Wednesday, December 23, 2015

F-103 Excalibur Space Superiority Fighter Part 6

So sorry for the delay in posting new info. As I said last time, I'd had an accident while working on the Excalibur card board mock up which resulted in a destroyed model. It was a bit of a bitter-sweet kind of screw up since on the one hand, I had to start over on the mock up. But on the other hand I specifically chose to work in cardboard for this part of the project specifically so that if I had a screw up, it wasn't going to cost me $20 in materials. So... I guess it is like planning for a problem and having the problem occur. Yeah you're prepared and ready for it, but you still had a problem. So.. yeah.

Anyway I have been working on rebuilding the mock up and been making good progress. Having built it once already I can zip through a lot of it while also correcting some mistakes I made the first time around.
Here you can see I'm built the mark 2 model up to the level of the previous version at the time it was destroyed. The main body is actually stronger then the first version and has cleaner joins between the various parts.

So that's it? I got back to where I was last week and now I'm done with this post?

Yeah, not so much. I have started working on the next sections. Firstly there's the cannon mounting under-carriage, the part that holds the reaper cannons in Wing Commander 3.
You ever start to work on something and think it'll be super-easy and you can just zip right through it, but once you start working on it, you find out it's actually way more difficult then you thought it'd be? Well, that was this part in a nutshell. Cut 2 side parts so they line up with the under side of the body and the forward boom, what's so hard about that? Simple, I have no formal 3D design experience or training. So because of that I had to re-cut the sides a couple times after I found I had not measured properly.

For detail and variation I took a pencil and darkened the inner spaces of the under carriage where the reaper cannons would be placed.

And then, there is the power-plants... er missile bays.... er... whatever the boxy shapes on the sides of the main body are. This proved to be more challenging then it first appears.
The initial shape was easy enough to accomplish, measure and cut the upper and lower sections as they appears in the line art. I had to do some interpretation to make the side and inner-section. There's little enough I can say about the sides that would really help any aspiring crafters. I had to estimate my measurements, cut a piece and test it. Find out I was wrong, and try to correct it with a new version.

No the real challenge was the scoop intake covers. See, it's an angle that extends in 2 dimensions, backwards relative to the body, and outward relative of the body. It's something that isn't immediately apparent from the 2D line art. So I had to cut and fit the ram scoop cover about 6 times before I got a sizing that fits.

Friday, December 18, 2015

F-103 Excalibur Space Superiority Fighter erm... had an accident.

Well...... ssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttt! I have to start over on the mock up. I was gluing the bottom panel of the body in place. What I didn't realize was some glue had leaked out of the body and onto my work space. So when it dried it dried to my work space. I went to pick up the body, and in the process tore it apart.

Well this is why I started with cardboard. So I could make these sorts of screw ups and not have to pay through the nose for it.

Still, this sucks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

F-103 Excalibur Space Superiority Fighter Part 5

Okay, so I've got a notable update today. I haven't finished taking measurements yet, and I'm still working on that front. What I do have is a partial card board mock up of the forward fuselage. This is little more a simple mock up with the basic measurements I've got already. Not complete. This is meant to be an exploration of the construction of the finished model. As one example, I've already encountered one mistake. When I figuring out the parts based on the measurements from the line drawings, I thought the triangular section that would make up the side of the cockpit section was a right triangle. Well, it's not. So the original part I made based on the measurements didn't fit in the space.
The mock isn't so much meant as a means of exact build, but rather a means of low-cost construction that will lead back into additional design work. As I've said I do not have design experience or training. Add to that my rather dubious knowledge of geometry... yeah. Up hill battle with a fairly substantial learning curve involved. But that's also the appeal of the project for me.

 More then anything else, the mock-allows me to work with the physical design and understand how sections work with each other and see details that may not have been apparent in the line studies.

Monday, December 14, 2015

F-103 Excalibur Space Superiority Fighter Part 4

I don't have a whole lot to show this time. Because of the nature of this project, it's going to have several phases of intense work for little immediate result. This is one of those phases. Where I get to go through the line images I created, and begin extracting measurements. And measurements. and measurements. So far I have 25 measurements and I'm only... eh.... 80% finished. With the back view. I still have the front, side, top and bottom to do. And the top and bottom are going to be the big data-dumps! For reference, understand that the entire space the rear view takes up is 87.5mm high by 182mm wide while by comparison the top view occupies a space of 170mm wide by 305mm long. And the top and bottom views have a lot more detail then the rear. Still, gotta get started somewhere right? So what do I have to show today?

