Monday, 19 March 2018

Personal: Heart of an Empire

  I've wanted to get back into creating with Maya now that I am in a more confident place at home. It was a surprising lesson these past couple of months how your environment can influence your motivation. Bygones are bygones now, and I want to get back into my A-game. 

  I've been tweaking and polishing this planet today, making the city lights appear more convincing and giving substance to the ring around it (a discussion session online suggested to me their old distance might risk exposing visitors and occupants to highly lethal levels of radiation. I suppose high-tech science fiction shielding could protect them, and there was even a suggestion the ring-builders could have found a way to clear the radiation belts, but that distance was also impractical for ferrying freight and commerce, which benefits from a low-hanging belt. Shorter transit distances and all that.

  I thought about adding more than one ring because the engineers would not be limited to one orbital structure, and could hang more off the first (maybe even, fur, five, or ten!) And even this massive ring might have its limits for a civilisation connected to millions of other planets. So like any ground project, the infrastructure could have been expanded in times past to meet increasing demand.

 If I ever get this animated, it could be fun to surround the planet with dancing particles that represent hundreds to thousands of incoming and outgoing starships. Watching The Expanse lately I've been enamored with the introduction sequence, particularly the streaks of light that represent 100 years of interplanetary shipping and the timelapses showing urban growth and the great projects undergone in the series' backstory.

   I believe the Expanse has been one of my major influences regarding this project. Studying satellite photographs of the Earth at night helped a lot in building a convincing night-time illumination.A place can be as much a character as a person or an object, it's all about knowing how to convey that story without words.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Mosquitro Redesign: The Needle

  I spent some time today modifying the head of my mosquito model. After adjusting the lenses so the pole would be pointing outward, the whole shape appeared to nestle more smoothly into the gap designed for it.There was some adjustment needed but these were only a few tweaks. There does appear to be a fair amount more flow, however as the geometry for the eyes runs more in line with the cavity for the head..

  The next big challenge was the port for the mosquito's proboscis, which in the mechanical model would function like a powerful injector. I had a stroke of inspiration that the port would open up like a flower. The mechanisms for this however, might require some thinking as the needle would either push these petals out or they'd open out in preparation for the needle extending..

  The model is quite detailed, so I am planning to look into making a normal map for a simplified model for more full-body shots of the vehicle.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Mosquito Redesign: Working Legs

  I didn't have much success implementing an IK nor getting it to compress, but they say the simplest solution is often the most effective. In the case of my piston the simple solution was to parent each of the pistons with each other, tie them to 'aim' themselves at the opposing hinge and create a few driven keys to mimic the pistons extending and compressing.

  After that it was a simple matter of constraining each of the hinges. and the pistons so they stop at a fixed instance into and out of their sockets. By adding a fifth segment to the leg I am able to extend its reach to a motion window of between 92 and 168 degrees (any more open and the piston will collide with the knee hinge). Which might be one of them ore complicated elements of the model out of the way.

From what has been assembled so far, I think I can easily fit six of the legs into the main body with plenty of room to spare.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Mosquito Redesign: Leg Hydraulics and Industrial Fun

  Much of this afternoon has been spent reworking the leg to make it something more industrial. I've looked into completely redesigning the limb using the hydraulic system idea to give the legs weight and balance. What I've got so far appears to work to a decent degree, even if the geometry might be a little heavy. I'll look into fixing the UVs before the leg is repeated.

  The piston that would appear to keep the leg unbent will use some manner of spline to adjust itself. I'll need to perform some experiments to get a system that can extend the segments - what is on display is the furthest the leg can bend with this but with some clever re-positioning I might be able to extend the leg further. I can also use the freedoms presented by the digital medium to make it easier for the base to compress into the pivot it's connected to, allowing the sections to fold in and extend automatically and the pivots to rotate appropriately. This further tweaking might also allow the lower leg to more easily fold in.

  That still leaves how to fit six of these inside the body. The folding in isn't the most efficient use of space, it could be the legs are arranged diagonally and drop through hatches in the mosquito's underside (which will be fun to build and set up). Only one leg will be worked on until the UVs, bones and controls are set up, which will be reproduced five times.

  Overall, it appears to be quite a flexible setup. The leg bends in the right place, the lower joint provides most of the positional mobility and the foot has full free rotation so it can plant itself flat in a large variety of poses. An IK/FK system could be used for deployment, positioning and resting as one thing that could be implemented are shock-absorbers at the ankle - a simple tube that compresses into the body to give the feeling the machine is bearing weight when its turns its engines off.

It's about ready for the UVs

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Mosquito Redesign: Early Stages and Legs

  I'be been thinking for a couple of days now about going back and redesigning one of my old projects. Namely the mosquito craft from one of my first year university projects. This design was ambitious, even back then and the video it came with was somewhat popular so I thought why not go back and rebuild the thing with better creative knowledge, problem solving skills etc.?

   One thing I really wanted to try out in the old design was some form of foot. In the original model I believe they were just spikes due to time pressures. With a better grasp of Maya's rigging and component system I feel confident I can do a proper foot as well as better joints. For fun I could design all kinds of bells and whistles: Brake flaps, redesigned landing gear bays, ailerons, a probe bay, maybe even rotary blades in the wings and a segmented design to allow for full-wing tilting and proper VTOL.

   I've mostly been inspired by the ship designs made by Cloud Imperium for Star Citizen. I tried the game out once during a free weekend and was amazed at all the little animated components the one-man ships had whether it was for doors, maintenance hatches, thrusters, airlocks, you'd think they brought in mechanical engineers to work out all the components. I might not go that far, the mosquito in the sequence primarily concerns landing and takeoff but no lie, it would be fun to try and build some sort of open folding mechanism for the front probe or the landing gear.

   I might keep the hydraulic system. It was quite useful for compacting the legs into the body (all six of them) and this time around I could go an extra step, maybe include the tubes for the hydraulic fluid that could be linked to the model via a spline curve.

  I am definitely going to need some kind of control rig to sort out all the moving parts I already have. It would definitely make accessing the components for animation a lot easier, too.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Dwarf Fort - Geometry Cleanup

  Things have been quiet on the front of the fortress as I have mostly been polishing model UVs ready for textures. Although I have made significant progress, I must have done something I probably shouldn't as Maya has gotten into the habit of crashing. This was fixed with a driver update for my graphics card and so far it all looks good, more progress can be made now things are more stable.

  Although the plan is for a uniform arrangement, the inclusion of the ramp means that in order for the rest of the decoration to fit, the structure needs to flow, so the skirting will likely follow the ramp. Redoing the wall als ogave me a chance to even up the geometry of the walls and floor.

   For the ceiling of this room, I'm thinking of building it so the ramp is ceilingless, the ceiling will connect to the rest of the structure by the columns which support the ramp..

Friday, 5 January 2018

Crest Design Experiments

  Taking a minor break from writing I was sorely tempted to go back into logo design. What I had in mind was a bit more elaborate than a typical brand logo and more of a crest or insignia for a nation. You have to start with the basics, which in this case was the core element. For this insignia the core would be the arms of a galaxy, representing the nation's dominance or an assertion of supremacy.

  I went though a few revisions, settling on something less angular and blocky. The other core were the four great vassals of the nation, which would be represented by how they are bound to the galaxy in the centre - the core and the home realm. The gem at the top felt less cliche than two heads looking in opposite directions, and helped to congeal some of the other elements.

  This was all based on a drawing I had worked on ages ago that was supposed to be a coat of arms. I never really went back to it. This insignia could perhaps be depicted everywhere - against starships, on offical forms and declarations, letters, tanks, aircraft, pretty much something that could be stenciled or easily applied.