Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In Memory of Ernst Heinkel...

As a young engineer in WWI, Ernst designed for the Hansa-Brandenburg aircraft factory. The design for the W-12 (shown here) was alledgedly sketched out on a beer coaster after work as he tried to explain his concept to another engineer. The most notable thing about its appearence is the inverted rudder that hung down to allow a clear field of fire for the rear observer/gunner.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Guns of Late March...

Still delighted with the new WWI flying game: "Over Flanders Fields"; good white-knuckle flying over the Western Front. The one frustrating aspect of the games is that, on top of the basic difficulty of bringing your guns to bear on a tiny, distant airplane, the AI engine allowed you to pump bullets endlessly [or so it seemed] into a plane...and it just wouldn't go down. Smoke? Yes...and lose bits and pieces. But last night I downloaded 'the patch'. Mainly it seems to affect the look of things, but it also adjusted the effectiveness of your guns. Now my .30 cal. Maxims and Spandaus shred wings like Browning .50's. Now it's a whole new game in the skies above Ypres.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hunting the Hun, with gun and camera

Just got a long-awaited WWI flying game: 'Over Flanders Fields'. And well worth the wait. Great graphics. Really good selection of planes to fly. Variable weather, seasons, time of day. If you fly historical missions, you can pick a date, say, August 1916, and only planes current at that time are available. There's a massive library of skins if you want to fly a plane that really existed, or, you can design your own. [which I shall do when I get to playing the German side] It can, however, be extremely frustrating. The developers [and most of the players, from what I can gather] are 'realism nuts'. This means that no effort was spared to make the planes in the game handle as they did in real life...so well that over half the planes available to you are balky, unreliable and slow, with utterly vicious flying characteristics. You can spend an incredible amount time just recovering from stalls...only to immediately do it again. But choose wisely, and there's hours of white-knuckle flying to be had. Then I installed FRAPS; a little utility that does video screen capture. Now dramatic moments can be saved. I can spend a heart-pounding afternoon locked in bloodless combat, then kick back in the evening and watch my 'greatest hits'. Life is full.

Monday, March 09, 2009


The previous entry only allowed the five...here's the last.

The duel between Hawker and von Richtofen is one of the classic encounters of WWI. The squadron of which Hawker was a member had attacked two German recon planes. Seeing more Germans above, the Leader elected to break off, but Hawker had spotted several more Germans below and dived to the attack. He ended up one-on-one with Manfred von Richtofen. They duked it out for for a very long time. One source said 35 minutes, which I find hard to believe; ten minutes being an eternity in dogfights. In any event, the two were well matched and neither could get the upper hand until Hawker, realizing that he was nearly out of fuel, made a break for his own lines. He was only 50 yards short when von Richtofen got the angle on him and killed him with two rounds, one striking him in the head. Ironically, only seconds later, von Richtofen's guns jammed.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Hawker and von Richtofen

A long-standing desire to model some WWI airplanes bubbled to the surface and this [an Albatros DV.]is the first half of a digital diorama. The second half will be Maj. Lanoe Hawker's DH-2. Some liberties will be taken, no doubt, starting with von Richtofen flew a D III, not a DV. [for the gimlet-eyed among us.]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thursday, February 05, 2009


One of several establishing shots for 'The Sentinel'. It's an automated re-supply drone that periodically turns up with everything our guy needs to survive [tho' not always when he needs it.] He has sardonically dubbed it the 'Mail Packet' because it never brings any. No letters. No requests for reports. No orders. Nothing. He feels, not without reason, that he's been lost. Or, the war has been lost and the system is running on 'auto'. Or, worse yet, the war has been won and only his file has been lost. He finds much support for both positions, but no resolution to either.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Building some landscape here that can be shot from various angles.


Actually, getting the snow to fall was the easy part, the trick was getting them to bounce and flutter as they came down. That too, was pretty easy, but only after a few hundred failures...or so it seemed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009


A few refinements: first, a better slouch in the saddle. Makes it look like he really could sleep on duty. Which he does. Second, a 'chin light' under the X-Machine. It will usually be off, but occasionally it will click on and scoot ahead scouting the best path through the jumbled landscape of Kibble XXI.


Basically a walk test, but also a chance to play with lighting. Since Kibble XXI is at the edge of the universe, and lit mainly by the 'sunlight' from the last Red Dwarf star, objects will tend to be strongly lit on one side, and pretty dark on the other.


A test of Particle System snow that worked pretty well. The flake size and speed are just about what I was hoping for, but I need to add a bit of turbulence to make the flakes flutter more convincingly to the ground.


