As a child I grew up with a British television series from 1965: The Thunderbirds.
I loved the stunning international rescue operations and was a big fan of The Thunderbirds rescue vehicle number 2.
My dad recorded episodes on VHS tape so I could watch them over and over again.
And because of my birthday presents I had a collection of Thunderbirds toys, to complete my love for the series.
Fast forward some twenty years later. I work as an environment artist and still admire the sci-fi series from Garry Anderson and Derek Meddings. I researched the creation of his supermarionation series, studying books and documentaries. Especially the sci-fi environments and props looked amazing to me and
Derek Meddings in particular inspired me the most with his vision and eye for detail.
Thunderbird 2 hangar
To pay tribute to this wonderful series I enjoyed so much I came up with the idea to recreate the same feeling the series had, but using computer graphics instead of puppets.
My passion lies with creating environments; I love to create rich worlds that tell stories where people are sucked into. With this in mind I decided to recreate my favorite Thunderbird home base: The Thunderbird 2 hangar.
It was very important to me to keep the same vintage look and feel as the original series, without losing it by making the hangar feel too digital and clean. This was one of my most important goals for the project.
I’ve always wanted to create an environment using the Unreal Engine, so this was the ultimate challenge for me.
I wanted to achieve a realistic look and feel, and wanted to get familiar with PBR (physical based rendering), so I decided to go for more high definition models combined with PBR materials.
I used software new to me to achieve high definition with ease and getting myself familiar with PBR materials. Substance Designer and Substance Painter helped me a lot during the process of defining the look and feel I was searching for.
I gathered as many references of the Thunderbird 2 and the hangar as possible. I noticed there were a lot of differences on each of the reference pictures I found of these two models.
I found out they repaired broken and melted wires and made additional changes to the props while shooting the series. Because of this I had to make choices between these visual differences and stick with those during development.
I picked the things I liked most and gave them my own touch, keeping in mind they still need to represent the same old models.
I wanted to create the Thunderbird 2 hangar in my spare time so I set up a time limit for myself, to create an imaginary deadline. This kept me from going overboard and ending up not finishing the project.
I started with creating a block out of the hangar in 3dsmax to give me a sense of scale and an idea of how much assets I needed to create the Thunderbird 2 hangar.
When I was satisfied with the blockout I picked each singular block and start working out the final model.
Since most of the stuff is hardsurface I decided to stick with 3dsmax to create both the low and high definition model.
I used substance painter to bake the texture maps from the high definition models, so I could use to use them on the low definition models. After doing that the low definition models were ready to use in the Unreal Engine.
I used tileable textures for walls, floors and the ceiling. These textures were also created in Substance designer.
When all the models were done I could finally bring all the pieces together and start bringing the hangar to life in the Unreal engine. Setting up materials, lighting and special FX definitely paid off and were easy to set up within the Unreal Engine.
The environment started to breathe and had the look and feel I was trying to achieve.
During the process I lost a lot of time getting familiar with the new tools and adopting a new workflow. It wasn’t until close to the end when I was able to speed up the process and became comfortable with these new tools.
I love the substance tools and their hands-on approach to define materials and textures. I definitely will use the same tools for my next project.
After having spend approximately sixteen working days on the Hangar, learning all these new tools, I can look back at a tough, but great, ride.
I’m very happy with the results and I’m proud to present to you the Thunderbird 2 Hangar!
Thunderbirds are go!