View Full Version : Space Station

03-02-2003, 11:47 AM
Hi All,

Comments and suggestion very much appreciated.

I've started work on a space station, intended to be believable. I'm trying to make it highly modular, so I can plug the components together in all sorts of different configurations.

I'm not really happy with the composition, and I intend to add a lot more fine detail - all suggestions very gratefully received.

Backdrop is just an image from NASA. Extensive use of IFW panels used in the texturing of the staion components.


03-02-2003, 02:51 PM
I like the station overall. I think it looks pretty realistic and you've done a good job at giving it that modular feel.

Really, I'm not sure what to suggest since you say you're still going to be adding some detail. But definetely make the solar panels more reflective. I think they should have some more shine to them. Maybe give the different (types) of modules different specularities. Nothing major, but different enough so it's noticable. It could help the feel that they're all constructed seperately.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Good work.

03-02-2003, 03:34 PM
Thanks - the variable specularity is a good point. I'll try and get the panels to vary in line with the colour!

The panels are faitly reflective - perhaps a gradient to boost reflection at shallow angles would be a good idea.

I suspect it won't be actually finished for a very long time - I can always add another module!

And in case anyone does not know, many superb very high resolution shots from orbit at:


Great backdrops for anyone into this stuff, (and very beautiful in their own right).


03-02-2003, 08:35 PM
Thanks for the tip. I'm sure I'll be using that link. And yeah. Just an incidence angle gradient would work nicely I think. They just seem too flat not reflecting much. Post an update when you've done one! I'd like to see it.

03-02-2003, 10:46 PM
I like it and I like the side lighting you`ve chosen for the model, but I`m going to be a pain and point out that this lighting doesn`t match that of the backdrop! The Earth`s dark side starts as an horizontal curve at the bottom of the pic!

Also, you might throw your solar panel bump map into the diffuse channel, too.



03-03-2003, 12:20 AM
I think the shadow at the bottom is the window frame, from where the picture was taken!


03-03-2003, 03:08 AM
Originally posted by starbase1
I think the shadow at the bottom is the window frame, from where the picture was taken!


Heck, if you want to turn that into an advantage, try bringing the frame shadow over the top of your station.. then you can say your stations AND the earth are being viewed through the same window..

Just a thought.

03-03-2003, 02:39 PM
OK, I've moved some bits around, softened the lights, replaced the background, and redone the station solar panels texture.

Any better?

The composition is still defeating me...


03-03-2003, 03:48 PM
I like this layout much better. The pieces feel much more functional in this layout (don't ask me why though). I just think it's much more aesthetic. The solar panels look much better too. Well done.

03-03-2003, 04:59 PM
I think the angle of the panels helps. Long solar panels are generally roughly parallel to the Earths surface, so you are used to seeing them in that alignment.

(It took me a while to work out why - they spin about the long axis, and have to face the sun - the sun has an apparent path roughly along the equator, and satellites tend to be roughly equatorial too, so the long axis is roughly the same as the Earths axis!)

I think I need a better backdrop, and possibly to pull back a bit...

I haven't worried much about matching lighting yet either.

Probably time to go quiet for a while, and work on the twiddley bits!


03-04-2003, 01:47 AM
Sorry, to be a party pooper, I think the original picture is better than the tweaked one. I don't think that moving solar panels to a position where they are obscured by part of the structure was a good move and the harsher lighting is more believable. That said, I think it's a great space station that willl get better and better.


03-04-2003, 02:10 AM
I liked the first lighting much better. Keep sunlight sharp.

In the 2nd pic, the direction of the light is almost behind the camera - this makes the pic look flat.

I'd suggest you to revert closer to the first lighting setup, and then adding slight soft bounce lighting from the earth.

Also, you might wanna try turning your sun to 200% to overexpose the highlights slightly - a deliberate error like this could add to the realism factor...

03-04-2003, 05:54 AM
Please! Don't apologise for the criticism! I learn more from this than from straight praise! It's all been constructive, and is VERY welcome.

And one reason the modular station appealed to me was that it would be easy to shuffle the bits to improve it, without starting over.

I'll shrink the array of lights very considerably to make them more point like, while keeping a slight soft edge on the shadows I think.

In composition terms it gets messy - I'm trying to keep the panels roughly parallel to the ground, they have to face the light source, (obviously), and I'm trying also to avoid distracting shadows.

