MACES: A Work-Work Work in Progress

Every once in a while I get the chance to work on something that doesn't fall under the "Sensitive but unclassified" criteria.  One of the things I have been working on between projects at work is a newer, more detailed 3D model of the Modified Advanced Crew Escapes Suit, or MACES. Our current one was cobbled together from older models and photographs for textures.  Overall, it doesn't look that impressive when you put it against some of our other models.

Last August we got to go take some reference photos of the MACES in the lab where it is being developed.  It was a very fun experience and I can't say that I didn't geek out a bit.  This suit is being designed as a launch and reentry suit for the new Orion vehicle.  NASA developed the ACES (Advanced Crew Escape Suit) after the Challenger incident and used it all the way through the end of the shuttle program.  This is the next generation with a few modifications.

I was provided a laser scan of the suit and some basic CAD geometry from one of the engineers at the lab.  From there, I have been modeling all of the tiny little details of the helmet and adjustment straps.  This is as far as I have been able to get in the meantime, but it's ready for ZBrush and textures in Photoshop:

This is the shape of the suit once it is fully inflated.  Modeling the most neutral pose for the suit will ensure realistic movement when I rig and animate it.

I still have to sculpt out all the small details and wrinkles of the torso.  Thankfully, the laser scan I was provided helped out with reference and scale quite a bit.

 I just wanted to point out some one of the cool details about these renderings: there is reflective 3M tape on the back of the helmet that slightly refracts the light as is bounces off of it, causing a slight rainbow pattern in the reflections.  I found out a way to replicate that here in the shader.

Another interesting note is that the environment image that I used to light the model is actually a panorama of the suit lab that we took the reference photos in.  That way I can match up colors and lighting to make sure it looks correct.

One of these days I will finish it all up, but there is a lot left to do.  For example, I've got human heads to put in so it looks real, as well as all the rigging that will go into it.  In the end, however, I hope to have a fantastic model and demo reel piece.

1 comment:

jdhouse4 said...

That is pretty cool. Please let me know if you can ever release that model. It would certainly look good in "Mission Orion", a 3d Orion sim I built that's now in Apple's App Store.