German Type VII Submarine

Published on Jan 23, 2010 Hobbies 3d model « Prev Next »

Latest Image

So I have always liked submarines, I think they are pretty neat.  I have wanted to create a 3D sub for a while and finally decided to get started on one..  Instead of going with a more modern design I went with one of the most popular submarine designs of old; the German type VII.   I also have to admit that another reason for this design is that I like the game “Silent Hunter” and the fifth installment of the game is coming out this year.

As I work on it, I’ll post images here to show where I am at and as with all my other posts the top most image will show the latest image or render.

I’m creating this entirely in Modo 401 using my Wacom tablet with the intent to make it as photo-realistic as possible.  That’s gonna be tough because it will force me to model everything in sub-d and it will really make me have to pay very special attention to my models materials, the shader tree and lighting..

The first 3 or 4 hours was scouring the net trying to find a set of plans for this boat.  Believe it or not it was harder than one might think..

The initial shape

+3 hours - Getting the initial shape - After getting my work area setup and getting the backdrops in place I was able to do this.  Not perfect, but not a bad start for getting the basic body shape down.  Next I’m going to try to form the outer hull actually into the bulb shape you see there.. for now that’s an additional mesh just sitting there.

Shape Refinement

+3 hours - Shape refinement - So I know it doesn’t look much different but it is.. I have refined the hull shape a lot so that now the top deck area is actually the shape it should be for holding the conning tower and what not.  But more importantly I have actually added those side bulges to the model such that they are part of the main layer and can be subdivided nicely.  No more having one model poke through another model.  Ding! “You have gained a level!”

It may sound like a simple thing but it’s actually complex if you’re coming from hard body modeling to subdivision modeling.

Front Wire Cutters

+3 hours - Front wire cutters - So I spent the better part of these three hours getting the front wire cutters (I guess that’s what they are) looking right under subd and making sure they smoothly transitioned into the rest of the mesh.  Good times.  It took longer than I wanted because I had some serious symmetry issues that I wasn’t sure how to sort out.  Thankfully, Modo has a Symmetry tool that does it all for you!  It’s just magic.. No clue how the hell that works.

I have also been researching what I want the top part of the boat to look like.. I wanted to keep the boat as accurate as possible and my research has lead me to believe that every fricken one of these boats was different..  For some reason I had it in my mind that manufacturing back then would be similar to how it is today.. But I guess I have to keep in mind that these things were built one at a time and each one was hand crafted.. So they tend to be a tad different from one another..

The more I work on this the more I think I would really like to visit a real one of these if for no other reason than to just gawk at it..

Conning Tower

+ 5 hours - The beginnings of a conning tower - I started and restarted this conning tower probably 10 times and even now I’m not 100% happy with it.   I kept going back and forth with the design as well as the number of tiers it would have.  This one has 2 which means this is a type VII-C or later as it will have two flak guns as opposed to only one.

It’s been hard to find plans with anything close to this so a lot of what I am doing comes from this kit built by Guillermo Martinez Baz..  Nice looking model Guillermo..

The shape of the tower has a lot of gentle curves and odd shapes so I have had to play with and learn the falloff tools a lot better in modo.. It was a great learning experience but I didn’t get a lot of work done for the 5 hours I spent on it..

Also the more I study Guillermo’s real world plastic model, the more I think my model is way off in some places..  My decking at the top of the model for example isn’t correct by a long shot.  Probably want I’m going to do is actually build an inner cigar shaped tube where the people would be to get some idea of why the exterior is shaped the way it is..

First Actual Render

+2 hours - The first actual render - So here you have the very first render of my entirely incomplete Type VII-C German U-Boat.  My goal is to have it render out with that underwater look but for now I’m going to make it really bright so I can see all the defects..

I still have a very long way to go.. I’m still working on the conning tower area as that will have a lot of detail.  I need to merge the two layers too so that the conning tower actually connects to the sub body, as right now they don’t.  Still having fun!  That’s what counts..

Details and Lighting

+4 hours - Adding detail and lighting - So there isn’t much of a change to the model here other than for details that are hard to see, and the obvious lighting differences.  I’m going to be making the necessary detail changes to the model to make it look better and better slowly over time, but I’m also going to be working on texturing and lighting while I can.

I have also learned that its not necessary to make everything part of the main mesh.. It’s okay to have sub-d elements in different layers so long as it looks okay.  The idea being if in the real world something is made of a single piece of metal then sure one layer is appropriate, otherwise more than one is fine..

Tail Features

+7 hours - Tail Features - I have spent a good portion of the day working on the tail features of my sub as well as generally mucking around with the over all look of the boat.   But primarily, the rear dive plains, propeller shafts, rudders, supports, struts..etc..  I have a long way to go but this put a nice dent into the rear features that up to this point were completely missing.

During this process it occurred to me that I don’t know which way the props should be twisted.. And I kind of assumed that they counter rotate.. So if that is way off some one please tell me..  The rudders are actually to scale according to the plans I have but damn they look big.. And my plans arent accurate at all with how far apart the propellers are, and so I did my best to “Guesstimate” and I think I blew it..  They seem a little too close together..

The more I work on this thing the more I hate how some of it has come out.. I spent such a long time getting those side bulges working and now I think they are too prominent..  The top decking is all wrong too in a few places..   Still I know I should give myself a break.. I mean this wont be a perfect thing no matter how hard I try.. I just don’t have the skills yet..  But I am going to work at it..  But my dreams of making this thing photo realistic likely wont happen at all..

And I haven’t even started to ruin the textures..

