Using Panel Lines to Verify the Fuselage Shape

In every creative process, after each “big step forward” you have to stop and carefully examine the results. Usually you have to make various corrections (sometimes minor, sometimes major), before taking the next step. This post describes such minor corrections that I had to make after mapping the key texture of the panel lines.

In my first post published in October, I drew the panel lines on the model, then compared them with the photos. Sometimes a minor difference between their layouts can lead to a discovery of an error in the fuselage shape. I in that post already found and fixed an issue in the shape of the tailplane fillet.

I also mentioned (see Figure 65‑9 in previous post) that I can see a difference in the bottom part of the wing fillet. Now I would like to resume my analysis at this point (Figure 67‑1):

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Figure 67-1 Difference in the shape of the wing fillet bottom seam

Continue reading Using Panel Lines to Verify the Fuselage Shape

Modeling a C-47 Propeller Blade

This post is a small digression from the main thread – I will write here about a new method for recreating geometry of historical airplanes.

In one of my previous posts I complained that it is hard to find any reliable drawings of the historical propeller blades from the middle of 20th century. In particular, the geometry of various popular Hamilton Standard propellers from WWII era is unavailable. I have found in a discussion on one of the aviation forums that Hamilton Standard Company still keeps this data as their “business secret” – even their design from 1936!

So far, all we had were the photos ­– but it is really difficult to precisely recreate from a few pictures such a twisted, complex shape as the propeller blade. However, it seems that there is a new hope! Two years ago I encountered on Blender Artists forum an interesting project. The Author of this thread (nick: NRK) used one of the general photo-based 3D scanning methods to obtain a spatial reference of a C-47 aircraft. Although this is not the SBD Dauntless, it seems that its Hamilton Standard propeller blades are similar to the blades used in the earlier Dauntless versions (SBD-1 .. SBD-3). Thus I asked NRK for the part of his 3D scan that contains the propeller. He sent me it within a few weeks (thank you very much, Nick!). Below you can see the picture of this blade and the contents of the 3D scan (Figure 66‑1):

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Figure 66-1 The 3D scan of the C-47 propeller (courtesy Nick Keeline)

Continue reading Modeling a C-47 Propeller Blade

Tracing Aircraft Skin Details: Center Wing and the Fuselage

This week I continue mapping the SBD-5 Dauntless skin panels onto my model. After tracing the outer wing sections, described in the previous post, I traced the center wing section (Figure 65‑1):

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Figure 65-1 Traced panels on the center wing

As you can see in the picture, I also traced the contours of the wheel bay on the wing surfaces. (These openings disappear, when you enter mesh edit mode, because they are dynamically created by Boolean modifiers. Thus such contours will be useful during further work, because in this way you can see these edges while editing the mesh).

Continue reading Tracing Aircraft Skin Details: Center Wing and the Fuselage

Tracing Aircraft Skin Details: Panels on the Outer Wings

I always start drawing the image of the aircraft skin by tracing the lines of the main panel seams. They will form a kind of reference “grid”, which later I will fill with other details: rivet seams, inspection doors, etc.

I will draw all these technical details in Inkscape, because it is much easier to modify such shapes in this vector-based program than in GIMP, which is mainly intended for the raster images. What’s more, I can export this scalable vector graphic from Inkscape to a raster image of any resolution.

Initially I prepared in Inkscape an empty drawing, set up its layer structure, and placed the appropriate links to reference drawings on the UV and Reference layers (Figure 64‑1):

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Figure 64-1 Preparing the “canvas” for the texture drawing (Inkscape)

I duplicated here the basic structure for the detailed bump map, which I worked out during my P-40B project. It is explained in all details in the “Virtual Airplane” guide (chapters 3 and 4 in Vol III, or chapters 6 and 7 in the complete edition). In this case I just used the hierarchical layers feature for grouping the related layers (in Panels, Fabric) together. (This feature was introduced in the latest Inkscape 0.9x, while the guide was written earlier, using older versions of this software).

