Model a WWII Ball Turret in 3ds Max

Model a WWII Ball Turret in 3ds Max

Actually called the “Sperry Ball Turret”, it was used on B-17 and B-24 bombers of WWII.

This tutorial is on modeling the Ball Turret in 3ds Max. You will use background pictures as an aid while you model. You first create a low poly sphere. Then convert to Editable Poly and cut the model in half. Then you will Inset, View Align & Extrude the poly that will become the gun barrel.

Chamfering the low poly gun’s edge loops will create a nice rounded barrel in the high poly model when viewed with the NURMSSubdivision on.

You will see how to turn triangular poly’s into all Quad poly’s, which will subdivide the mesh smoother. You will Mirror and Attach both halves into one object and Weld the middle points.

Chamfer the nose edge loop, and then when you turn on the NURMs Subdivision, the nose stays flat with a sharp edge.

Apply a TurboSmooth modifier with 1, 2 or 3 Iterations. You have a low, medium, and high poly model to choose which to UV map with textures.

Watch the video with cool 3ds Max animation:

Model a WWII gun turret, and create a cool animation in 3ds Max

Animation: Ball Turret gunner in a brief encounter with German HO-229 jet wings

Download the files:


ballTurret 2010 3ds Max

ballTurret 2011 3ds Max

ballTurret 2012 3ds Max


Create the Sphere

Convert to Editable Poly

Inset & Extrude the Gun Barrel

Chamfer the Barrel’s Edge Loops

Eliminate Side Triangles

Create the Nose

Mirror the other half

Chamfer the Nose

Low, Medium & High Polygon Models

Create the Sphere

Start with two plane objects on the grid (Generic units). Read Background setup. You will use these images as references.

In 3ds Max use ball turret background pictures as references

In the Create tab, check AutoGrid, and then Sphere. Draw a sphere (12 segments) in the Front viewport.

Use Move to pull it out. Turn on Angle Snap. Rotate the Sphere like below.

Sphere against background pictures in 3ds Max

In the Front viewport, Rotate 15 degrees like you see below.

Convert to Editable Poly

Right click the sphere and Isolate so we can begin modeling it. Right click and convert the Sphere to Editable Poly. In Polygon mode select half of the object and Delete. Later, when you are done modeling, you will Mirror the finished half. Select the poly that will be used to model the gun.

Inset & Extrude the Gun Barrel

Inset twice the poly we will use for the gun. Right click Front viewport, then View Align. This will make the poly face the front.

View Align polygon

In the Front viewport, in Vertex mode use Move on the points to make the poly square.

In Move mode pull out the poly on the Y axis. This will create the base for the barrel.

Pull Poly using Move on the toolbar in the y-axis in 3ds Max

Inset the poly, then in Polygon mode, Extrude the square poly outwards to form the gun barrel.

Inset Poly Extrude poly to make gun

Inset the end poly, then Extrude the inner barrel.

Chamfer the Barrel’s Edge Loops

To keep the barrel from collapsing while in NURMS Subdivision mode, we need to make very tight edge loops starting at the base of the barrel. Without them we get the mashed result below.

Subdivision on gun without chamfering edge loops smooths over

To correct this, group select all the edges below. That is 5 edge loops.

Then Chamfer 2 at 0.04. Turn on NURMSSubdivision to see the result of tight chamfered edge loops without edged faces on (toggle F4).

Tight Chamfered edge loops in 3ds Max In 3ds Max chamfering you get hard edges with Subdivision.

Eliminate Side Triangles

Another problem with the mesh is that the side ends with triangular poly’s, which do not subdivide well, and you get ugly stretch marks. We can fix this by turning the triangles into Quad (4 point poly’s).

stretch marks caused by triangle poly's

Select the ring of edges that make the triangles. Co to Connect and create a new edge loop.

Create edge loop with Connect

Select the inner edges and Remove them in Edge mode.

In 3ds Max use Remove in Edge mode to remove unwanted edges

Toggle the Cut button on. Make two vertical cuts and two horizontal cuts like you see below. Now the whole object has only Quad poly’s, which subdivide better.

In 3ds Max use Cut in Edge mode to cut new edges

Go to Vertex mode and turn on Soft Selection. Set Falloff at 4.0 and select the four inner points. Click the Move button on the toolbar, and in the Front viewport, move a bit to the right on the X axis.

In 3ds Max while in Vertex mode turn on Soft Selection. Set Falloff at 4.0

Turn on NURMs Subdivision. Now Orbit the model with edged faces turned off, and see if you need to make adjustments. There should be minimal blemishes displayed. The all Quad mesh fix has worked.

In 3ds Max All Quad mesh smooths nice in NURMS Subdivision

Create the Nose

The last step is to create the glass nose. Right click the turret half and go to Object Properties. Checkmark See Through . Create a six sided Cylinder behind the turret. Line it up like you see below.

In 3ds Max use Cylinder object as reference 3ds max See Through on

Click the ball_turret object. In Polygon mode, select and Inset the front poly.

In Vertex mode, make the two Cuts below.

Use Target Weld to join the new points. Then use Move to shape the nose to the background Cylinder.

In the Side viewport while in Polygon mode, select the nose poly. Right click the Front viewport, then click View Align. This will flatten the nose to face the front.

Then in Vertex mode, Move the two vertices as you see below. Turn off See through.

Mirror the other half

Mirror the object to get the other half. Make it a Copy on the X axis. Then click the Attach button to make both halves one object.

In Vertex mode Weld the 28 middle vertices. Now there are 14. Both sides are one piece now.

Chamfer the nose

Select the inside edges of the nose. Chamfer 2 at 0.04. This will keep the nose from smoothing.

Turn on NURMS Subdivision. The tight edge loops keep the edges of the nose from rounding, so you have a nice flat nose with sharp edges.

In 3ds Max turn on NURMS Subdivision. The tight edge loops keep the edges of the nose from rounding.

Low, Medium & High Polygon Models

Depending on what you use the model for, keep in mind the denser the mesh is, the more computing power is needed to render the model in the viewport, or in an animation, or a game.

Add a TurboSmooth modifier with 1 Iteration. This will be a low poly model. This has 1888 polygons.

Low poly model in 3ds Max

Up the Iteration to 2. This is a medium poly model. It has 7552 polygons.

Mid poly model in 3ds Max

Up the Iteration to 3. This is a High poly model. It has 30208 polygons.

High poly model in 3ds Max

That’s it for this tutorial, next one we will UVW Unwrap the surface areas and export the template to a paint program like Photoshop or Gimp.

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