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That’s ‘The award winning Doug Ellison’ to you….

May 24th, 2008

I love Ustrax, I really do.  I used to call him UMSF’s ’special cookie’, until I realised that could be interpreted as, how can I put this, the ‘electric flapjack‘ in America.   He’s got more passion and enthusiasm about spaceflight, and particularly Europe’s chunk of the spaceflight adventure than just about anyone I know.  His SpacEurope blog is the result of a LOT of hard work, because getting information out of European scientists is a act of pure alchemy.  His Q’n'As that have been building up to the Phoenix landing have been frankly brilliant.  He’s had some top names in helping fill in a few of the blanks for the enthusiastic amateurs among us.

A few weeks ago, he launched a competition to create an artists impression of what Phoenix’s landing site might be like.   Having just played with the HiRISE DEM’s previous mentioned here, I thought I would have a go with the Phoenix target DEM’s that Randy had produced.    Unfortunately, the nature of the exceptionally low relief at the 1m scale, combined with artifact from the DEM generating process rendered that a waste of time, so I started hammering away at producing something from scratch without any imagery at all - entire procedural textures.  Using the ‘chip’ noise pattern I was able to come up with a pseudo polygonal surface, and derived a nice sky from the one used with the DEM’s.  I did two versions - one with a backshell and parachute for scale - and one with some rocks ( which I was never particularly happy with )




I was tweaking, rendering, tweaking, rendering, and in an act of brilliant media-management incompetence, I don’t have 3ds max files of those scenes anymore so I can’t re-render them at a nice high resolution.  Anyway, a week later, and I find that the second one has won the competition!  I’ve not one anything like that before!   A brilliant book, a poster signed by Pete Smith and a Phoenix T-Shirt.   Personally, I prefered the 3rd place picture featuring a stunning dust devil.   But then, for added ‘ OMFG ‘, the Phoenix Team (as if they’ve got nothing else to do) put it on the front page of their own website.  I suffer from an easily inflated ego at the best of times, so you can just imagine how I’m feeling right now.



I’ve never felt like a ‘grown up’, but Doug Ellison, 29, from Leicester, currently feels like a 9 year old who’s just won a Blue Peter Badge.   Thank your for your hard work and a great competition Ustrax - you really are a special cookie :)

Doug animation

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