I'm not convinced by the 'single point light is realistic' school, unless you are a LONG way from Earth. (And even then fine details will show soft shadows). The Earth is bright enough to visibly light the unlit parts of the Moon at new moon, and a few hundred miles up it will be like a huge area light underneath! (Well, a bit like that anyway :-)

Cheers to all,

03-04-2003, 08:09 AM
The soft light should be coming reflected from the earth, not from the sun's direction... there's no diffusion whatsoever (clouds, atmosphere) to soften the sunlight in space, so it's very contrasty and sharp.

As the sun is not a perfect point source (such things don't exist in nature) there's some softening in the edges of the shadows, but not much.

***shameless self promotion mode on***

You might wanna try out my Overcaster spinning light setup scripts at


for the soft lighting, if you don't wanna go radiosity...

***shameless self promotion mode off***

03-05-2003, 01:56 PM
OK, last version for a bit, promise! Background simplified, (it was getting distracting at this stage). Return to more dramatic lighting angle. Shadows sharpened, but not completely.

A few more minor details added, of the nurney like variety!


03-05-2003, 03:05 PM
Well, the final one is probably the best, no really nice background to distract us. The ligting is really good to really realistic, looks like the stuff from ISS and (that russian one). Great work


03-05-2003, 04:03 PM
I really like this one. It's turning out really good. The lighting is nice and dramatic but not distracting and that's no small feat when lighting space. My recomondation is try to keep it somewhat realistic but not COMPLETELY realistic. I always, always, always have three lights when lighting space (main, fill and a bright rear one). It may not be real to life, but it's a lot more theatrical. So all rambling aside basically what I'm saying is you've done a good job at keeping it realistic while still lighting dramatically. Good work.

03-06-2003, 01:07 AM
I haven't worried much about matching lighting yet either.
Well this latest pic`s starting to look really good. Your objects there are all fairly pale coloured, so in this harsh lighting they`ll be acting as light sources of their own, illuminating the dark sides of neighbouring modules.

Probably time to go quiet for a while, and work on the twiddley bits!
Stealth mode! :D


03-07-2003, 04:33 PM
I like the last pic. My single crit is to make some the the metallic objects more metalic looking and shiny/reflective. Also, (okay 2 crits) the solar panels in the previous pics were too thick - if you haven't changed that I would consider that.

Overall its a really nice. :)

03-08-2003, 03:43 AM
Thanks Jalingo - I had not spotted the panels, I'll add it to the list. Thanks to others fro constructive criticism too.

I won't post another pic quite yet, as I hope it will change rapidly over the weekend.

Currently being fixed are:

* Add attidude jets in various places.
* Add small logos in many places
* Retexture the domed tops of the stubby modules.
* Put gradients on specular and reflection for the main module textures.
* Improve the lineup of the modules
* Many small lighting adjuctments
* Add small docking lights to the end of the small modules.
* Add a steerable dish somewhere.
* more fine detail in various places.

One thing I had little joy with - I experimented with turning on radiosity, (default settings), in the hope it would look sligntly self illuminated from the light bouncing off bright stuff, but the only change I could spot was massively increased render times! :-(

Any clues on a good starting point for these settings?


03-10-2003, 08:42 AM

First off, very nice work so far. Love the concept and design so far.

For a crit. I'm sorry if someone already mentioned this, but I haven't had a chance to read the entire thread yet. The solar panels look like they are not textured correctly. I don't know if I've been “fooled” by all the tv and movies I watch, but they seem to be darker, more reflective and something else I can't quite put my finger on. Watch any space movie (again with the movies) and you'll see what I mean I think.


03-10-2003, 09:47 AM
Yeah, it looks very good other than the non-reflecting panels (though it's odd that they reflect in real life since you'd expect them to absorb as much light as possible for maximum efficiency). I'd also make the shadows somewhat sharper, as they're still a bit too soft to look real to me... it's just a matter of finding the right compromise between realism and art.

03-10-2003, 12:39 PM
Thanks for the comments - I find the panels a real pain to do. I've looked at loads of pictures, and the appearance is very, very variable, even on the one spacecraft!

They look better when they move - you get a sheen running over them, and can vary the intensity of the colour as they tip, but this is intended for still images mainly.

It's also a pain that there is very little for them to reflect! Something which often makes realistically lit space scenes look wrong in my experience.

I think the colour is too strong, and I intend to add a subtle irridescence.

I'm attaching one of the reference images I'm using, so I hope you can see what I mean. (It's of Mir - I'm basing this largely on Soviet material).

Thanks for highlightng the problem though, I need to give them more attention.

You are right about the shadows, the current version is much better in this regard, but I'm trying to hold off posting until I finish most of the current things I am working on.



03-11-2003, 12:02 AM
new solar panels
and bloom effect