View Full Version : Grand Space Opera 3D Entry: Rob Chapman

10 October 2004, 10:01 PM
Rob Chapman has entered the Grand Space Opera 3D.

Challenge Page (

Latest Update: Concept Sketch: sketch 19 ! (

an idea I was toying with, since I had such difficulty with the overall composition of an underground dig. this one was an open mine dig on another planet where the artefacts were unearthed or 'discovered'

10 October 2004, 10:16 PM
Hello all,

other inspirational 'Space Opera' authors on my bookshelf are Alastair Reynolds, Bruce Sterling, Ken Macleod, Ian M Banks, Robert Heinlen and of course Phil K Dick. how could I not enter?

its going to be hard starting this though with such an amount of inspirational themes and ideas. But often when reading these books, Ive just finished 'Revelation Space' by Alastair Reynolds, im thinking it would be great to have an escuse to visualise the 'operatic' vision of the author. Now I do, Thank you CG Challenge and may the force be with all who enter.

10 October 2004, 10:33 PM
for a start Idea I would like to somehow visualise an orbitital docking station with local system shuttles and 'lighthugger' deep space craft docked around a recently colonised world that had previously been inhabited by a much older civilisation, which happened to have been wiped out by a prior 'event'. The new colonists are keen to find out how and why... mmkay this is a brief synopsis of the plot to 'revelation space' by Alastair Reynolds, but heaven only knows where I can start with the visualisation of this... :hmm: onto the drawing board and back into the book..

10 October 2004, 11:20 PM
hey Tekano, nice idea u got there... i like the feeling of the story... r u gonna picture some kind of war or just show the great space invention of a very advanced civilization?... i could really see the docking station infront of my eyes... cant wait to see some concept drawings from u man...

10 October 2004, 12:16 AM
hi 3doid,

thanks for the question, its a good one! - this is the hard part of my visualisation, in the 'revelation space' story im basing this upon, the older civilisation (Amarantin's) who were originally on this recently human colonised planet had left various intriguing artefacts, which I was going to try and suggest somehow with un-natural structures or 'canals' like on mars heheh. Obviously I am going to have to differentiate this from the colonists structures in some way. I guess the colonists would need 'bio' spheres or artificial air and the original inhabitants wouldnt have..

Also the reason this race was 'wiped' out in the book was by a much older race called the 'inhibitors' who were lets say 'borg' like and had won an original universal war millions of years prior and had probed vast regions of the universe in anticipation of any fast growing space-fairing civilisations that eventually would spring up .

These 'inhibitors' had converted a nearby (in the Amarantin's solar system) nuetron star into a kind of 'calling card' for curious space travelling species to visit, at which point it would activate its own defense mechanisms, learn about that species and ultimately wipe them out entirely. This will be hard to visualise as in the book it was pretty far away from the colonised planet and only seen as a 'star' like say mercury is from earth. So some artistic license will have to be applied. :) my initial thought was to have debris in orbit but it would again be hard to differentiate visually that this was not the human colonist's own doings. My initial thought it to suggest some kind of larger death star structure but im going to have to think about this one. any suggestions are more than welcome! :thumbsup:

10 October 2004, 09:18 PM (

Composition elements test

10 October 2004, 09:22 PM (

Composition sketch 2

10 October 2004, 09:26 PM (

composition test

10 October 2004, 09:27 PM
um, anyone know why they appear so big?? these are meant to be thumbnail versions

10 October 2004, 09:40 PM (

composition test

10 October 2004, 10:00 PM (

composition and color test

10 October 2004, 10:03 PM
ah doh! they are oversized because I had them still at 100dpi from the scanner. sorted now at 72dpi. phew. a few more to come this is fun ive got my wacom out and everything :)

10 October 2004, 10:28 PM (

another thumbnail sketch photoshop added colour with a crab nebula image reference

10 October 2004, 11:17 PM (

concept sketch - color and satalite image + photoshop overlayed

10 October 2004, 11:48 PM
I am enjoying seeing the composition improve from sketch to sketch. The last one is most original, looking forward to the next.

