Modeling the SpaceX Dragon Capsule

Dragon Capsule Over Mars

Dragon Capsule over Mars

As I work to improve my graphic modeling skillset, I move closer to jumping back into 3D rendering software development.

I’ve done it before… Writing a rendering engine, that is. I wrote the software renderer used to render the original “Living Mars” images, along with a lot of elevation models that came out of jDem846. I also used that code to generate a lot of the 3D assets (displacement, normals, etc) used in PlanetMaker and my current modeling projects. That code was written in Java and somewhat adapted from the Mesa3D project, but in such a way that it was very specific to the elevation modeling package it was embedded in.

Because at the time I had no 3d modeling experience, the renderer in jDem846 was very much designed to be programmatically utilized, much like OpenGL, rather than user-built meshes and materials. So I took a step back. I learned Blender3D. I’m learning Autodesk Maya. I’m trying to get my hands on a copy of RenderMan. And as I learn these suites, I’m also looking deeper than their user interfaces. To peer into their internals, to get an understanding of their thought processes, I get insight into how we go from a bunch of nodes to a rendered image, and from an image to an animation. It’s not an easy concept, and it’s an interesting mental exercise trying to mentally trace rays through glass and volumes, and perform flame simulations in a way that doesn’t take a hundred years.

Dragon Capsule over the Gulf Coast

Dragon Capsule over the Gulf Coast

So, I’ve been practicing. I’ve been creating animations for the “Guide to Space with Fraser Cain.” I’ve also been making models of varying Space themes (my field of interest/to keep me interested). So, this practice model is the SpaceX Dragon Capsule soaring above Mars in a scene that would probably make Elon Musk happy. Modeled and rendered using Autodesk Maya with postprocessing in Photoshop.

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