Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Building Planets

Today I had some fun with some rather literal worldbuilding. Using the free visualisation Space Engine offers an immense variety and some very powerful procedural generation software. Seeing the rendering power of this engine I decided to experiment with Maya, taking some of its possibilities further, as although effective with natural phenomena, I wondered about using it as a springboard for some science fiction models.

After extracting the procedural generation of a particular planet into bump and diffuse maps, I took them into Maya and built a model out of three spheres - the base planet, a cloud layer, and a faux atmosphere with a transparency determined by its facing ratio to the camera.

Space Engine tended to crash when exporting a Mercator projection larger than 4096 x 2048 pixels, but offered a box projection option as an alternative where it would export a file into six smaller images. A box projection allowed for the construction of a more high-definition model and could be useful for close-up shots.

The world I used was rather dead, so using Mudbox I painted on bands of colour that would mimic foliage.

The night map - intended to show signs of civiliseation - was the most bespoke part of the project,.as Space Engine has no way of building this on its own. It had to be created from scratch and was used as an illumination map.

The techniques used to build the shaders and the textures could - with further practice - be built more from scratch, allowing for more custom-designed planets that can be built in the span of an afternoon.

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