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Vertical Intermix Chamber

 I've begun work on the vertical intermix chamber, and am pleased with the results.  Lighting is a bit of an issue, especially the support slats surrounding the glowing tube.  They aren't lit as well as they should be, and are coming out too dark.  Hopefully I can find a solution soon, as lighting compile times are nearing the 20 minute mark due to so many things casting shadows.


Main Engineering Work Continues....Slowly

The main infrastructure of the vertical intermix monitoring section is done, and extends 7 decks.  In the Star Trek universe, it actually extends a number of decks more, but for frame rate purposes I'm only doing 7, with one deck above main engineering and 5 decks below. This does, however, fit into what we see in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

  Progress is slow, but rewarding.  Going for a very stainless steel look to everything.   Working next on the intermix chambers themselves.


Main Engineering: Construction Begins

With the Transporter Room of the Refit Enterprise nearing completion, I've begun work on Main Engineering. This is the result of two days of building the framework in 3ds Max and laying it all out in UDK.


Transporter Console

Worked out the transporter console today.  A very unique shape that provided somewhat of a challenge, but I got it done nonetheless.  I ended up having to light the console by vertices instead of a UV lightmap due to some lighting artifacts that ended up on the console's angled edges.  A little less detailed lighting, but better than it was with the artifacts.

One advantage of using a game engine for this project, rather than traditional rendering, is that I can make consoles blink in real time, further immersing the player.  I will try to upload a video soon.

 Also added the "Caution" sign in the transport chamber.  This is the version of the sign seen in The Wrath of Khan.  The version that appeared in The Search for Spock was square, and added "No Smoking" to the list.

(Forgive the horrible image compression.  I guess it's a result of using's own image uploader.  I should upload and link to my flickr page in the future)


Transporter Room Floors

The floor of the transporter room wasn't as much of a challenge as I thought it would be, thanks to a great blog article written by Basil on his similar project's blog, Star Station Computer Art.  While I had noticed that the vacuum-formed "greebly wall" panel that was used as the floor was also used several times throughout the original Trek movies and TNG, Basil compiled a lot of great reference material on his blog that allowed me to build this static mesh as quickly as possible.

This particular image served as my main reference image in MAX.  What a godsend.

Took me about 4 hours to build this tileable static mesh in 3ds Max.  Luckily I had some great reference material.

Building it took a while, yes, as I'm still new at Max.  Also, I wasn't sure if Unreal3 would handle all the polygons without frame rate taking a punch.  I once tried the same thing in Quake III, with a lower poly model, and frame rate plummeted.  However, my initial tests in Unreal3 have shown that it can handle far more polys than Quake III, and after tiling this mesh 8 times within the floor of the transporter room (adding ~40,000 polys), frame rate has dropped only a negligible amount.

 Here are the results, which turned out rather nicely with specularity and a ambient occlusion map added.


Normal Map Wonders

Of course, gaming engines can't handle the high poly count that traditional rendering can.  Therefore, I was challenged with the walls of the Transporter Room.  I could have built the wall panels as a high-poly static mesh, but I wasn't sure how much frame-rate would suffer.  Also, making a nice and neat lightmap so that it would light correctly would've been a nightmare.  So I finally gave baking normal maps a shot.

I built the high-poly mesh in 3ds Max, and then baked the mesh over a few flat wall surfaces, each composed of only two triangles.  I then imported the static meshes into UDK, worked some magic with the material's specular and normal channels, and voila!  I'm rather pleased with the results.  The only down-side to this, of course, is that at extreme angles, the illusion of depth is destroyed.  But I figure that's a nice trade-off for low framerate and hours making neat lightmaps.

This is why I love UDK.  I know normal maps have been in use in the gaming industry for quite some time, but doing such a thing in Quake III was impossible.


Transporter Room Work Begins

 Been working for several days now on the Refit Enterprise Transporter Room.  Still learning the ins and outs of 3dsMax and UDK as I go.  Here I'm showing off some reflections.  Still lots of detailing left to do, mainly the floor and walls.

More to come soon!


