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Old 22nd Feb 2014, 10:39 PM   #1
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Default Star Trek - Romulan T'Varo-class Bird of Prey (22nd Century)

I've been really impressed by the work Tommy Kraft was doing for Star Trek: Horizon that I dropped him a line to tell him so and mentioned that if he needed any sort of additional VFX support beyond the stellar stuff he was already producing, I would be delighted to be involved. Mostly, I just wanted to pay him extra compliments than I had in his thread already.

Imagine my surprise when he took me up on my offer!

So, I'm building a 22nd Century, Enterprise-era Romulan Bird of Prey for use in the film! In Star Trek: Online, this design is still in service in the 25th Century as the T'Varo-class light warbird, which is the name I've been using to identify it. I'm modeling it -- as always -- in Blender and will pass it along to Tommy for use in 3ds Max once finished. My goal is to build it efficiently and relatively quickly, so as to not be a bottleneck in his VFX pipeline.

So far, I'm still just working on the subsurf. There are a ton of imperfections and errors to smooth out still, lots of loop creases to add for edge definition, and so on, but it's substantially better tonight than it was last night, so I don't feel nearly as ashamed of posting it at this early stage.







The entire thing is a single mesh right now, which is something of an experiment. A lot of the components are pieces I would have probably split off and re-integrated later had I tried to tackle this model a year or more ago, but times change. I still need to model the warp nacelles, but the rest of the main physical features are all present in the single mesh.

I'm using a nice, big 5-ortho render of the CG model used on Enterprise as my main reference, along with John Eaves's concept sketches and a few episode screenshots. Having access to the big 5-ortho render is huge and making my entire process a lot easier and straight-forward.

My ultimate goal is to build this model well enough to share the screen with Tommy's beautiful NX model, which is a tall order -- especially when I'm also trying to do it quickly!

(For those curious what this means for Coro, just a delay. Tommy's timeline for needing this is much shorter than my target finish date for Coro, which is the end of August, so this one is taking precedence. Once I'm finished, I'll be kicking right back over. And I might poke at Coro from time to time anyway, should I need a break from all the green metal! )
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Old 23rd Feb 2014, 04:42 PM   #2
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Congrats! Looks like a solid start. I've always liked the Enterprise era Romulan stuff.
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Old 23rd Feb 2014, 05:07 PM   #3
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Interesting design. I don't think I remember seeing it before.
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Old 23rd Feb 2014, 09:05 PM   #4
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Thanks, Adam and bmckain!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bmckain
I don't think I remember seeing it before.
It only showed up in a single episode of Enterprise, "Minefield." The design's meant to evoke the bird of prey seen in "Balance of Terror," but taking design cues from later Romulan designs, too.

Not a lot of progress made today. Rather than continue to refine the main subsurf, I decided that I wanted to at least stub-in the nacelles. This proved a far bigger challenge than I expected, due to their off-axis nature. At first, I tried to just model them whole, but the ended up looking lumpy and asymmetrical across their local axis (...because they were ). Ultimately, I hit on the idea to model the nacelle axis-aligned and then instance the geometry as a separate object, rotated into the correct position. This allowed me to mirror the two sides of the nacelle and made modeling it a lot easier.



It's not 100% bang-on to the ortho, but it's very close. Right now, it's still a very bare subsurf, with no control edges or anything and continues to be in dire need of surface smoothing, but at least they're in-place now.
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Old 23rd Feb 2014, 09:23 PM   #5
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Looks great to me mate... I'm still impressed with your blender stuff.
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Old 24th Feb 2014, 05:08 AM   #6
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Appart of the tail, which I dislike, all the rest is looking fine.
Congrats for being part of the team.
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Old 24th Feb 2014, 08:18 AM   #7
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Excellent ... I always like this Romulan design look..
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Old 24th Feb 2014, 10:41 PM   #8
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Thanks, Matt, starship, and Taranis!

Getting closer to having a finalized subsurf for the hull and nacelles now. The geometry is all present, but some of it still needs a little massaging.





Notes on the things I know need work:


Anybody see anything I missed?
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Old 26th Feb 2014, 08:40 AM   #9
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It's hard to see what you're referring to with the really small images.

