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The Personal Web Site of Ben Margolis

 Information Architect, Database Engineer, and CGI Illustrator

Free 3D Models

Ben's Scale Models of Planetary Systems
Whenever you render a planet, all you need is a sphere. But if you want to render a planet and moon, then you need two spheres, and you have to make them different sizes, set them some distance apart and tilt them at some angle. It takes no more effort (other than a Google search) to make them the right sizes, set them the right distance apart and tilt them at the right angles.


Earth has a multilayer atmosphere which includes a procedural cloud layer. By adjusting the transparency you can simulate any weather condition from clear skies to complete overcast.
It’s interesting that with careful placement of the camera and selection of field of view (or zoom) you can make almost any planet and moon appear in almost any size and relative position in any given render. For this render, for example, the camera is as far away from the Earth as the Moon (in lunar orbit) and on the opposite side from the Moon (is that Lagrange 2?) as zoomed in to a telescopic view.



Includes actual 3d geometry of Phobos and Deimos! The moons of Mars are well known not to be round, but rather potato shaped. And after extensive searching on the Internets I was able to find these obj files (if only I could remember where that was).

Plus: This one comes pre-animated! It includes a one-minute sequence of the main camera flying past both moons and into the orbit of Mars. Although maybe not orbit, I did some math, and it seems the camera is moving (in scale) at about 666,666 meters per second. So its whipping past Mars at high speed. You should be slowing to a relative “stop” to orbit.



Jupiter (with its ring) and its three largest moons in alignment.
 While a rare occurrence,  all the moons in a line like that, it does occur and made placing everything the right distance apart much easier.  Feel free to move them, but try to keep them in a relatively circular orbit.


Ben’s Scale Models of Planetary Systems are designed for maximum scientific accuracy. The latest NASA and ESA images (that I found at the time) were used as textures, all planets and moons are in scale in size,  distance and  shape  (i.e. polar vs. equatorial diameters are accurate). Planets and moons with atmospheres have separate atmosphere geometry with separate cloud layers if necessary. 

Special note to animators:  If you want to maintain my carefully created scientific accuracy, none of these planets or moons should move at all during any particular animation.  You should even restrain your impulse to make cloud layer spheres rotate around their planets. Things in space just don’t move that fast.
Also regarding stars in the background:  In reality, if you are in space (or even on Earth) are in direct sunlight, and have restricted your iris (or f-stop) to not totally “blow out” all the light areas, then you have already blotted out all of the stars. This is why there are no stars in any of our Apollo moon photos. Then again in the Outer Solar System, sunlight gets dimmer and your modern science fiction audience expects there to be stars in space, so even I wouldn’t complain if there was a handful of bright stars back there somewhere. (Even Ron Howard put stars in space in the otherwise totally accurate, “Apollo 13”)

Lastly, some people have asked if I plan to assemble all these models into one big scale model of the Solar System. The answer is no. Each of these scenes is totally invisible from the others. They are minutes (or hours) apart even at the speed of light.  If you want to render the flight in from Interstellar space, you should do it pieces and cut it together in Premier. (Keep in mind your odds are 360 to 2 that your alien ship is not arriving along the plane of the solar system, so it wouldn’t be won’t be passing any other planets on its way to Earth.)

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