Space & Sci-fi

Gerry Anderson's UFO

Marc Martin has the best site dedicated to this series, which provided me with the idealised plans used to create the model.

Considering how simple the basic shape is, the model took a couple of attempts so that the ribbed sections didn't become a too much of a blur when viewed from a distance, and although that was actually the intent of the original model-makers, CG imagery looks a mess with high levels of motion blur. Having said that, I deliberately created more detail than was necessary simply because when seen in close-up the model would otherwise be very boring - what should be simple ribbing has been changed from my first attempt to thin vanes on the central body and the radial sections.



An image above my bland desert, and one with an obligatory flare. As the vanes and domes are slightly reflective, some areas have a yellow tint due to the sand beneath.
The domes are deliberately rendered without refraction otherwise the ribbed vanes are too distorted to be clearly visible (the original model perspex didn't have any noticeable refractive qualities anyway), and even though the 4 dull copper 'aerials' (connection points for the suspension wires) mid-way down the top dome probably wouldn't be there in an ideal UFO vehicle, they are included for the sake of accuracy as they're on the plans.


Taking the final image above and using it as the basis for an animation of the UFO flying out of the sun.


An animated fly-by composited with a 'real' background (Split Rock Lighthouse, Two Harbors, MN, USA). There are shadows, reflections, and clipping as the UFO flies behind the lighthouse; the foreground is also clipped in relation to the ice so it doesn't have reflections, just shadows. It's an incredible cheat, but adequate, and the sense of depth is good as I didn't have to resort to scaling the model which would have looked wrong anyway. The most obvious mistake is that the shadows and reflections are on a flat surface, so nothing takes into account the roughness of the actual terrain, and of course the CG image is far too clean. The UFO's rotation is also slower than it ought to be, but it was tricky finding a balance between seeing detail and having an incorrect sense of reverse rotation due to a strobing effect.

Animation Sequence - 3 Events

Part 1 : Crash

A missile fired off-screen from Sky 1 homes in on its target, which then crashes at the edge of a forest (pine trees, of course).

A learning study in volumetrics (though I was originally more interested in the motion): missile trail, missile-impact explosion smoke and separate sparks, dissipating red smoke both from the main UFO and a vane that was blow off by the missile impact, three sets of ground impact debris with one moving as the UFO skids. This is the first time I've attempted an animation of this complexity (all I've done in the past are relatively simple fly-throughs), and was a wonderful example of the large gap between knowing the theory of how something is done and actually setting up the multiple FX emitters and arranging them in different combinations affected by wind and gravity, whilst all the time being 'aware' of objects and so not passing through them.

Part 2 : Firing Laser

Having crashed, the UFO fires its laser at a ground mobile.

Part 3 : Exploding

Then it blows up in stages, and conveniently any trees and grass that may have been set alight are extinguished by the final blast.

More volumetrics, and I'm very pleased with the effects of falling fuel, though of course nothing they touch catches fire. The only thing that's not too good is the sudden collapse of the main fireball, and the too-spherical nature of the particle debris.