Forming the Main Landing Gear

I published my previous post a month ago, but the current stage of this project – detailing – requires less frequent reports. (Otherwise the posts would become rather monotonous: week after week they would describe making similar things, using the same methods). I started this last phase of the Dauntless project by recreating its main landing gear. First, I had to finish it, then I am able to write about this process. Thus I will describe it in this and next two posts. (I will publish them in a short sequence, week after week).

The retractable main landing gear of the SBD was probably a direct descendant of an experimental solution used in the Northrop 3A fighter prototype. In general, it looks quite simple:

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Figure 79-1 Main landing gear of a restored SBD-3

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Creating Textures: Tri-Color Navy Camouflage

In my previous post I finished the case of so-called “two-color” U.S. Navy camouflage, which was used between September 1941 and January 1943. You can observe on the archival photos that its non-specular Sea Gray / Light Gray combination was especially prone to weathering, and accumulated every grain of the soot and drop of the oil stains. Simultaneously the weathered Sea Gray paint became more and more white.

The new, “tri-color” camouflage, introduced in January 1943, fixed these flaws, and provided better protection on the vast, dark waters of the Pacific. You can see an example of this pattern on an SBD-5 from VB-16 (Figure 78‑1):

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Figure 78-1 Archival color photo of an SBD-5 from VB-16 (April 1944)

However, this historical photo has a technical flaw: its colors are “shifted toward blue”. You can unmistakably see this “shift” in the color of the bottom surface (it was Intermediate White). I was not able to correct this deviation, finding acceptable. Below you can see another photo of a SBD-5 from VSMB-231, which colors are more balanced (Figure 78‑2):

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Figure 78-2 Archival color photo of an SBD-5 from VSMB-231

Continue reading Creating Textures: Tri-Color Navy Camouflage

Creating Textures: Markings

The last texture for my model contains various elements that in the plastic kits are delivered as the decals: national insignia, radio-call numbers and various service labels. I prepared it as another vector drawing in Inkscape:

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Figure 77-1 “Decals” texture for the SBD-3 model (the reference drawing is visible in the background)

I exported this picture to a raster file named color-decals.png. It has transparent background, because I will combined this image with the other components of the color texture, prepared in previous posts.

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Creating Textures: Aircraft Skin Abrasions

It seems that Douglas used a high-quality paint for their SBDs, because I cannot find any trace of chips/flakes, even on such a worn-out aircraft as this from VSMB-241 (Figure 76‑1). However, you can see some scratches on the center wing, trodden by the crew:

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Figure 76-1 Scratches on the center wing (SBD-3 from VSMB-241, Midway, mid-November 1942)

In the photo above, the minor scratches are yellow, because Douglas used a yellow layer of Zinc Chromate primer below the camouflage paint. (The interiors were painted with another layer of the Zinc Chromate, mixed with Lamp Black to obtain a darker, greenish hue).

However, the larger area along the leading edge was often trodden to the bare metal, which you can see in the photo. This scratch has a typical, irregular band of the primer around its borders. In this post I will recreate these abrasions.

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Creating Textures: Color Map (2) – Weathering

In this post I will work on the weathering effects of the color texture, while in the next one I will add scratches and some other remaining details.

The weathering effects that you can observe on the aircraft from WWII era are quite “dramatic”. The paints used in mid-20th century were not as chemically “stable” as the contemporary coats, thus they could change their hues in few months of intense service. The archival color photos below show an extreme case of this effect (Figure 75‑1):

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Figure 75-1 Examples of heavy weathered aircraft

These photos were taken by Frank Sherschel on 14th November 1942, for the “Life” magazine. The SBD-3s depicted on the pictures belonged to VMSB-241 squadron, stationed at Midway in that time. Marines received these aircraft in July 1942, but all of them were already used before – most probably on the U.S. Navy carriers. I think that in November 1942 these SBDs had accumulated about 10-11 months of the war service. I will use them as an extreme case of the weathering. (It is always good idea to recreate such an ultimate case in the texture, because you can always make your model “newer” by decreasing intensities of the weathering layers. On the other hand, you cannot use more than the 100% of their intensities, thus you cannot make your model “older” than you initially painted).

