HMS Beagle Web Tour

Client – Rochford District Council

Sponser – National Lottery Heritage Fund

CGI – Grant Cox (ArtasMedia)

Software – 3DS Max/Vray/Photoshop

One of the most famous ships in history, HMS Beagle is synonymous with discovery in the fields of science, meteorology and even space exploration. Virtually everyone knows about her association with Charles Darwin and a large number of people know about her history and the men who captained her – but very few people know that after a naval career of 25 years mapping the coastlines of the world, she spent the rest of her working life as a Coastguard Watch Vessel in the Rochford district.

HMS Beagle was ordered on the 13th June 1817, the keel was laid at Woolwich dockyard in June 1818 and the vessel was launched on the 11th May 1820, with completion following on the 19th July 1820 for the coronation of King George IV. She was originally commissioned as a warship but spent the first five years of her life in dock because there was no war for her to fight in. “Laid in ordinary”, she was moored in water but with no masts or rigging. It wasn’t until 1825 that she was refitted by the Royal Navy to be one of a number of ships whose job it was to sail around the globe and chart the coastlines of the new and exciting worlds that had been discovered.

The CGI was constructed using 3DS Max, a commercial grade 3D software package by Autodesk. This was then ‘rendered’, the act of simulating physical properties such as texture, colour, reflection and refraction, using the Vray renderer, by Chaos Group.

Starting with basic shapes such as lines, boxes and cylinders, plans were used as a guide to add shape, form and proportion to both the main ship and the individual props such as the steering wheel and cannons.

Shaders to build wood, metal and other elements were made from cross references and often built procedurally (the act of using a set of rules to discern features such as bumpiness and colour variation). This allows for immense flexibility inside the model especially in areas such as the copper plating, where changing a few variables can instantly create variation on the size, shape and look of the element in question.

Solutions to control areas such as rigging and sail simulation were constructed using tools within the package and are also constrained by rules, for example, the rigging is connected to the masts and if they are turned, will follow the movements of their parent in the hierarchy of the dynamic system. Whilst not all of this has been used directly in this web tour, they are an investment into future-proofing the model as they allow for animation, posing and other dynamic changes that might be required at a later stage.

You can experience the tour yourself here!