10 October 2004, 12:06 AM (

composition sketch, photoshop colour in. trying to work out netting or atmosphere controls and protection from planet. also working out an idea from the 'revelation space' book with robotic taxi cable cars that clamber around the netting and cabling.

TiTaNiuM sAMuRa
10 October 2004, 12:27 AM
I REALLY like how you're experimenting with all of your ideas instead of plugging away on just one!

10 October 2004, 12:41 AM
heheh thanks Titanium, perhaps its because im still undecided on composition, the elements inside this and what points it is im trying to get across !! :scream: I do think its best to mess around at this stage before getting started on serious 3d final entry though, its harder to change things around so easily when its getting complicated. Also if I dont like what im doing or sold on it then I wont have wasted much time. im also working on dummy placement satalite and space images in photoshop atm moving things around to what 'feels' right. another one to come soon...

10 October 2004, 11:20 AM
Stumbled upon these in my google travels - great high res references for those doing planets on fire

visable earth Nasa (

10 October 2004, 03:50 PM
Rob, NASA has *LOTS* of really good reference stuff -- not to plenty of pictures from the space probes that can be used for bump or displacement maps!

I agree with you about the many advantages of testing out the composition before moving on to the next stage. (If my own traditional art skills were better, I'd probably be doing a lot more of that myself.) And it's really great to see someone so familiar with the major luminaries of the SF field. When I was at the Clarion West workshop in '96, one of my fellow students was Justina Robson, who has gone on to be nominated for several awards (including for her most recent novel, Natural History, with I gather has the kind of epic scale that would've made it great fodder for this contest).

Best of luck on developing your scene ... and nice to know there's at least one other XSI user in the contest!


10 October 2004, 02:08 AM
wow Nuclearman so you did some scifi stories yourself? yeah thats all I read is 'space operas' lately anyway, if I find an author that grips me I end up reading their entire collection of works. :) the only luminary ive mentioned that ive not read everything by is Asimov, ive read a few but they are quite dry and not as gripping as say ian M banks 'culture' work, which would have been my first choice if I hadnt just recently finished Alastair Reynolds 'Revelation Space'. Ive gone off Philip K Dick now ive read them all, and recently trying to do all of Robert Heinlens :) perhaps I have to read them all to get the author flushed from my system...

I think its best to do this kind of thing with the authors and your own inspired imagination still 'fresh' but usually there is no reason to go ahead and spend months working on that image. This challenge timing has a fair degree of synchronicity to it, for sure! im just having trouble juggling all of the elements together to get a single image that says what I want to achieve without being too confusing. thanks for popping by - myself, I havnt touched my wacom or a pencil in many years and am not concerned if my stuff dont look that great atm (thats pretty obvious from my feeble attempts so far heheh), its more the process and working out what I would *like* to do to pay homage to the great story and this challenge theme. so dont be scared to pick up a pen and scribble stuff down, its helping me from running up the wrong tree, so to speak. cheers!

10 October 2004, 05:48 AM
Yeah, Rob, I've actually got a few publication credits, though I don't generally work on stories anymore -- too busy trying to make headway on the multimedia novel that got me involved with computer graphics. As for reading tastes, I've read very little space opera; I tended to be influenced more by the old vanguard of "literary SF" (Harlan Ellison, Thomas Disch, etc.), though these days I read almost exclusively non-fiction: research materials for my novel. The last time I took a break to read some SF was back in January, when I finally got around to reading Joe Haldeman's terrific novel, The Forever War. Have read a few PKD novels, but I can't honestly say I've ever felt the need to read the full canon of an author's work. Anyway, I think I'll take your advice and use a sketch pad to work out some of the other designs for exotic alien spaceships -- that may just save me some time in the long run!

