Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Starfury Omega

Here are some images plus a composite of Revells 1/72 scale Starfury Omega from Babylon 5. From Wikipedia "
Designed once Warner Brothers gave the green light for the television series, the initial design of the Starfury was a collaboration between Steve Burg (a freelance designer on the show) who created a number of possible concepts and Ron Thornton (co-founder of Foundation Imagining) who refined and detailed the Lightwave models. This refining of the potential and final designs was necessary to keep the polygon count as small as possible due to the limited processing power (and memory) of the Amiga computers which were initially used for rendering animation sequences, as large numbers of the vessels would appear in various episodes. Located at the end of each of the four struts or wings, though it is not capable of flying in atmospheres, are two large thrusters, one facing forward and one back. Attached to the housing assembly for these are two additional smaller attitude control thrusters. While creating the design it was envisaged that the engines would work in a similar way to those of the Harrier, in that the output could be sent to any one of the four nozzles. The smaller manoeuvring ones having about 15 to 20% of the thrust of the larger Because of the positioning of these 16 thrusters and the use of computer animation, as opposed to using miniatures and more established animation techniques such as motion control, the Starfury was able to be depicted as an incredibly agile fighter.
Unknown to the producers of the show at the time, it was an intentional homage to, what Thornton and Burg felt was, the excellent and under utilised design ideas seen in the Gunstar from the 1984 movie, The Last Starfighter, which was created by their close friend Ron Cobb.
The design was also ideal for demonstrating to the executive producers of the show an idea which Ron Thornton wished to introduce. Namely, the closer adherence to real physics with regards to how human (not alien) vessels would manoeuvre in space, and that it could be depicted in an interesting and exciting way. One example of how he demonstrated this can be found in the season one episode "Soul Hunter". Before deploying its grappling claw a Starfury pilot carries out a complex set of subtle manoeuvres, with careful attention being made to the firing of the thrusters, to match the rotation of a damaged alien vessel tumbling towards the Babylon 5 space station.
Described as a stealth version of the Starfury by executive producer J. Michael Straczynski, the Black Omega fighters, attached to Psi Corps, first appeared in the season one episode, "Mind War", which was originally aired in the United States in March 1994.
This is a minor variant of the Lightwave computer model as the main differences from the original revolve around the texture map being used. For example, the nozzle heads on the front and rear of the main thrusters appear dark and smooth. On others such as the heavy fighter they appear striated. In fact, they too are also smooth. To create the impression of model detailing, Thornton would use a palette of only 128 colours to draw surface details, such as paneling, onto the texture map rather than build it. Lightwave would then dither the maps, and with the rendering software they looked as good as 24 bit colour images. This is one of the techniques that Foundation Imagining used to keep things like the polygon count to a minimum in order to produce the ground breaking animations with the limited amount of RAM that the Amiga Computers held".

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