The base lantern shape is complete, so we can now model and add several exterior details. These are all made of metal – some of bronze, some of angle iron – so they will be done as individual meshes that can be shaded separately later.
We’ll start with the top spire. The shape is modeled from a sphere and a couple of cylinders, with a weathervane bracket at the very top. The weathervane is a metal flag emblazoned with a cutout of the university’s shield. I’m not yet sure how to best tackle it, so we’ll do the rational thing and put it off until later.
Building the compass
But we can tackle the compass, which is made from four pieces of bronze scrollwork bound to the spire with two bronze rings.
We’ll start by tracing a photo of the scrollwork in Adobe Illustrator, making liberal use of the application’s Spiral tool.
We could import the artwork as an SVG curve into Maya and extrude it to form the solid object. But Maya’s SVG tool, while very powerful, doesn’t always produce meshes that are easy to edit. These are complex shapes and we’ll need to tweak them once they’re added to the main scene.
So instead, we’ll import the curve into another application, Cheetah 3D. Cheetah (or C3D) is a modeling and rendering program for Mac computers. If you are just getting started in 3D, Cheetah would be a good way to get you up and running – it’s an introductory-level program that sports many advanced features. There’s more information on the Cheetah 3D website, and also on the C3D user forum. (One of the best things about Cheetah is its enthusiastic user base. You won’t find a more welcoming and helpful group of people online.)
Some things, such as extruding meshes from complex curves, Cheetah does extremely well. With a couple of clicks, we have our three-dimensional scroll, and can export it in a format that can be imported into Maya. (See the image at the top of this post.)
While we’re here, we’ll also use Cheetah’s Type object to quickly extrude shapes for the compass points.
Back in Maya, the scrollwork is duplicated and the compass points are attached. The compass assembly itself is then attached to the spire with two hoops.
The maintenance ladder is located on the back side of the lantern and is hidden when the building is viewed from the front. It was omitted from the original version of this illustration. We’re including it now because, on closer inspection, it turns out to be an essential part of the structure. It supports the two aircraft warning lights; its purpose may be to allow access to change the light bulbs.
We’ll start by modeling a section of the ladder consisting of half of a rung and a section of angle iron on either side.
The section is duplicated to create the entire ladder, which is given a slight bend to fit against the cupola.
The top brackets, which will support the warning lights, and center brackets, which will attach the ladder to the cupola, are added along with the ladder base.
Bolts and hex nuts are added in several locations to the ladder assembly: the center bracket, a section near the bend where two sections of the ladder (the real ladder) are bolted together, and at the base. This may seem like an unnecessary level of detail, but tiny elements like these cast noticeable shadows even if they are not visible themselves. They’ll add a nice level of detail and believability to the final rendering.
The warning light is modeled in a new scene, to scale, and will be copied into the main scene. An electrical T-junction, for the electrical conduit used to wire the lights, is also added. (Actually, the T-junction was originally modeled in Cheetah 3D, not for any particular reason, but just because I like working in Cheetah from time to time.)
The warning light is copied into the main scene, duplicated, and both copies are moved into position.
The T-junction is also moved into place inside the angle iron near the top of the ladder. Curves are drawn in the scene to create the electrical conduits.
The curves themselves won’t appear in the rendering. They are used only to guide a circular profile curve that, with Maya’s Extrude command, creates the curved conduit shapes.
A new rendering shows what the lantern looks like now with the ladder, warning lights, spire and other new shapes. The lantern exterior now lacks only two details: The weathervane flag, and the wire mesh covers for the windows. Both will be added later.
And now a pause
This post has been delayed for several weeks for various reasons, including a very crowded work schedule. The work shown here was finished last fall, so further posts will have to wait until more can be done. The good news is that I should have a bit more time to devote to this long-term project. I’ll continue to post as soon as there is more to share.