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Howard Gardner CG

Space Opera

A two month-long solo project done primarily using Maya, Matchmover, Nuke and Photoshop, also using Mudbox for tweaking and texturing some of the models and After Effects for rotoscoping in one particular sequence. The editing and final grade was done with Adobe Premiere Pro.


I recently uploaded a new short animated film called Space Opera which I made between September and November. It began as something much smaller and simpler; an entry for the spacecraft modelling challenge hosted earlier in the year by I actually became so obsessed with designing the ships that I missed the submission deadline and decided instead to animate some shots of these futuristic craft gliding through starfields and past planets. And that snowballed into a four minute video... a bit self indulgent perhaps but it presented me with new challenges in terms of modelling, lighting and compositing so was very useful for improving my skills.


The music used was a recording of Wagner's Tristan Und Isolde from the 1920s (artist unknown) which I found on I think the tone and pace of the music well suits the action.


Early concept painting for the lunar lander - I was inspired largely by the Apollo program lunar lander although I later went with a more cylindrical shape for the craft, reminiscent of both the Apollo command module and lander combined into one.


Concept for Themis, one of the military cruiser-type vessels seen in the film. The idea for giving them all maritime-style registration numbers was inspired by the Elite video game series. I wanted to have a believable-looking craft able to manauver easily ina zero-G environment which is why I placed its four main engines away from its centre of gravity on the end of pylons. This presented another problem though, since I wanted the craft to be able to take off and land on planetary surfaces and I couldn't work out where to place its landing gear.


Eventually I hit on the idea of allowing its bottom pylon to pivot about 60° around the central axis, allowing it to rest a lot closer to the ground when it lands.


The exterior of the craft was textured using photographs of real aircraft hulls, adding rivets, removable access panels and decals to add realism. I also used RAF fighter-inspired nose art.


The fly-by sequence seemed like a suitably epic wayto conclude the film; I wanted to depict more than one era in the future and although the dates are never specified this final scene takes place in the distant future when gigantic vessels and space stations have become commonplace.


The ship depicted here (the Flower of Halifax) is an interstellar freighter inspired by contemporary container ships. It is essentially cylinder-shaped, with a hemispherical shield at the front to deflect any high velocity debris it encounters (although the command bridge visible half-way along its length was inspired directly by an ocean-going ship). All the cube-shaped modules attached around its axis are standardised - and pressurised - cargo containers. I textured them all with a variety of colour schemes and markings to indicate they've come from a multitude of different places and clients; 'SSL' stands for Stellar Shipping Lines although this was not indicated in the final cut of the film.


The nebula in the background was taken from a real astronomical photograph

Interactive view of the almost-finished Themis cruiser - texture resolution shown is lower than in the finished video and some of the UV mapping has got a bit distorted by the interactive viewer but you certainly get the idea.

The unnamed space station model seen during the film.

Copyright 2024  Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner CG

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