Tragic final flight of Air France Concord
CASE STUDY: A Virtual Fleet of Aircraft

Publication: Remove Before Flight
3D Designer: Nasos Vlachos
Client: 11 Aviation Publications

Project SummaryIllustrating the world of flight can be a tremendous challenge. Photographs can be the wrong angle, low quality or simply not available. For the aviation enthusiasts that read the Greek magazine "Remove Before Flight" the visuals are just as important as the technical articles. As Art Direcetor of 11 Aviation Publications, Nasos Vlachos turned to Strata Design 3D CX, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to solve the problem.

The ChallengeThere's a broad array of aircraft that find their way into the pages of Remove Before Flight - but not an unlimited number. By building his own custom library of flight vehicles, Nasos believes he has greater control over the detail and quality than if he purchased a pre-made library. Once he has a particular model it becomes very easy to produce additional images, even thought paint schemes and situations may differ greatly.

Nasos approaches each illustration as both a singular project and an opportunity to expand his virtual fleet of aircraft. In this example, the Concord supersonic passenger jet was the subject. The challenge here was to construct the aircraft and recreate a tragic chapter in the history of this jetliner.

The SolutionThe process that Nasos follows has been refined to these seven key steps:

ResearchThis step is critical. As Nasos puts it "The more accurate it is, the more successful the model will become." Making sure he has hight quality research materials translates into the quality of the illustration. This is true of the aircraft itself and the circumstances surrounding the even to be portrayed.

Outlining in Adobe IllustratorUsing his research material, Nasos begins the modeling process by creating outlines in Adobe Illustrator. He creates projections from the front, top and side of the aircraft. Additional detail elements are outlined in Illustrator for additional work in Strata Design 3D CX.

Taking it to 3DNext, Nasos imports the Illustrator outlines into Design 3D. He places the projections on the X, Y and Z grids. "Building the model I'm always fascinated by the way the lines are transforming to objects." He builds all the elements - from the small details to the full fuselage.

Paint, Trim and DetailNasos describes this process as "giving life" to his models. He utilizes the powerful ability of Design 3D to link to Adobe Photoshop layered texture files. This makes it easy to make changes, whether for refining a model for an illustration or for making wholesale changes for reuse in a new project.

Setting the Scene"More work in Strata, less work in Photoshop" - Nasos believes in an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; measure twice cut once; a stitch in time saves... you get the ideas. Once you get it right in 3D you can reuse, change angles, and generally get the result you want because of the flexibility that Design 3D CX brings you.

Rendering the ImageWith surfaces prepared, lighting set and the environment adjusted, Nasos creates the photo-real rendering. Using Strata's Award winning raydiosity engine, images are rendered out with the background masked out.

CompositionNasos combines his Strata rendering with photographs and sometimes a little Photoshop painting. In the case of the Concord illustration, he added a background sky, ground image with motion blur applied and photographic flames, which were modified to work with the image.

One of Nasos' key "tricks" in Photoshop is to use the "poster edges" filter. He uses this approach " make the aspects of different sources look homogeneous and to give a comic-like drawing feeling."

The Results"My intention was just to present a clear image of the tragic event, 'speechless', as we all were watching this on the TV." Costas Gabrilakis, story author, technical consultant of the greek "Air Accident Investigation Board", was pleased that Nasos was able to capture the subject in a way that did justice to the event. Though out of service to the public, the Concord jet will continue to find service in the virtual aircraft fleet of 11 Aviation Publications.