Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
In my Sabre archive I have a 3-D-generated image of a CL-13 marked as an aircraft of 413 Squadron RCAF; it carries the serial 19149 and the code AP 149. The most important décor item is a broad blue chevron on the mid fuselage, framing a yellow disc with the maple leaf and elephant’s head taken from the squadron’s shield. On the official shield, the maple leaf is in gold and yellow, but on the aircraft the leaf is green.
It’s an attractive scheme, and I spent a bit of time correcting certain minor inaccuracies on the airframe, smoothing out some of the over-polygonal selections (a common feature of 3-D images, unless the mesh is very fine), and then pasting the resulting airframe image onto some more realistic backgrounds.
I was fairly pleased with my final version, in spite of the fact that all the skin textures are rather lacking in realism; that is almost universally true of images that are entirely computer-generated. But it’s still a nice picture.
The Initial Image
When I found that Shawn Weiler had done a model of another aircraft of the same squadron, I downloaded it to my working folder, and later I worked up his model photograph to give an in-flight picture of the aircraft.
The advantages of Shawn’s image are that the model is well posed, reasonably well lit, has a closed canopy and realistic tailplane setting. The down side is the focus, which is rather far aft, so that the parts closest to the viewer are the most unsharp.
Treatment of the Image
The task of selecting the main structural components wasn’t as easy as normal, but I’m sufficiently familiar with the Sabre by now that I could choose the shapes accurately enough.
The same applied to the selection of the panel boundaries on the airframe; I stored most of the panels under several catch-all headings, and I made small shifts in their colouration to simulate the tonal differences that you get on nat. met. aircraft skins; it’s wise to make these shifts quite small, otherwise it can start to look fake.
Moving to the décor elements, most were selected in-situ, but the codes flanking the fuselage roundel, the yellow disc that carries the squadron emblem, the RCAF logo on the rear fuselage, and the flag and aircraft serial on the fin, were all constructed on secondary files and then pasted back onto the master image. On this model, the maple leaf appears to be red, quite like the official logo, and unlike the green colour shown on my download of AP 149.
The only other detail worth mentioning is the canopy glazing. I found a picture in my archive that had the plane in a very similar attitude to Shawn’s, and then re-sized it so that the glazed areas were close to the same size, and pasted the resulting glazing selection onto this model. I’ve been using this technique a lot recently, and I’ve found it can give much more realistic renderings of the glazed areas. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as the foregoing suggests, and a good deal of juggling was needed to get the end result you see here – I’m actually rather proud of it.
Among the backings that I tried out, this simple high-altitude skyscape was the most effective. It’s not surprising, because I find that all my high-altitude cloud-tops images make just about any model look good.
I have done many images of aircraft in natural metal finish, and not all of them look really convincing. The thing to avoid is an appearance that makes you think that the aircraft is made of lead – a dull, lifeless, neutral grey. You can err in the opposite direction as well, with highlight areas that are too intense; then the result can look artificial. Here, though, I think the image looks quite convincing, and, since I merely accepted what I had with only a few panels slightly tweaked in tonality, the credit has to go mostly to Shawn Weiler.
One of the things I like about the image is that there are diffuse reflections of the décor areas on the fuselage on the nearside wing, and that is something that’s difficult to create on a 3-D image.