Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The mighty Greek Trireme!

In continuing my exploration of the world of 3D Studio Max, I decided to delve back into the depths of NURBs modelling as well. Instead of manipulating polygonal objects (i.e., objects with polygon faces composed of vertices connected via straight line edges), I would be using NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational Basic Splines) objects. These are basically objects that are constructed through mathematical curves, like Bezier splines, instead of flat-faced polygons. Recalling an Egyptian galley that I modelled using NURBS geometry in my early foray into Maya modelling, I decided to model a Greek Trireme in 3DS Max!

What resulted is perhaps the most complicated model I've ever created to date. As with the original ship, there are 170 oars divided into three rows (hence the "Tri" in "Trireme") on each side of the ship. Of course, there are also 170 corresponding seats, portal holes, seat braces, et al. as well as a seemingly endless array of internal scaffolding. Using a large variety of source imagery (as well as written research), I attempted to model the ship as historically accurate as possible. I'm happy with the amount of detail that I was able to capture within the moderately high 30,544 polygon range. I credit the low poly number with 3DS Max's spline/surface system, whereby I have complete control of the creation of my mesh through various spline controls.

Here's a nice view of the starboard side. In particular the oars and bronze ram can be seen.

Here's a shot of the bow with another view of the ram. Rams were used to cut large gashes in the hulls of enemy ships as well as snap the oars along one side, effectively disabling them. The three rows of oars can also be seen in this view.
Here's a view of the port side, revealing the rigging behind the dual masts, the steering rudders and the captain's chair.
Here's a view of the stern/aft, revealing a close up of the stylized "fish tail" forming the rear of the craft. This same basic form was also used in the Egyptian galley.

Here's an interior view in which the seats of the top two rowers (i.e., Eretai) can be seen: 31 Thranitai sit along the outer edge of each side and 27 Zygitai sit staggered below them on each side for a total of 116 Eretai on this upper level of the ship. The Thranitai are named after "Thranos," the Greek word for "Deck," and refers to the Parexeiresia railing which hangs over the outer edge of the ship through which the Thranitai's oars are mounted. The Zygitai, on the other hand, are named after "Zygoi," the Greek word for the crossbeams on which their seats are mounted.
Here's a view of the bottom Hold (i.e., Thalamos) of the ship. Here, 27 Thalamitai sit staggered below their brethren on either side of the ship in this least desirable of places. Being on the bottom means that the Thalamitai are both targets for anything falling (or dripping) from the upper deck as well as potential victims of flooding because they are so close to the water line.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ode to Venger

Allow me, if you will, a moment to become lost in the fond memories of my youth and pay humble tribute to a favorite villain of mine. If you, like me, were a child of the '80's... feasting on the veritable smorgasbord of truly kick ass cartoons available (G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, Super Friends, The Real Ghostbusters, Muppet Babies--Yeah, I said it! It rocked!--Voltron, Thundercats, M.A.S.K., Silverhawks...the list is endless), then you might remember a little show called Dungeons & Dragons. It was condemned by critics as being too violent and protested by Christian fanatics as being "demonic!"... which means it kicked ass! Now, without further ado...

Venger, o Venger... how I truly miss thee, and yet, how I feared thee as a child.
Not so much for the evil acts you committed, but due to that big, friggin' horn coming out of the side of your head.
Somehow an asymmetrical horn makes you far more intimidating than Tim Curry's Lord of Darkness in Legend.
(2 horns = predictable, 1 horn = loose cannon)

Venger, o Venger... your light gray skin and eyeliner make you the very first "goth."
With your glowing red eyes, vampire-ish fangs and tiny, almost nonexistent (dare I say Michael Jackson-esque?) nose.
And how your strange headpiece always freaked me out...
Does your head actually extend all the way to the back (i.e., Alien-style), or is it just like a long hat?

Venger, o Venger... with your little red armor and your little black, um, shawl...
No one would ever make fun of that gray pleated skirt (due, primarily, to the aforementioned horn).

You would wrap those great leathery wings about you like a warm (albeit slimy) coat...
And you always managed to fly without flapping them, supporting not only your own weight, but your horse's as well!

Venger, o Venger... speaking of horses, you had the best steed in the whole world...
Way cooler than that "Equort" Ookla the Mok rode in Thundarr the Barbarian.
The Nazg├╗l only wished they had a horse that cool!
But I still can't figure out how you managed to keep that horse aloft by gliding with your bat wings.

Venger, o Venger... all you ever wanted was those li'l bastards' weapons.
How I would secretly root for you when it involved the maiming/death of that annoying Uni ("Maaah! Maaah!!!")
And you get extra cool points for having the same voice as Optimus Prime.
Everyone thought you simply wanted to defeat Tiamat, but, alas, you just wanted a big 'ol hug from Dungeonmaster.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

WWII Half-Track in 3DS Max

In addition to learning Maya as a 3D modeling/animation tool, I figured it would behoove me to learn 3D Studio Max as well. For my first project I modelled an M3A2 Half-Track Armored Personnel Carrier, a sturdy--yet mobile--means of transport for infantry and equipment as well as reconnaissance in World War II. Basically, the body of an M3 Scout Car was fitted with the rear bogie assembly of a T9 Half-Track Truck with a "pulpit mounted" .50 caliber machine gun attached to the top. A .30 caliber machine gun was mounted to the side with another being mounted at the rear. The armor included an adjustable armored shutter for the engine's radiator as well as a folding bulletproof windscreen. In addition, a bumper-mounted roller assembly assisted with negotiating rocky, uneven terrain. Mine racks lined either side of the vehicle and two large equipment racks were attached to the rear.

The model has not been UV unwrapped and textured--only colored using simple shaders. While it is certainly not a low poly model for games (i.e., 15,179 quads), it is not a high poly model as typically used in animation; let's just call it an intermediate poly model which could possibly be used for cutscenes in a game. By the way, I have to say that learning 3DS Max was way more frustrating than I expected. I thought, "Hey, I know how to model in 3D... just need to learn where all the buttons are in Max, right?" WRONG!!! In addition to having a completely different naming convention for everything, in many cases, Max has a completely different approach to various functions. It's like trying to draw with your other hand... you already know how to draw, but you just can't... can't... make it look right?

"Dammit, how do you 'Center Pivot' again?!"

"I just want Maya's 'Split Polygon Tool,' and NOT that accursed 'Slice Plane'... whaddya mean use 'Cut?!'

"Wait a minute, so 'Attach' is like Maya's 'Combine' and 'Detach' is like Maya's 'Separate?'"

"Where' is my 'Attributes Editor?'.... absorbed into the 'Material Editor?!?' ARGH!!!"


etc., etc., etc.

There's actually still some more detail that I would like to add here, including the small shutters for the bulletproof screens, the hood fasteners, the two side-mounted ladders, the two side-mounted gas canisters, the two side-mounted shovels, as well as rivets galore!

Regarding the rear of the model, there's a rear access door that I should probably model as well as some additional detail on the bumper. The guns and mounts also need quite a bit of work.

I'm fairly happy with the overall silhouette and direction the model is heading. I just need to add in those extra details.

The inside of the truck probably needs the most attention. The seats, floor and "pulpit mount" are all a bit lacking! Hopefully, I'll finish 'er up soon!