Well, this:

Friday, December 11, 2015

F-103 Excalibur Space Superiority Fighter Part 3

So I've got to give a shout out to a fellow modeler with a Wing Commander obsession. Whiplash, thank you for your help and encouragement sir!

So what am I thanking Whiplash for? Well first off, Whiplash is a member of the Wing Commander community I met via the forums when I posted work on my Excalibur there. Whip was directed to my thread where he then provided some guidance to me based on his own project. Whiplash had done a similar project to my own a bit of a ways back in that he built a model of a Wing Commander fighter. He chose to base his project on the Hellcat V general purpose fighter and he chose to work in wood rather then plastic, but he was able to provide some extremely valuable insight in translating information from 2D designs and images to 3D designs and plans. 

The single biggest thing he told me about was how the limits of the technology used in the games at the time does not lend itself well to gaining measurement for production of a model and instead suggested I use art work for my basis rather then in-game screen shots while using in-game cut scene shots to collect detail information. So to that end I assembled a pair of fairly substantial libraries of artistic references and cut scene frames for the Excalibur.

Beyond all of that I did start crunching some numbers for the model again based on the Warbird images. I've decided I'm going to scale back a bit for the project and rather then do a 16" long model, I'm going to do a 12" long model instead. I've done lots of small scratch build jobs before, but never a full blow from the ground up total scratch built model before. And I'm thinking about doing some lighting effects in the model as well. So the 12" version will be easier to manager and I think closer to my skill set at present. I want to challenge myself, not waste my energy and materials.

So, I took the warbirds image and pulled it into Photoshop where I upped the size by a factor of 6 so I have some room to work and make notes. The image is small enough that I will be forced to 'interpret' a lot of details, but that's what the reference library is for. With the image in Photoshop I started working out some numbers. I had to go way back to Algebra and Geometry to remember how to work with scales and conversions for this and I'm not totally sure my math is accurate. So if anyone who actually knows what they are feel see a mistake, please point it out.

Here is what I have:

Whiplash has also provided me a break down how he went about translating the sizes of the 2"x2" thumbnail images into something large enough to be used. It helped shed a lot of light on the approach and the hows of why it worked for him. It also gave me some inspiration for a new direction to take the project. As he explained, trying to measure the warbirds image that is less then 2" long is only going to lead me to compounding errors from earlier in the project. Don't ask me why, but that clicked with me in regards to digital graphics. I'll explain:

See in digital graphics you have 2 types of graphical engines each with their benefits and minuses to design. The first is known Raster graphics, or sometimes referred to has bit-map pictures. This format uses individual colors dots to render an image. The more dots you have in a given space the sharper the image can be. A line is simply a series of dots of comparable color. This format has the advantage of being capable of storing far more graphical information and being the foundation most directly based in traditional art work so many of the concepts from that medium translate to this format. The second type of graphic is known as Vector graphics. These use mathematics to form shapes rather then recording each individual position of every point contained in the image. This has the advantage of being vastly easier for a computer to deal with but doesn't translate from math to art very well.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, the two graphic types have another consideration between them, how well they scale up or down. See a bit-map can only be scaled by either adding or removing details. How the program add details will effect how well the image scales up, but generally you can only scale a bit-map image up about 50-60% before you start seeing a noticeable loss in sharpness as additional quasi-random extra material is added.

As an example, look at the corner on the right side of the Excalibur image where the forward section of the fuselage meets the side of the wing and side mounts. On the 1 1/2" sized image it's moderately decent.  

 But enlarge it about 400% (so that the over all image would be about 4.5" long for reference) and suddenly it stops looking anywhere near as sharp.
Vector Graphics however, because they are mathematically based can scale infinity. The program simply remaps the location and calculates what's between the points as needed.

