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Rigel 20th Nov 2007 11:11 AM

A Ship Called "Universal Joint"
This w.i.p. has been in progress at the Lightwave Group website since July 21, 2006.

I am reposting it here in order to continue it. With each post, I am including the date it was originally posted, just so noone thinks I'm working super fast on this!

I will not be posting the replies people made.

Pipeline is:

Modelling and Renders: Lightwave 8.5
Textures: Paint Shop Pro v 6.0

Rigel 20th Nov 2007 11:14 AM

July 21, 2006
8 Attachment(s)
The Universal Joint

Some history about this; forgive me, but I like to tell stories. And this is kind of a story about a story.

When I was in high school and studying Fortran and Cobol (computer programming languages of a bye-gone era for you young ones here) we were given an assignment to make an array containing data. The instructor provided the data he wanted us to use, including a list of made up names. One of the names was Sidewinder Jack. I thought that sounded like a character name, so I wrote a short story about him.

He was an independent freighter owner/operator bouncing around the galaxy. He was heavily influenced by Han Solo. When I got to thinking up a name for his ship, I wanted something like the Millenium Falcon, two words not normally used together but sounding cool anyway. Couldn't think of anything. So I tried car parts and one of the first ten car parts I thought of was a universal joint. Ah, I thought, Universal works because it's a spaceship travelling around the universe and Joint, as in slang for a hangout or your home, works because this guy lives in his ship. So Universal Joint it was.

The original drawings I did of the ship were based on the handle of a Schick razor (it had a cool shape). The layout was two decks with the bottom being the cargo bay and upper deck being quarters, cockpit, passenger section etc. That ship was mostly destroyed in the story.

Later I redesigned the ship and modelled it in Videoscape 3D on my Amiga 1200. The images below are the actual Videoscape model imported into Lightwave and not modified. The model isn't terribly impressive and if you know how Videoscape models were made you'll understand why.

Aeres reminded me of something in the original post on LWG v3; this new design was influenced by the cover of the UFO: Xcom game manual (see image below).

I've decided this ship needs a reconstruction. Especially since I recently borrowed my friend's Firefly DVD and watched that. Now, while Jack Turnbull was influenced by Han Solo, his ship the Universal Joint will be influenced by Serenity. Serenity has given me some ideas on what a lived in ship could be like. I never gave much thought to the interior, other than the front part is the cargo bay and the middle part is the quarters etc. With this project, I am going to build a complete interior for it.

The major components of the ship are: cargo bay at the front (longer section); crew section (stubbier section in the middle); cockpit/bridge (bubble on top); reactor (cylinder section); sub-light drive (behind reactor); weapon turret (above reactor) and the jump drive units (port and starboard).

So here for now are the images of the original Videoscape model, built sometime around 1992 or 1993. Also included is a picture of the UFO XCOM game manual which inspired this design.

Rigel 20th Nov 2007 11:16 AM

July 21, 2006
2 Attachment(s)
First step is to apply rounder to the basic shape of the ship. I've got the main hull and wings done. For the reactor, I applied rounder then copied the vertices along one line to another layer. I made a polygon with those vertices and lathed it into the new reactor, using more sides to smooth it out obviously.

The bow has been closed off; the original model had an inset with the cargo doors, creating an indented nose. I'm going to borrow the idea of the combination airlock/ramp from Serenity, so there may or may not be a recess in the nose. We'll see once I work out the actual design of the ramp. And that may not happen until the cargo bay interior is built.

Rigel 20th Nov 2007 11:17 AM

July 22, 2006
2 Attachment(s)
(A response I made to a post by Bob McKain)
While retaining the basic shape, I will be adding to the detail level of it. Videoscape models were built using your favourite text editor and first, writing a list of (x,y,z) coordinates to describe your vertices then writing a polygon list. That's why the original was so simple in design. There was no modeller program with Videoscape. Mind you, it was fun a program to use nonetheless.


Here then are the sub-light drive and jump drive housings with rounder applied. The jump drive housings were more time consuming than I thought; it had to be pulled apart into seperate sections before rounder would do a proper job on them. But, I like how those pieces now look like sections attached to one another rather than being one piece.

I'm going to drop the idea of having a transparent section running through the jump drive. I'm thinking of building machinery and maybe some covers that flip open just before the jump.

