Horsing Around With Spaceships

Horsing Around With Spaceships

When we created the Spaceships kit, we thought it would help create intergalactic vessels for the KB3D community to explore our never-ending universe throughout their work. Jan Schoenwiesner, however, had a different plan... and like a true KitBasher, took Spaceships and created a HORSE! 

KitBash3D: Jan, how long have you been an artist? Please tell us how you became the sci-fi horse whisperer. 

I always enjoyed dreaming up things and putting them to paper. As a kid I was always drawing, was heavily into comics, animated movies and TV shows. That never really stopped and led to studying at the BAUHAUS in Dessau and the Cleveland Institute of Art were I always ended up doing film or motion design projects.

After getting my degree I started working as a staff art director and motion designer and got to work at the intersection of animation, film, and design for premium brands like BMW, Rolls Royce, and MINI. We did a lot of work for international trade shows which led me to places like Geneva, Detroit, Paris, and Beijing.

After being on staff for quite a while and doing some freelance jobs in the evenings I felt I needed a change. I took a year-long sabbatical and traveled around the world, recharging my creative batteries and loading up on so many new influences. After that, I started my freelance practice full time.

KitBash3D: Glad to hear you were able to recharge after all your hard work and apply your skills to what you truly wanted to do in the industry. Can you take us through what inspired you to make "Equidae X Machina".

This piece came about in a rather different way than my usual workflow since it was sparked by a technical idea rather than a complete concept. I bought the spaceships kit a couple of weeks ago without having a particular project in mind. I looked through it and put it in the "to play around with" bin. A couple of days later I asked myself whether all those cool spaceship parts could be used in a completely different way. Could one model something organic with them, perhaps an animal?

For this piece, I didn't look at source material specifically, since I knew I'd be bound to the specific objects provided in the kit and I did not want to model any additional pieces. I did do some research though: what can be done with just one main asset, how does the motion design community treat a project like that. Always good to look at what's out there, what works and what doesn't.

A designer who says his work is completely original and not drawing upon what was done before just doesn't realize his own sources of inspiration. But they are there. So of course I drew upon the long history of mechanical animals, starting (for me) with Bravestar, Transformers Beast Wars, and the amazing Horizon Zero Dawn game for PS4. Throw in a little Westworld for good measure, and of course, we all owe a lot to the genius director Chris Cunningham and his robot love story for Björks "All Is Full Of Love". Usually, I'd sketch the idea and draw a couple of quick thumbnail style frames, but to find out what can be done with the kit you just have to play around with it, so I started right away in 3D.

KitBash3D: Jan, tell us what is the story or emotion you wanted to evoke with your wild stallion?

What kind of animal does an A.I. dream up once all organic life is gone? How does it imagine a horse without ever seeing one? I wanted to showcase autonomous factories trying to rebuild the old organic world of flesh and bones.
The project started as a cyberpunk creature design but evolved once I saw that there was more potential to that concept model. It provided an opportunity for cinematic design and storytelling in a complete sequence.

KitBash3D: Please take us through a step by step process of how your project evolved.

To help me decide on it, I went to the great archive over at myscanfactory
Looking through the sculptures of animals I decided on a horse since I thought a predator like a lion or a tiger would be too obvious. And most of those sculptures suggest a lot of movement and action. I knew I wanted a more sculptural piece that didn't need to be animated to really work. Finally, I settled on a sculpture called "Pacing Horse" kindly provided by the national gallery of Sweden.

Everything 3D related was done in Cinema 4D and octane. Modeling along the surface, I slowly built up detail with new and scaled pieces from the kit. In total, only 6 spaceship pieces are used, and only 4 make up 90 percent of the complete creature. I used the KitBash3D Habitat Ring, the Hull, and the Cockpit plus Wings for almost everything and changed the default textures a bit to make them look way more metallic and shiny.

I know there are a lot of opinions in the 3D community on using kits. There are people out there who believe the work is only viable and "real" if you model everything yourself. To me, that is like arguing that you have to construct your own hammer and forge iron nails in order to build a table. All the amazing assets we have access to nowadays are tools to be used, reinterpreted, and played with. The design is the core aspect.

Next, I started on the scene/surroundings, modeling the exhibition space, window-ceiling, glass cube, and other smaller details. I used the spaceship textures to apply more details in my scene. Lighting was done with Octane. I kept the scene rather underlit on purpose. Some details get lost in the shadows, which can be great since the viewer will fill those in his head with more than you could ever model.

Compositing was done in After Effects with just a de-noised beauty pass to keep things simple. After adjusting levels I added lens distortions, chromatic aberration, and tinting with a LUT to make the images feel way more cinematic.

KitBash3D: Jan, thanks for sharing with us how you created this metallic beast of burden... any final words on the process of creation? WHY?

This may be the the same answer you'll get from pretty much every creative out there: I feel compelled to. Always have. I started drawing at a very young age and never really stopped, picking up new tools and workflows along the way.


Jan Schönwiesner A.K.A 12FRAMES is an award winning Art Director and Designer at the intersection of animation, film and design.

His design sensibilities have been applied to music videos, short films, installations and live visuals for major brands.
He has developed and executed Motion Graphics for screens of all sizes for well over a decade.

Make sure to follow his Instagram and check out his website

Start making your own creatures with our Spaceships kit, or you can just stick to intergalactic spacefaring vessels here

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