Inspired by the amazing voxel work of Sir Carma (his awesome Zelda model was recently featured on Kotaku) and with some time off work recently I decided to give some voxel modelling a go. I decided my first project would be to model the original Apple Macintosh 128k (what better way to celebrate 40 years of Apple? and to create a deadline of some kind – 1 April 2016). I thought it would be relatively simple but as the days marched on things became more and more complex (especially when I decided it would be a ‘fun’ idea to model all of the internals as well :P). So here I am about 5 days (and 40-something hours) later and I thought it might be helpful for others getting into voxel modelling to share some of my experiences.
Quick note on why I chose Magicavoxel over Qubicle (which I thought I was going to use initially). After playing around with both, I ended up with Magicavoxel because it was easy to get going, has super fast performance, cool rendering options and is completely free! Not to put down Qubicle though, it’s totally awesome and also super powerful, but for my first attempt at voxel modelling it felt a bit overkill and at $60 I didn’t want to over invest at the beginning (There is a free trial but it was a bit too limited for my tastes). I think if I continue to do more voxel stuff then I might give Qubicle another shot because of it’s model/scene architecture (great for complex projects).
Go and check out Aaron Robbins’s youtube channel (and his other channel Fully Beta). Without his amazing Magicavoxel tutorial videos I would have been completely lost, I think I watched every single video! There is also some great Qubicle tutorials over there too, if that’s your kind of thing 🙂 Thanks Aaron(Twitter)!
I started with a 2D pixel drawing of the sides, top and bottom of the main case plus the keyboard and mouse using reference images from a google search. I decided early on that one of the most important details was the ‘hello’ text on the screen (as seen in the original advertising) so I started from there and worked my way up.
I did all of this to establish a base scale and basic colour palette for the project and to see how far I could reduce the overall detail while still retaining the look and feel of the actual object. I used Sketch for this stage for 2 reasons: 1) because I am most familiar/comfortable with Sketch (I’m a product designer) and 2) because I like working with vectors (I know this isn’t the best way to do pixel art, in fact it’s kind of dumb 🙁 but I’m pretty new to all this, so I just rolled with it).
I jumped straight into Magicavoxel and started translating my 2D pixels into 3D voxels. First thing I noticed was that the faux curved edges from my 2D pixels didn’t translate well into 3D at the scale I was working with. Increasing the scale would have helped smooth them out, but I felt like it didn’t retain the chunky voxel feel I was going for and decided to continue with harder edges.
I finished modelling the outside of the case pretty quickly but I felt like it was lacking something. While I was looking for inspiration images earlier I had found an awesome teardown of the Mac done by iFixit and decided it would be cool to see if my voxel scaling would hold up modelling the ENTIRE MACHINE! Right down to the individual screws, cables and microchips!
What followed was 3 long days and nights of obsessive modelling and cross referencing of images to achieve an almost 1 to 1 representation of the Macintosh 128k in all it’s ‘voxelated’ glory!
During this stage I started saving out separate parts of the model so I could keep track of them all. I mainly worked on a complete master model and as I added new parts I would save the master as a new file and delete the parts that weren’t relevant. If I needed to make changes to those individual parts later, I would delete that part from the master, work on the individual model separately, then add it back to the master with the pattern brush (pretty handy, but sometimes tricky to place models where you want to). Here’s where Qubicle’s whole model/scene architecture would have made things much easier, as the method I used was pretty tedious 🙁 If I end up doing more of these kind of models in the future I think I’d go with Qubicle next time.
At some point I realised some of the things I was modelling wouldn’t even be seen by anyone in the final product and it gave me the idea to add a few more hidden details for ‘fun’ 😛
Posting the final models to Sketchfab seemed like the best way to showcase the project as people can interact with the model directly and check out whatever they want in more detail – I also wasn’t comfortable with my quick results from the Magicavoxel renderer and don’t have any experience with any other 3D software (Blender/Maya etc) for rendering or animation.
Well that’s about it! I hope this was informative or helpful in some way 🙂 Overall I really enjoyed the whole process of ‘voxelising’ the 1984 Apple Macintosh 128k and look forward to doing more voxel projects in the future.