Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Martian terrain tutorial.

This is a tutorial to get nice some martial landscape models.  The best part is they are actually exact replicas of martian landscapes captured by scientists. Some of them are well nice.

First Go and get some mars real estate.  Here there are some amazing images, at very high resolution, the part we're interested are the Digital Terrain Models.

Pick one, for this example I am using Becquerel.  

Some of them have artefacts.  For a quick look, click the one at the bottom of the second column, labeled color altimetry.  This one is good, there are no strips or faceting in the craters.

Start downloading. If you want just the height map, you need only get the .IMG file, which is always on the top of the left column DTM&Orthoimages.  Note that this one is 544mb, and is probably ~20k pixels long with a 32bit depth.   

You may notice that is is not possible to successful view the .IMG and .JP2 files.
Infranview will allow you to open the JP2s and save them off as something you can open in photoshop, I chose .tif.

There is a lower res .jpg that you can use as a height map, but it's only 8bits deep so your terrain goes all steppy.

I had problems opening the .IMG files with infranview, or in fact a number of other programs.  Fortunately for me, I have access to Adam Foster https://hylobatidae.org/ who gave me instructions that I will pass on.

You will need GDAL, the fantastically named 'Geospacial Data Abstraction Library'
I  had already downloaded it with the FWtools bundle, but since it was a command line thing, I ran away.  
It does have a UI, called OpenEV - but I could not get good results out of it, everything was always just black and I didn't know what type of file to save it as.

1. Install the FWtools. Wherever you like. In windows explorer navigate to the FWTools2.4.7 folder, Copy or move your downloaded .IMG file into this folder. Hold shift and right click in the window, select 'Open command window here'

Gdal has a bunch of different .bat files in the bin folder, for now we want to use gdalinfo in -stats mode.

So type  bin/gdalinfo -stats DTEEC_025782_2020_025637_2020_A01.IMG  
You may want to rename the .IMG to something less cumbersome (ctrl v does not work in command line, you have to right click on the title bar and go edit>paste)

Highlighted in green are the interesting parts. The pixel dimensions; 7042 by 19778 and the height, -4438.48 to -4115.047 

We are going to now use gdal_translate.exe to convert the .img to a .gtiff.

-of is the command that changes the file type, gtiff
-ot changes the bit depth, here we are turning it down to a 16 bit with uint16.
-scale has you enter the height range of the original image that we got from gdalinfo, and tell it to use only that range to fill up the 0 to 65535 levels of the new 16bit greyscale. Then give it a name, becquerel_height.tif

Bing! Our new file becquerel_height.tif can now be opened in photoshop.

You have a nice big dispacement map to use as you please now. 
Notice how the height is nicely distributed over the full range of the image.  The first time I did this I missed the minus from the maximum part of the -scale command (-4114) and the image was really dark.

I chose to make a  hi res model in mudbox.
Create a plane and subdivide it as far as you dare, I went level 9 at 26million triangles.
Next go to Maps>Sculpt using map, choose your plane and load in your height map. Often you need a bit of muliplier, you have to experiment.

The result.  Turn it down a few Sub divisions to about a million polys, then export as an obj.
It's distorted because these images are usually strips, bu you can just rescale the plane to squish it right.

In maya it looks like this. You can get more resolution out of the DTMs, bake normal maps out from the mubox file, etc.
Someone will probably get good results using directly as a displacement map.  


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

pilot test

Early days still, not necessarily going for realism  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

countach engine replacement

Had a bit of fun with this model, I'm considering on butchering the f-104 cockpit and installing it on this.

Decided to install a cockpit.  You may recognize some of the parts from another model!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

short sunderland updated

I had another go at this painting, water is very hard, I want to be able to be super impressionistic, and just pull a few details out, but I think it's one of those things where you have to do 100 water paintings before you are qualified...  Anyway it has a plane in it so that's always fun.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Quick modelling exersize.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I decided to model an plane. Here it is, i'm adding images as i go.

I do enjoy landing gear, working out the mechanism here was a issue, but got there in the end. (apologies for massive gifs)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Deckard's Blaster painting.

Finished and framed.
It going to be in the show 'Robots and Ray-guns' at the Ltd art gallery here in Seattle, the opening of which is going to be on Saturday the 16th.

Almost done, not sure about whether or not to varnish it or not, a gloss varnish might really boost the blacks.  but gloss varnish is very reflective.  I might go round with a few bits of white here and there, but doing that is so enjoyable I might overdo it.

In the end it came out alright, I had enough paint in enough holes to be able to see the pattern.  So I repainted each of the dark areas from the mask work.  Following that,I painted in some orange triangles above the dark ones, which covered up most of the spheres, also I was hoping to get a sort of translucent look out of it too.  The Triangle opposite the dark one will be the one catching light, and spreading the highlight more.  So I put that in and just leave the final triangle with the underpainting showing through.  Bit rough around the edges still, but that'll have to do because I can't be arsed to paint any more small triangles.

I attempt to paint into the holes.

This is hopeless of course, the paint just smears and bleeds under the paper mask.  The results are pretty smeared and inconsistent.  I'm quite so pleased with myself now.


Place the mask running along the long axis of the handle. Here I'm painting the dark faces.


Using a bit of tracing paper to mask off the knurled area...

After a breif attempt at making a mask for the handle knurling (is that what it's called?) I happily remembered That I have access to a laser cutter a work.  With thanks to Laura Dubuk, I ended up with a sheet of laser cut quarter diamonds.  If the Knurling is made of lots of elongated pyramids, then I just need a mask for one of the faces of each pyramid, which is a right angle triangle.  Then, once I paint through the mask to get these faces, I can rotate and flip it over to get a mask for the other 3. All of this is just a theory, who know if it will work.

Had a go at metal work.  still need to attempt the grip knurling somehow.

Then I start painting into it.  The painting I've done up to now is direct full opacity colour.  This time I'm trying out glazing medium to make the paint translucent, and build up layers of it allowing the under painting to show through a bit.  I always though water did the same thing, but this is more creamy and seems to go on oilier.  I'm using my trusty 1/4 inch flat brush, but also a really stiff little short that Jim showed me, used for blending work.
So far I've tried out doing some of the dark plastic and had a go at the handle.

Wasn't sure when to stop. I felt I could always add more later so I stopped here.  It is nice to destroy all that white and the paper held up really well despite all the water. There is about 4 layers in various colours.

I go out into the garden, and go at it with a spray bottle, a toothbrush, and all the colours I want to show through.   The idea is to create a bunch of random watercoloury stuff and happy accidents to paint into later.

And then some Prussian Blue.  I'm doing this so I that I'll be able to see the drawing through this next bit...

Then inking, with watery raw umber.

After gluing the paper to the wooden board I start to pencil in the drawing first, probably don't need to go as far as I did with this, but I like drawing with a pencil and couldn't resist a bit of hatching.

I've always been a fan of this bit of sci-fi design, perfect example of taking parts of different but similar things and artfully sticking them together.  The Amber grip is a really nice touch, suit's Bladerunner's visual style.well in my opinion.
Painting wise, this is an exercise. I'm trying a new thing for me, which is under painting.  I'm Lucky enough to work with a load of very good painters, including 2 chaps from 2000AD, Jim Murray and Jason Brashill. They gave me some great tips.

This a a replica made by Richard Coyle.  It is very accurate, cast in pewter and heavy!