Work in progress #13 shows the Enterprise sporting what I hope is her final coating for the upper primary hull. After several weeks of experimentation I wound up with what you see here, which was achieved with use of OctaneRender’s “Universal Material” as a starting point. The hull is 20% metallic, with normal, bump, and roughness maps applied both to the base metal layer and the thin glossy coating atop the metal. Variations in specular reflectivity were achieved by applying eight different copies of this base material to randomly selected hull panels, with slight variations in IOR (index of refraction) for the metal and the glossy coating.
I could keep worrying this forever, but going down that rabbit hole is what sunk previous efforts on this project. I’m not 100% satisfied with what you see here, but it’s awfully close:
- The Enterprise is made of metal. I didn’t want her to look plasticky, and she definitely doesn’t in this iteration.
- No aztec-ing! The irredescent coating seen on the refit Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture inspired a million Trekkies to try applying the movie starship’s unique pearlescent coating to their 18″ AMT models (and later, their CGI models of the Big E), and I was certainly one of them. But that’s not what the 60s Enterprise looked like on the small screen, and that’s not what the studio model sitting in the lobby of the Smithsonian looks like, either. What you see here is my compromise: she’s still gray (I’m still debating whether to adjust the base color to the vaguely green color of the studio model), but there’s a very slight variation in the paneling that adds visual interest, implies that the hull is composed of thousands of panels (which, in the CGI model, it definitely is!), and hints at what Trekkies would see on the silver screen for Christmas 1979. The pattern of the plating variations, though, is semi-random, and definitely is not anything regular or repeating like we see on the ST:TMP Enterprise.
- Do it the Octane way. A traditional CGI model would have a ton of color, specularity, roughness, luma, bump, normal, etc. maps applied to texture the outer skin. This one has three (normal, bump, and roughness), and two of them (the bump and roughness) are the same map with slightly different application parameters. Most of what you see here was achieved by leveraging the procedural tools in the OctaneRender toolkit, which makes it possible to render a 4K video like this in a matter of hours, instead of the days it would take a CPU-bound renderer to crank out a result.
TL;DR: It’s good enough for now. I’m still learning what OctaneRender is capable of, so I might revisit this someday, but for now, right now, it’s time to draw a line in the sand and move on.