Okay, today’s post is all about porn—spaceship porn, that is. No self-respecting geek can get into 3D model building without making at least one spaceship model, and I’m no different.
My generation of geeks grew up boldly going “where no man has gone before.” One thing that might set me apart from many of my fellow Star Trek fans was that the Enterprise wasn’t my favorite starship—far from it. I never thought it fair that the antagonists, the Klingons, got the cooler-looking ships. In fact, the original battlecruiser design, born of genius Matt Jefferies (and known by Treknologists as the D-7) is, and always has been, my favorite fictional spaceship design of all time.
This is my tribute to that venerable staple of science fiction lore:
I actually built this model before I became a regular Lightwave 3D user, so it was constructed in the modeling/rendering application I was using primarily at the time: Rhinoceros. That application (usually called just “Rhino”) is better-known in the physical design world, where it is widely used to design objects from custom jewelry to luxury yacht hulls. One primary aspect that sets Rhino apart from most modeling applications is that you work not with points and polygons, but with what are called NURBS, or “Non-Uniform Rational Basis Splines.” That’s a mouthful for what is basically working in pure, mathematically-modeled curves and surfaces. By contrast, most of the time a curve in traditional modeling is actually made up of a series of linear segments which, if they are short and numerous enough, can look smoothly curved. Similarly a curved surface is actually faceted into flat polygons. Shading tricks are then used to make such facets appear smoothly rounded.
Although it’s kind of nice to be able to work with pure, smoothly-curved shapes, for most practical applications the final results still must be “meshed” to be compatible with standard rendering formats, game engines, and the like. It’s a black art to mesh a NURBS model without the polygon count climbing into insanity, so for the most part it’s not a very popular modeling style. It does, however, excel when the final product will become an actual physical object that’s just as perfectly smooth as the digital version, such as the aforementioned jewelry or boat hull. I first began using Rhino many years ago when I thought NURBS were “da bomb” and I had access to a steeply discounted student copy to play with. I still have a copy (upgraded to a commercial license and a more current version) installed on my Windows 7 virtual machine (I’m a Mac user these days) but I mostly use it for converting engineering-oriented file formats that nothing else I own can handle.
And that’s the scoop. Please leave comments below, share this post far and wide (See, there’s even a share button below to make it easy!), and check out my other work (both static and animated) at my website, spinland.studio.
Spinland Studios, LLC is a high-tech 3D modeling and animation studio in the Mohawk Valley of Upstate New York. Defy conventional branding and let me bring your brand to life! Visit www.spinland.studio for more information and examples.