Refit Enterprise Corridors

I’ve started with the corridors for the Refit Enterprise project.  This is my first go at Unreal3, UDK, and 3ds Max.  Unreal3 is the gaming engine I’m using.  Unreal Development Kit, or UDK, is the level editor for Unreal3.  And 3ds Max is, of course, where most of the 3D architecture and static models for UDK levels are built.  I’m still getting used to creating everything in 3ds Max, as opposed to using Quake III where BSP geometry is used for the majority of the architecture.  So far, the most frustrating part has been laying out UVs for lightmaps.  So much time has to go into getting them right, or ugly light artifacts will appear on the models I’ve spent so much time creating.
In the Star Trek universe, these corridors were originally built for the never-produced Star Trek: Phase Two, and then were redressed to serve as the corridors for the original six movies and The Next Generation. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the interior of the Enterprise was very bright and clean, with muted colors.  When Nicholas Myer was brought on board to direct Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, he gave the sets of the Enterprise a darker, more gritty and militaristic feel.  While it didn’t have the “used” feel of Star Wars, it reflected the epic space battles that took place in The Wrath of Khan.  I’ve always liked Trek episodes like Balance of Terror and Mirror Mirror the most, where a more militaristic Enterprise was depicted.  Therefore, I am choosing to model the interiors of the Enterprise after Nick Myer’s darker version over the bright and clean version depicted in The Motion Picture.
Also, The Wrath of Khan, as well as The Undiscovered Country (also directed by Nicholas Myer, who this time changed the Enterprise-A to a darker militaristic tone), featured more signage and greeblies on the bulkheads and equipment, thus adding more visual interest.  At first, I built this corridor without and signage or greeblies.  After adding some details, it definitley made a difference.  Check it out by viewing the two screens below (click on the images to see the full-size versions):

Creating each corridor segment in 3ds Max took some time, but overall everything looks better than it did in an earlier attempt using the ancient Quake III engine.  The top image is the area built with 3ds Max, rendered by Unreal 3.  The bottom image is the same segment of corridor built in Quake III using BSP geometry.  See the difference?

Closer to the door.  This corridor would go on to be seen time and again on the Enteprise A and the Enterprise D.

The directory sign to the right is a result of taking somewhat of an artistic license.  It is inspired by graphics in Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise by Shane Johnson, which were designed by Lee Cole.  To my knowledge these graphics were never seen on screen.  However, you can make out a directory sign pointing towards “EXOBIOLOGY” (to the right of the sprinting Kirk) in this screencap from The Wrath of Khan.  I used the blue color scheme of the sign and applied that to Lee Cole’s graphics.

 I just spent the last few hours creating this fire extinguisher.  Got some good experience baking normal and ambient occlusion maps in 3ds Max as a result.  Check it out.

The extinguisher was of course seen in the corridors and on the bridge in The Wrath of Khan, but screencaps didn’t reveal much detail.  Luckily, I found some reference images from


This was the yellow version of the prop, which had added details over the ones seen in the corridors.
Well, that’s it for tonight!  I’m planning to start work on the turbolift soon.  Thanks for viewing!

Welcome Aboard!

For those of you familiar with my work, you may be pleased to know that you can now follow my work here at my blog, Rigel 7 Studios!  I'll post any work I'm currently doing, hopefully on a daily basis.

If you've kept up with my work in the past, you may know that I've always worked with older game engines like Mysteries of the Sith and Quake III.  Well, after becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations of those engines, and realizing that in order to make my projects looks as good as possible, I've decided to move on to the Unreal3 engine.

I've been learning the new engine for about a month now, and I have to say it's been somewhat of a slow process.  Learning 3ds Max and the UDK editor at the same time is frustrating, mainly due to the new user-interfaces.  But the options and possibilities are amazing!  Things like post-process effects, normal maps, specularity, bloom, DOF, etc are all new to me.  Although it's been a tough learning experience, it's been thoroughly rewarding as well, as I unlock more of the Unreal3 Engine potential each day.

I plan on rebuilding all my previous projects in Unreal3, including the Virtual TOS Enteprise, the Virtual Enterprise D, and the Death Star map. But for the time being, I'm starting by constructing a new project, the Virtual Refit Enterprise (as seen in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan).  Stay tuned for screenshots!