So why did I just explain all of that? Well you gave me the idea to start with a series of vector graphics, based on the Warbirds images, then upscale those vectors to the size I need them. Since the vectors expand infinitely, there's no lose of detail in the process. I started with just tracing the major sections visible on the Warbirds image. I did some digging and found my hard copy of the Wing Commander 3 stuff and scanned the warbirds images at an obscenely high resolution of 2700 dpi then pulled that scan into photoshop (as an aside, it's always a challenge working with 5"x2" image that's a staggering 400megs :eek: in size) and went to work with the pen toll to generate the vector graphics. the high resolution pulled out some details, but the size of the original image simply doesn't have a lot of detail to start with.

Remember how I said enlarging a bit-map image is done by adding material? Well scanning a printed image at such a resolution results in basically the same thing. End result? I could trace out the body, the engines, and the cockpit. The rest... eh I kind of had to take some artistic license with those.

Remember that library of images I assembled of the Excalibur? Well I used that a lot in this process. I primarily referenced the "armada" rendering of the Excalibur for filling in the details that were lost in the up-scaling of the scan. So after a couple hours worth of work, I assembled the following top-down image of the Excalibur with (website friendly version displayed. If you want to grab the 300 DPI version it's linked here)

I mentioned that these are first passes, why is that? Well... it's because they don't match up exactly with each other. It's too late for me to go into all details but as an example. The widest part of the front boom where the cockpit is, it is widest on the front view, narrowest on the top view, and just slightly narrower in the bottom view.

So what does this mean? Well, it means I have to go back, pair up the line art pieces with each other and decide which part of which version I want to take as the 'correct' version. While the web version of the image above sizes out to be about 4" wide, I want to build a 12" model from these designs. So if I scale everything up by a factor of 3, and I have one part from the bottom that is 1mm wider, then the same part from the top view, but the rear version is 1mm to the left, I'll wind up with a part that started out as a rectangular cube but when built comes out as a lop-sided rhombus. So guess what I get to do over the next few days....

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

F-103 Excalibur Space Superiority Fighter Part 2

When I built the paper-craft version I used Pericles' paper-craft designs for the Vampire. The... I don't want to say the word but it's the only one I can think of, the 'problem' with Pericles' plans is they are quit literally the in-game model transferred to paper, which while it makes a game-accurate model, I'm shooting for something that is more universe accurate. The best example of what I mean on the Vampire can be seen in the nose:

If you look at the art work for the Vampire:
You can see it has a pair of twin-linked cannon barrel barrels (I want to say those would be the partial guns if memory serves based on placement).

But compare that to the nose of the in-game model:
You can see how the two barrels and assembly have been condensed down into what... well whatever that is. It's just something that didn't get translated from the artwork to the model or vice versa. Also the in-game vampire have a much leaner body thus appearing longer then in the art work.

For the Excalibur I want to go for display value. So I'll be interpreting and adding additional details, but I want to stay closer to the Wing Commander 3 version of the craft, but if I come to a point where I have a source of data from in-game compared to a source of data from say universe, unless I have an explicit reason to do other wise I'm going to take the source from in-universe as more accurate.

As I progress through the project I'm going to be posting a lot of information regarding how I go about things, how I got sizes, how I build parts, ect. I'm going to do this for a variety of reasons, and not all of them personal. As I said, I have no 3D design or architectural experience what so ever, I toyed with Miya for like 20 minutes once about 20 years ago, and have never had enough of an interest to go back into it. I've built.... the dark gods only know how many kit-models and I've converted hundreds more over the last 30 years, so I have a mind for "unfolding" things from their 3D construct to a 2d part. Still, there is a difference between knowing how to unfold an object and knowing how to build it.

So I will be posting pretty detailed progress updates on the project as I go both for a personal record so I can come back to it and see what I did, and to give people with more knowledge then I an opportunity to look at my process and provide feed back. And finally I'll post the detailed info as a basis for anyone else who wants to give it a go. I seek to inspire after all.

F-103 Excalibur Space Superiority Fighter

Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger is one of my favorite games of all times, and I absolutely loved piloting the Excalibur fighter in the game. So this is my effort to scratch-build a large scale (about 16" long) model of it. This is going to be a long term project. So this is going to be my project thread on here as I work through the project.

