Entry 16/10/2016

Star Wars: Sculpting A Galaxy

I’ve used Star Wars as an example in my psychology of shapes blog, but I wanted

to explore the process they used in designing their spaceships in greater depth.

It’s fair to say that model making was a massive part of the original trilogy, with

ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) at the helm of the process. I used “Sculpting a

Galaxy” (Lorne Peterson 2016) Figure 1.(Lorne Peterson 2016) to gain a better



Figure 1: Front Book Cover (Lorne Peterson 2016)

Design commonality is something you can notice in both the rebel alliance and

the Imperial Army; It’s something you can see that Ralph McQuarrie, Joe

Johnston and Nilo Rodis-Jamero, the key designers on the original trilogy

strived to achieve. The rebel’s ships use compound curves and natural lines

Figure 2.(Federal Highway Administration. 2014) while the Imperial ships as in

my past research shows use jagged geometry (Horizontal angle points) and

formalised lines.


Figure 2 Compound Curves (Federal Highway Administration. 2014)

This is something you can notice straight away using a simple squint test.

Figure 3.(CastWars. 2014)main-qimg-a8ce6d1756640481555ce72b55d18b0d-c

Figure 3 Rebel Alliance and Imperial Fleet (CastWars. 2014)


These simple design traits reflect the characteristics of both sides, one the

controlling power relentless in its quest to oppress the galaxy the other doing

everything to unite the galaxy with individualism and diversity, the design is

smart in the way it is subconsciously telling us which side we should be



The techniques used for the model making in the films are something which I

could take away for my dissertation. I want to talk about the primary technique

used to produce detail in the models they created. The models were created

using a technique called greebling, a process they used to add finer detail to

large surfaces with the desire to produce a greater more complex surface. ILM

used a process called Kitbashing to bring detail to the large surfaces they were

dealing with; Figure 4&5. (Lorne Peterson.Page.15&9 2016) It’s amazing to learn

that they used hundreds of random plastic model sets, surprisingly a favourite

set being a German WW2 artillery kit. The effect of greebling a surface isn’t

necessarily for the purpose of giving meaning to a surface, regarding knowing

what a section or piece does, but mainly to give it character and depth.

Figure 4: Star Destroyer (Lorne Peterson.Page.15 2016)


Figure 5: Millennium Falcon KitBashing (Lorne Peterson.Page.9 2016)


I used a plugin for 3DS Max which deals with this very technique of model

making; I had downloaded a tool called Greeble. Unfortunately, though, even

though the results are impressive, Figure 6.(image) the plugin fails at aiding

game ready assets, poorly at that, I must say. Not only are the extrusions that

the plugin makes not legal, but it also doesn’t even connect to the base mesh

itself, leaving the model in a hundred pieces. This is totally against all exporting

principles, and it’s a shame that the tool neglected these. However, I can still

use the tool, just in a baking down sense. I could greeble a high poly model and

bake down normal/AO maps on to the lower poly version.


Figure 6: Greeble Plugin for 3DS Max


CastWars. (2014). [online] Available at: http://castwars.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/battle-of-endor-1024×482.jpg [Accessed 16 Oct. 2016].

Federal Highway Administration. (2014). [online] Available at: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/tools/data_tools/mirereport/images/figure-5.jpg [Accessed 14 Oct. 2016].

Peterson, L. (2006). Sculpting a Galaxy. San Rafael, Calif.: Insight Editions.