My little laptop should be thankful. She’s gonna die someday, and while she rocks in her chair and randomly shouts at kids to get off the lawn, she’ll have precious remembrances of her glory days. “I used to pump renders, son. CG Renders”, she would muster to nobody in particular, and then a toothless half-smile appears. “I used to pump them GOOD.”
I know my laptop wants to be remembered when she dies of exhaustion. So these past weeks I’ve been giving her tough meat to grind on.
Stage 1: Cockpit
I started creating the control panel for the pilot. By using flat pieces with a transparency value, I could put them in Photoshop and give them a very hi-tech look, while sticking to the original design. The trick part was to make sense of what I was seeing from a flight and avionics perspective.
I wasn’t gonna put AAALL the things that a pilot should look at in a single place, only make sense of what was already there. I got inspired by a real-world glass panel for the F-35. Then, on top of it, I added a layer of geo that behaved like a glass and could reflect a bit like a real control panel would do. Then, on to deciding what was going to be animated?
The plane icon would switch whenever the plane went into GERWALK and Battroid mode, so I created two other icons, hid them behind the panel and made a driven key using the transformation controllers so they would switch automatically. The thruster color bars would be controlled by the thruster stick, and the power semi-circle would be something that can be manually controlled, since it will change back and forth depending on the RPMs that the engine gets. The yellow arrows would be manually controlled too (but I’m gonna do some research on how to make a random “signal search” animation so I don’t have to do it myself during the cockpit shots) and things like the landing gear and flaps warning signs would be driven by the control panel and activate when the landing gear and flaps were down. As for the rest of the icons, I made them individually controlled by bones which would be driven to be hidden separately, so each icon can be turned on and off when desired. That’s probably enough animation ability for these shots.
Finally, there’s a circular screen that I’m pretty sure acts as a rear view mirror. So, following the same procedure I did for the VEC, I put a camera at the back of the plane, safely away from intersecting the legs, and used the render as an animation that will play there as well. “More renders? Sure!” says the computer.
Looking at the Virtual Environment Cockpit, the green atittude and roll indicators were looking a bit too low res now. So I put a couple of days of effort to re-do the textures. I re-arranged the pieces of those geos so I can have more resolution, and then started creating the final graphics that will be displaying on the sides of the cabin.
While in Macross Plus those look like sci-fi techy stuff that don’t have to even be consistent from one take to the other, I had to make some sense to them. What would a pilot that drives a plane that turns into a giant robot and can go to space need those panels for? So I decided to go a bit sciency and just look for some orbital flight graphs.
Then, I rigged the HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator) at the front to point to the same place as the compass gyro. That way, when the plane turns, you will see it accurately point north. Heh. I’m sure if I didn’t say a word nobody would notice that.
You can see the VEC easily from outside, which is what I needed this to be.
Then I added the side screens white graphics (still no idea what to make of them). Whoops, I think I left the subdiv on with those ones. Of course I noticed only until 2 hours later when the render finished.
Now we go ultra-detailed for a moment here.
Using the glass that goes in front of the icons, I created a transparency UV map with scratches and dirt on the corners. It should be enough eye-candy for the close shots. Problem is, though, the file is 78 Mbs big for this particular little thing. But it looks so pretty!
As for the star-up sequence that you can see in the film, I created switches that hide and show different maps in the texture, so that way it can be easily animated.
Because I couldn’t resist, here’s a little experiment rendering the same image from two different points. Watch the image, and cross your eyes until you see only one image. Instant 3d!
Next stage: Lights and Afterburner 😉