Sunday, 29 January 2012

A Flying Career?

On Wednesday 11th January I went to a flight simulation talk and have been meaning to write about it (as it is another future career option for people doing our course, other than going into the games industry). The talk was presented by ex-pilot Ian Strachan and was primarily aimed at Engineering students with good mathematical knowledge; this meant that I didn't really understand a lot of the talk, but if I did know about engineering I think I would have found it quite interesting. I wrote down 4 pages of notes whilst listening to the talk, so I will try and shorten them down a bit to show what I have learnt.
Firstly a flight simulator is a model used for pilot training and virtually simulates flying different types of aircraft in different conditions and situations. For example, one trainee pilot could be flying an army helicopter over Russia in the middle of a snow storm, and another trainee pilot could be bringing hundreds of virtual passengers back home to Japan on a normal sunny day. 
Each flight simulator should be as realistic as possible and should simulate the lift, drag, thrust and overall weight of the aircraft and although funds are always in favour of simulators (there has been a lot less accidents since they have been used for training) the amount of features each simulator has varies depending on the budget, one simulator can include any or all of the following:
  1. Replica crew station
  2. Image generation system
  3. Visual Display
  4. Motion Systems
  5. Computing (Vehicle model and systems integration)
  6. Instructor operating system
  7. Outside communication system (Networks/LAN/WAN)

A lot of flight simulators use 3D panoramic views and very big databases to store all of the information about scenarios. Similar techniques to games are used such as Mipmapping or just changing the level of detail as the aircraft gets closer to an object. This can be seen in a lot of highly detailed, free roaming games such as Skyrim. 
For example the mountains and trees in the background are very pale and not very detailed, yet the grass and the 
characters in the foreground are very detailed, once you move closer to the mountains in the background they will be as detailed as the things in the foreground. (if that makes any sense!) This technique saves on texture space and creates a more realistic look. I also noted that low poly-counts were used for vehicles, so the similarities between flight simulators and what I am currently learning in my game production lessons are growing.

One of the most interesting parts of the talk was the description of how just the visuals can affect the brain activity of the pilot into thinking that they are actually moving. This was described by just a few simple diagrams, which I personally thought were very descriptive in themselves. 
I copied the diagrams to show how the way the the aircraft is flown in the simulator changes how the visuals are displayed, to again make it look a lot more realistic. Tests have shown that from just changing the perspective of the visuals, tricks the brain into slightly feeling the yaw, pitch and roll of the flight.

So from going to the talk I learnt quite a lot about something I didn't really know about before, and made me realise that flight simulators are another option for those with the same skills as in the games industry. Also as fight simulators are selling for over £15000 each, I think it would be a worthy career option or a good side project for game artists!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Semester 1 Update

I recently had to create a CD with all of my up to date Visual Design work on, so that pushed me to get it all scanned! Unfortunately I only have an A4 scanner so there is a line in the middle of some of the work, but it doesn't seem very visible on the final pieces as they fill the whole page. 

Here is a quick update of my work up to today: 
Ok I think the last project I posted about was the car project, so after that we went as a class to The Newarke Museum to study the dinosaur bones which I really enjoyed (as it was a nice change from the car project). I decided to do my final piece as a digital painting as I hadn't tried this media for my past projects; using some photographs that I took for reference, I tested out how digital painting would look on bone structures by first drawing a dog-like skeleton that was at the museum. I feel that the end result was quite successful so I painted my chosen dinosaur skeleton digitally for my final.


A trip to Bradgate Park was the next project, unfortunately on the day that we went to the park, the weather decided to be the worst it had been all term and most of the class ended up with colds the next day! I didn't get any drawings done that day as it was constantly raining, so I just took reference photos instead. I wanted to use a water based medium for this final piece to signify that it was very wet, I ended up using Indian ink, as I also thought that the different shades of grey would look gloomy - reflecting on the weather.

The week after Bradgate park we had a mini test where we were set an hour to draw as much as we could of a still life scene, I spent a bit too much time drawing everything out and had just started shading when the hour was up, my tutor came to the conclusion that I needed to be more confident with shading as there was a lack of it, but I know that it was because I had spent too long on the proportions. From this I realised that I was out of practice with drawing still life scenes in a given amount of time, so I set up a still life in my flat which was a lot more successful – this may be because I was in my own environment or because I had given myself 2 hours instead of 1. Either way I'm sure if you compared them, then you would agree that the second shows off my talent a bit more.

The last project I was set before the Christmas holiday was visiting the National Space Centre. I really enjoyed this day, as growing up with a dad that is really interested in space means that I also have a slight interest in it. There was a lot of interactive things to do at the museum, including a very interesting film projected in an observatory style room, I would definitely go again for a day out. There were lots of different things to look at and draw like model rockets and spacesuits, but I was quite interested by the overall d├ęcor of the place; the majority of the doors in the museum looked like airlocks and there were different spaceships, satellites and planets suspended from the ceiling. I guessed that a lot of my peers would choose to draw a ship or a spacesuit for their final, so I thought to be different, I would draw an entrance to one of the exhibits. I chose to draw mine digitally so that I could experiment with different shades and techniques, I was really pleased with my final outcome as I haven't really had chance to experiment with digitally painting a whole scene.

Here are some updated pictures of my other projects that I have talked about previously - scanned pictures look so much better than photographs! 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Christmas Project Ideas

I was a bit stuck on how to start this project so I thought writing my ideas down here would help. Ok, so I have to create a vehicle that can go on land, air and water, there isn't anything currently that exists with these properties other than a hovercraft (but that doesn't really travel very high in the air or go underwater). 

I looked on Google Images to find other people's ideas of what future cars would look like and I was pretty much put off by all of the hideous blobby shapes that people had come up with, I personally thought they all looked like computer mice and didn't really look like much thought had gone into the workings of the vehicle.
I gave this a bit more thought which resulted in me feeling disappointed that there isn't a submarine car that can fly through the clouds in today's existence, which then reminded me of the 1950s era. Back in the 50's there was a lot of technological advances (like video games!) and the people of that time thought that by the 2000's the human race would all have flying cars and robot house butlers (if only!) 
I think that by basing my vehicle on the 50's ideal future then it will be a more enjoyable project and hopefully a different response to the brief. Some of the most iconic cars of the 50s were the Pontiac, Chrysler and Volkswagen Beetle, I think that these are beautiful cars but not really the most aerodynamic looking. 
I would like to design something like from the old cheesy sci-fi films / t.v series from between the 50's and 70's which look more like spaceships than cars. I think I would like my vehicle to look more like a car but still have the features of the spaceship-like vehicles. To fix the problem of the older cars not being aerodynamic, I've looked into the sports cars of the age, which were quite narrow and had long fronts.