Category Archives: Babylon 5

Interior decorating

As I’ve done most of the basic mapping on the office, i’m now going back round the scene and adding some more detail to try and bring it to life a little. One of the best bits of texture information i’ve ever come across is Leigh Van Der Byl’s ‘Texturing for Dummies‘ which is available for free from her website. Its filled with information rather than how to stuff which is far better as it explains much of the theory and a lot of it is pretty obvious but only once you actually realise it. While I was at uni there was a joke in our modelmaking class that modellers build things, paint them and then make them dirty. If you look at any of the work of Derrick Meddings (one of my childhood heroes) on things like Thunderbirds, all of the vehicles looked used and one Leigh’s tips include a lot about how things are brought to life by a story around the object.
With these in mind I’ve tried to add some story to the objects in the scene without making them look like they just got nicked from Fallout 3. So here are a few closeups on some of the objects in the scene.


The EA seal is one of the main focus points in the room full of grey and blue. It has a bronze metallic texture and i’ve tried to bring some of that loverly warm red that bronze can have along with a rough texture to the diffusion channel to help break up the smooth surface and give it some character.

The desk is directly below the seal and the work place of the commanding officer. As the CO would spend most of his/her time behind the desk (one of Sheridans gripes early in S2) its bound to be well used. To that end I’ve added a few scuff marks on the surface and a theres a coffee ring just to the left of the screen. A pointless detail (and one thats easy to remove as its on a different layer to the main texture) but it adds a small amount of humanity to the object. Maybe the CO couldn’t find a coaster under a mound of paperwork or maybe the desk was thumped a little too hard in frustration. Both things I’ve done countless time myself. Also the desk top itself is based on the S1 pattern, S2 has a more corrugated metal effect which looked like metal siding and is a horrible thing to look at.

The chairs have a gloss effect on the black part and matte on the fabric and a bit of a pattern on the blue. Nothing too exciting but its a chair.

The cabinet is right by the door, its a prime spot for getting bumped and knocked. To that effect I went nuts adding scrapes and scratches then after two hours of scuffing I realised I had gone a bit OTT and removed most 🙂 The main ones are a bit of a scuff on the side near the door and on the top where someone may put things on a regular basis, there are a few others which I will probably tone down once i’ve had enough looking at them. That applies to most of the weathering I do on stuff, I prefer to add loads and then take it back except in areas it works out.

Just ego trippin’

Tuesday dawns and not much time was spent on any form of technology over the Easter weekend. We had family round and the weather was too nice to be cooped up inside playing on the xbox, hammering at a keyboard or working away in 3d land but I have got some ideas to work on.

In the meantime, there is this from http://ifhgame.ru/main/:

Incase you can’t read it (I know you can but my ego requires further reinforcing) it says:

David Kirkby joins IFH team as 3D modeler!
And again, we proudly welcome the newest member of our team – David Kirkby! It’s always nice when more talented people joining our ranks! Together, we will make this whole thing worth the wait. Promise… 🙂

OK, enough of that, I had better crack on with the actual work. Look for updates soon…

Building Babylon

I’ve not been attending to this place properly for the last few weeks so what better way to give it a little TLC than to lift the lid on what i’ve been working on. A short while back I was contacted by Oleg Petrov of the Babylon 5 fan game “I’ve found her” who saw my nostalgic ramble about B5 earlier this year. In the most Awesome way, Oleg asked me if I would be willing to help out with some work on the project… Lets see… Do I want to work on a game based on one of my favorite TV series?

STUPID QUESTION!

The lack of 3d work related posts has been because I’ve been busy texturing like a loon. I should point out that the only thing I’ve built in the scene is the Earth Alliance seal behind the desk, everything else (all of which was very nicely modeled) was supplied to me and, apart from a little tweaking of the meshs to help with mapping, didn’t need anything doing to them.

Now funnily enough, I’ve never worked on a game before so I’ve had to do a bit of research to get things right here and I even had to go back and do a few bits over again as I picked up tips and worked things out along the way. I’ve always been very lazy with my texture work and tend to just slap a material on and be done with it but last year I really knuckled down and started to learn proper UV work. Its paid off but i’ve also learned a lot while working on this jobbie and I’ve probably spent 70% of my time so far on creating the UV’s for the objects.