I did a paper-craft version of the F-109 Vampire recently, and that really rekindled an old interest I've had to have a model of the F-103 Excalibur.

Here is an image of the finished Paper-craft Vampire:

 And if you want to check out more images of the construction process of it, check out the album:
Paper craft F-109 Vampire

I'll warn everyone now, this is going to take a while to complete. It will also be my first totally scratch built and self-designed model. The real challenge... I have no actual 3D design experience or systems. So I'm doing this all as I figure it out. Who wants to go on an adventure?

First thing I did was load up Wing Commander: Secret Opts and swap the in-game Excalibur with the Panther Fighter, that way I could control the fighter while I took screen caps of the fighter. So I took head-on shots of the craft from each of the axis angles. I then assembled those images into the collage you see here in Photoshop. I then used the full sized print out to gather measurements of the craft. here is the first batch of measurements.

This is the full size print out I assembled of the top-down shot of the Excalibur. Nothing particularly fancy here. Took the top down image, up-scaled it until it was the size I wanted (about 16" in length), and then printed it out. Cut the parts out and glued them together to get one sheet. From this I'm able to take measurements, which I record in the collage in photoshop.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Lord Gaudinzor, the hunter paret 3

So we have the running body from the Dark Vengance aspiring champion, with the faceless head made by shaving down a Tau helmet, that is connected via a half dozen cables to a lascannon backpack.

Well, that leaves the arms, and by extension the weapons. I've decided to give him a pair of extending swords mainly for the modeling potential and the dynamism. Having two whip like weapons requires the entire body to be in motion in order for them to be of use, other wise the on-attack weapon is held back by the counter force of the off-attack weapon.

The swords are still going to be segmented with the coil whip sections between the bladed sections. Previously I had done this by cutting the Raptor power sword into sections, drill a hole in each section, and then passing a length of pewter power cable through the segments. This works... visually... but not for gaming purposes.
The problem with this for a gaming piece is the general abuse a gaming piece will be exposed to. The stresses of being picked up and placed on the table. Being stuck into and removed from foam. Being pressed against other models, the list goes on. The pewter cables look very good, but they are not terribly strong and over time, the stresses placed on it will cause it to break. If used in a way where the cable is placed against something, like the hull of vehicle or the hips of a space marine, the stresses are greatly reduced as the majority of the stress is taken by the model. In this situation the pewter cable is free standing, or rather free flowing, and is out in the open exposing it to the full stresses with out anything to brace the cable.

So I needed to figure out a way to address this problem, while still keeping the visual appearance of the segmented sword with the whip coils. I hit on the idea of making several sections of power cables, using the Green Stuff Industries Tentacle Maker, and then drilling out a section through each segment so I could pass a thicker gauge wire through the power cable. Beyond this is was just a matter of sliding on each segment of sword blade and gluing the parts into place. Once all the segments were in place, I just had to bend the finished weapon into form.
Of course I still had to make the second weapon:

Friday, December 04, 2015

Lord Gaundinzor, the hunter part 2

So last time I talked about the prototype version of Lord Gaundinzor. With the prototype I used the normal Chaos Marine legs and a Raptor Torso for the body. While this provides a solid base for the model it doesn't provide the dynamic range of motion I really want the character to convey. So I went back to the drawing board and worked to plan out the model some more. I knew I wanted to have the model showing a fair amount of motion. I also wasn't thrilled with using the multi-melta back pack. It looks less like it houses a cogitator array and more like it;s carrying a supply of promethium. So I wanted to change that as well.

The backpack actually turned out to be simpler to deal with then I first though. Just a power plant back pack from a lascannon devastator marine. I had to cut off the power feed that would normally go to the lascannon, but even this actually helps with the character of the model. The entire thing about Gaundinzor is his 'inhumanity' and 'unreal' visuals. He's a space marine so he's around the 8 feet tall mark. He's faceless, yet he can see. In fact he can see better then someone with eyes. He wear this heavy armor, yet he's a master swords man as if the armor isn't a problem at all. He's got this massive backpack, yet he doesn't fall over and pulls off moves a circus acrobat. Everything about him physically is challenged by his actions, and now he's hunting you. He is supposed to be terrifying. So I wanted to make him terrifying.

