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Science, Art and Data Visualisation

2001 : A Short Odyssey

Back in 2002, when I was first learning Blender, I started modelling stuff from 2001 : A Space Odyssey because that's what all the cool kids did back then. Inevitably, this became a hopeless attempt to animate all the space scenes in the novel not featured in the film. It would have been about 30 minutes long; it got to just under 15. Most of it is terrible, but I did learn a lot about how to fake volumetrics. That gave me a still decent-looking star and the basic technique behind FRELLED, so it was far from being a wasted effort.

Actually, that's one piece of advice I'd give to anyone starting CGI as a hobby. I've seen people trying to kindly talk beginners out of overly-ambitious projects, but my message is different. It doesn't really matter if you start and fail, you'll still learn something in the process, and probably produce at least a few good pieces on the way – even if your project never reaches the ultimate fulfilment you were aiming for.  So what does it matter if you don't reach your goal ? I mean, as long as you're not on Patreon or anything, it's your mistake to make. Go ahead and make it !

Remastered Images

When StockTrek images asked me if they could sell my renders, I couldn't bear the idea of selling images as primitive as the originals. No-one in their right mind would buy them ! So I remade most of the spaceships, sometimes just tweaking things a bit, sometimes remaking them from scratch. I got a couple of pretty nice animations out of this, but that's as far as it goes. The original project is long, long dead.

I never remodelled Discovery, though I suppose the Orion version counts for that, or the Orion III spaceplane, and I never attempted the pods. What I did manage were the satellites seen immediately after the ape throws the bone into the air (orbital weapons platforms in the books, a point which was lost in the movie), Space Station V, and the Ares IB lunar lander, a.k.a. the cutest spaceship ever (apart maybe from some Star Trek shuttles).

I made a couple of movies of these. The first is a flyby of Station V :

And the second is a flythrough of the satellites in a fleet formation. This wouldn't have occurred in the movie, since these were weapons platforms of opposing nations, but I wanted something to show them all off at once. I also wanted to do some more complicated camera work than I usually do :


Okay, I suppose I have to show the originals as well. Remember these are from a pre-smartphone era, when 640x480 resolution was still considered acceptable ! Some of these took five minutes per frame to render even at this dismal quality. And that's when having more than one computer per household was an impossibility, so really, I was doing the best I could possibly manage.

Some of it still looks interesting, I guess... most of it doesn't though. I keep it here for sentimental value only. If you want to make sense of the video read the accompanying blog article. The video (parts of which date from 2002) is really only for hardcore fans – like the music of Wagner, it has some nice moments but mostly it's an awful quarter of an hour. Well, it would be. Christ, I was still a teenager when I started this. Scary.

Here it is then, the original movie in all its early-2000's glory :

I also made two panoramas. At the time, the QuickTime player would let you rotate around these, in the way you can do today with YouTube 360 videos. I have no idea if it's still possible to play these files as they were originally intended, but if you want to try, you can still access them. The first is the hangar of Space Station V. The second is the interior of the Orion III spaceplane, one of the few renders I ever did that used radiosity.