Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The flakey story

There has been alot of views for my Project Flake lately and i thought it might be an idea to show the full process for this project, and it hasnt been a easy one. Its also nice to show alot of unseen work that took too long to do, this should also explain alot of the reasoning behind the decisions for this design. Thanks for everyone who’ve viewed it, it doesnt really matter if you liked it or not, its always nice to get a discussion going.

This was my final year project at Coventry uni for automotive design, it took the best part of 2 years to do this project, and its still not complete. I did have alot going at the time on including a job etc, so really actual working time was probably only about a year or so. Since its conception everyone was very skeptical about the idea, even my self to a point, thinking about it, it was a ridiculous task. Transformers movie had teams rigging up their models, my car has almost as many part and im doing it all by my self, and note this is only my 2nd proper animation.

The idea started around mid 2008, most would think inspiration came from the Transformers the movie, however it actually came from Pixar Cars. I loved the movement of the characters, and how they leaned into the corners and wanted to translate that into a realistic vehicle, and thought it was an appropriate direction for my FYP. I didnt want to go down the route of a soft skin, 1- BMW already done it, 2- it wasnt very creative using something thats been with us for centuries, 3- there was a lack of emotion. The BMW Gina is a good example, every part was movable, and yet it felt... dead, without all the muscle structures under the skin it will be very hard to emulate emotion. Emotion is very important part of design, because my project is dynamic, just a face is no longer enough, its body needs to present body language. I did think through all the directions of a literal living car with muscle etc, but didnt think that was very creative. The flakes eventually came from my bad habit of smoking. I love the forms created by ash, how it was so random and yet all fitted together, this made me imagined cracking skin and how that will look over the car.


The original concept was actually alot more complicated. I wanted a mass of flakes that when closed, formed a sleek and elegant shape, like its sleeping or something, but when it wakes up it doors will open up like jaws and eat you whole.


Thats the feeling i want the user to feel every time he/she steps into the car. The rest of the exterior is designed to provoke the same sort of feeling with alot of jagged edges and fractures across the body work this style was apparent all over the car even in the interior. the original seat designs were just as complex. Designed to dynamically follow your body, physically grabbing the torso and holding the driver in the seat.


All this detail became a problem as I was working on my modest home computer, which had no where near enough power to actually bring the car to life.

So i took a step back and i stripped the design to its basics, tried to figure out the essentials and designed the mk2. The mk2 got rid of all the flakes, and essentially is a practical/buildable version of flake. It retains most of the fundamental ideas behind the project coupled with a more refined form.


I did try to make a physical model (mostly carved out by hand), but I never had the chance to finish it. The mk2 was very cool looking, but i felt it has lost alot of the emotion that i was talking about at the beginning, also the usp of the mk1.


So here comes the mk3. The mk3 is a compromise between the 2 previous designs, and also intended to look more like a car when in the closed position. this is because i wanted something that the viewer can relate to instead of making it 100% scifi.


The car was always designed to be viewed in white how ever white is a very common colour within the degree show, so i opted for a bright orange, this also made it seem more like an animal.


Unlike the previous 2, the mk3 got new wheels. Wheels with legs isnt anything new, I think something similar has been in the book Snowcrash and a few anime shows i think. How ever I did make it "plausable". To be honest i never added it for the technology, the car just didnt sit right unless the bottom of the wheels were cut off, so i had to think of a good excuse to remove the bottom of my wheels. The D-wheels track ground surface and adjust accordingly, making the wheel apart of the suspension system. This also enabled it to expand into buggy wheels allowing it to go off road making this a true next generation all terrain vehicle.


The number of flakes have also been reduced from over 400 to exactly 250, making this slightly more manageable to rig and animate. This was all done in 3D studio max, and since this was only my 2nd animation, and no one could assist me in doing it properly, i had to animate this my own way/old fashioned way. some parts were even animated frame by frame, which was a real pain. the whole process for the mark 3 from design to completion was around 3-4month. I know the animation isnt perfect, my machine just wasnt up to it, just to let you know how much trouble this was to animate, some scenes it would take around 5 secs-5mins for each of my actions to take affect, that including changing my view, not to mention i was under a dead line and could not actually preview my animation before i rendered it, so really what you are seeing is the first draft.

The original design also had wheel covers for the complete sleek closed form, but since i wanted to show off the D-wheels, regrettably the covers had to go.


One of the biggest arguments against the car is aero, Ive actually had the pleasure of talking to an ex-Williams F1 aero man about this matter. His view is the concept is sound, how ever the execution needs tweeks, which is what i expected.

When travelling at speed, the car will contract to its closed position to help control airflow, and when under breaking or turning the flakes will spring open to dynamically adjust down force. the open flakes will also allow the car to lean into the corner for better handling, meanwhile the inner chassis is designed to be aerodynamic channelling the airflow around the car.


The flakes serves a couple of other purposes, dissipating heat from a liquid cooling system around the chassis, and also could automatically track the sun for energy. To move the flakes, there are hundreds of mini solenoids within the car which pull on carbon nano-tube wires, that is strung around the car forming a puppeteering system. The solenoids can also detect how much air pressure is applied on each flake, allowing the on board computer to dynamically adjust the flakes.

