Monday, March 5, 2012

First Post

Ah, so here we go, a blog. Where to begin? Maybe I should start with my intentions.

Keep in mind, I am not an artist, not in the least sense of the word. I make horrible stick figures and scraped by my high school drawing class with a D+. But, I was rather taken recently by the prospect of 3d modelling. Interestingly enough, 3d modelling is not a normal medium like oil or charcoal. No, it is its own, unique form of art.

Those of you interested in it might rejoice in the fact that it does not require great artistic talent to master. At least, not that I have seen so far.

Also let it be known that I have taken no classes or made any studies in the field of 3d art or animation. Everything in this blog will be from my own trial and error, and perhaps, a way for you to avoid the same pitfalls. I do not assume to be a master, expert, or even journeyman in such things. But maybe that is for the better. There are more students than teachers, and there is something to be said for group learning.

As a brief history: I started playing with Google Sketchup (v8) in mid-December. My objective - to design a 6mm scale tank (roughly the size of a quarter)for 3d printing by a company called Shapeways. After a few hours of trial and error, I had something that looked like a tank:

I promptly uploaded it to Shapeways, where their automated system promptly laughed me off the internet. See, it's not enough to simply make a 3d model. Printers are very expectant machines. They expect to know where to begin and where to stop. What is on the outside, and what is on the inside. Where one object begins and another ends.

Being only vaguely aware of such things, I started googling anything and everything I could about 3d printing. Finally, I figured out exactly how the model should be put together. But I didn't feel like continuing on my tank yet. I felt I needed to start smaller, with a basic structure that already exists.

So, I started playing with a bolter from Warhammer 40k (a 28mm scale strategy game). I decided I needed to do 2 things. The first, was make a base model to drive all others from. This would have the same dimensions as a normal bolter,so I could add or remove additional features without worrying if the bolter would fit the model it was meant to go with (Space Marines):

Bummer. With that in mind, I decided on
With my base model completed, I decided to make a larger, more "assault rifle" version. I increased overall size by around 40% and and removed the front sight aperture in favor of the holographic sight. I also decided to incorporate combi-weapons, the 40k equivalent of under mounted weapons:

The problem? Well, it was too big:

Bummer. So it was back to the drawing board. I decided that I would decrease the size so it was only about 20% larger, and add modular optics, combi-weapons, and magazines. This way there would be much more customization:

It looked better, but there are still size problems. I'll introduce those in my next post.

The second thing I realized I needed to do, was begin making a component library. In Sketchup, a component is an object or objects that are generally considered finished. You can copy components out of the library and right into the workspace. In this way, I could make a base scope mount. Every time I make a new scope, I just copy the mount in and start working, then save the new scope as a different component.

Because I can very rapidly build from a base model or interlocking component, I'm able to add much more variety to my models than would be possible through conventional modelling. At least, in the span of time it takes me.

The downside is that any changes to the base model will require changes to the components. For example, if the top of the bolter were to become wider, the scope mount would have to be changed to match.

Making modular systems requires a lot of pre-planning so you don't end up doing the same work several times, something I've been learning the hard way and will share in a future blog entry (you're going to notice a pattern here).

So, stay tuned. I have some interesting things planned for the future.

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