Also, post wireframes with it so we can see the poly flow.

It's looking great though!
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Old 26th Feb 2014, 10:46 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rigel View Post
It's hard to see what you're referring to with the really small images.
...? The images are all 1280x720. Is it possible you're not clicking on the thumbnails to open up the full-size ones?

Quote:
Also, post wireframes with it so we can see the poly flow.
Will do as soon as I get home this evening!

Quote:
It's looking great though!
Thanks!
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Old 26th Feb 2014, 12:53 PM   #11
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Nice progress
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Old 26th Feb 2014, 02:54 PM   #12
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When I click the image in that post, it links to mc3d.com and the image is only 639 × 494.
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Old 26th Feb 2014, 09:51 PM   #13
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Thanks, Lemon Wolf!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rigel View Post
When I click the image in that post, it links to mc3d.com and the image is only 639 × 494.
Hmm, only the last image should be that size, since it's just a cropped element of the first image, focusing on known issues at the time of rendering. The rest should all be 1280x720.

Here are the requested wires, this time in 1920x1080 (just for you, Rigel )!




Ignore the ugliness on the tail -- that entire area is actually flat and will get optimized into a much nicer-loooking N-gon once the subsurf is frozen.

Here also is a quick animation (720p) to check for the way light falls across the surface as it moves:


For those curious, he's how I made the wire show up:
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Old 27th Feb 2014, 08:58 AM   #14
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Re: the note you made about "it appears to flex the wrong way"; I don't see anything in the wireframe that looks off, so it's probably just the surface material and/or lighting that makes it look odd to you. In the first render even, it looks okay to me.

It looks amazing in the turntable. It almost looks like a shuriken.
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Old 27th Feb 2014, 10:06 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rigel View Post
Re: the note you made about "it appears to flex the wrong way"; I don't see anything in the wireframe that looks off, so it's probably just the surface material and/or lighting that makes it look odd to you. In the first render even, it looks okay to me.
Full disclosure: the wires are from after I addressed all the notes in the previous image. That's why you don't necessarily see the errors that I called out -- I already fixed them!

Quote:
It looks amazing in the turntable. It almost looks like a shuriken.
Thanks!

Tonight, I did an initial UV unwrap, froze the subsurf, spent some time optimizing the mesh (from some absurd > 600k triangle count down to 387k triangles) and then added the very first panel detailing, bringing the triangle count back up to 394k

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Old 28th Feb 2014, 08:34 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McC View Post
Full disclosure: the wires are from after I addressed all the notes in the previous image. That's why you don't necessarily see the errors that I called out -- I already fixed them!
That's not fair!



Man, that is smooooooth!
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Old 28th Feb 2014, 10:42 AM   #17
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This looks great!

I really like the design too. Reminiscent of the original but with a modern flair. If I ever try doing Balance of Terror again, I might just use this version. I have one already but I don’t think it’s as nice as yours.
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Old 3rd Mar 2014, 07:25 PM   #18
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Thanks, Rigel and Oldcode!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldcode View Post
I really like the design too. Reminiscent of the original but with a modern flair. If I ever try doing Balance of Terror again, I might just use this version. I have one already but I don’t think it’s as nice as yours.
Well, just to make sure it's clear, it's not my design or anything. This was the Romulan ship that appeared in the Enterprise episode "Minefield."

Haven't made a lot of progress of late, on account of being first busy and then sick! I was completely out of commission yesterday; spent the entire day whimpering in bed until it was time for the Bruins game, for which I finally staggered downstairs and promptly re-bundled myself on the couch. At least we won! Thank goodness for my wife and dog, both of whom helped nurse me back to health. I'm not totally better, but I was well-enough to work-from-home today and then spend the evening modeling. I've only broken out into a few cold sweats today!

Right, anyway, here's the new bit! Etching some paneling into the weapon module. I spent far too much time on making the geometry ultra-clean here, rebuilding ugly bevels and polishing up polygons that you probably won't ever get close enough to notice.
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Old 5th Mar 2014, 04:13 PM   #19
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Hey McC,

Glad to hear you are feeling better. And no worries, I know you wen't trying to grab credit. I had heard about the episode of Enterprise with the Bird of Prey, but has never seen it. My bad luck, I kind of gave up on Enterprise when it was just starting to get good, right after the second season.

