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The Boston Spaceship

A Study in Three Dimensions


To download an old source .rdd file, right-click on the above image.

About the Project

I am currently working on a 3D model of the Boston spaceship. I say "currently" but it has actually been several months since I last touched the model. I started using (and learning) RayDream Designer version 4, a 3D modeling package (and very impressive for only $99). It has been a lot of fun and a lot of work. And it should produce some interesting wallpapers for my Windows desktop eventually.

My goal is to eventually have a very detailed model of the ship so that I can rotate it and place it in any scene I wish. I've always liked the artwork on the first two Boston albums, so I thought it'd be fun to recreate it in 3D.

In doing so, I've discovered some flaws in the artwork. I started out using the "blueprints" inside the Don't Look Back album. So I decided to mix my artistic eye with the detail found in the blueprint. The result so far, I hope, is a more authentic looking spaceship.

Everybody is welcome to download the source .rd4 file. Play with it, enjoy it, learn from it, and if you do anything really cool let me know. I have learned a lot with this project and it'd be a shame to keep it all to myself.


Just the basic model here. It still needs some tweaking.


Improved colors and lighting. Added "teeth". More detail on the neck. Light cones, the hard way.


First attempt at the logo. Real light cones, but still not right.


Real light cones. Added Boston logo, which still needs work.


More detail on the neck and headstock.

The Ship

I started Simple, modeling just a simple main body and a neck. The body is a loft object with a rounded envelope. It is actually two objects; the top, rounded piece which is purple, and the bottom, flat piece which is red. The neck is a separate piece. There is a connecting piece between them to help smooth the transition, but it needs a some work. The neck is four objects, the long neck and the end. Despite its simplistic appearance, the neck was quite a difficult piece to model.

Next, I added the teeth on the underside of the ship and reshaped the glass dome. Then, I modeled some canister lights, the fretboard, and tuning keys. There are more frets on a real guitar, but it looked too busy on this model so I deleted a bunch of them. I eventually had to re-model the canister lights so I could put a spotlight object inside of them. That gives a nice accurate beam of light coming out.

The City

I intend to model the city, but I am uncertain which city to model, the one on the first album, the one on the second album, the one in the blueprints, or the REAL city of Boston. Right now I am leaning toward the one in the blueprints for several reasons. First, it's practically layed out for me in the blueprints. Second, I don't know what the real city of Boston looks like, nor do I have access to the several maps and building photos and blueprints I'd need.

To make the city appear more realistic, I am planning a tiny lighting system for the entire city. I am going to make the buildings "hollow" with tiny holes in them for the light to show through. Each building will have a slightly different color light emitting from it. I may even make a thousand little street lights. It's going to be cool! I'll probably even add a few cars with headlights and tail lights.

The Composition

When I made my first rendering of the ship at what I thought was the proper angle, it just didn't look right. I learned a few things from experimenting with the camera angles. First, I noticed that the back end (the back of the main body right where it attaches to the neck) was too big. What I did to correct that was to move the camera right up to the spaceship and just expand the production frame rather than have the camera further back and zooming. After tinkering with the camera angle and getting it just right, I discovered that the artists that made the cover art for the first two albums exaggerated the perspective too much on the main body.


Lighting is accomplished with the following formula that I have found to give pretty dramatice results: Ambient light is set to zero. A "key" light is a distant light high and to the left and at 200% brightness with 90% shadows. The fill light is lower and directly in front of the ship aiming straight at it, which gives the "teeth" a shine. Inside the hole in the belly of the ship there is a slightly yellow tinted light at around 120%, no shadow. That gives the red color the warm glow.

Slightly modified image used for Boston's new album 'Corporate America' on Artemis Records

Goin' home to Boston.

For the outerspace shot shown to the left, the lighting was accomplished with a single bulb light (acting as the sun) and about 10% ambient light to simulate light coming from the other stars. Bumping up ambient lighting also helped show the dark shape of the ship.

The stars were created using the "fountain" primitive with the "atomize" deformer. There is also a bitmap background that I created showing some distant stars. Then I added a couple of "cloud" objects to give the outer space a little bit of color and character. I know it's probably not realistic, but hell, since when did guitars fly?

More info

I will be happy to answer any questions about the ship, Ray Dream Designer, or my graphics background. This project is a labor of love and I would love to share any files that I create, including the source .rdd file. Also, I am interested in your feedback. Tell me how I am doing, what I can improve, or tell me your ideas on the composition. You can contact me at dhirschl@atlas.kennesaw.edu

Email me

Email me


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