Copyright 2019 Howard Gardner
This is a sel-initiated animation which I worked on as a "back burner project" over the course of two months. I have previously designed a number of fictional spacecraft but I wanted to set myself a tougher challenge this time around and raise the bar somewhat higher in terms of realism and complexity.
I used Maya for all the polygonal modeling work. In an effort to make the surface of the spacecraft hull look more detailed and believable my first job was to construct a library of psuedo-industrial looking "greebles", low-poly objects which I loosely based on actual parts of military vehicles and other heavy machinery. Once these were completed (and saved in a separate scene file for future re-use) I roughed out a basic shape for the Leif Erikson's hull and started to add as many greebles as possible, while also scaling them down to create a sense of large scale.
The unusual shape of the Leif Erikson was initially inspired by a triangular warning label and, as a project intended solely to challenge my model making and texturing skills, I treated it as a work of fantasy and did not try to rationalise any aspect its outward appearance - the illuminated sphere at its centre implies some sort of exotic energy source but it's possible I'd subconsciously borrowed that from The Odyssey in my favourite childhood TV series Ulysses 31.
Once the polygonal work was done, I UV-mapped everything and imported the layouts into photoshop, where I designed separate maps for the craft's diffuse, specular and bump textures. Some details were borrowed from photographs of real aircraft hulls, while other parts were hand-drawn.
The starry backdrop and nebulae were also designed in Photoshop, amalgamating bits of real astronomical photographs. The planet in the background was simmply a sphere primitive, textured with a fractally generated bump pattern.
The animation was rendered out with Mental Ray and the passes were composited together using Nuke X.