Anyway, awesome job on the model and I can't wait to see more!
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Old 5th Mar 2014, 04:32 PM   #20
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EXCELLENT wireframes thanks for that.
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Old 6th Mar 2014, 07:26 PM   #21
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Glad to know I'm not the only one that gets obsessive over potentially inconsequential geometry. Thanks for sharing the node setup!!

As always it's looking amazing!

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Old 6th Mar 2014, 10:02 PM   #22
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Thanks, Oldcode, Taranis, and Sastrei!

Not a lot of progress to show for the last three days, but been plugging away all the same. More panels and weapon ports!




The weapon ports aren't terribly detailed at the moment, which I'm giving very serious thought to remedying.
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Old 7th Mar 2014, 07:41 AM   #23
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But then, do weapon ports need to be detailed? It's just a hole in the hull for the torpedo to pass through.
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Old 7th Mar 2014, 11:00 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rigel View Post
But then, do weapon ports need to be detailed? It's just a hole in the hull for the torpedo to pass through.
The two rectangular vents seem kind of plain and out of place compared to the rest of the design details. But that's just me.

McC, when you do the texturing, are you going to make a Bird of Prey decal like the original? That would be most awesome!
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Old 11th Mar 2014, 10:47 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rigel View Post
But then, do weapon ports need to be detailed? It's just a hole in the hull for the torpedo to pass through.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldcode View Post
The two rectangular vents seem kind of plain and out of place compared to the rest of the design details. But that's just me.

Eh, sure, it's just a hole, but by the same token, it's also the thing by which the projectiles are accelerated and conducted out into space toward their intended target. There's bound to be some machinery there.

Quote:
McC, when you do the texturing, are you going to make a Bird of Prey decal like the original? That would be most awesome!
The ones that appeared in the episode didn't have it, but Eaves's concept sketch did, so I might make the decal an option include.

Been slowly plinking away at the underside hull paneling. The topology doesn't at all match the location of the panel lines, which makes cutting them in that much more tedious and slow, but I finally had enough done that I thought it'd be worth sharing.

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Old 12th Mar 2014, 06:21 AM   #26
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I understand about cutting across the mesh to create panel lines (been there, done that), but that is looking very clean!
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Old 12th Mar 2014, 07:23 AM   #27
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Indeed, I keep reading over the tutorial you put together with MKF, and I still can't quite get there using the same method. This looks great.
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Old 12th Mar 2014, 04:25 PM   #28
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An idea:

Without BoP logo - Tal'Shiar
With BoP logo - standard fleet

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Old 23rd Mar 2014, 03:01 PM   #29
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Thanks, Rigel and Matt!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sastrei View Post
An idea:

Without BoP logo - Tal'Shiar
With BoP logo - standard fleet

I like it!

Hey look! An update! My folks have been in town for the last week, so I haven't had a chance to do any modeling until today. Still paneling, but I'm getting pretty close to having all of the ventral body paneling etched in. My sister-in-law will be in town in the coming week, but that may prove to be a boon for modeling time since she and my wife will probably go off and do their own thing...we shall see!
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Old 27th Mar 2014, 09:15 PM   #30
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Finally started on the wing paneling. Spent a bunch of time trying to figure out what's raised and what's lowered, but had a really hard time with it. I decided to open up the reference images in Photoshop, with the intent to do a three-tone gray reference image for "up", "flat", and "down", only to find that it was very, very clear in Photoshop what was up and what was down. I have the opacity on the background images in Blender turned down, which also killed the contrast somewhat, making it harder to figure out. Dumb.



Word of advice to anyone that tries to model this ship: good grief, make sure your topology flows neatly along your panel lines. Most of the slowness plaguing me right now is that the panel lines and the subsurf topology are basically fighting each other. If I hadn't already spent so much time on it, I'd re-do the subsurf and ensure that I had good edge flow for all of the paneling details. Really kicking myself for not doing that to begin with.
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