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Making "Battlestar" Ribs and Hull Plating

You've seen the show. You may even know the visual effects are all made with Lightwave 3D. Now, you'd like to make your own battlestar. Here's a quick method for making the ribs and hull plating just like you see it on the show. These techniques should translate fairly easily into other 3D packages, so read on.

First, you want to make the basic shape of your ship. I won't go into detail on how that's done. I'm going to start with a basic shape for the head of the ship:

image

Once you have that all squared away, we're going to make a copy. Copy this into the next layer. In the 2nd layer, use the Smooth Shift tool to inflate the object by some amount (I've built mine to scale, so I'm going to inflate it by 2 meters). The amount you shift out is going to be the height of the ribs overs the main surface. The plates will then also sit on the ribs.

Then, put focus on the 3rd layer, and set the 2nd layer to be your background layer:

image

Now we're going to create an array of boxes to slice into this layer. Think about how wide you want each rib to be, and how far apart you want them. For my taste, I'm creating ribs which are 1m thick, and with a gap of 4m between. Make a single box on the left edge of the hull, 1m thick and any amount taller and wider than the ship itself:

image

Now clone it enough times (with that 4m gap in between) so it spans along the whole length of the ship:

image

And then easy part: Do a Boolean operation (Intersect) and change the surface to "Ribs":

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Cut everything from this layer and paste it on layer 1:

image

There! Easy ribs. Now for the hull plates. Again, put focus on layer 3, with layer 2 in the background. Create a bunch of boxes in various shapes, sizes, and positions (I'm not working on accuracy to the studio model here - just giving an example of the process). Be careful about what parts of the surface on layer 2 they intersect:

image

Now go to layer 2, select layer 3 into the background and do Solid Drill with a stencil operation. For the new surface, choose "Plates."

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Select the stuff that isn't "Plates" and delete it:

image

Because Lightwave's Smooth Shift operation doesn't leave the original geometry behind (a single plane, when shifted becomes a box with an open end where the plane was originally), we need to do a couple of tricks here. First, flip all polygons, then copy them to the clipboard. Flip them again and apply the Smooth Shift operator for, say, 1m. Then paste and merge points. You get (zoomed in):

image

Now cut all this and paste onto layer 1:

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There, easy plates! For more aesthetically pleasing results, you may want to round off the sharp corners of everything. I hope this has been helpful and educational.

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