View Full Version : Grand Space Opera 2D Entry: Phill Smith

10 October 2004, 03:13 PM
Phill Smith has entered the Grand Space Opera 2D.

10 October 2004, 03:25 PM
I'm excited to be taking part in this new competition, I've seen some fantastic work come out of the CG Talk board since back at uni, but never felt that I had anything which would be of interest to the pros on board: I'm a graphic designer with a technical illustration background, a bit of 3d but my memory stretches back to Illustrator 5 so I think its going to be an Adobe mission!

So, to the mission: space opera to me is epic. Not epic in a 'giant robot' way, or even in a 'space ship' way, but epic in the sense that mankind could strive to create single moment, a balance point, where we hold in our hands the whole universe. Tools to rewrite stars, to peer in between the fractures in the dark emptiness to see what lays beyond our reality, machines that lever against the laws of physics themselves.

Should be interesting! See you tomorrow with a sketch (hopes).


10 October 2004, 08:13 AM (

This is just a little brainstorming session I churned out on the train yesterday, hence the crap writing. The general gist is that I did produce a concept as a result, so this is I guess more proof that I am actually doing something!

10 October 2004, 08:17 AM (

This is a rough sketch of the shape of the solar emitter. I intend for the final image to be WAY more than just a tech image of the emitter itself but its going to be useful to pin down a look early on.

10 October 2004, 08:32 AM
Time passes, mankinds knowledge and technology progresses to point where our continued survival seems a given. Species diaspora has spread our kin throughout the universe, whole galaxies could die and our race would drive onwards to infinity. With the continuation of the universe, so mans intelligence will continue, but, it seems, this may not be so certain.

Entropic decay was once thought to be the herald that would usher in the end of time, as all energy dissipated. In the end no stars would survive. However, entropy is slowing, stalling, and the stars, the furnaces of man, the source of all our kinds power, are burning less bright way before their time. Old stars whose planned novas will fuel generations do not ignite. New stars trip and fall before they even start. Reliant as they are on the decay of certain elements the fires of the stars are slowing. This periodic entropic stall is the beginning of a change which will render the universe useless to us. Decay will be replaced with growing stability, the exhalation of physics is over and the universe begins to breathe in. Our whole civilisation will be without energy.

Generations plan and implement an incredible plan; this universe wide change cannot be stopped, but it can be distorted, sped in the quiet places and slowed, halted almost in the systems that house our own descendents. This will be no simple feat though. Each protected star will need to be surrounded by an array of collosal emitters whose continued output is nothing less than a bubble in reality. Millenia to build, a hundred emitters for every single star, and whole galaxies of life to save.

Rebels, disenters say such a plan cannot succeed, but succeed it does. As thousands upon millions of years pass mind becomes adept at the epic.

10 October 2004, 09:18 AM
Good idea - Like it already. Good luck!

And keep those sketches comin'

10 October 2004, 01:06 PM
interesting stuff ... good design

would like to see more

10 October 2004, 01:50 PM (

This is the entropically stabilised sun, as rendered in Illustrator. The surface of the sun was produced in Photoshop with clouds, noise and spherize, and the rest of the image, the glow around the outside and the solar flares, is from illustrator.

The multi tonal corona was produced using two overlapping 'screen' transparency blends, the disk of the sun itself over this, then the flares (which are little gradient meshed rectangles, screened again) stuck on top of them, lining up with the highlights in the random surface of the disk.

Just before I saved and exported I decided to put an extra coronal gradients, which is just like a blurry ring over the top of everything, which nicely adds to the sense of distance. That's all I've got time for now, got to do some real work.

10 October 2004, 02:23 PM
I like the sun but it should have more flames sticking out like tentacles :D keep up the good work

10 October 2004, 02:32 PM
I considered putting some more 'crazy' flames in, but I have opted for a more photographic style. I think I might add in some looping flares at some point, the kind which flash out along lines of magnetic flux, but alas, time is tight at the mo, so this will have to be added in later.

10 October 2004, 03:56 PM (

This is the top view of the emitter lobes on the solar emitter, just thinking things through in Illustrator.

10 October 2004, 07:46 AM (

Still working on the look of the emitter array. This set of sketches is a composite of several pages of crap sketches. Notice also that there are a couple of little scamps of the overall image as it is starting to form in my mind.

(I\'m sure the more observant will have noticed that these sketches are totally analogue. I hope this isn\'t cheating. CG? Completely graphite!)

10 October 2004, 07:53 AM (

I decided that the image could use a couple of enormous ships being dwarfed by the emitter, and I figured that in order to continue the story of our reliance on the sun, then the ships would have to be powered by the sun.

So, the ships have a huge ion drive with four little ion drives to 'aim' the main drive and steer the ship, and in order to power these they will also have two massive solar panels, which mimic the structure of the emitter lobes. I intend to use the same kind of attachment to join the panels as the ...
actually, wtf, the whole point of the ships is that they are going to be tiny, so i think that a broad idea of their structure will suffice, who cares if they used cross head or allen bolts?

Ship nerd heresy!

