House of God

Posted Sunday, February 28, 2010, 10:56 PM


Since beginning modelling in 3D with any earnest, i.e. after I had gotten over the initial stumbling blocks of figuring out how the hell I can make all the myriad of options available to me in Lightwave actually do what I want, there have been a few things that have been near the top of my "want to try making" list.

I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to model very cool, and sometimes intricate, things for various projects, such as a steam locomotive, an old truck, a jet fighter plane, and an Imperial Shuttle. I have learned new modelling techniques, how to texture and light things to be as realistic as possible, and what most of the buttons in the menus actually do.

But there are a few things that I have yet to try my hand at, those that I plan to make, one day, when I have some time to spare. These include a steampunk airship, an accurate mediaeval castle, and a fully articulated robot.

But top of the list has always been to do a cathedral.

Cathedrals are arguably the most spectacularly beautiful examples of architecture in mankind's history, and personally are about the only thing I allow the Catholic Church to have gotten right. With huge towers, embellished with spires, and long vaulted halls supported by tall flying buttresses, and a multicoloured rosette window, they are works of art like no other.

There are thousands of cathedrals worldwide, of various designs, but they all have a standard layout they conform to. After all, if they didn't adhere to certain architectural consistencies they'd just be churches or chapels. But these are cathedrals, the grandest and most impressive of the faith-related buildings, and they have a job to do. Which mostly seems to be as tourist attractions.

One cathedral I was particularly impressed by is St Mary's in Sydney. I had a look around inside and out, and was in awe of its scale. Previously all the cathedrals I had visited had been comparatively small, though still with all the prerequisite features. The cathedral I have decided to base my CG model loosely on was randomly chosen from pics online, but turns out to be one based in Washington DC, called the National Cathedral. However, I am taking some liberties, and fudging the design when it's faster and easier to cut corners.

The interesting thing about assembling the model is how intricate and detailed it looks, but really it's very repetitious, with fancy delicate frilly bits and bold statement parts, all being repeated multiple times, sometimes hundreds of times, throughout the design. That means I need only model one spire, and then can copy and paste it 24 times to flesh out the tower details.

The bad things about this approach include that the repetition can sometimes look obvious; and that the high level of detail slows down the computer display, making adding each new level of detail slower and longer.

But in the end it will be worth it.

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