The Iceboat

The Iceboat
This project was inspired by a
photograph that my dad took of a nearby lake. The lake froze during a calm period,  the resulting ice being very smooth and perfect for skating. I thought back to one winter when I was a kid, I'd been fortunate enough to have unlimited use of an old wooden iceboat that belonged to a friend of my sisters'. It was huge, heavy, equipped with a canvas sail, and an extreme amount of fun. All that winter, day or night, if it was at all windy, I'd be running up and down the ice with a big grin literally frozen on my face. Unfortunately, during the early Spring, an freak windstorm blew out the old canvas sail while the boat was parked on shore. The owner retrieved it, and that was the end of my fun. I never saw the old boat again, but when I saw the perfect ice covering the lake, I knew that I could recreate a bit of the excitement I used to have. This time, the boat would be sleek, modern, completely imaginary...and all mine.
For this re-creation, I used trueSpace 5.2 to build a model of my imaginary iceboat which could then be integrated into the background photo of the 'perfect ice'. I started with the skates; laying out a curve for the outline. This was converted to polygons, swept to approximate thickness, beveled, and finally surfaced with a metal shader and a custom texture map. The skate was bolted to it's supports; replicated for the other outrigger, and then a new shape was drawn for the front skate. The steering assembly was a snap to make using the subdivision surfaces tools. Simple cubes were laid out in the basic configuration which then became nicely rounded after subdivision. The hull was the next phase; and once again SubSurf was the method of choice. I wanted it to look fast, low, and conjure up a single seater fighter plane. The basic hull was swept from a cube; the cockpit was hollowed out, and then the outriggers were swept outwards from each side, using a mirroring plug-in (I forget which one) to keep them even. The resulting object was smoothed with SubSurf. The skate assemblies were positioned under each outrigger and at the nose. Now, I had a boat, but no way to propel it. I began modeling the hardware to attach a mast to the hull, this went through a couple revisions until I settled on a 'ball and socket' type assembly. A combination of techniques were used- polygon modeling for simple things like bolts and washers, and SubSurf for smoother, more complex parts. I researched sails of various types on the Internet, and found those used for sail boarding had the most exciting designs. They were colorful, about the right size and shape, and just
looked fast. I originally had a simple triangular sail as a template for sizing the mast; and after seeing the 'batwing' design of many sailboard sails, I knew that's what I wanted for the iceboat. The actual sail was built with NURBS; starting with an outline curve that was progressively refined. Once the shape and internal lines were established, I worked on 'billowing out' the areas between the battens. That done, the sail was scissored  into parts that could be individually colored. I used plain colors,  Caligari Phong and a fabric bump map with a very low amplitude to surface the sail. The numbers and logos are material rectangles. The rigging used a couple different methods. For the outrigger stays, cubes swept up from the attachment assemblies were then smoothed with SubSurf. The 'sheet', or main sail control line that runs thru all the pullies was a lofted curve. All the pullies were first modeled and then positioned. At first, the sail was in a straight line directly behind the mast, but Matt Chan convinced me that it should be kicked out at an angle. It was much trickier to model the ropes this way, but I think the results were worth it.
The canopy went through a couple variations, I finally settled on a nurbs method of construction.

The final procedure was to insert the computer generated model into the photographic background. The photo was assigned as a background image, and a camera positioned to match the photographic point of view. The photo was also painted onto a hemispherical dome, and placed to line up with the background. The ice object is simply a large cube with it's top face subdivided. It's surfaced with Caligari Phong, Symbiont tS (Plant Veins), a bump map, and an environment map. The iceboat model was brought into the scene and set onto the ice. Lighting in the above image was generated by an Image Based Light; in earlier renders I used a couple infinite lights. I prefer the IBL; but the render time is a killer.

Scene stats:
Poly count: 131096 polies
3,888 kB scene file
About 60 different renders

High Resolution 1024 X 768 version of the image at the top of the page.
(Tiny) version that earned an Honorable Mention in the April 2002 Caligari contest

Still looking through backups with crossed fingers for the full sized original.

Previous | Next