaventure" model as a reference. But this approach follows generally.

Unlike with some other vessels, my work on the Bonaventure has the entire hull constructed as a single "part." On more complicated efforts, I make assemblies of multiple parts. (This version of the Bonaventure was never intended to be a "complex" model, so much as a "what if" exercise... just to see if I could make the animated-series ship look good, and look real, and make a degree of sense to me.)

Here's a cross-section of the Bonaventure. You can see the various datum planes reflecting my floors and ceilings (those are normally hidden) The "model tree" at the left is a sequential display of what is created in what sequence... I'd usually cut that part of the UI out of the view, but it's worth seeing it here... the point is that I created those (reflecting my floor and ceiling surfaces) before ANYTHING else, and use them as a reference as I create everything else.

(click the thumbnail to see the full-size image... don't want to make the thread load more slowly than it should for images unrelated to Vektor's work!)


Now, virtually all geometry in ENGINEERING applications (as opposed to "artistic" applications... ) is done using sketched 2D sections in one fashion or another. Here's a simple example... you can see the parametric sketch which defines the rotated cross-section for my "main sensor/deflector dish." An axis exists in the part (created separately) and I used that as the centerline of my sketch... drew 1/2 of the shape, and revolved it around that axis to create a solid (not "surfaces" like most 3D graphics programs do, but they have similar functions that just do surfaces).



You'll note that the sketch is dimensioned, of course... I can create those dimensions simply (as seen here) by entering a value into them directly... or I can have complicated mathematical algorithms. Most commonly, simpler equations are used, though... things like "the diameter is 1/10 of the length" or conditional things like "replicate this pattern by X times... with X being 5 if the length is less than or equal to this value, and 8 if X is greater" or so forth.

It's almost like working with a programming language (and yes, I can even implement input routines or conditional loops or any other programming tool you're accustomed to, so that the model regenerates itself "on the fly" based upon my input.

Now, you can any geometry referencing any other geometry, basically... so I sketch basic shapes and guides and so forth before I start my physical modeling, most of the time. Since virtually EVERY "physical feature" is based upon sketches anyway, it's only reasonable to have certain "root" sketches that everything else follows from.

SO... after working out he basics, and figuring out generally how many decks I want it to be, how long I want it to be, where certain features need to be, etc, etc... I use that to create my basic... well... "skeleton" for the model. And I use those features to define later features. For instance, the centerlines of my nacelles are defined by a distance from the centerline of the secondary hull and an angle from the centerline of the secondary hull (well, actually from the axis which I created to represent the centerline of my warp reactor assembly... but you get the idea).

What it means to be "parametric" is that we're dealing with ALGEBRA rather than with "locked in stone numbers." I can easily adjust the angle or the distance simply by altering the value of that particular dimension, and "regenerating" the model.

Now, for instance... I created a parameter up-front called "floor-to-ceiling_ht." I established the distance upwards from the deck to the adjacent ceiling. And I established another parameter called "inter-deck-thickness." So, when I started creating my series of decks, instead of typing in a value every time, I simply assigned each plane's location as being offset from the next one by one of those two variables.

If I then decide to change my deck-to-deck spacing to a smaller number, I only need to adjust that one variable and the whole model updates as a result. Granted, some features may fail (like rounds whose original value may result in them intersecting some feature that they didn't intersect before, due to the "respacing") and I may need to "tweak" them a bit to get them to work again... but it's a LOT easier than rebuilding from scratch... or individually moving around NURBS surfaces!

Anyway... that's a basic primer on the differences between "engineering CAD" design (3D, but driven in large part by 2D elements existing in a 3D world) and "rendering" work (which is usually a bit less "dimension-oriented")

My "work" flow is all about the CAD software, of course... but for "hobby" work, I've found that I like doing the model in CAD first, then exporting it to some other software (I've been using Maya 6 for a long time and am pretty good with it... PROVIDED that I can get the damned model to translate in as NURBS!) Once in there, it's divorced from the original, parametric model... it's just a normal Maya model, and can only be edited using the built-in Maya toolset (which is extensive but totally non-engineering-related) The great thing about Maya is that I can do things with rendering that no CAD package every could... like my "real-time flaming bussard collector" effect I have in my "Vega" warp nacelles or the "vorlon skin" morphing exterior radiator panels on the same nacelles... both of which can be seen here...



Last edited by Cary L. Brown; August 20 2008 at 02:50 AM.
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Old August 20 2008, 07:54 AM   #624
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Amazing. You come much closer to actually building your starships than I think most people do. I do most of my work in Blender, which definitely isn't an engineering application (although I've used it to design real-world, customized furniture and a few gadgets). I'm trying to think of a way to incorporate elements of your approach into my workflow, but short of programming my designs in python or using proper CAD software, I'm not sure it can be done.

What do you do about designs where deck height isn't consistent? I'm presently building a model that's based on the Soviet anti-sub cruiser Moskva, and the decks on that ship go all over the place. How would you compensate for something like that with your datum plane approach?

Maybe we should, in courtesy to Vektor, break this out into a general discussion thread about modeling techniques, if you're so inclined. Either way, thanks for the insight, this is really neat!
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Old August 22 2008, 05:53 AM   #625
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Well, it's been a crazy week and I haven't gotten very far on updating the actual model; however, I did make some progress on the new gridline templates for the upper and lower surfaces of the primary hull...




Neither of them are finished but the top is fairly well along and I have a good idea of where I'm going with the bottom. The radial gridlines are now properly aligned on both top and bottom and also line up pretty well with the other major features.

By the way, these templates were traced directly off the model as editable splines within 3ds Max, then exported into PhotoShop for compositing with my usual background.
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Old August 22 2008, 06:10 PM   #626
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Lookin good, Vek!

I might add that it would help the Chief if, when you are done with the new lines for the top, send a pdf/dxf of them for him to pull into his vectorized schematic. He's working on the LCARS for the Engineering pooltable right now. Thanks, Vek.
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Old August 23 2008, 04:24 AM   #627
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

the citizen wrote: View Post
Lookin good, Vek!

I might add that it would help the Chief if, when you are done with the new lines for the top, send a pdf/dxf of them for him to pull into his vectorized schematic. He's working on the LCARS for the Engineering pooltable right now. Thanks, Vek.

Your friendly neiborhood Ops Officer could use it as well for the tech manual.
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Old September 27 2008, 08:11 PM   #628
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

I've been doing some interesting things to the Grandeur. The entire arrowhead-shaped plate on the top of the primary hull has been rebuilt using Sub-Ds, with the secondary deflector and the aft wedge-shaped cutouts included in the base mesh:



And here is two iterations of NURMS subdivision:



And finally, the rendered product:



There's a lot of other stuff going on as well but I'm keeping that close to the vest for now. I should have at least a couple more renderings to show this weekend, however.
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Old September 27 2008, 08:18 PM   #629
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

How do you keep the edges of the cutouts following the arc of the saucer? Vertex weighting?
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Old September 28 2008, 11:28 AM   #630
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Re: USS Grandeur - One... More... Time!

Great stuff!
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