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