Here is today’s work in progress on the star of my project, designer Matt Jefferies’ signature masterpiece, the original USS Enterprise from Star Trek.
Modeling is about 85% complete. I still have the saucer-shaped primary hull’s interiors to build, and there are still some tweaks I need to make to the hangar bay at the aft end of the secondary hull. (This model, unlike my 2007 version, has an integrated hangar bay.) In parallel with the modeling, I’ve started texturing and lighting the Enterprise, and you can see some of those efforts in today’s work-in-progress image.
One of the many, many improvements in NewTek’s LightWave 2019 is how their shading model works with the radiosity engine, making it possible to finally have transparent and translucent objects that mimic real-world counterparts–diamonds, frosted glass, translucent plastics, etc. The Bussard collector domes on the forward end of each warp nacelle are an example of this new capability. The pair of frosted glass sand-colored domes on the actual studio model of the Big E (which is sitting 35 miles away from your author in the foyer of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC) each enclosed a rotating 12-vane “fan blade” (the star-shaped apparatus you see above). Each fan blade, in turn, was positioned in front of a radial array of old-fashioned Christmas lights (updated to LED technology by Smithsonian’s conservators during the model’s 2016 rejuvenation), meant to represent the awesome matter-antimatter power of the Enterprise‘s warp engines.
This model accurately replicates the original warp nacelle lighting effect added by the Star Trek production team circa 1966. Unlike my 2007 model, however, this time around the effect is produced without the use of LightWave’s time-consuming volumetric lights; every light source in the dome is an emissive material, not a light. This saves a tremendous amount of time when rendering (volumetrics are pretty but oh so slow to generate). In fact, there is only one light source–the “sun”–in this entire image. Every “light source” that you see on the Enterprise–the running lights, the interior rooms seen through the windows–are lit with emissive materials and not lights. This leap in the capability of LightWave’s lighting engine makes it possible to render this radiosity-enabled image at 4K resolution in under 8 minutes.
An image of this size and complexity would probably take over an hour on the old LightWave 9.6, where things like frosted glass and glowing lights had to be simulated with unsatisfactory (and slow) workarounds. LightWave is definitely not dead–NewTek has shown that there’s still life in Old Paint yet. Impressive.