10 October 2004, 12:59 AM (

various image & photo references with photoshop painted over composition

Am still trying to work out the dynamics. I *DO* want to represent a sprawling space colony needing to support its own atmosphere on a peviously heavily damaged planet with an orbiting space station with large long-distance traveling space craft docked, and with the threat of whatever destroyed the previous civilisation hanging above. but im still not happy with the composition. also what im failing to get across is the previous civilisation actually ever existing beforehand. any pointers?

10 October 2004, 02:03 PM
Hey Rob, nice concept. I like it very much. If you will succeed to represent the new civilisation and Amarantin's artefscts one over the other into a natural loking manner, definitely your work will be a very nice one. looking to your sketches and considering all the Sci-Fi book and authors you`ve read I`m sure you will do a nice job. The perspective and the colours in the 6-th sketch are really nice. The sketch nr. 7 is nice too, but he ship is covering a great area, so you will have less space to show the ancient arthefacts. If the shipp will be rebdered in a realistic manner (using HDRI?), it will be a very nice one. The sketch nr. 5 is nice too, but the two big ships in the middle of the scene cut the image in two halfs. The sketch nr 8 has a lot of room to build the two civilisations (maybe a little to much?) and the sketch nr. 9 have greater outer spaces (bigger scale). I like the crater idea. In my opinion, for your your concept (the old and new civilisations) the best one is nr.8 and 9.
Looking forward to your WIP :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

And thanks for the visable earth Nasa link. It`s usefull.

10 October 2004, 08:13 PM
thanks Pro,

im still going to be working up sketches until im happy. looking at what you said and proverbally 'stepping away from the vehicle' I think what I best need is to have some kind of archealogical 'dig' going on. I also need to somehow combine the perspective of sketch 8 + 9, perhaps mentally shift the camera into the foreground of 9 to get more of a sense of scale to the colony and also allow more details of the colony and also of past civilisation to be made out in the exposed craters and perhaps have an abandonded alien city in rubbles part exposed also. it would be good to explore the pic a litttle bit and with such a huge resolution available i should hopefully be able to get some human interest around a dig in there somewhere. also am unsure about the neutron star being that way with the bright reds and blues, more subtle and menacing is needed and not looking as though it is in mid explode and venting massive amounts of gas like the pic reference I was using. For the ancient 'inhibitor' aliens I want to show a potential to destroy again but not mid destroy as it seems at the moment.


11 November 2004, 02:33 AM (

sketches for dig and machinery

11 November 2004, 02:35 AM (

just keeping busy in the sketch book :) lots of little sketches joined to one image

11 November 2004, 02:37 AM (

more composition testing

11 November 2004, 02:39 AM (

composition testing still

11 November 2004, 02:41 AM (

composition testing yet again

11 November 2004, 02:43 AM (

and some more tests.. im getting warmer

11 November 2004, 03:39 AM
Rob, in order to convey the importance of the events in your scene I think you need to pull your shot in close, right in amongst the astro-archaeologists (or whatever they're called), and focus on a key moment of discovery -- something that perhaps has indicated "this is a trap," so you can feature the horrified look of dawning recognition on the faces of the scientists. In film script terms, this would be "plot point one" -- a moment that changes the direction of the film. I haven't read the particular work you're referencing, so I'm not sure how closely you plan to stick to the novel in what you portray, but let's presume there's something about the artifacts (or the arrangement of key items in the scene) that gives a strong sense of "there's something not quite right about this" -- the precursor to that "OH ... MY ... GOD" moment.

The visuals that popped into my head when I read your synopsis about the planet being essentially a "lure" for other species was of this vast dig that has turned up skeleton after skeleton ... and all of these skeletons turn out to be arranged radially ... pointing in towards this weird alien artifact that the scientists have just uncovered ... and, in uncovering it, activated it, sending off some visible signal to the older Borg-like species. And the dawning look of horror on the faces of the scientists is that the alien skeletons they've uncovered are actually evidence of an assault on this signal device, trying to turn it off!