Rigel 20th Nov 2007 11:18 AM

July 24, 2006
2 Attachment(s)
Started building the machinery that goes inside of the jump drive housing. I'm trying to hit visually interesting, functional looking and low poly count all in one. Still several more pieces to build to fill in the gaps.

Rigel 20th Nov 2007 11:19 AM

July 27, 2006
1 Attachment(s)
A small bit of progress (working 50 hours a week interferes with my Lightwave time!).

Built the machinery along the bottom level of the jump drive which feeds the energy to the boost ejector (???) at the rear end. The black panes are glass and will eventually allow you to see "energy" sparkles flowing through the pipe.

Rigel 20th Nov 2007 11:20 AM

July 29, 2006
1 Attachment(s)
Small update:

Built the attachments that hold the jump drive to the wing tip and added the power supply (red pipe) coming in from the reactor.

Rigel 20th Nov 2007 11:21 AM

July 31, 2006
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Decided to redo the turret. The one designed in Videoscape just looked too clunky. This is a more function looking fusion weapon turret. Unlike the original, this one can tilt the weapon up. Also, there will eventually be a bones rigged power cable attached to the starboard side of the weapon.

Cybit 20th Nov 2007 10:46 PM

I remember seeing this on the LWG v3 site, was interesting then and is still interesting now. It'll be nice when they get the thumbnail problem solved, I don't remember but did you ever get it done or is it still a work in progress?

Rigel 21st Nov 2007 06:42 AM


Originally Posted by Cybit (Post 1432)
I remember seeing this on the LWG v3 site, was interesting then and is still interesting now. It'll be nice when they get the thumbnail problem solved, I don't remember but did you ever get it done or is it still a work in progress?

Still a work in progress. I'm onto reworking the bridge; building chairs and control panels.

TheGreatRaja 21st Nov 2007 12:54 PM

ah another one of those never ending projects :D
I think we all have one of those on the back burner

Nice work
Universal Joint .... that name just kills me :D

Rigel 21st Nov 2007 03:27 PM


Originally Posted by TheGreatRaja (Post 1565)
ah another one of those never ending projects :D
I think we all have one of those on the back burner

Nice work
Universal Joint .... that name just kills me :D

If you look into this over at LWG, someone posted a photo of a universal joint, saying that was what he expected to see. So I called this version "A Ship Named. . ." just to clarify.

Mikala 21st Nov 2007 07:56 PM

The last posted pic of the turret reminded me of Tron for some reason.

Cybit 21st Nov 2007 09:41 PM

Like the avatar Mikala, alittle early for the hat, but still it's nice to see Thor's in the spirit. :) :p

Mikala 21st Nov 2007 10:02 PM

Never to early to be Merry!

Kataar 21st Nov 2007 10:07 PM

I am reminded of Tron too, but actually in that last image, I see a lightsaber........:D


Rigel 22nd Nov 2007 07:00 AM


Originally Posted by Kataar (Post 1635)
I am reminded of Tron too, but actually in that last image, I see a lightsaber........:D


It was heavily influenced by Darth Vader's lightsaber. ;)

Rigel 22nd Nov 2007 07:02 AM

August 3, 2006
6 Attachment(s)
Started work on the landing jacks. The ship has two sets of landing jacks, one on the main hull and one on the cargo hull. The set shown is the main hull jacks. Yet to be modelled are the hydraulic pistons which open and close the gear.

I call them landing jacks because the ship does not actually settle onto a surface. It uses the CG (Contra-Gravity) Lifters to reduce the pull of the planet's gravity to the point where it's enough to hold down the ship, but the ship has a reduced weight. Therefore, the landing jacks are just rests for the ship, so the hull isn't in direct contact with the ground. Unlike landing gear, they are not supporting the ship.

I hereby publicly affirm that I blatantly stole the idea for this style of gear from Meurig (he had a similar design on his shuttle in his university final project). Thanks for the inspiration Meurig!

The first picture shows the jacks in the closed position,

Attachment 197

the second shows the jacks extended

Attachment 198

and the third is a medium shot to show the placement of them.

Rigel 22nd Nov 2007 07:03 AM

August 6, 2006
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Small update: added the landing gear to the cargo hull and added the hydraulic pistons to all landing gear.

Rigel 22nd Nov 2007 07:05 AM

August 7, 2006
4 Attachment(s)
Another small update: reaction control thrusters. Played with the idea of the RCT's being mounted in a raised section on the corners of the hull, but didn't like the look of it, so just opted for holes drilled into the hull.

