The YF-19: Virtual Environment Cockpit

So, March is almost over. What did you do with all that time?

Why, I’m glad you asked! First of all, I tediously and slowly carved out the textures for the seat to make it look like it has had some use. The corners of most metallic parts had to show some sort of wear, and to do so, I went the slow, painful way and hand-painted those details in the texture map. It took forever, which is not surprising. While I was painting, I had to go back and forth in Blender to make sure I wasn’t creating those marks in the wrong places (I totally was).


March 18 – Chair maps finished

Once I made those bright lines in the corners, I decided it didn’t look nice. I had to tone them down a lot and instead rely on the specular maps to get that feeling, more than the actual diffuse textures. Anyway…


March 21 – Bump maps updated


Another one of my famed Easter Eggs hidden around the plane. I love this one because it’s what Isamu would put in his chair if they’d let him.


March 22 – Toned down the metal corners with specular maps



Here we go. This is it. The most interesting part of the whole plane in my opinion. This cockpit blew my imagination when I saw Macross Plus. It felt so envolving. This is what we’re looking at nowadays with VR, augmented reality and all that. It’s a reality now. But this movie was back in the 90s. It was sci-fi. And it’s one of the most entertaining ideas I’ve had. How do you make that screen feature work in reality?



A filmmaker wouldn’t think this twice. Green screens. FTW. Just cover the panels with a bright colour that you can chroma-key remove later and replace with the render of the background. So you render the film in passes, first the Background, then the cockpit with alpha and the green panels. Erase the panels and leave the background and you’re done. And it looks just perfect like in the movie.

But to me it’s too perfect. This wouldn’t make sense in a real plane. The monitors display what a camera on the outside of the hull is seeing. But here’s the tricky part: The only way a collection of different monitors would give the impression of a the same clear glass view would be if they’re showing the outside from the perspective of the pilot. That means, the pilot’s point of view is the camera. And it would have to be positioned outside of the plane, but with enough wide lens to cover the whole area of view from the pilot’s position. That way, once you have a render of that view, you can project it on the screens. Which also would have to be UV mapped to work only from the same camera angle. So I redid the UV mapping for those panels to follow the camera view, not the normal geo. And I tried my first render of the view.


Then, projecting it from the same perspective point:


March 23 – First test with virtual screens

But from the side, it looks distorted:


I had a few issues with the glass IOR, so I tried again, this time using a photograph.


March 24 – Second test with photograph

Who’s that in the picture? This part of the process will not age well.


I just thought it was a funny picture. Nothing political about it. Maybe a little.


March 27 – Third test with complicated texture and a fence to try matching it.


Here’s what the camera would look at. Notice the shadow in the middle? At the beginning of my tests, I was using a camera positioned in the same spot as the pilot’s head. But later on I decided to tweak it, because it wouldn’t be looking from the inside (and I would have to hide the plane to make those renders) but that would take out a small detail from the image: The shadow from the plane itself. For shots on the ground I think I’ll use that camera just to make things a bit more realistic.

On for a yet more complicated scenario: Tilting the plane to try matching a horizon using a HDRI map.


And the view from another angle, showing the camera trick.


Looking good so far. A few more tweaks on the glass material, and time to start thinking about the HUD (Heads-Up Display).


Using a few rings of geo coloured green, I added lines to indicate the HUD as it would display on the screens. Then I projected that image back on the screens. Big improvement!!


March 29 – HUD test

And this is where we’re at now. Time to start making those HUD details shine.



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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4 Responses to The YF-19: Virtual Environment Cockpit

  1. Brian says:

    Found this while looking into if anyone had done anything for the HTC Vive. This would be amazing if you dropped it into Unity 3D with a VR roomscale rig!

  2. Brian says:

    You know, I also just discovered you could potentially just make it a Steam VR Environment item that people can insert into their “VR Desktop” if you will. That would be a great place for it and you wouldn’t really have to make it work or anything because they are not animated.

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