Here's a little test piece for The Sentinel. On the spitball asteroid/planet where he is stationed, (Kibble XXI) there are only two life forms. One, a tiny flying thing which looks like a cross between a bat and a sparrow (not designed yet) and scoots around in middlin'-sized, fast moving flocks, and large, placid, stupid-ish beetle(even by beetle standards)that crawl around in the high, snowy peaks gnawing lichen off the rocks. Mostly, only their backs show through the snow and they look like modest-sized, black, shiny boulders...except that when Beast approaches, the boulders start to back away.(no legs are seen). If Beast and Rider get too close, a frightened beetle will rear up on its hind legs and make formalized threat gestures. Occasionally, Beast will just dip his head and inhale one of them.

Sunday, August 24, 2008



One night while surfing the web looking mainly for Civil War submarines, I stumbled onto a series of links dealing with "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" One of these was devoted to visualizing what the 'Nautilus' actually looked like. It seems that Verne, while giving a lot of details, left a lot to the imagination. And then there was the interior: when constrained by the actual dimensions given, it quickly becomes clear that the rooms could not be the grand Victorian vistas we saw in the Disney film. [Big surprise that!]
One of the pages was given over to enthusiasts who tendered their own interpretations, some 2D drawn, some 3D. As I could never stomach the over-done Disney version of Nautilus, this is my effort. I did, however, omit one salient feature: there are no observation windows on the sides of the hull. My bad.
You will note, on the topside after deck, a vertical pole. I had intended to remove it [Oversight#2] but as things turned out, it was for the best. That pole represents a 6' person. Suddenly, the Nautilus shrinks down and becomes just another cramped submarine...tho' in Vernes time it was, no doubt, a monster.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Farm Cart...

Part of the castle & town design involved buildings and things in it. Which led to the Farm Cart. It was the mono-wheeled cart that later became the mono-wheeled locomotive [below]...and 'Beast', from "The Sentinel" [a smaller cousin, actually.] got drafted to pull it.

The Castle On The Headlands...

This sequence is part of some exploratory design done for an animated children's film. Step#1: The Castle. I wanted to avoid the round towers/pointed roof style of Disney. I started square-edged and sorta' Romanesque and then it started growing until I had a medieval hill-town. I added a rolling-hill landscape and where it intersected with the default ground plane, I suddenly had water and a shoreline. That begged for ships and off-shore rocks...and a harbor for the town.

The tale was written, and takes place in the 1880's...the heyday of fanciful heavier-than-air flying machine design. But proto-dirigibles were getting off the ground, and hot-air balloons had been around for some time. I urged the inclusion of flying machines as a everyday, normal-as-birds-in-the-sky event, and, where it would not contradict the storyline, used to ferry the characters on their travels.

This post is two seperate renders, edited together. Thus, in the second half, with Bill's multi-colored balloon, the ground is much darker.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Immortal...

An age ago, or so, my most favorite of the underground cartoonists, Vaughn Bode', did a one page, four panel strip with two mice; one large, one small. The big one explains that his buddy has been part of a medical experiment to combat aging. The little guy nods agreeably, and in the lasr panel says, "Hey, I just might live forever!" Then the cat gets him.

In '94, as I was getting computer literate, I was sitting in a 3D class, and thought that strip might work with an exotic fish ticking off his fine points and concluding the same, until he gets inhaled by a bigger one that emerges out of the gloomy depths. 'Seemed doable. Remember, in 1994, 3D programs didn't have 'bones' and unlike machine things, organic creatures were nigh impossible to articulate. But I figured I could build a fish and get him to drift and hover in front of the viewer while he monologed.

As time went on, and I worked with different programs, I kept coming back to this simple, short piece. Now, with Animation:Master, it's near completion. It lacks only the lip-sync dialog...which draws closer every day.

So...bear in mind as you watch, that he's explaining how he's got it all figured out, that he is the absolute pinnacle of creation, and...'Hey! He might just live forever."

Early [very] animation test...

A tester piece which is about eight years old. The landmark here [for me, anyways] was making tank treads move. Each tread had 30 plates. Each plate had to be moved to a new position 30 times to go around once. A total of 900 seperate operations. Happily, once the tread was done, it could be copied and duplicated.

Things in orbit...

This is 'The Sentinel's' neighborhood: so far out on the rim of everything that there is scarcely a star in the sky. Look back over your shoulder, and there's only blackness. This was done as an opening 'establishing' shot, as we arrive on Kibble XXI, as the credits scroll.

Shatter test...

Building an expolsion. Never used.

The Sentinel II...

Another look. In this case, a fly-around of Beast with his saddle and equipment. There is a home base [insignificant as it is] for sleep and shelter, but most of our hero's days are spent in the saddle checking various monitoring devices. Making the rounds is mandatory and there are autonomic devices that make life unplesant if he fails to clock in at any station.

