A long time ago…

In April 2015, Andre and I “published” our first drafts of a blueprint for the Falcon. This got the attention of a few fellow Falconers and our little family was born. Sean Sides, Stu Brown, Doug Maio, Andre Bustanoby, and myself would spend the next six years together chatting about all things Falcon. Identifying new donor parts, trying to figure out the proportions of things, etc.

We did most of this on Slack – and some 50,000 messages (mostly “LOL”) and several gigabytes of photos and files later, Sean has a fully realized Falcon, and Stu (by his own best guess) is three-fourths through his.

Millennium Falcon by Sean Sides premiering next to the restored Dykstraflex motion control camera used to film the original Star Wars miniatures.

Sean taught us a lot. He was our trial run. As he built, he let us know where we were wrong (and right). He reworked as much as he could in real-time, but otherwise plowed through as only Sean can, and we rolled as much knowledge into the next rev of CAD in his wake.

Yearly (or more) snapshots of our iterative process

We have a lot of iterations. Stu mentioned he was using version seventeen. That’s mostly true. That’s version 17 of his Falcon model (which currently sits a v22). I keep a digital twin reference model of every team members’ build in case we need to go back and pull a specific dimension or reference. In aggregate we’ve done hundreds of iterations over the six years. And hundreds more if you factor in the progression of the subassemblies – I think our upper gun platform revisions alone were in the upper-fifties before we were happy with them. And then there’s the quad-cannons, docking arms, jaw boxes, docking rings, and on and on.

I thought it would be fun to superimpose all our key milestones. Fusion 360 keeps internal version numbers – but that is every single save – otherwise, we do our own mile-stoning; duplicate the working file, and dump it into an archive to have more discrete checkpoints. Or in some cases the Sean model, or the Stu model, etc…

The X-Wing project really helped Andre and I refine a workflow to truly nail the proportions of a model and the tracking points for reference. Below shows one of a dozen reference images we used for the X-Wing to track points in 3D space, extract them to CAD, and the use them as reference for final surfacing in Alias.

X-Wing digital model and photo composite as seen in X-Wing Part 1.

We’ve been using a similar process on the Falcon all along, but the X-Wing project really allowed us to tune our process, and verify that process against known fuselage dimensions since Jason had original X-Wing parts in-hand. Being able to make hypotheses, and verify that those hypotheses were correct as a scientific control to prove the fundamental method gave us greater confidence in what we’ve been doing with the Falcon. When we re-render our tracked surface data over our Falcon photoset (we have a little over 130 photos that we use for our Falcon 3D tracking) we have pretty tight alignment – original model’s idiosyncrasies not withstanding.

3D surface data reprojected onto photo and rendered.
photo credit: Andre Bustanoby

Six years later, we are more confident than ever that what we’re divining is dang close to the original. Onward!

The Stu Brown Show

We’ve been working with Stu (and Andre, and Sean, and Doug!) since 2015 on this project. It has been wonderful to see the birthing of another Falcon into the world. If only they were as easy to build as sitting on an egg… We learned so much from Sean’s build, and they just keep getting better. Great work Stu!

Master Model Update

Those gun platforms and docking rings will need to attach to something. Our master model is still in flux. More than a year after Andre and I published our version 1.0 draft, we’re still discovering new things. Not ready to start cutting plastic yet, still some details to work out. Thank goodness digital prototyping in Fusion 360 allows us to make all sorts of mistakes for free…