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: 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).

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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

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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

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):

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Figure 42-1 The influence of the barrel distortion

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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):

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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):

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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):

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Figure 30-1 Verification of the fuselage side contour

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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):

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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”.

Continue reading Matching the Model to the Photos