The first thing was the head. With humanoid characters the head, and more specifically the face, is a focal point for the model. It's really a human instinct, we look to the face for expressions of emotion and intent. How do you tell if someone is being hostile? Or if they're being serious? Or really any other range of human emotions for that matter? You look at the face. The face is the 'human' aspect of a model. It conveys emotion, or conveys the lack of it in the case of helmets. So there are the two options right? a face or a helmet? Well, sort of. There is one other option though in reality it's the absence of other options. This what I wanted to go with for Gaundinzor, the absence of a face. See, we're conditioned to see 'human' in even abstract objects. Don't believe me? Look at this:

It's an electrical outlet. But can't you see a face too?  The ground port is the mouth and the positive and negative ports are the eyes. Now look at the shapes of each part. The negative slot is larger then the positive while the ground port is shaped like a tunnel opening. Looking at all three elements combined produce a visual suggestion of a face making the 0.o look. This is why the helmets on space marines draw so much attention from painters. Ever tried to paint the lenses on a space marine helmet red and accidentally over paint winding up with what looks like the space marine is bleeding out of his eye sockets? Suddenly your trans-human super-solder in futuristic power armor looks like they're trying to perform a bad kabuki theater production.

But like I said, I've elected to go with a 'faceless' design with Gaundizor. That is I want to completely remove any semblance of a humanity from the face... well head. Why? Because it looks freaking creepy! What? Don't believe me? Ever see Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest? Remember when Will Smith turned the sailor over who had his face sucked off by the Kraken? Admit it, you were shocked too. Why? Because it's so far removed from 'human' we have no basis of comparison to it. No eyes, no mouth, no eye brows, eye sockets, nose, cheek bones, nothing. There is just no face what so ever for us to relate to. This is why that kind of thing is so freaking creepy. Now take that image and combine it with someone who stands 8 feet tall, has armor comparable to a small tank, moves faster then any human let alone one that is 8 feet tall should be able to move, and is hunting you. You have no means to see if any thing is effecting him. Did that shot to the chest even hurt him? Will that door even remotely slow him down? Think about it this way. Imagine you are playing a video game, and you come to a big boss fight. And the boss has no health bar and makes no reaction to your attacks. You land hundreds of hits with every gun in your arsenal only for the boss to continue attacking until finally you're dead. How close to beating him were you? Were your attacks even having an effect at all? Is there another trick to beating him? You can't tell. You may have been completely wasting your ammo firing at him or you may have been exactly 1 hit point away from beating him. That's the sort of inhuman terror I want to have this model make. So what did I do to get this?

Chaos space marine Lord Gaundinzor's head, made by shaving down the front of a Tau helmet and attaching cables to the sides.
I took a Tau helmet and removed all the detail from it leaving it smooth. There are no optical components on it. No camera, no lenses, no scanners nothing to indicate where he could actually be looking. To help carry the idea that Gaundinzor doesn't actually use eyes, but rather is fed a digital manifestation of the environment, I drilled out a series of holes along the edge of the helmet mounting and inserted a series of small cables, again from  Dragon Forge. These cables will be attached to the back pack.

So next thing, showing more motion. How can I do that? Well change the model position. What space marine models typically show the most motion? Models with running legs. So assault marines and Raptor legs were what I looked at first. But the assault Marines and Raptor models didn't have the... what's the word.... the right detail level for what I wanted. So I did some more looking and finally settled on the body from the Dark Vengeance aspiring Champion.

Here's a shot of the version 2.0 along side the original prototype. Please excuse the 'cyber whiskers'. The head is attached to the back pack and effectively free-floating at the neck. I have some green stuff in there and until that dries I don't want to try and move the other cables to attach them to the backpack. So that's going to wrap things up for today.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Lord Gaudinzor, the hunter

So, it's that time of the year once again. You know, that one that starts with Thanksgiving and culminates with January 12th. Yes, I am referring to the holiday season for retail. We've already had Black-thanksgiving, Black Friday, Black-saturday, Pre-cyber Monday (Sunday), Cyber-monday, and Cyber-monday Follow-up (Teusday). I truly hate this time of year. 50% of the sales are crap sales that were better two weeks prior, while half of the products being put on 'sale' are crap made specifically for this period to be cheap so stores can sell them for $40 and people will think their getting a $150 item. Anyway, I still work in retail so I have to deal with it all. Friendly suggestion, don't go shopping on Black-friday and please don't buy stuff on Thanksgiving. The more money companies don't make by being open on Thanksgiving and not selling stuff, the more likely it is that retail workers will be able to get Thanksgiving back as a holiday.

