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B&H Photo Video Pro Video- Basic 3D Modeling: Building a Vintage TV in Lightwave

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Basic 3D Modeling: Building a Vintage TV in Lightwave

By Jonathan Williams

For years, one of the overwhelming challenges in the field of post production has been mastering the art of three-dimensional animation. But with advent of 3D VFX and more integrated 3D tools in editing software, the idea of working in the third dimension is no longer so daunting. For most people, creating a 3D effect is one thing, but creating the kind of full 3D animation scenes and objects seen in a Pixar production for example, is an entirely inconceivable notion. However, conceivability is about to be within your grasp with this first of a series of articles that will attempt to demystify 3D animation and model-building for the experienced editor, and open new doors to the world of post production.

When it comes to selecting a program, there are myriad choices, including Softimage, Autodesk’s 3DS Max and Maya. My weapon of choice is Newtek’s Lightwave 3D v9, which was originally bundled with the Video Toaster of Commodore Amiga fame from the early 1990’s, but is now available as a stand-alone product for Windows and Mac users. For this, the first step, I started to model a vintage 1950’s television set for an upcoming documentary on rock music’s infancy, on whose virtual screen brief clips of the documentary will appear.

Lightwave is two programs in one. One interface, called Layout, gives you the tools to move objects from point A to point B, set up lighting and camera angles, as well as giving you the power to direct an entire scene with a virtual “crew.” The second interface, which we will be describing first, is the Modeler. Think of this as being the place where all of the elements for your virtual world are created, including model and surface attributes.

Lightwave
Figure 1

After launching the Modeler, select the Box tool in the Create tab. While pressing the "n" key to bring up the Numeric requester for the Box tool, type the values into the Numeric requester, as seen in Figure 1, to create a general box.

The Change Surface dialog box gives you the ability to name and color the object surface.

Figure 2: The Change Surface dialog box gives you the ability to name and color the object surface.

Now it's time to name the surface of the box. Press the letter "q" on your keyboard to bring up the Change Surface requester and type the name "tv_shell" and give it the following values: red=217, green=154, and blue=108, then press ok. This will render a basic brown color for the box.

Many vintage TV's were equipped with fairly large speakers, sometimes as wide as 16". These were strategically placed in cumbersome wood or Bakelite cabinets unlike today's units whose speakers are well hidden, yet produce superior sounds. To create the speaker portion of the cabinet, we'll create an exterior grille. In the Polygons mode, select the lower front five polygons from the bottom, and five polygons above. When you're finished with this step, 25 individual polygons should be highlighted.

Notice that selected polygons are now in yellow, with X and Z axis showing in which direction the polygons are facing.
Figure 3: Notice that selected polygons are now in yellow, with X and Z axis showing in which direction the polygons are facing.

While the polygons are highlighted, press the “b” key to activate the Bevel tool, and then the “n” key for the Numeric requester, and enter in 122mm for the Inset value. Close the requester and select the “b” key to deactivate the Bevel tool, and select the “b” key again to activate the Bevel tool and type -133mm for the Shift, and 67mm for the Inset. Close the requester and press the “b” key to deactivate the Bevel tool.

After working with the Bevel tool, the speaker grille is now taking shape.
Figure 4: After working with the Bevel tool, the speaker grille is now taking shape.

The 25 highlighted polygons represent the speaker ports of the vintage television. By selecting the “q” key, you can name the surface “speaker_mesh” and set the colors to red=201, green=182, and blue=107 and hit ok.

Each object is represented by layers. The Layer Selector is located in the top right corner of the Modeler interface. Up to 10 layers can be worked on at one time. This makes it easier to work on a portion of the object while another part of the object remains in the background as a reference, locked and unable to be edited. Select the second layer while keeping the first layer in the background by selecting the second layer and holding down the SHIFT key, and click on the lower half of the first layer. Then select the Box tool in the Create tab. Select the "n" key to bring up the Numeric requester for the Box tool and type the values into the Numeric requester in figure 5.

Figure 5 demonstrates the background portion of the object in black, while the foreground is rendered in white.
Figure 5 demonstrates the background portion of the object in black, while the foreground is rendered in white.

While you’re in the second layer, name the section of the object by selecting the “q” key to the previously created surface “tv_shell.” This will give the entire object a common surface name.

To give the screen some depth, select the “b” key to activate the Bevel tool and the “n” key for the Numeric requester and type 129mm for the Inset value. Close the requester and select “b” to deactivate the Bevel tool, and press “b” again to reactivate the Bevel tool and type -44mm for the Shift and 19mm for the Inset. Close the requester and press the “b” key to deactivate the Bevel tool.

The highlighted surface represents the area where the documentary footage will appear, so select the "q" key and name the surface "video_tube" and set the colors at red=157, green=157, and blue=151 and click ok.

It's now time to create dials for channel and volume control on the television. Some of you may now be asking, what are dials? Before the advent of remote controls, our forefathers only had basic 13-channel TV viewing on primitive tube sets. They had to get up from the couch and walk over to the set to change the channels and adjust the volume!

While we wait for the shock to dissipate, let's create a dial. Kindly select the third layer while keeping the first and second layers in the background, by clicking the third layer and holding down the SHIFT key, and clicking the lower half of the first and second layers. Then in the Create tab, select the Disc tool in the Primitives section. Select the "n" key to bring up the Numeric requester for the Disc tool, and type the values into the Numeric requester in figure 6.

Here you can clearly see the channel-changing dial and its numeric settings.

Figure 6: Here you can clearly see the channel-changing dial and its numeric settings.

To create an exact replica of the dial on the other side of the television front, we will need to mirror the knob right at the center of the X-axis. By holding the SHIFT key and selecting the letter “v,” you will now enter the Mirror tool. Just as the word describes, the Mirror tool enables you to multiply without any limits an object or layer on any axis. Select the “n” key to bring up the Numeric requester and it will replicate the original dial on the opposite side. Now there are two dials for your viewing pleasure. Select the letter “q” to bring up the Change Surface requester and type the name “tv_knobs” and enter the following values: red=207, green=154, and blue=108 and hit ok.

This is what the object should look like at the end of the basic modeling phase.

This is what the object should look like at the end of the basic modeling phase.

This covers the basic steps in the genesis of a modeled vintage TV. Hopefully, by working with these tools, you will begin to understand the basic principles of model building. Keep an eye out for future articles on fine-tuning this object, advanced surfacing techniques, and creating a virtual scene that includes lighting and camera placement.

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