Anyway, the point of this bit of "imaginative apocrypha" being: I think the key to excavating an iconic image from the storyline you're working from is to key in on that image -- a "reaction shot," or whatever -- that best represents a plot-point in the novel. What you seem to have at the moment are a lot of nice sketches for some promising "space art," but your source material begs to have a dramatic moment brought to life ... and, in doing so, I think you'll stand apart from all the bits of eye candy the rest of us are feverishly working on.

However you decide to approach it, I can't wait to see how you manage some of the fx in XSI. Should be a real treat!

11 November 2004, 06:30 AM
Alot of concept work but im not sure what your making ...

11 November 2004, 11:22 AM

thanks for the pertinant advice, I have had the feeling that the 'eureka' moment for the archeologists does need to be potrayed. what im wrestling with is capturing an image of 'everything' in the scene. Yes in the book there is an artefact that is like a large black stone block with anient text that points to and describes the neutron star and there were alien skeletons found around, although not so dramatic as all pointing to the artefact :) good points you have made and was planning something in this direction already. my difficulty iis trying to portray this 'moment' alongside a growing space colony, on a devastated planet with near light speed ships docked overhead and the original threat above that! perhaps ive picked too complicated a scene and trying to capture this in one go is too hard for me. - although i havent given up yet or so easy. I also should concentrate on the foreground depiction to get that right then perhaps the rest will fall into place. its hard to get the perspective right for an underground hole whilst also trying to show a larger section of the planet and ships overhead. :)

vrhead - im not sure what im making yet, thats why im still 'conceptering'


11 November 2004, 03:55 AM (

ok cracked out the 3d program, trying to work out composition with default humans and simple shapes

Dirtmap render

11 November 2004, 03:56 AM (

trying to work it more

11 November 2004, 03:58 AM (

moving things around a bit

11 November 2004, 04:00 AM (

more tweaking. at least I can experiment with placements and camera angles a lot easier in this dimension :)

11 November 2004, 06:42 AM
This is a nice concept & progress!
Hope to see the other stages!:thumbsup:

11 November 2004, 06:55 AM
cool~ this is a cool way to play around with composition plus u will get perfect perspective~!

11 November 2004, 02:28 AM (

tried stuff out in photoshop moving stuff around

11 November 2004, 05:02 AM
Rob, I'm a bit confused as to what the light sources are in the scene. I assume there would be a need for artificial lighting in the excavation area -- ala the uncovering of the monolith on the moon in 2001 -- but other than that, you've got the neutron star and its companion, and what else? Maybe the key thing to doing the 3D prelims is to work out the lighting, as that may really dictate the composition.

01 January 2005, 03:37 AM
Rob have a happy new year! Keep at it. Try your hardest to get it finished.

01 January 2005, 09:01 PM
ive had terrible deadlines the last month, thanfully they are all dealt with, I have been thinking about this CG challenge though and trying composition sketches out, basically my problem is that I am trying to capture a foreground group of people who are essentially underground with their associated ships / machinery above ground, whilst portraying a vast city and huge spaceship in the distance !! ive reached the conclusion that I have bitten off way more than I can chew with this and didnt even get past the composition stage! :sad: so in the vain hope I might reach a submittal in the next 10 days or so I am going to concentrate soley on the foreground aspect in the composition and simplify everything down, this way it might reach a conclusion :) all the best to all !

01 January 2005, 09:10 PM
Hi there! Great concept. and nice colors on the last one. It looks very promising, so please hurry up! I would like to see this one finished:)

01 January 2005, 10:23 PM (

an idea I was toying with, since I had such difficulty with the overall composition of an underground dig. this one was an open mine dig on another planet where the artefacts were unearthed or 'discovered'

01 January 2005, 01:15 AM
running out of time man but you can do it.. GOGOGO!
looks like a perfict image for a book cover

01 January 2005, 10:03 PM
Hope you have time to finish this the ideas look really solid. Keep at it!

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