• John Matthews

A Phlight of Phantoms

Good evening everyone! Just a short-ish post to let you see the progress I've made with my latest work. This is what the rendering looked like last weekend...

RF-4C Phantom II

Just at a point where I was mostly happy with the overall composition, but some changes really needed to be made to the aircraft model textures, landscape, lighting... pretty much everything. I began with thinking about who owns the planes, and decided they'd be assigned to the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Who began using the RF-4C over Vietnam in 1966. The 12th TRS flew the Phantom until 1992, following Operation Desert Storm.

Focusing on the model textures, I de-saturated the Phantom's Southeast Asia camouflage paint scheme. Afterward, I used lighter color values on most of the panels to simulate weathering, and toned-down the panel lines, and the "grunge" around those just a bit.

Here's my first, basic texture for the fuselage. The texture for all the bare metal parts is in a different layer, and not visible here. The color values are as close as I can get to the federal standard numbers for each color. But, I wanted it to look like it had been outside for more than ten minutes, so the paint needed to be weathered a bit. A large part of the stencils are there, and I may add others, depending on how ambitious I get with that part of the texture. Seems as though there are enough for now, but I may invert the color of some of them to be more visible against the darker camouflage.

Here's the camouflage texture map as of today. I haven't done any weathering to speak of on the underside of the plane yet, nor have I made any "grungy" areas (from footprints, fluid leaks, etc.) anywhere. I also want to have some of the paint wearing through to bare metal or primer just a bit in some areas (like, the leading edges of the wings, stabilizers, and intakes). The panel line layers are hold-overs from the East Mississippi Veterans Foundation "Recon Rhino,", 67-0438, as are most of the stencils, the bare metal color values, and anything else that would apply to this version. I used the diffuse (color) map to create a gloss/roughness map, which you see, here:

This is a gray scale image used to control whether parts of the surface is shiny of dull, with darker values being glossier then lighter ones. I wanted panel lines to remain flat, with the area around them to maintain a bit of gloss. Likewise, the surface of the airframe has a bit of gloss to it, but the faded paint areas are lighter, and therefore less glossy. White parts here are absolutely flat when rendered, and the fully black parts would be extremely glossy. This takes a lot of fiddling-around to strike a good balance and have a realistic result. Speaking of which, here's the current work-in-progress image...

McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantoms

No more single-point light source. We're using an HDRI rendering I made for the environment and lighting in the scene now. Ambient light quality is very much improved using this method, and just has to be balanced away from full ambient light. I made the shadows a bit softer, not as hard-edged as before. I changed the terrain quite a bit, adding waterways throughout the land to give it a bit more visual interest. The planes are flying at around 12,000 feet in this scene, so there's no need to populate the land with a forest full of trees. 3D models of trees take more time to render so, instead, I've used a bumpy, four color texture map, which is a lot more efficient considering the large space that has to be rendered for the final image.

Still much to work on, but it will be finished soon. Perhaps by next weekend. Until then...

Safe skies,