The YF-19: The Abnormality of Normals

I did a fairly good job at making three separate pieces share the same Macross logo when it’s in airplane mode. It took a lot of tweaking and it’s not perfect when looked on closely, but it’s good enough for what I need it. I won’t go that extreme on something that won’t show up, really.

September 19 - Nose logo matched

September 19 – Nose logo matched

I felt this was the time to start paneling the fuselage. This would give the model a new layer of realism beyond whatever I could do with the diffuse map, oil spills and all that jazz. I’m gonna draw me some normal maps, baby!

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So I dusted the old Hasegawa 1/48 YF-19 plastic kit parts off and started looking at the paneling. But really, my first source of information for the panels was this illustration:

I started with the nose part and slowly carved out a layer in Photoshop that I would use as a bump map first.

September 20 - Too many lights make too many fireflies, so backing track on that

September 20 – Too many lights make too many fireflies, so backing track on that

September 22 - Nose paneling

September 22 – Nose paneling

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The bump maps look too rough because they only carve things in depth, not using the normal mapping which decides the way light bounces. So knowing that (and having made a tutorial with a nice software called Crazybump) I took the bump map and opened it to make a Normal Map out of it.

But turns out I only downloaded a 30 day trial, so now I had to pay a 100 bucks to use this. Is there a way to do something like this for free? I mean, Blender is really attractive to me because, besides the powerful creation possibility, it’s free. After a small search, I downloaded Gimp (the Photoshop free alternative) and a plugin to make normal maps.

September 23 - Applying normal maps from Gimp

September 23 – Applying normal maps from Gimp

But something was wrong. I couldn’t find what was it, but it seemed the panels were carved out, not in. Was the light direction misleading? Nope, I did a couple more renders and saw the same result. Was the whole normal direction backwards or something?

Some more searching ended up in me realizing Blender uses a different set of values for normal mapping. It seems the color channels are inverted, that is, the green and blue channels should be inverted to show the right direction of light. Or something. I searched through many forums and wrote down “why are my normal maps inverted?” many times.

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I was finally able to solve it and show the panels the right way. I was also tweaking the seed value for the lighting to get rid of the fireflies, so that’s why I ran out of time to go to work and had to cancel the render. Later that same night, I made a closeup to confirm this was working fine now.

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Done. Take that, normal weirdness!

After making sure this would work the next time, I continued with the paneling for the upper side and the chest part. Slowly, by following the Hasegawa model I’ll be soon able to create a normal map and a specular map to go with it.

September 25 - The paneling so far

September 25 – The paneling so far

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About Eduardo

I'm some dude with a huge love for animation and film. I've been working in TV animation for the past 6 years in New Zealand. I love dragons, pointy metal things that can cut dragons, and flight simulators.
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