Continue reading Creating Textures: Color Map (2) – Weathering

Creating Textures: Color (Diffuse) Map (1)

The color (also known as “diffuse”) map is the most obvious texture, which you can find on every model for games. In my models it is composed of three separate images: the camouflage, the dirt (stains, soot, etc.), and the markings (national insignia, tactical numbers, warning labels, and all other similar stuff). In this post I will compose the basic camouflage texture.

Some time ago I unwrapped the left side of this model (see this post, Figure 62-3). Now I had to complete this work, creating remaining elements of the right side, and unwrapping them on the UVMap layout. The final result looks like the model in Figure 74‑1:

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Figure 74-1 The right side of the model, mapped on the UVMap layout

For the precise mapping, I used here the color grid image, which I already used in my previous posts. Note the different square colors on the left and right wing, as well as the different letters on the right and the left tailplane.

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Creating Textures: Reflection Map (1)

I already finished the bump map (in the second-last post), so it’s time to introduce another texture: the reflection (ref) map. It alters the basic reflectivity (gloss) assigned to the material. In addition, it also alters the material “roughness”. (In the typical CG materials the roughness and reflectivity are coupled in an inverse proportion). These two parameters are important, when you have to paint an oil streak or a soot streak. Both are black – the difference between them lies in their reflectivity.

The effects of the ref map are most visible inside these areas of the model that actually reflect the light:

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Figure 73-1 The effect of the reflectivity map

Figure 73‑1 shows two renders of the same model: the upper one was created without any reflectivity map, the lower one uses a basic ref map. (I created this texture around the technical details of the aircraft skin).

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Seamless Joining of Two Objects

This post is a small digression about a modeling technique that you may find useful.

There is a detail on the bottom surfaces of the SBD center wing: an opening, made partially in the cover of the fuselage belly (Figure 72‑1):

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Figure 72-1 The detail that I have to recreate

The difficult part of this detail is its flange, stamped in the fuselage cover. I just have two photos of this element, both of average resolution. On both of them you can see a typical circular recession, made around the opening in the belly cover. In fact, such a feature is quite common in the sheet metal design (you can see plenty of such stamped flanges in various places inside your car). This is a minor detail, too small for any serious modeling, but too large for recreating it with the textures.

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Mapping Asymmetric Details of Aircraft Skin

Although the technical details of aircraft skin are symmetric in general, there are always exceptions. For example, look at the bottom surfaces of the SBD (Figure 71‑1 shows them on my model):

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Figure 71-1 Asymmetric details on the bottom surfaces of the center wing and the fuselage

As you can see, there are several details that are not symmetric. (In addition, let’s do not forget about the asymmetric opening under bottom covers of the fuselage, visible on this picture – see Figure 70‑9 in my previous post).

So far I mapped only the symmetric half of the wing on the UVTech texture layout. It occupies a significant portion of the space. Such a size allowed me to draw all the technical details in higher resolution. The plan was that both wings will be mapped in the same points of the UV space, because most of their structure is symmetric. For the few asymmetric details, I was going to prepare additional areas, intended for the UV mesh faces that contain these elements.

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Creating Textures: Bump Maps (3)

In previous post I have enhanced the bump map texture effect, using two different images. This is the continuation on this subject.

Have you ever noticed that the classic stressed skin of a real aircraft is not ideally smooth? It is more visible in the areas where the skin is thinner, especially on an old, “weary” aircraft (Figure 70‑1):

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Figure 70-1 Deformations of the stressed skin (in two different aircraft)

The wing on the left (Figure 70‑1a) belongs to a SBD-4 (BuNo 10518) from Yanks Air Museum in Chino. This wing was recovered separately from Guadalcanal (circa 1980), and restored a few years later. This aircraft is in flyable condition (registered as N4864J), but has not flown since its restoration.

The  wing on the right (Figure 70‑1b) belongs to a SBD-5 (BuNo 28536) from Planes of Fame, also in Chino. This wing was also recovered from Guadalcanal, in the same time as for BuNo 10518. This aircraft was restored, registered as N670AM, and made its first flight in 1987. Since that time it has been flying during various air shows.

Continue reading Creating Textures: Bump Maps (3)