The Sentinel...

This is a project that just won't go away. I originally drew 'The Sentinel' somewhere around 1980 when I was involved in underground comics. It centers on a trooper who has been wounded so many times in a long, protracted inter-galactic war that he is as much machine as he is human. Deemed unfit as a front-line soldier, he is shunted off to a spit-ball planetlet on the edge of the universe to watch for the enemy. He has no name, and scarcely any function, except to watch the sky. He receives spare parts, food for him and 'Beast', etc., but no communications. No orders. He has no idea of how the war is going. If his side has lost, how could he ever know? Conversely, maybe they've won...and forgotten about him. He broods. But there are times at which he pulls himself together and affirms that all will turn out well, headquarters knows what they're doing, the enemy will come through this sector, he'll sound the alarm...and be a hero. But his confidence always founders on: "Why don't I ever get any mail?"
After comics, I shifted over to 3D modeling. The Sentinel [and Beast] have been modeled [and re-modeled] several times. One of these days, all the [steadily accumulating] pieces will come together in a six-minute animation. [or thereabouts]

Caustics test...

Underwater lighting test...

Quick 'Run' sequence..

Swimming Tester_01

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Son of "...Zounds!!"

A second view of the locomotive.


A 12 sec. landmark in its own right, this little animation is the first with music and sound FX. Now...on to lip-sync!

Friday, May 09, 2008

...Run Through The Jungle...

The chase, depicted here, crystallized out of pieces [ the Single-Wheeled Engine, my desire to build a jungle, even 'EL Cucaracha' himself...] each of which had its own genesis in thready, wooley daydreams. Just who "EL Cucaracha is, or what he's up to, is far from clear. Similar with the folks chasing him, tho' I suspect their reasons are good ones. I have no idea of the eventual end, but the trip is a fun one. I expect that we'll see a role for the Santos-Dumont 14-bis [see below] and, mayhap, the Caproni CA.60.

All the clips that comprise this 60 sec. [approx.] are in a state of flux. Smoke and steam have to be added to the engine in all frames. There will be an Engineer and Fireman. 'Bugg' needs to be smoothly animated. Trees and jungle will be moved around. This rough-cut is something of an animated story-board. A series of shots, each done for its own sake, arranged to see if I have the beginnings of a visual chase narrative.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the Santos-Dumont 14-bis

The Santos-Dumont 14-bis [14th attempt, 2nd variant] 'flew' in September 1906...a flight of 23 feet; dismissed as a 'powered hop'. However; it still poses a tenuous claim to 'first'. Technically, the title of 'first heavier-than-air powered flight requires the aircraft to take-off from the ground without assistance, and the Wrights were using a drop-weight to drive a small trolley that the Flyer rested on. [ by the same reasoning, Langley's catapult attempt from a houseboat wouldn't have counted either, though his claim would be greatly strengthened if the 'aerodrome' had flown instead of taking a header into the Potomac River.]

It's hard to say if the Wrights dogged resistance to wheels lasted past September 1906 since they were doing little or no flying at the time. They were keeping everything under wraps until they locked up their patents. [also, they were pestered by a very curious, though disbelieving, press.] The Wright Brothers consistently come across as businessmen, first and foremost. In contrast to Europe, they show little sense of the joy-of-flying.

In any event, 23 ft. is a slender reed to support such a large 'First'. The early pioneers were drunk with the notion of flying, at least in Europe, and by 'flying', they did not mean 23 ft. They meant to soar like eagles. [ In fairness to Santos-Dumont, he did considerably longer flights in the suceeding months.] One historian posed a reasonable benchmark for 'first': namely, that the airplane should lift off under its own power, fly a quarter mile, do a controlled turn, fly back, turn again and land, i.e., fly a closed loop under control. So the Wrights claim is probably safe for a while yet.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Grand Day Out....

This little pastiche of the Santos-Dumont's No.6 Airship in action was modeled and rendered in Animation Master v.15 and edited together in Sony's 'Vegas Movie Studio'. Blogspot balked at the file size, so I reduced Color Depth from 'millions' to 256. This gave the unlooked-for, but not wholly unpleasing, posterized/comic book look.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The first of many

The Caproni CA.60: a nine-winged, eight-engined behemoth designed to shuttle 100 passengers between Italy and America. Built, flown once, and crashed in 1921. Reportedly, it got about 60 ft. off the water, then pitched nose down and crashed. A shift of internal ballast is suspected. A mysterious fire detroyed the wreck before restoration could start.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Mata Grosso train station

First post

This site will be a running account of my 3D modeling and animation. I use Animation Master (version 15) to create my works. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.