The car is powered by synthetic fuel, imagine if battery fluid can be replaced like fuel, in-turn recharging the batteries. Similar to producing electricity with coke, but specially designed and alot more potent.

Like i said at the beginning, the project is still unfinished, there were going to be alot more interior details, a refuelling rig with station, the physical model you saw earlier, alot of animation tweeks... etc Will I ever finish it properly? ill definitely come back to it in a few years time, when my hardware can do this smoothly.


So thats most of the story, atleast the interesting(ish) bits, I know this car is ridiculous, and i know it wont work, but it was never intended to be a practical solution rather an inspiration for others.

For more imgs pls go:
And if you havent seen the video already, its here:


Isaac Barrett said...

This is a sweet concept dude! was each piece was made 3ds max including the flakes? Great exterior and interior, very original design, thanks for sharing!

LeftyX said...

Very nice! But you'll lose those body panels fore and aft of the wheels the first time you drive on a real (i.e. not perfectly flat & smooth) street.

Da Feng - Artist, Designer, Futurist said...

hey cheers guys,
@ Isaac, yea everything was in 3D max

@Leftyx na, the car tracks the floor, so when a bump comes the the wheels will adjust the ride height.

MG said...

While I like the idea, it just isn't technically feasible for a number of reasons.

1. 250 moveable "flakes", even if controlled by a connected system of wires, rather than directly by servos or solenoids would be extremely prone to damage. No owner would want to spend thousands to repair a panel every time he aero braked too hard.

2. the road noise made by those panels would be ridiculously loud.

3. stamping, painting and installing 250 individual panels just for the body would probably put the cost of a production vehicle above $1,000,000

4. It would never get DOT road legal status due to the danger of not having a solid skin to protect the driver

However; the concept would be MUCH more feasible with 50ish panels controlled by servos (rather than solenoids) using specially designed cams. You could even build on top of an existing lightweight chassy, such as the Ariel Atom. Remember, good engineers add complexity, great engineers simplify.


Jesus Chrysler said...

Great design and concept and brilliantly executed...

MG, quit being so negative, it's a concept with some great ideas... artists actually create, critics just wish they could.

erloel001 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lekker said...

Does it come in black?

Lude said...

Hey, very impressive work, it´s a bit unfeasible because of all the moving parts, the dirt that will get everywhere and all the aerodynamic noise that might get because of all the nicks and cranies that it has even after completly closed.

Still, congrats, awesome work and very inspirational, especially because of the rendering and animation, I´m impressed!

And that´s where I have questions, so, everything done in 3Dmax, awesome.

What rendering engine?

How much time did it took for you to render that film?

And for comparison reasons, did you animated on your home computer, if so, what´s the specs? (to see if I can do something with my projects! :)

Da Feng - Artist, Designer, Futurist said...

hey its all on mental ray, frame res at 1344x756, on average 5-10 mins a frame except for the city scenes which took about 15-20 mins a frame. (if i remember correctly)
I think my machine back then was a i7 920 quad running with ht (so 8 threads) clocked to around 4.6ghz... thought i might have clocked it down to 4ghz for safety... i cant remember, but it will be around there. Also had 12gbs of ram though i think 6 would have been enough.

btw i had a quick snoop on ur blog, some nice stuff! :)

Maaco said...

Genius. Well done. We've posted an article about your concept on our blog. We'd love to see this translated by a manufacturer into a presentation for the show circuit and, eventually, into something that has real-world application. Best regards, Frank-Maaco Autobody, Fremont

Scotty D. said...

Dude, this is f*ing sick. I really hope that some car designers take this concept and work on it. I do think that we are a ways away from making the the flake a full reality, but that should not rule out any possibility to incorporate any ideas that were used on the flake in today's production.

Aside from that, what was the the music track that you used in the video?

Lude said...

Hi Da Feng, thanks for the answer! Really appreciate it. :)

And thanks for the kind words about my work, hopefully I can show you some in video format in the future! :)

Da Feng - Artist, Designer, Futurist said...

@ Scotty D The track is Venetian snares - hajnal

Jeet said...

Your inspiration was pixar cars right ? You wont believe it but even I was interested in the way those cars moved.. specially during cornering. They leaned into corners that made cornering so damn quick for 'em !
And yes, your project is awesome ! All the best ! :)

warfareninja said...

I want this car for my birthday.

warfareninja said...

I want this car for my birthday

kevin christy said...

your flake design caught my attention saw it on some civilized racing site. too bad we exist in such a filthy world where it would be compromised.some of the comments reveal that there are idiots in the world that have to be protected from themselves.
also like your grrl concept, not as good an artist as you but i'm going to flake her covering slightly.

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BRANDON said...

Hi, cool concept. When you where sculpting by hand what materials where you using. It looks like some kind of foam with maybe fibre glass? Just wondering. Thanks for posting all of these great process images!

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