+10 hours - Still going! - Okay so I don’t have a picture this update..  I’m in the process of correcting a horrible mistake I made..   At some point I subdivided the entire main hull and it caused a lot of odd rendering artifacts.. I was pretty upset that I had done this at first because apparently I did it days ago and didn’t even notice!  Luckily I make daily backups of my model and I work in a lot of layers.. so thankfully its only a matter of using the old hull and bringing it back up to date, preferably without making the same mistake..

Yay for rails

+5 hours - Yay for rails - I’m guessing todays installment was roughly five hours worth of work..  Hard to say really in that it wasn’t a straight piece of work..  It’s really a continuation of work I did last night, and what little work I did today in between bug fixing for work which has been going on at a rabid pace..  Every hour or two I spend 20 minutes or so on the model… The bug fixing is killing me so this makes a nice change of pace..

In this update you’ll see I’m starting to add lots and lots of railing everywhere… Ah good times..  I have also completely fixed the ugly striation crap that managed to work its way into the model because I was a dolt and did something stupid..

Part of this fix was also to correct some big errors with the conning tower.. I still have a lot of work to do.. but its coming along nicely..

Steel Rope

+5 hours - Steel Rope - I just got done spending the better part of the entire 5 hours learning to make rope.  3D rope that is..  The sub has quite a lot of steel rope hanging from various points on the hull and I wanted to get that to look right.

At first I just created a really long cylinder and sliced it up with the intent of just adding a 3D texture or displacement to make it look like strands of steel rope.. but it just looked crappy.. So, I had to actually create stranded rope..  This took me a long time and I had to get pretty intimate with Modo’s Twist tool and the Soft Move tool..

I still think the way I ultimately did it, was the wrong way..  I should have used a path and cloned a single rope piece along that path, but it didn’t work..  No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t get the curve clone tool to output something that looked reasonable..  Plus it was REALLY laggy bringing modo to a stop trying to clone a <1000 polygon item 100 times..  100,000 polygons isn’t that heavy so I have no idea why it was struggling so hard with it.. I also tried to use a custom python script suggested to me on the modo forums called CurveDeformer, but it failed too.. (in odd ways) .. SO I was left to my own devices..

It took me too long to do this though.. I mean seriously ~5 hours to figure out this ONE thing.. sheesh..

Steel Rope Details

+3 hours - Steel Rope Detail - So I spent the majority of this time getting the steel rope finished on the back side of the boat.  It now hangs correctly between the two rail uprights on the back of the boat in such a way as to imply weight..  In the tail of the boat it rides over the risers in a ring then down into a hull point where its anchored.  And its simply wrapped around the lower conning tower platform rail and clamped together using a pair of wire clamps.  This isn’t how it was actually done, but I thought having the wire simply wrapped around the rail and secured with a couple wire clamps made it look more real..   Very excited as to how it turned out.. I think it looks fantastic..

This model is starting to get rather beefy.. It’s already a 5 meg file and renders out at over 3 million polygons, 15 million with subsampling turned on.  I call that starting to get heavy..  I know that a lot of the models the big boys work with are vast by comparison, but then so is the hardware they use..

Gonna keep working on this thing.. I haven’t been playing any games at all since I started this project, its kept me that entertained.. Tomorrow I’m going to continue poking the detail holes in the side of the boat.. Good times.

Poking holes

+8 hours - Poking holes in the model - For todays installment of “make a sub” I have been concentrating on poking holes in the side of the main hull mesh. It’s actually exceedingly difficult because of the non-linear off axis subd modeling method I’m using, combined with round holes.. I have to say so far so good! I have a lot more holes to poke, and I need to add inner piping and details that could be visible from the outside.. This means I need to build a very basic model of what the internal cigar tube will look like and the basic support structures.. I have no clue what those actually should look like so I might just make it up..

Waist Steel Cable

I also spent a chunk of my time adding the waist steel cables to the waist railings.. I went to a lot of trouble too wrapping the cable around the railings in a believable way.. I think it turned out pretty damn good if I do say so myself.. Though looking at it now in some areas I should have added a tad more twist to the cable, but since each cable is actually a strand of six cylinders its a pain in the rump to go back and change it now.. I’m really glad I went this route though as opposed to the one cylinder that gets textured into wire.. The actual twisted polygons while heavy in terms of polycount, really adds a lot in terms of details..

I have to say I’m still have a great deal of fun making this model.. that bodes very well.. Typically when I do these things, they last for a couple of weeks before I want to move on to something else, but this model is really inspiring me to keep going.. It’s been really cool seeing how each piece comes together to add up to more and more detail.. Every so often I scroll up to the top of this post and look at where it started and then look at where I am.. I realize I have a long way to go, but I have come a LONG way..

I want to find some more pictures of real Type VII’s up close so I can get a good idea of what the hull plating should actually look like. I dunno if I should model that or just texture it.. I’ll likely model the rivets, but texture the plates.. we shall see..

At this point this model is easily the most complex and well done model I have done to date.. Not only that but its by far the largest in terms of polygon count, file size.. render time..etc..

Conning Tower Details

+10 hours - Conning Tower Details - So after a day or two break I am back at it and have added a lot of detail to the conning tower.  I have a lot more I want to do and shall continue to work on it..  For this installment I have added several rails around the front of the tower for hand holds, as well as adding several doors and panels with hinges and handles..   I’m likely adding way too much in the way of details in that no one will ever see some of it.. I mean whats the likelihood someone will zoom all the way in to a single hinge on one of those doors..  heh but hey what the hell..

It’s a learning process as much as it is anything else..  I mean I want this thing to look good and having a high-poly model that renders out well is the beginnings of that..

The real issue at this point is that the model is getting big enough that rendering it is starting to run me out of memory..  Any form of adaptive subdivision is right out of the question..   Plus I can only do one or two renders before I have to reload the model fresh.. memory leak I guess..  It’s only mildly annoying..