10 October 2004, 01:49 PM (

This is another Illustrator test, this time of the starfield + nebula for the background. Lets face it, just black night and stars is so prehubble. I looked at another nice NASA shot, shown on the left in my test image and tried to match the feel of it. The stars are mainly a scatter brush zig zagged up and down with a couple of more detailed larger stars with a nice blend on them. The rest is all Illustrator trickery, gradient meshes, masks, doohicks and kerfuffle.

Hopefully I have got quite close to the realism of the photograph.

D pi
10 October 2004, 02:02 PM
You're working in Illustrator? Why? What are the advantages?
Also what did you manipulate in photoshop to get the texture..... a drawing? You managed to get an amazing sense of realism.

10 October 2004, 02:18 PM
Hi D Pi, thanks for your comments! The reason I'm working in Illustrator is... I love it! Its a real challenge as well to get the kind of organic realistic feel that this sort of stuff requires in what is essentially a very hard and mechanistic piece of software. The other advantages are the vector nature of the imagery, that I don't need to worry about resolution, I can make something, change my mind, it always stays 'live' and if I need to make it fifty times larger it won't lose definition (unless I want it to! ;-)

The texture of the sun was just made in Photoshop from scratch, clouds as a base, noise, gaussian blur, (repeat several times to get some depth) then glowing edges, more noise more blur, hue and saturation to colour it, levels, colour balance to pinpoint the gamut, then spherize. So, all in all a bit involved, but the thing about it that makes it compelling is that the spherize causes the centre of the ball to lose a little definition because it scales it up, this gives it a slight depth of field effect, which contributes to the depth.

Lets see where it goes from here!

10 October 2004, 02:22 PM
I admire your courage to work in Illustrator to make such an image. That program has always been headaches for me and I only use it for professional logos. People that use it to make complete images... wow.

Good luck in the contest!

10 October 2004, 06:32 AM
I have been working with Illustrator since '89. I have been able to achieve pretty realistic effect with illustrator. The upside about creating it in Illustrator you might ask? Well there's a few...since is vector based, the final piece is not restricted to resolution. It can be scaled to a large size...let say 40' and hold its integrity. Also depending of how the file is set-up, quick color changes are a breeze and colors can be set as spot colors (Pantone).

Here's an example what you can acheve in illustrator.
aiSample (

I consider it one of my best tools—BTW, no I don't work for Adobe.

More power to ya Phillsmiff, stuff is looking good. Keep it up. cLos :thumbsup:

10 October 2004, 09:49 AM (

This is a PRELIMINARY test of the structure of the emitter. (This is my way of explaining why its so naff. Trust me, it will get better.)

So, I'm basically thinking through how to build the nodes of the emitter, It looks like I will have to draw it in the finalised curved state rather than use trickery to construct it. (Darn!) Well, I've still got a few days left to work it out!

10 October 2004, 10:11 AM (

Scratch that last post, I did manage to work out how to construct the curved lobes, looks pretty nifty! Hoorah for Illustrator! I managed this by using an envelope distort to a mesh, but I only got this to work when I put a big circular back to the shape so that the three lobes were to the edge of the envelope.

10 October 2004, 01:14 PM (

I spent a bit of time toying around with the lighting on this, I think that the parts that are in shadow would likely be totally dark whilst the parts that are illuminated would be pretty shiny.

Now I just have to do the vanes of the emitter, I am thinking along the lines of a kind of stained glass dragonfly wing sort of thing... any ideas?

Shadow Seraph
10 October 2004, 04:55 PM
Impressive craft, reminds me of a great engineering designwork, per drafting and advanced mathematics... I say quite impressive :) Keep up the great work!:bounce:

10 October 2004, 06:49 AM
Your emitter concept is great... i especially like the organic almost insect-like feel for the first sketch. And props by the way on working with vector... thats hardcore. Looking forward to seeing your final piece:)

10 October 2004, 07:19 AM
There's a tremendous amount of thought that has gone into the backstory and the concepts - the thoroughness of your approach is quite evident. And you're going to use Illustrator???? You're a braver man than me! That emitter design is beautiful - a great piece of design - well thought out and executed.


10 October 2004, 07:31 AM
illustrator? Even paint shop pro is more useful ;)

Your drawings are quite interesting - maybe you could use them as part of your final work? Or maybe not, I'm not sure if you can do it with illustrator

10 October 2004, 07:51 AM
Thanks for your kind words guys, unfortunately the brain work with the story and the sketching is the easy part. I'll make no bones about it, illustrator is technically challenging, no doubt, but it is a powerful piece of software, especially in combination with photoshop, which is how I intend to use it on this project. But if you think about it, working in vectors like this is no more difficult than using Maya or Max or whatever, the way I see it is that you use the software to construct the image, the only difference is that the rendering engine is your brain rather than the computer. (so, alot slower then...)

The precision of it as well is something that I wanted to go for, the mechanical feel of the emitter needs to have that kind of sterile nasa feel to it, for a start anyway, then I can go in a rough it up a bit, make it a bit more realistic. I'll try and get some more imagery up on the board today too but Monday's Monday, so I'll probably have to do some real work too.


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