Fly On The Azure Wall

While patrolling along the Klingon Neutral Zone…

On a tip from Starfleet Intelligence, the USS McCook swings by the Azure Nebula to investigate suspected nefarious activity.  Her posture orients the long range sensor array toward the giant cloud as she begins scanning silently. Her crew sits back and prepares for a long night of hot coffee, as she listens quietly in the dark…

With the exception of her self-lit areas she appears as a fairly darkened silhouette against the bright curtain of light.  Hanging seemingly upside down,  I especially like the idea of a starship looking like it is performing some specific function and having to be at a certain angle or particular orientation in order to accomplish said task.  That is why I placed the ship at the odd angle seen above since her main sensor array is on the underside of the primary hull.  This actually reminds me of greyhounds, which often sleep on their backs with their long legs stretched straight up into the air above them.  It’s called “roaching” but it is the cutest thing to see.  😀

Motivated to visualize the McCook performing her primary mission, I thought it would be nice to render a shot of her on boarder patrol while scouting a nebula for clandestine activity.

Problem was, I didn’t have a nebula.  At least not a convincing one.  Star fields are easy enough.  I can do them in Lightwave.  But nebulae are so… well, fuzzy.  I’d worked on several a few years ago using various methods.  I tried clouds and layers in Photoshop, and I experimented with fractals in Apophysis,  but I was never happy with most of my efforts.  Apophysis is useful, but it served me better in engine room interiors than in deep space imagery.  Also, my best Apophysis nebula was now too small and blurry an image to suffice my current needs.

My best nebula in Apophysis (and a totally random error 😉 )

My main interest was recreating (in some fashion) the beautiful Azure Nebula from Voyager’s “Flashback,” an episode whose title says it all.  A The Next Generation spinoff, Voyager takes place in the middle/late 24th century, but “Flashback” fondly harks back to Kirk’s later movie era, firmly anchored at the tail end of the 23rd.  With segments set concurrent to events depicted in The Undiscovered Country, “Flashback” features the rather bluish nebula (hence the name “Azure”) straddling the border of the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire.  While trying to stealthily enter Klingon space during his attempts to aid in the rescue of Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy, Captain Sulu orders the USS Excelsior to cross this nebula.  The attempt fails however, as renowned Klingon Commander Kang patrols the area, aware of the nebula’s surreptitious utility.  Sulu manages to escape by the skin of his teeth, but a seedy border crossing was born into Trek lore!

Plot point in mind, I thought the nebula would make a perfect area for patrol duty, and thus set out to recreate it or find something online that would suffice as a backdrop.  I watched tutorials on YouTube and went on long Google quests, searching for “nebula,” and “blue,” and as many other criteria I could match, with skimpy results at best.   I did happen across a few particularly impressive images with exceptional elements, but nothing totally meeting my needs.  A few of the best images were on deviantART, and had links to tutorials and resources, such as Photoshop brushes.  Several of those turned out to be very useful.  One image in particular posted by Stefan Veselinov, was nearly perfect in overall composition and color, but some of the details had me wanting to change things.  The more I thought about it, the more I simply wanted to make my own.  I gave in and decided to take a stab at it, and this was the result.  I learned quite a bit and had a number of duds, but I am pretty happy with this result.  I did the star field in Lightwave.  And to make it smaller and more random, I reduced, duplicated, and flipped it several times around in the image.  The larger, more prominent stars have their own special layer.

Here’s a different angular attempt, but the light is not very well distributed, so  I’m not too keen on this one.  I might give it another try later after I refine the lighting setup.

Special thanks to deviantART’s Glenn Clovis (a.k.a. tsarye) for his nebula tutorial and Photoshop brush resources, and to Stefan Veselinov (a.k.a. aRchAng3lZz) for inspiring me with his beautiful blue nebula.

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~ by starstation on September 3, 2011.

5 Responses to “Fly On The Azure Wall”

  1. Excellent work there. I need to work more on creating nebulas.

  2. Absolutely gorgeous. I think I’ll download and frame this one, if you don’t mind.

  3. Thanks so much guys! 😀

  4. The man is back at it!

    Beautiful image you made there.

  5. whoa! Super sweet!! i’ll look at the tutorials myself as well.. need to do some wallpapers myself!

    Glad to see your up and about, looking forward to see you more on the meshes! 🙂

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