Going Overboard

Cutout experiments go awry as pixel play goes gestalt

Night_Shift_048e More fun with people inserts.

In a continuing effort to mimic Starfleet ant colonies I’ve found myself searching for anything that could fit that huge stage. After my moderate success morphing the most plain clothed civilian cutouts, I figured I might be able to make use of some other resources, including some nice costume reference art from the old Star Trek: Fact Files.

I’d already harvested a couple of those a few years back, entirely as UV textures for in-scene stand-ins…

stand_insThe first two harvested stand-ins.  The poser in the red jumper just looked silly anywhere I tried to put him.

They would be applied to 2 dimensional rectangular polygons, and their surrounding white boarders would be made completely transparent.  The one time I used them as in-render objects however, I was fairly disappointed with the results and pretty much abandoned the idea.

Shuttle_Landing-Cargo_Bay_050.3The concept as originally abandoned, after the failed first attempt.

Much of those Fact File images, while very artfully done, are still obviously line drawn, colored filled illustrations, not far removed (if at all) from the techniques used to illustrate comic books.  Up close, rendered as 2D features within 3D models, they just never sufficed.  However, things are a little different the further afar you set your perspective, and working post-render affords a lot of creative leeway. After recent experimenting with the abundance of detail lost with such drastic image reduction, as well as how complimentary this method was to further mimicking internal light settings, they actually turned out to be pretty effective stand-ins.  I had only placed two in the previously posted “Night Watch” image and they were just as experimental as the cutout mob I was working with then.  Just to the right of the exiting cargo sled, that most visible crewman in the engineering radiation suit is one of them.

ff_exp-1Stopping for a view.

environmental-suit-2285Premium pose, cranium including!

He required the least alteration since his pose and angle were the most favorable.  However, he was the first I tested any fake lighting enhancements upon. Also, being presented on a pure white background made for the most easy extraction of most Fact Files options. Well, that… and he had a head;

starfleet_sleepy_hollowThe Legend of Starfleet Hollow?

A number of the costume presentations from the Fact Files curiously skip that feature, though I suppose I have new “possibilities” for amending that exclusion now that I have a library of cutout people.  Unfortunately, most of these poses (while an awesome costume bounty) are pretty rigid (and repetitive), and need to be sparsely placed, if at all.  It might not be a problem for a security guard or two, but I’d have a problem with too many officers and crewmen standing around parking their hands behind their backs not engaged in their surroundings.

The officer in full stride within the upper observation corridor (off to its far right) was my other choice, but he had to be fully extracted from his visual surroundings.

ff_exp-2In a hurry?

enterprise-a_jefferiestubeFull extraction operation required.

Other than this, I didn’t change much about him either since so much would eventually be obscured, but I did play with his hue, contrast, and brightness.

But more than anything, I knew when I started playing with all these figures that I really wanted to add at least one space suited character for some portion of that dark vacuum bordering much of the image. Although I suspect I might be able to create a 3D model (which I will need to do eventually), and I might even be able to fake it with one of the cut outs, I knew the Fact Files had a really nice ready image in their library that might come in handy.

spacesuit-2285Thruster suit.

Things were questionable at first.  That image of the thruster suit (as it was referred to in The Motion Picture) was far from a viable lighting scenario. He was also apparently in a fully standing pose (shadows at his feet and all), which didn’t aid in any illusion of a gravity free situation.  The angle of his feet would have to be altered in some way to correct this, and he’d have to be horizontally flipped in order for optimal placement.  And since the character was floating out in space, closest to the camera, his scale reduction would be far less than any of the other figures, leaving him more ripe to scrutiny.  It almost made that Fact Files image useless, but playing with it after the insert, I managed to darken some extraneous highlights and fake some new ones that would appear to be the result of light emanating from within the bay and more importantly from the bay’s visible atmospheric-force-field generators.  Brightness and color tweaking were the hardest settings, and I’m still not fully satisfied.  I might even have to put some dummy object in the scene for a re-render, just to see how it more accurately responds to all those light sources in Global Illumination.

Returning to the downloadable cut out population, I managed to add another engineering character in his radiation/environmental suit, performing maintenance on that much closer shuttlecraft parked on the left side of the bay. I’m mostly pleased with this new addition, especially with the shadows and highlights added to his surroundings in order to help better anchor him in the scene. The real plus is that opened maintenance access I added to the lower bow of the shuttlecraft, which is completely absent on the model itself.  I’ve even toyed with the idea of putting some sort of hose or tubing running from that nearby tank area, into the open hatch. Strangely, there’s one effect I haven’t figured a way to combat yet.  One of the engineering suit’s signature elements is that large dark collar.  When shrunk along with the rest of his form, this feature tends to blend with his head resulting in the mild impression that the engineer is sporting a mullet. Maybe my gestalt is just getting lazy.  I also added several much smaller figures in the far, far distance, but most of that has broken down to mere smudges and blurs which barely hint at their 2D mannequin origins.

