Being a long-time 3DS Max user, have worked a majority of my freelance career in science fiction, I am very familiar with the Greeble modifier from 3D pioneer Tom Hudson. It was and still is great for adding detail to models... particularly corridors and spaceships. For a free modifier, it was great even though it could be a bit limited. It was a time saver.
Now along comes Random Flow for Blender, while not free ($15), this author found it to be worth the asking price, at least to this point. As some of you know I am not a regular Blender user but find myself turning to it a bit more... especially involving time-saving modifiers.
When I say I’m not a regular user... I mean I have to search for things like “selecting vertices or faces”, “how to rotate X degrees”, how to “flip the Normals to select inner faces” and basic things like this since I spend little to no time with the interface. Having a lot of prior 3D experience in other apps helps as I know what to search for but I’ve yet to sit down to a good basics course with Blender so I plod along and manage to get things done.
So, with all that said I was happy with my first attempt at a space vessel. It was not my first attempt at using the modifier as I spent a few hours learning how to do just that. After getting a bit of grasp on the situation I was able to create a ship I could be proud of for a first effort. Since I know little about Blender and haven’t delved into texturing, I export the model out and took it into Max to texture.
Created with Random Flow after spending a few hours learning the modifier.
This was not complicated by any means as I dragged and dropped simple, single image textures onto the various parts of the mesh. There is no complicated UV map, just a simple mapping for the individual meshes. I did this to make it easier to change textures and, since I was learning, I didn’t want to be distracted and frustrated by having to learn to texture in Blender, so I kept it all simple.
The modifier is a python script that you copy over to the add-ons folder in your Blender installation. From there you jump through the usual hoops of going into PREFERENCES, then ADD-ONS, searching for the script, and turning it on.
According to the documentation you select faces and or vertices in the Edit mode then go to Object, press the shortcut of Shift-Q to invoke the Random Flow menu. If you click off the menu disappears but press F9 to bring it back up if you haven’t exited the mode altogether.
Once you exit... that appears to be it for any further modifications, but you can select the same base mesh to add new modifications like scattered objects, pipes, or what you were working on originally. The method is non-destructive, so it leaves your original mesh intact and provides copies for the changes. As long as you haven’t used the undo feature or gone on to a different part of the modifier F9 should invoke the menu if on your current object.
Basic ship model after Random Flow based on cylinders.
To me, it seemed a bit intimidating keeping in mind my lack of Blender skills but once I have grasped how one part worked, like the panels, I was able to grasp how the entire modifier worked to a novice degree.
At the Blender Marketplace, there was only one review at the time I got the modifier, and it was a 3 star that liked the product but disliked the lack of tutorials, so they weren’t getting anywhere. Gumroad was another story with eleven five-star ratings.
This modifier works on as much or as little of the model as you select so knowing how to select vertices and faces, basics to most, will dictate your results. You can select an entire road model, or you can select just the surface part of the model. Same with the top, bottom, and sides of any mesh surface or model. Just be careful and save often as you might take things a bit too far sometimes.
While the computer seems like it may have crashed... it is doing all those calculations and tasks so you might want to kill the program and start again if it starts taking too long.
Get familiar with flipping the Normals so you can access the inside and outside of a mesh such as a cylinder-based city. With usage, it becomes more apparent what this little jewel can do. The old Greeble modifier I mentioned early on wasn’t in the same league as this modifier as it can also scatter your choice of objects across something like the hull of a spaceship.
You can add panels, tubes (pipes), extrusions, and custom greebles/meshes that will spice up your ship design by adding intricate details that used to take hours to complete. Next time you need to hop a spaceship out make sure it's not a plain old ship. Add all the bells and whistles with Random Flow.
It’ll make you look good doing it.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.