Anyway all of that out of the way, today I am returning to Warhammer 40,000 with a new Chaos Lord for my Chaos Space Marine army. My view of a Chaos Space Marine is one of varied and loose alliances. A Chaos army isn't an 'army' the way an Imperial Guard or Space Marine army is. It will be a force made up of multiple groups that has been talked into working with the other groups through one means or another. Typically the focal point will be the Chaos Lord himself. He or She will be the one that is able to offer something of interest or value to the other groups to get them to cooperate. Perhaps the Lord can offer lost relics from an ancient world to get a Thousand Sons War Coven's cooperation, or maybe He will swear his warbands services to helping a Crimson Slaughters lord's efforts to hunt down an offending daemon lord. The possibilities of payment are long and varied.

What am I going on about? Well the justification for building my Chaos Space Marine collection the way I have been. I have an Iron Warrior Squad, a Night Lords Squad, Dark Mechanicus war constructs and I have plans for other groups I'm intending to add to my army. Each of these can become the core of an army onto itself. Or I can mix various units to form a unit, justifying it fluff wise by way of the loose alliance I just explained. This project is a perfect object example of this approach. I crafted the character before I worked to craft the model.

Functioning as Lord Roth'Gar's Lieutenant and direct liaison to Dark Magos Bargose, Gaudinzor has subjected himself to numerous experiments by Bargose that have resulted in enhanced combat abilities, deadlier weapons and an increase in his own sadistic tendencies.

Gaudinzor is a sadistic individual ever seeking to prove his superiority but he takes it further then most. For him, it's not enough to simply best them in a fight, or kill them in a duel. He wants to utterly destroy them, in every way it possible. He will purposely draw out a fight for the purpose of psychologically breaking his opponent before killing them. Rather then a swift strike to decapitate, or a thousand minor strikes to inflict pain, or even a targeted strike to incapacitate, Gaudinzor will serve feints within feints, toying with his opponents, drawing the battle out for hours even days only landing telling blows as examples of how futile his opponents attacks and defenses truly are. Stroke by stroke, Gaudinzor will tear down his opponents until there is nothing left and they beg him for death. And then, only when there is nothing of the proud warrior left, will he kill them.
Honestly the genesis of this character was a random image I ran across:
Thanks to the internet I learned the image is a rendition of the character Ivy from the Soul Calibur series. After some reading I learned that her sword was effectively 'alive' and reacted to her commands. That was really the first thought that gave rise to this lord: A Space Marine with a living sword that extends to become a bladed whip.

As I thought about it more I developed more details. A featureless visage. A large back pack to house a cogitator array. he doesn't use his eyes, rather he is fed tactical data from the cogitator array. He would be viscous and cruel killer. Ultimately more thinking lead me to the fluff passage I post earlier.

So with at least a rough idea in mind, I worked on a first effort for the model. I knew going into this, that I was likely not going to finish this particular model as it was intended more as a development of concept project then a final project. Still, have to start somewhere.

Lord Gaudinzor, a Chaos Space Marine

For this prototype effort I used normal Chaos Marine legs with a Raptors torso and a multi-melta backpack. For the sword I used a Raptor power sword cut into 2mm long segments with a hole drilled through the center of each segment. I then used a length of small diameter cable from Dragon Forge and passed that up through the sword segments. This gave me a semi-flexible body to work and tweak. It works but has problems. First off the pewter cable is fairly weak and with time it will break off from being flexed by being put into foam and taken out. Also the entire model looks very 'static'. He's not this viscous killer using super swords, he's a guy with ADD waving his cool sword about. So the model itself doesn't work visually for what I'm trying to produce. As a protoype effort it works, but I know I can do better. So that is what I will talk about next time. Version 2.0 of Gaudinzor, the Hunter.