Continue reading Tracing Aircraft Skin Details: Panels on the Outer Wings

Alternate UV Map for the Aircraft Skin Technical Details

The progress of my work in this month will be relatively slow, because I still have some additional activities linked to my “daily” job. Nevertheless, it is going on.

The original texture map (UV map) finished in the previous post (Figure 63‑1) is appropriate for the color textures (camouflage, national insignia and other markings). In this mapping various parts of the airplane overlap each other, so the pattern of the test image remains continuous:

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Figure 63-1 The basic texture mapping – for the camouflage and other “color” textures (UVMap)

While such an arrangement makes the camouflage painting easier, it would be impossible to use such a map with overlapping elements for another important texture: the image of the aircraft skin details. In this post I will shortly describe, how I prepared an alternate UV map for this purpose.

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Unwrapping Meshes of the Alternate Dauntless Versions

After a long break in August and September (I had to finish a demanding project in my daily work) I am back. This week I made a “slow start”: because in my last July post I finished mapping the SBD-3, now I mapped in the UV space parts that are specific to the alternate Dauntless versions: SBD-1 and SBD-5.

Let’s start with the SBD-1: when you switch into its scene, you can immediately see the gray elements that are not mapped in the UV space (as in Figure 62‑1a). These parts are specific for this version:

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Figure 62-1 Unwrapping elements that are specific to the SBD-1

Continue reading Unwrapping Meshes of the Alternate Dauntless Versions

Mapping Images onto the 3D Model Surface (2)

This week I finished mapping all the parts of my model onto a two-dimensional image. Figure 61‑1 shows the test image, mapped on the model surface. (Its pattern helps me in keeping the same mapping “scale” for each object):

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Figure 61-1 Model surfaces mapped onto a test image

I did not “unwrap” the small details, like the parts of the propeller mechanism, because I will “paint” all the small parts using procedural textures.

Continue reading Mapping Images onto the 3D Model Surface (2)

Mapping Images onto the 3D Model Surface (1)

Because of the holiday break, during July and August I will report my progress every two weeks. I will return to weekly reporting in September.

I have just begun the third stage of this project: “painting” the model. At this moment I am unwrapping its meshes in the UV space . I will deliver you a full post about this process next Sunday. Today I will just signalize how it looks like.

So I started by creating a new reference picture. It had to have a rectangular shape. Inside I placed my drawings of the fuselage, wings, and the tailplane (Figure 60‑1):

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Figure 60-1 Reference drawings for the UV map

Continue reading Mapping Images onto the 3D Model Surface (1)

A New Book — and New Fixes in the Model

Last week I found a new edition of Bert Kinzey’s “SBD Dauntless” book (Figure 59‑1). After ten years break, Bert started to continue his “Detail & Scale” series, this time in a different form: digital editions. This e-book is the “updated and revised” version of an earlier publication (from 1995). For me, the most important part of Kinzey’s books are the “walk around” photos. They differ from all other “walk arounds” by careful selection of the pictures and comprehensive comments that explain many technical details depicted on these images. Usually these comments are as important as the photos.

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Figure 59-1 Bert Kinzey’s book and one of the photos from inside

Continue reading A New Book — and New Fixes in the Model

Final Adjustments of the Model Shape

While working on the cowling details, I discovered that the SBD-5 from the Commemorative Air Force (“white 5”) uses a non-original Hamilton Standard propeller. It has larger hub and a pair of bolts in the middle of the hub barrel edges. (As I wrote in this post, the original Hamilton Standard hubs used in the SBDs were smaller, thus they had a single bolt in the middle of each barrel edge). What’s more, I also noticed that the centerline of my model does not precisely pass through the tip of the propeller dome visible in this photo. When I corrected this mistake, I also noticed that the edges of certain cowling panels in my model are minimally below their counterparts on the photo. I examined this difference and decided that I should fix it by rotating the camera of this projection around the fuselage centerline. It was really a “cosmetic” adjustment — the rotation angle was about 0.7⁰. However, suddenly everything in this model matched better the reference photo — except the horizontal tailplane (Figure 58‑1):

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Figure 58-1 Improved matching of my model to the largest reference photo

Continue reading Final Adjustments of the Model Shape