The other day I was scrounging through old CDs and DVDs, when I stumbled across an innocuous disk labelled "Atlantis '05".
intrigued, I put the disk in the tray and found myself looking through a bunch of early 2005 photos, renders and works to do with Atlantis. Everything my first drawings through to the earliest website graphics were, in part, on this disk.
Comparing the designs of the Atlantis over the years is somewhat eye opening, and as many of you might know, 2007 saw one of the most significant design changes the Atlantis has ever been through as the ship was rebuilt from the ground-up in a new 3D mesh which replaced a stop-gap solution produced in around 2005.
Many people don't realise just how radically the ship has changed over the years, so I thought I'd post some of what I found here, and explain just how it's evolved, and where it's headed.
Way back in 1999, the Atlantis was drawn on the back page of an English class work book during my 8th grade of school. At the time, the ship was called the "Aquarius". A couple of years later, this concept developed in to the Atlantis ASV, and was published on a now-long-forgotten Geocities website.
The original design tried to draw from those of seaQuest herself - a long, 'modular' hull which tapered to an arrow-head prow sporting two large wings with forward-set canards that ran in to the bow. The core of this concept hasn't really changed in the years that have followed, although the evolution of the design has steadily streamlined the ship in to what it is now.
The two most recent revisions of the Atlantis could be said to be the closest to what was intended for the design - being the first entirely CG versions of the ship, and while radically different from their predecessors, sought only to refine what had already been done.
Indeed, one of the more curious design features of the Atlantis happened by sheer fluke of misfortune, or luck, depending on how one views it;
When I made the first model of the Atlantis way back in 2001, it was in the form of a 9-inch-long Resin sculpt, and was built in segments working front to back. The result of this was that when the core of the bow was integrated in to the primary superstructure of the central hull, the resin took a while to set - and the entire front section of the ship warped in a downward sag that essentially gave the prow a sloping 'beak' which extended from the missile tubes as far forward as the prow.
What was an annoying fault in construction at the time has stayed with the design ever since - even when the opportunity presented itself to once again straighten the bow with the first CG model some years later. This pattern of "happy accidents" continued throughout many of the revisions, as the initial resin model was limited by my own ability to physically sculpt it in to something which resembled my intended design. The 'flaws' of those techniques developed over time to be almost fully incorporated in the design.
Despite the changes in the design over the years, the aspect of the ship which I have consistently been happy with, and not inclined to change has been the side profile; the 'stepped' construction of the ships decks originated as much from my own attempt to build the ship in sections before integrating everything in to one hull as it did from design. While most ships and submarines have a very visible, easy to define 'center-line' which runs for the length of the ship, Atlantis has no such feature - her hull's 'waterline' defined by the changing position of her decks
...The dorsal hull however, has been something which has just as often changed. In the above comparison of the 2005 and 2007 models of the Atlantis, some of these most recent changes to the design are highlighted, but this pattern extends as far back as the first drawing in 1999; the only features which have remained consistent are the layout of the wings and their 'shoulders', the canards, missiles and primary sensor dome. Everything else, almost without exception, has been the subject of change, from the bridge through to the engines. The 2007 model brings the Atlantis closer to something which is as 'refined' as it can be without totally changing the design.
...The most important thing to note of course is that the one thing which has changed most in the last nine years is simply my ability to better present my work. The old days of taking photos of tiny minatures and adding a few filters in photoshop are well and truly gone, probably never to return. This said, I consider the ability to physically construct a model about as important as knowing how to draw - unless you have a basic understanding of 3D geometry, perspective and how things go together, then 3D will always be a challenge which one will have difficulty getting their head around.
The original model of Atlantis still sits on my desk to this day.
Where the Atlantis DSV will go next in design is anyone's guess, but it's a safe bet that the one we have right now isn't leaving any time soon.