I’ve been taking a new cartooning course, and our first project involves scripting and thumbnailing. So I’ve been thumbnailing over the past few weeks.
Ty always argued that thumbnails should take you 10 minutes. They take me quite a bit longer than that. I’m also weird in that I really like figuring out my lettering early in the process, ’cause I hate lettering that doesn’t fit into the panels.
Mostly my thumbnails start very scribbly, and then I refine them as I want to figure stuff out. Some parts I just leave as scribbly if I have a clear idea of what it’s saying. Stuff that involves a lot of environment, I end up spending more time on.
The choice seemed clear to me: A life of drag queens, safe spaces, and sharing booths with Aubrey Plaza, or a lifetime of straight bars, creepy white families, and code-switching with Mackenzie Davis — who is usually very hot but was done dirty with a poorly-fitted wig (sorry!! She was!!!).
A few weeks ago, I was thinking about modelling the brig from Voyager. We see a fair bit of the brig in the episode “Thirty Days” where Tom Paris is confined to the brig as the result of disobeying the Captain’s orders.
This image appeared in an official Trek fan publication:
(Paramount authorized an official Trek magazine in the nineties — it often included these kinds isometric-style set interiors and folks have copied, reused and remixed them ever since).
There’s a bunch of stuff I don’t like about the Voyager brig set. First, there seems like a lot of wasted space dedicated to an area that probably isn’t commonly used. Despite how much space it takes, it always struck me as odd that there was only one cell. And, lastly, I find the idea that Trek ships have stations (like the brig guard station) where people are expected to stand all day long a bit unfriendly. People need to sit down.
My first foray into normal maps. Trek frequently uses this particular texture — often on pillars or support structures. It’s simple enough, but the extra detail would add a lot of geometry to a model.
Thus normal maps. Normal maps say, “pretend that this flat surface has extra detail on it, and use that pretend detail when you calculate light interaction.” It’s all pretend, but it’s a special form of pretend that can be hardware-accelerated.
Basically, to make this work I have to create a model of complex geometry and use a Blender tool to create (“bake”) a normal map by projecting onto a much simpler shape. The end result is a very blue-coloured image that I can use in other models.
Net result: the surface is flat. It just doesn’t look flat. And if you look at the bounce light from the floor, that bounce light is emphasizing the texture shape.
Like I say: first foray. I barely know what I’m doing.