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):

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).

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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):

Figure 60-1 Reference drawings for the UV map

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Fixing the Barrel Distortion of the Reference Photos

In this post I describe a break in the modeling that I made this week, because I had to fix my reference photos before the further work. The reason for this fixing was simple: the NACA cowling of my model did fit only the long-lens photos. For the further work I needed more information. This information was available in the high-resolution photos made by the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. However, they are slightly distorted.

In the ‘mathematically ideal perspective’ calculated for the computer cameras all of the straight lines remains straight. Unfortunately, the real-world camera lens can slightly deform (bend) the straight contours. This is so-called ‘barrel’ (or ‘cushion’) distortion of a photo. Unless you are using a panoramic lens, this deformation is hardly noticeable for the naked eye. Unfortunately, these differences become evident when you place a photo behind a 3D model, projected by a computer camera.

In case of reference photos that I used to verify my SBD Dauntless, the differences caused by the barrel distortion are visible around the forward part of the engine cowling (Figure 42‑1):

Figure 42-1 The influence of the barrel distortion

Continue reading Fixing the Barrel Distortion of the Reference Photos

Modeling the Empennage (1)

The horizontal tailplane has similar structure to the wing — but it is simpler. Thus I started it in the same way as the wing, by forming its root airfoil (Figure 32‑1):

Figure 32-1 Modeling the root airfoil of the horizontal tailplane

In the most of the aircraft the tailplane has a symmetric airfoil. So it was in the Dauntless. I did not find its signature (family) in any of the reference materials, thus I carefully copied its contour from the photos (its rear part — the elevator — seems to have modified shape, anyway). It has incidence angle of 2⁰, so I rotated the rib object and used a Mirror modifier to generate its bottom part.

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Verification of the Model Geometry: the Wing

In this post I will continue verification of my model by matching it against the photos. This time I will check the wing geometry.

In the first photo from the Pacific Aviation Museum (in my model it is marked as PAM-1) I identified several differences (Figure 31‑1):

Figure 31-1 First differences that I found in the outer wing panel

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Verification of the Model Geometry: the Fuselage

In the previous post I introduced a new method of using photos. I fit the projection of my 3D model into the contours of the same airplane depicted on a high-resolution photograph. I can use such an arrangement as a precise reference. It is a good idea to verify the basic body of the fuselage in this way, when there are no additional details. All the differences that I will find now will save me a lot of troubles in the future. For example — what if I would find that the base of the cockpit canopy in my model should be somewhat wider, when this canopy was ready? I would have to fix both shapes: the canopy and the fuselage. And what if I would already recreate the inner fuselage structure — the longerons and bulkheads — before such a finding? I would also have to fix them all. This is a general rule: the later modifications require much more work than the earlier ones! Thus I have to check everything when the model is relatively simple. You can compare the differences I will find in this post with the plans I published earlier: they contain various minor errors! Just as every drawing.

Last week (see Figures 29-5, 28-7, 29-8) I discovered that the bottom contour of the tail was somewhat lower than in my model (Figure 30‑1):

Figure 30-1 Verification of the fuselage side contour

Continue reading Verification of the Model Geometry: the Fuselage

Matching the Model to the Photos

During the previous weeks I formed two main elements of my model: the wing and the main part of fuselage. As you saw, I could not resist myself for adding some details to the wing (like the ribs and spars of the flaps).

Now I think that this is a proper time to stop modeling for a moment and compare the shape of the newly modeled parts to the real airplane. If I find and fix an error in the fuselage shape now, it will save me from much more troubles in the future! If I find an error in the wing shape – well, I will have more work, because I already fit it with some details which will also require reworking… You will see.

The idea of using photos as a precise references emerged from the job that I did two years ago. One of my colleagues asked me if I can recreate the precise shape of the stencils painted on an airplane. He wanted to determine details of the numbers painted on the P-40s stationed in 1941 around Oahu. He sent me the photo. I started by fitting the 3D model to this historical picture, finding by trial-and-error the location and focus of the camera (as in Figure 29‑1):

Figure 29-1 Using an photo to precisely recreate stencils and roundels of an historical P-40B

Then I made the model surface completely transparent. I placed the opaque drawing (texture) of the large white tactical numbers on its fuselage, and the black, smaller, radio call numbers on the fin. I rendered the result over the underlying photo, finding all the differences. Then I adjusted the drawing and made another check. After several approximations I recreated precisely shapes and sizes of these “decals”.

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Differences between Dauntless Versions (SBD-5 and SBD-6)

In this last post about scale plans I will write about the modifications introduced in the SBD-5 Dauntless version.

For the reference, I placed below the drawing of the previous version: the SBD-4 (Figure 11‑1):

Figure 11-1 The previous SBD version (SBD-4 — described in the previous post)
Figure 11-1 The previous SBD version (SBD-4 — described in the previous post)

(See the high-resolution SBD-4 left & top view).

Continue reading Differences between Dauntless Versions (SBD-5 and SBD-6)

Differences between Dauntless Versions (SBD-1…4)

To recapitulate my work on the Dauntless plans, I decided to draw all the external differences between its subsequent Navy versions. Because of the numerous changes that occurred in the SBD-5, I decided to split this description into two posts. This is the part one, the part two (about the SBD-5 and the SBD-6) will be ready in the next week.

NOTE: All airplanes on the drawings below are equipped with the small tail wheel with solid rubber tire (for carrier operations). However, for ground airfields Douglas provided alternate, pneumatic, two times larger wheel. These tail wheels could be easily replaced in workshops.

Starting from the beginning: here is the SBD-1, the first of the Douglas Dauntless series (Figure 10‑1):

Figure 10-1 First version (SBD-1, built: 57, since May 1939)
Figure 10-1 First version (SBD-1, built: 57, since May 1939)

(See the high-resolution SBD-1 left & top view).

Continue reading Differences between Dauntless Versions (SBD-1…4)

My Drawings of the SBD: the Bottom View and Other Updates

During previous weeks I was working on the bottom view and other details of the SBD Dauntless. For example — I added a modified side view that reveals the engine and the cowling hidden under the NACA ring (Figure 9‑1):

Figure 9-1 The SBD-5: side and bottom views
Figure 9-1 The SBD-5: side and bottom views

Continue reading My Drawings of the SBD: the Bottom View and Other Updates