In the vaguest homage to that famous old painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper, I placed a couple of off-duty crewmen sitting down for a bit of tea or a cup of joe.

Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper, 1942

Night_Homage“Night h.. omage”

I use the term homage loosely, as it was initially entirely unintentional, since I actually only noticed any similarity in subject matter after I’d planted and tweaked the first of the two crewmen. Granted, the crewman in my image are laid back in lounge chairs inside a relatively large concourse rather than topping bar stools at a cozy corner diner.  There are also fewer people present, but they are sort of starkly lit from above and the windows are huge.  I’ll stick with vague. In regards to the resemblance of the titles, “Night Shift” and “Nighthawks,” that is purely coincidental.  I named this image “Night Shift” over a year and a half ago when I first posted the utterly unpopulated version of it on my deviantART page.  Also, I genuinely thought that painting was called “The Diner” until I Googled it a few days ago after making the visual mental connection. Oddly, only one of those original pre-crewman cutouts is actually presented sipping on something remotely cup like. The other one believe it or not, is actually sitting barefooted on the floor, sporting a huge pony tail, and playing with a toy truck. Ah, the magic of photo manipulation.

I even began tweaking elements of the stage itself, adding little lighting features and texture details that as yet don’t exist within the model’s geometry, but which I’ve determined might be nice additions. There are some little red lights above the shuttle maintenance alcoves now, similar to some seen on the TOS Enterprise landing bay.  Though I have no clue what purpose the lights served on TOS, I figured these could serve as extra caution indicators for any time those smaller maintenance bay doors were open to the larger bay, especially if and when an external bay door is open.  Perhaps it’s just someplace to focus your mind’s eye should there be some emergency or catastrophic failure involving any of the atmospheric containment fields. True, red often means “STOP!” But often, it can also simply mean “EMERGENCY!” Should there be some emergency and you haven’t already been sucked into space, just focus on red and run. In the TOS era, landing bays were seen actively pressurizing and depressurizing during shuttle operations.  And even though force fields were used in brigs and penal institutions to detain people during the TOS era, TMP was the first time such a powerful containment field had been seen reining in the entire atmospheric contents of the Enterprise‘s shuttle and cargo bays. Considering what has been revealed in canon Trek, I like to think that, during this particular period of the movie era, these atmospheric containment fields were still a relatively new technology and Starfleet was still in a cautious stage of experimental integration.

The two closest, most visible, alcove doors themselves have had some seams added to help add that folding appearance they so desperately need.  I think I’d planned on making them totally flat planes initially, but I don’t like that idea now.

Things were pretty bland behind those off-duty crewmen too, so I added some basic color blocking, a few simple brush patterns, and trimmed it all where appropriate to make it fit and help liven things up.

It’s actually all stuff that could help break up the current monotony of the station’s bay and concourse walls. I figured it could be yet another useful experiment, actually providing the sense of a detail’s possible final effect, before actually incorporating any new changes into the model itself.

I’ll have to experiment with some more options, and I hope to get a little more put into this image eventually, but I don’t want to go crazy and fill every empty nook and cranny.  After all, it is after hours.

Night_Shift_048eSlightly better quality version in PNG format.


~ by starstation on September 28, 2013.

7 Responses to “Going Overboard”

  1. I think it looks damn good.

  2. Yeah, looks very good.

    Say- were you planning on downsizing that shuttle? ( can’t remember) Speaking of shuttles, I think a Clydesdale type would go great with that scene.

    • Thanks.
      Yeah, I’ve been toying with shrinking the shuttles a smidge since adding the crew. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal to me if I hadn’t just settled on a slightly smaller size so they’d fit aboard the Ranger class scout. I actually have to upsize the heavy octagonal doors a tiny bit too. I may have originally based them on the size of the exterior docking ring doors when I first inserted them, which I’ve since realized are actually considerably smaller in height.

      I’ve always wanted the Clydesdales in here, that being one of the reasons for such large maintenance alcoves, but I’ve only ever downloaded a couple of those models available online, and have chosen not to use them in my posted works. I’d much rather build one of those myself, since it’s one of those things I’m certain I could do on my own. I Just need the time and impetus.

  3. Hey, buddy. Are you alright? Long time and no see and all that.

    • Hey guy. Yeah, doing pretty ok. But with my new job, the holidays, and my general winter funk (only exaserbated by “polar vortexes”) , I haven’t had quite enough time to work on my 3D of late, much less anything to post. Thanks for checking in though. 🙂 I’ll try and get back into things as soon as I can.

  4. No worries. 🙂 Yeah, the winter months always tend to get me down as well.

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