I downloaded Blender 3.0.0 when it was recently released and thought that I would try it out. A space scene seemed like a viable trial covering some of the aspects of Blender that interest me, especially as I had been doing something similar in Unity about a month ago. So this post is about that bit of experimentation.
Background – the Unity piece
Twenty years ago, before I entered the world of team management, I was a programmer pure and simple. This year I decided to refresh my skills by undertaking some of the free C# courses run by Unity Learn. Part of the programming course involved developing a game. For me, that soon transformed into making a short animation – planets passing a sun. In doing this I learned to make planets rotate, two of the planets being gas giants. I coloured them in my traditional manner, which was making textures in Photoshop and then applying them.
Given that the planets were small and distant objects in my scene, this was not an issue. The thing was, I became confident at moving objects.
Blender – conceptualising the space scene
I wanted a spaceship in front of a gas giant in front of a sun. It was that simple.
If you follow me on Twitter then you know that I despair of my spaceship design skills. Here are two of my earlire ones that I really dislike.
So I asked myself “what can I do to improve my spaceship design?”. Eventually I came up with the decision to make starship modules, each in their own Blender file, and use these as assets that I could combine to make spaceships.
The first thing I designed in Blender was a pointy “main” body. I wanted it to look sharp and fast like a bird. I then created numerous engine types of all shapes and sizes. Also wings. And once I had about a dozen components, I started playing with the configuration until I found one I liked.
NOTE: It was while creating these component’s that I discovered a brilliant free add-on called Discombobulator. It creates greebles – all those meaningless little shapes that cover a surface making it look futuristic. All you need to do is activate it in your preferences, select the face of an object and add it under mesh.
The blue power at the end of the engines are just stretched spheres with an emitting light source.
At first I did as I always did: create a sphere and add a texture. Close up it looked really, really fake. So I made the decision to create a procedural material and, luckily, there were quite a few Blender artists on YouTube willing to show me how. The one I gained most from was theMatttVB with this. However, I did modify slightly and this was my final material:
Once applied, this is how the planet appeared:
The Cosmic background
I also wanted a beautiful starry background. To achieve this I followed the tuturial here by BFXWORKS. So to expand the above pic and see the gas giant set in the heavens…
The system’s sun
The sun was merely a sphere with the following material nodes:
Deciding upon placements
This was my first layout:
You will note that I had added a cream light to strike the gas giant from the front left and a low powered blue light to strike its rear. I felt it was an OK picture, but that I could do better. Hence the next arrangement:
Actually, I like this one, it has an anime feel to it. Then:
You can see that I used Photoshop to add lens flares. I also rotated the planet to make the most of a lovely seam of colour. But there was still something missing.
A space station!
The Space Station
I guess that this is where my Blender skills suddenly lurched forward based upon everything that I had done in making the space ship. I decided to use the smae approach and create a module library and see what fitted together. What you are about to see was done in under half an hour, and it astonishes me that this was the case.
The centre core is simply a cylinder where I subdivided it along its length and changed the width at different spots. I then picked two parts of its length and applied teh discobobulator so as to add greebles. Around this I applied two other objects. Both were created using a gear mesh (another free addon). For the top gear I expanded the lengths of the spokes evenly and applied the discombobulator. For the bottom gear I deliberately stretched the length of the spokes in varying amounts – some long and some short – and again applied the discombobulator. Voila!
So this is it.
I feel that I now have a wonderful group of assets with a lot of potential for reconfiguring to create more pictures. Already I am picturing closeups of the space station with the space ship and all other manner of layouts. So I am quite happy.
Thanks for reading and I hope that some of you got something out of this.