Firstly has been my file format. I love TIFF’s and always work with those as a starter for textures and than crunch them down to something else i’m im trying to save space but i’ve realised I need to create things with TGA, a format i’ve always dismissed as aged but it does seem to be a popular game format. I’ve been working in TIFF then converting to TGA when I’m done on the texture.

Secondly, resolution. In an ideal world i could use 2k textures and be done. Thats not working here as i need to stay much lower meaning i’m restricted on my canvas so need to get every pixel worth and cheat with a few. I’ve had to really work with some UV’s to get a good texture and even then I’ve not always been happy

Thirdly, plain old stupidity. I know I’m dumb at times but I’ve made a few huge blunders on this. The biggest being that I thought I could just UV in zbrush and shunt back to c4d. Ohhhhhh nooooo. The desk chair was textured in zbrush and as soon as I went back to c4d I saw seams everywhere… Its didn’t help that I sized the textured down which must have played hell with the UVs. As I said earlier, I’ve learned a lot on this jobbie.

Talking of zbrush i still struggle with it. Probably because I don’t use it enough so I must make a real effort at some point to spend some time going through a few tutorials to get my head round it. I do like the lightbox tool for painting textures, sadly they all turn out a bit blocky due to texture size but they look ok once i’ve tarted them up in Bodypaint. I tried exporting some normal maps which worked really well apart from when I size the textures down (see earlier comment) so ended up ditching those in favour of bump maps.

(adopts best Londo voice) Time for some pictures yeeees?

These are quick renders from c4d’s view port, anything which is white hasn’t been textured yet (ceiling, sofa, viewscreen and I think I need to redo the wall lights, they look a little drab). Everything else has a colour map, diffusion map and some even have a bump. A few have specular and I need to finish those for each item then go back round and finish off the colour maps as I need to do things like add the panel lines in the wall. I’m not too happy with the colour of the side of the desk either, the more I look at it, the more it looks like its been posterized and it looks blotchy. I could do with toning down the contrast on the outside wall as well. I’ve never worked with specular much and its been an experience to read up on them. One big help was Flipz who has worked at Criterion and gave me some big hints over their textures and objects as used in game which managed to answer some questions that had been bothering me no end.

The devil is in the details as they say, and a bit of fun has been finding reference shots. While this is ‘based’ (heavy use of the word based here, its not B5) on the office at B5 its hard to pin down a correct design due to the set changing every season and sometimes even through the season. I’ve been watching B5 from the start and during S1 the office is decorated with a few stock ‘spacey’ photos on the wall behind the desk and Sinclair had a set of shelves with some photos and ornaments. At one point in the middle of S1 Sinclairs office suddenly gains a podium in the middle of it for one scene which he stands next to while having a very heavy talk with a Minbari. Its never seen again and its obviously just put in for dramatic purposes and demonstrates how loose TV series play with their sets to help the story. Comes S2 Sheridan suddenly gets some small trees and the space pics turn into what look like brush aluminum panels. Skip forward to when Lockley was running it in the River of Souls film era and the blue detailing on the walls are in different places, which probably changed due to the set being struck at the end of each season. The wall colour changes a huge amount as well but as the scenes are lit much brighter that may affect it. The floor is the biggest texture and was a bundle of laughs to get right. S2 has a totally different floor and I spent a couple of hours working on that and then changing it to the S1 era floor which I much prefer. The desk is S2 era, as Sinclairs was curved in an arc at the front. My take on this is that EA would have a contract with an office furniture supplier and the parts would be pretty universal.
I’ve dug through the books i’ve got on the series and the best one has been the long out of print B5 security handbook. While its mainly black and white, there are some good shots of the seal which I used for reference while modelling. Even my copy of the rather weird book ‘Dining on Babylon 5’ proved useful for some photos. (On a side note, this book goes for well over £60 these days, not bad for a novelty tome)

There is loads more to do but i’m pretty close to the end now. Its taken a lot longer than I would have hope to get this far but I am speeding up as I practice.