Building a Virtual Train

Fascinated as we are with the sonic and social space of the train, Blackout has given us a chance to look closely at the train car itself. In creating the virtual stage for the story, we boarded the L train – tape measure in hand – to thoroughly detail every dimension. For our scanned people to fit in properly into our virtual train we had to create a perfectly scaled train car in 3D. We needed to know the height and shape of the benches so that our passengers will sit at the right level or hold the railing at the right height.

Exterior schematics for the Kawasaki / Alstom R160B train car via nycsubway.org

Exterior schematics for the Kawasaki / Alstom R160B train car via nycsubway.org

We got a few quizzical looks, but no one seemed to mind as we measured the height of the seat beneath them or the circumference of the pole they were leaning against.

We modeled our train after the R160A, the R160B and the R143 which are a set of nearly identical train cars used most commonly on the C, E, J, M, Z, L, F, Q & N lines in New York City’s MTA.

The reference diagrams Alexander made by meticulously measuring the train. This precision makes the scale of the experience feel right.

The reference diagrams Alexander made by meticulously measuring the train. This precision makes the scale of the experience feel right.

We’re totally enamored with our train and feel very lucky to be working with the talented 3D artist Matt Wilson on modeling all the subtle details. Matt is a gifted 3D Artist & Creative Director and a huge asset to our team. Our conversations with Matt have been filled with lines like: “well it looks like the R160B has the metal plated window wells while the R160 doesn’t…” or “the little rims around the LED lights are black on the R160s and white on the R143s...” His attention to detail and generosity with his time is what has made our beautiful train car possible.

The crucial next stage after building the structure is to make the surfaces are beautiful. First, we need to add accurate details to the objects by capturing images in the train and adding special properties to the surfaces. For example, if you look closely, a plastic train seat casts a dim reflection while a brushed aluminum pole has an irregular surface that catches the light in a particular way. 

 
 

LINKED PROJECT

 

René Pinnell

As a filmmaker & designer, René produced the acclaimed comedy show Backpack Picnic, directed the feature documentary The King of Texas, sold a TV pilot to MTV, designed 5 products & founded 2 companies.