Sculpting The Black Max, Part 1

Years ago, I started a tutorial on how I made mecha in Rhino3d.  I called the project The Black Max.  It was a 15mm/1-100th scale venture, meant to keep me sharp during the times I had no work.

I only managed to make two installments of the series on PDF, and then got busy with other work.

So, I'm going to re-present it blog format, broken into smaller chunks, and then I'll start reworking the Black Max for current prototyping, since I have a nice project in mind for another client where I think he'll do nicely.

So, here goes...

Prototyping The Black Max, Part One

>From Blue To Black: an old concept is reworked.

The Blue Max
Wraparound view of the Blue Max, the Black Max’s predecessor.
The Black Max is based on a piece of one-off art I did years ago called the Blue Max. The Blue Max was originally created as a fold-up paper model. Thus, I wasn’t too concerned with mold lines, final details, or even true working bits. 

 The initial model was done in Rhino, and rendered screen captures were taken of the build. 

 These renders were worked over in a graphics program, and laid out so they could be folded up into a geometric shape, representing the mecha as it was viewed from various angles. 

The design was fun and a departure from the normal style of mech that I do, so I’ve decided to update it, and call the new version the Black Max.

>The Black Max Design Process: Concept Art and Initial Layout

The Initial Sketch Of The Black Max

When doing concept art that will eventually end up as a digital sculpt, I start with a sketch, usually a side view. The Black Max was done at work, on legal-length plain paper…It was all I had at the time. 

I broke down the pieces so that they were aligned horizontally, but the details don’t obscure each other. I sometimes do this so each component is influenced by the other stuff on the page, but a spoiled piece doesn’t ruin the whole shebang. The pieces are drawn with the intent of being edited and assembled later in Photoshop or similar program. 

Notice the little man for scale.

>Leg Rework
I scan the pic into my computer, and get to work. The legs are like the Blue Max: reverse-kneed. Chicken walker. I don’t like chicken walkers 90% of the time. I want to play with armored knights and tank combinations, not armored ostrich and tank combinations. So, the legs have to be reworked.

I fire up the tired Photoshop Elements 2.0 that came with my Walcom tablet, and get to work. The lower leg/shin area is taken apart, and reversed. I add a large kneepad bit of armor. 

The angle of the upper leg/thigh is reworked, and some general cleanup is done to take the “scratchiness” out of the sketch lines.

Chicken-Walker No Longer.

>Reworking, Resizing, and Final Art Assembly

Now I turn my attention to the rest of the mecha, and start putting the pieces together. 

The little “circles with crosshairs in them” are my reference points for mech joints. I’ve added arrows to link them from their related parts to their final positions on the main hull. Thus, the foot connects to the legs. 
The legs connect to the hips. 
The main weapon arms attach to the upper point in the shoulder area. 
The tiny little “T-Rex” arms are attached to the rib cage areas.

The foot bone’s connected to the…”

>Now we put the whole thing together…

Sure it looks a little busy, what with all the components overlapping, but if you look closely, you can still see the tiny T-Rex arms, the hip joints, and the heavy rotary cannon arms’ upper struts. 

 I may rework the legs again, as something doesn’t sit well with me. 

The femur/upper leg seems a little scrawny compared to my final vision for this piece. I want a big, stompy beast. 

Something will be worked out later.

After everything is in its place, we resize the thing. 

My little pilot that I’ve drawn for size reference is intended to be 6 feet tall, or 1.8 meters for you metric types. Stacking my pilot six times, I get 36 feet. 

I resize the Black Max to be the same height as the 6 pilots, and everything is right in the world. 

Next, Let’s get to prototyping!


PS Here's the link to Part Two


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