Rigel 22nd Nov 2007 07:06 AM

August 9, 2006
4 Attachment(s)
Installed the cargo ramp. A few notes:

1) Threw a temporary texture on the cargo bay interior, it had no form with just a colour on it.

2) No, the ramp does not provide atmospheric integrity; that will be done with a hatch just behind the ramp.

3) Yes the thrusters have vanished. I put the cargo ramp into a different version of the model (in case I screwed it up or really didn't like the design). Will have to combine the two models later.

Rigel 22nd Nov 2007 07:22 AM

August 9, 2006
6 Attachment(s)
Today's update is a rudimentary layout of the interior hull. Again, temporary texture tossed on just to give it some shape.

First picture is from the starboard side looking into the cargo bay.

Second picture is inside the lower deck, interconnecting hatch partially open, looking forward to the cargo bay.

Third picture is from starboard aft showing the three decks of the main hull.

There is of course a huge amount of work to be done in there. The first thing being, I need to decide exactly what is in there. Obviously crew quarters and some sort of galley/lounge area. Should be some passenger quarters, some kind of mechanic's shop, some storage areas etc.

The first shot shows the inside of the cargo bay:

Attachment 205

the second shot shows the partially open hatch between the crew quarters and cargo bay

Attachment 206

and the last shows the three decks of the crew areas.

Rigel 22nd Nov 2007 09:31 AM

August 12, 2006
2 Attachment(s)
As mentioned earlier, the Joint's loading ramp does not have an atmospheric seal on it, so here then is the cargo bay airlock hatch. This prevents decompression of the cargo bay once the ship leaves atmosphere, although the space between lock and ramp does eventually vacate.

First picture is the lock closed, second is the lock open (doors slide into walls). Again, temporary textures.

TheGreatRaja 22nd Nov 2007 12:04 PM

pics aren't showing up even as links, just text :(

Rigel 27th Nov 2007 04:58 PM

August 13, 2006
2 Attachment(s)
Okay, I was thinking to myself. "Self," I said, "that loading ramp is nearly 3 metres wide, which is plenty for taking on several standard cargo containers and any assorted small packages or pieces of equipment. But what if the ship needs to take a bigger payload?"

So I borrowed an idea from a ferry we have here in Ontario which operates on Lake Huron. The entire bow lifts up on two hinges using massive hydraulic rams; this is how the cars drive out when it docks.

To load bigger payloads, the Joint now has a bow which can be raised up. The face of the hull is indented and the bow section has a thick rubber seal which fits into the indentation. There will be two hydraulic rams inside to push it up and lower it down.

First pic shows the hinges on the top, second pic shows the bow elevated.

Rigel 27th Nov 2007 04:59 PM

August 13, 2006
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Decided to add a close up of the bow hinges.

Rigel 27th Nov 2007 05:01 PM

August 27, 2006
4 Attachment(s)
Been awhile coming but here's the latest update. Installed the two big hydraulic rams which open and close the bow. Below are four pictures; bow closed and open from the outside, bow close and open from the inside.

Yes that's our good buddy Captain IK standing in for scale. He's been sized to 1.88 metres (6 feet) in height.

The ship is sitting in a little "spaceport" model I cobbled together. The tower in the background is from the LW content CD (was used in their anim of the scout walker).

When I go to bed tonight, will render an anim showing the cargo ramp closing then the bow opening both from outside and in. Stayed tuned!

Rigel 27th Nov 2007 05:04 PM

August 28, 2006
1 Attachment(s)
As promised, here's a vid of the cargo ramp closing and the bow being opened and shut, from both outside and in.

Rigel 27th Nov 2007 05:05 PM

August 30, 2006
1 Attachment(s)
Added a hydraulic ram to the cargo ramp. Then had to change the shape of the cargo ramp (and front face of the hull) to accomodate the hydraulic. Also added a temporary texture to the hull.

Rigel 27th Nov 2007 05:06 PM

September 13, 2006
2 Attachment(s)
Tiny update today. Added the push button panel which opens/closes the cargo ramp and doors. The first picture shows a close up of the panel, the second shows where it's located (there's another on the inside wall). You can see it just above Captain IK's right hand. The indicator lamps would light to indicate that the ramp/doors are fully open or fully closed.

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