• John Matthews

The B-52: Creating the UVW Map

Greetings all! I hope this finds you and yours in good health and spirits! All are well here, but were in the freezer as far as our weather is concerned. Sub-zero temperatures and snow, like many other places throughout the U. S. I'm happy that we'll be seeing temps in the lower 40s next weekend.

So I've pretty much finished with the modeling of the B-52. I made a simple cockpit and instrument panel shroud. I'm not going to give it much detail, just simple textures. Hardly any level of detail needed since it's an area of the plane that just won't be seen. Here's an image of the cockpit:

To make the cockpit I copied the 3D model of the B-52, then cut a section out for the cockpit using an internal arrangement drawing as a reference. I used a "shell" modifier to give this area a thin wall, and then created "faces" in the mesh to close it all up after creating the instrument panel cover. Here's what it looks like inside the plane:

I think I may make more of a sill to the windows on the sides of the cockpit, but other than that, it's going to be some simple textures and "done." Here you can see the windows I cut into the fuselage on top of the cockpit.

After creating the cockpit, I made the vents and small intakes that are present on both sides of the front of the fuselage:

These are repeated on the other side of the plane. How were these made? I used a process called "shape merge." I created the shape of the vents and intakes using splines. The splines were "imprinted" on the 3D mesh of the fuselage once I used the shape-merge function. There's always a lot of clean-up to do after a shape-merge to keep the 3D mesh clean and smooth. So, there were a LOT of vertices to weld together. To give the vents and intakes depth, I performed an inward extrusion of the polygons created by the shape-merge and viola! Vents! So exciting, right? Haha! It's just part of the detailing to make these models more realistic and believable.

Yesterday I started creating the UVW map for the plane so I can start texturing/painting it. It's probably my least favorite part of the process. No part of it is "automatic," or finalized with one mouse click. The model has to be "flattened" in a logical manner that makes a 2D pattern of the plane's surfaces so they can be textured/painted. Kind of like cutting apart a shirt, and flattening it out on a table. It's very time consuming. But, good texture maps and textures are very important. Here are a couple images of the fuselage with a checkerboard pattern applied after UV mapping the fuselage:

I use a checkerboard while I'm working on the UVW mapping because squares are a consistent shape and the best to use while adjusting the maps.The mapping for the fuselage was done using planar mapping for the top, bottom, and sides. All four maps line-up and agree with each other, so laying out panel lines and paint should be easier. As you can see, the checkerboard squares are all the same size. Wherever they aren't the same size is an area where the maps would be the border between, say... the side map and the bottom map. Here's a shot of the top of the plane:

Right away you notice the wings and other surfaces have a weird, stretched-out texture. That's because they haven't been mapped yet. Every surface of this model will have its own UVW coordinate map before I'm finished working on this part of the project. (Warning: Minor rant follows...) This part of the process is one of the reasons it grinds on me when I hear or read about "traditional artists" (i.e. brush and canvas) being critical of digital artists. They have no idea how long it takes to create a realistic 3D model. No idea how long it takes to create the mapping for the model's textures. And definitely no understanding of how much time and effort is necessary to create a nice, believable 3D atmosphere, terrain, and background. The only separations between digital artists and traditional artists are the tools used to create the art. But it grinds on me that there are some who think a digital artist just uses a computer to "cherry up" photos to call that art. It's a rubbish opinion. Aherm... okay, off the soapbox...

On that note, I have to wrap this up and poke my head upstairs to see whether everyone's up and about. Take care, have a great week, and thanks for tagging along with me, as always.

Safe skies!


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