Having put the bulk of the phototerrain to bed, it’s time for some modeling! This is in many ways my favorite part of every project — seeing a collection of photos become 3D objects that bring the digital world to life. I’m not planning on building too many custom objects outside of the airport itself, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a better version of the Rt. 1 bridge over the Merrimac river. So, my first object is just that – a recreation of the auto and railroad bridges.
Modeling the bridge presented a challenge: do I create a high-res version of the road surface that looks good on the model but doesn’t match the surrounding terrain, or do I cut a chunk out of the photoscenery and use the softer, blurrier surface that’s guaranteed to blend nearly perfectly? This is the sort of decision a modeler faces constantly. I applied the distance test to come up with a solution – at what distance is this model intended to be seen in the sim? With the exception of nut jobs who enjoy flying under them, most people will see this bridge from a thousand or more feet as they approach or leave 2B2. In the end, I decided that the blend was more important than a crisp texture up close. Notice as well that the bridge deck is hardened, so the default AI traffic can actually use it. Seeing little cars zipping over it adds that little extra jolt of reality.
When the bridges were done, I moved to the airport itself to begin building. First up: the most prominent structure on the field, the big shiny dome of the hangar. I got great shots of it during my visit, so modeling wasn’t too tough. There are so few objects on this field that I decided I could spend more polygons than I normally would to build each of them, and by so doing atone for that blurry bridge deck. Ordinarily, I might just use a section of a cylinder for the hangar, but I decided to model the actual ridges in the metal.
Now we’re talking! I love this kind of detail. Matching the texture perfectly took a bit of futzing around, but it was worth it. I also included semi-transparent windows in the hangar doors, through which can be seen the wooden 2×4 supports for the door frames. This addition caused me some grief with transparency, until I figured out that I had to use a separate material for the windows in order to prevent draw-call confusion and z-ordering problems. Now that it’s sorted, things are good.
Don’t worry about the ground, by the way. I’ve got plans for much more realistic hard surfaces. This is just the stock apron texture here.