• John Matthews

The B-52 Stratofortress in 3D, and Crossing the Continental Divide in a Squadron of B-47 Stratojets.

Updated: Mar 22

Hello all! Hope you've all had a great weekend. We have here. In a few hours over the weekend I've finished the basic 3D model of the B-52. Here's where I stopped before my last post:

I hadn't "collapsed" the 3D mesh of the model just yet. Although it looks like one solid object, it's really two halves, with one being a mirror of the one I was working on. In the program I use to create these models, it's called a "symmetry" modifier. With something like this, I only work on one half of the model. Using the symmetry modifier, everything I do on one half of the plane is mirrored on the other half. Far less work that way, and less time consuming. Take creating the plane's engine pods, for example. Imagine having to make four engine pods and making sure they were all the same! I made one engine pod (the port side outboard engine pod, in this case), cloned it, and then welded the cloned pod in place to create the plane's inboard engines. All the while, every step I took was being mirrored on the starboard half of the plane.

This weekend was spent creating the tail guns, cutting edges into the 3D model to form the basis of the flight deck and tail gunner compartment greenhouses, and creating the glass areas. Let's start with the tail guns:

3D model of the tail of a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
Boeing B-52D Tail Gun (Matthews Aviation Art)

The housing tor the tail guns was a series of extrusions from the shape I ended with last week. After reviewing my reference drawings and photos, I was able to finally arrive at the correct shape. I originally intended this to be able to elevate and traverse, like the real tail gun on a B-52. I decided against it though for the sake of getting it finished. Maybe I'll come back to it at some point, but I'd rather finish work on the model so I can begin work on its textures (paint).

3D model of the tail of a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
Boeing B-52 Tail Gun and left horizontal stabilizer (Matthews Aviation Art)

Here you can see I've added the shrouds covering part of the gun barrels.

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress 3D model tail guns and stabilizers
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress Tail Gun (Matthews Aviation Art)

Smoothing-out all of the shapes to make them all flow together took some doing, but it's what I enjoy most about creating these 3D models. So, it was time to delete the "Symmetry" modifier, and add a smoothing modifier, called "Turbosmooth." "Turbosmooth" adds additional polygons to the model and also smooths the model, making it appear much less segmented than the rough shape of the original mesh. It's great at what it does, but leaves lots of problem areas that have to be corrected and cleaned up so the model will be easier to map for textures later. After cleaning everything up, it was time to cut in the frames for the flight deck wind screens and the tail gunner's canopy.

B-52 Stratofortress tail gunner's compartment canopy and stabilizers.
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress Tail Gun (Matthews Aviation Art)

Here I've I cut new edges into the mesh of the 3D model to create the framing for the canopy windows and the flight deck wind screen...

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress 3D model cockpit windscreen., wings, and engines.
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress 3D model cockpit exterior (Matthews Aviation Art)

I spent quite a bit of time comparing what I did with drawings and reference photos. I had to go back to "square one" a few times, but finally arrived at what I wanted to see.

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress 3D model (port side)
Boeing B-52D Stratofortress 3D model (Matthews Aviation Art)
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress 3D model from above.
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (Matthews Aviation Art)

After creating the frames for all the flight deck and gunners' compartment glazing I finally collapsed the model into one solid object. After that, I selected the polygons that made up the glazing (windshield and gunner's canopy) and detached them from the model, making them separate objects. I gave them a transparent texture afterward.

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress 3D model.
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (Matthews Aviation Art)

So, what's next? Well, for this model it's time to create smaller details, like vents and antennae, and then make the coordinate maps I'll need to "paint" her. Big plane, big texture map. I have to put that on hold for a few days, however, so I can complete the final render on this scene:

A squadron of Boeing B-47 Stratojets flying across the Continental Divide.
Boeing B-47 Stratojets: Across the Divide (Matthews Aviation Art)

As the above image suggests, I'm calling it "Crossing the Divide". All of the B-47s in the scene were assigned to the 340th Bombardment Wing at Whiteman AFB here in Missouri. Here's an image of a test print I made of one layout I'm tinkering with:

The final rendering for the 24x18 inch print is going on right now. It's around 1/3 finished, but the renderer hasn't started chewing on the reflective surfaces of all the aircraft in the foreground, or the terrain (lots of small trees everywhere) or the clouds that partially shroud the mountain range. I imagine it's going to slow down soon, and it'll likely be finished in about a week. And until the render is finished, I won't be able to work on anything else at my work station. However, I will be working on some plastic models, so perhaps I'll post my progress on those. I'm working on a

McDonnell F-101B Voodoo kit and a Republic P-47D ("Razorback") at the moment. The Voodoo is a 1/48th scale Monogram kit, while the P-47 is one of the older Revell 1/32 scale kits. Just bought a new Iwata Ninja airbrush compressor today, too, so I'm eager to put it to work.

Until next time...

Safe skies!


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