by Satish B, Head Academics, Jain Animation School


Welcome to Modeling the Tumbler.

The Tumbler is a sleek, black tank/car used by Batman in the Batman movie trilogy by Christopher Nolan. This article is more of a making and therefore will not contain step by step instructions. However, certain techniques are discussed in detail where necessary. Although the methods discussed here are primarily for Autodesk Maya, it can be adapted to any 3D software with similar features and toolsets.

The first step is to collect appropriate blueprints of the vehicle in question. With Google search at hand you need not look elsewhere. But keep in mind that most of the blueprints will have alignment issues. It has to be corrected in Photoshop. Otherwise the corrections must be handled during the initial blocking of the model.

Making the Tumbler-001

As blueprints do not give complete details about the design, collect plenty of references. It can be photographs, sketches and videos. They help us understand the shapes better, educate us about the functionality of the parts and help us develop a wholesome 3D model.

Making the Tumbler-002

While trying to stay very close to Christopher Nolan and Nathan Crowley’s design, I have taken the liberty to make a few changes to simplify the model. Most of the vehicle’s design space is occupied between the wheels. Therefore the first thing to do after setting up the blueprints is to lock down the position of the wheels. The Tumbler has got six of them. I started the front wheel with a polygon cylinder without any caps. Then I added vertical subdivisions by referring to the front view so that the buttons on the wheel could be extruded. I also created two clusters, one for the group of vertices at either shoulder of the wheel. By rotating these clusters in opposite directions, the diagonal twist of the buttons were created.

Making the Tumbler-005

The front rim was created with a polygon cylinder too. Another polygon cylinder with six subdivisions and edges beveled would become the nut. I duplicated them around the rim as indicated and the front wheel is done.

Making the Tumbler-006

The back wheel is larger and more detailed than the front wheel. There are two of them on either side of the vehicle. Therefore it was created by using different pieces of geometry. The basic shape of the wheel can be extruded out of a polygon cylinder. The buttons on the back wheel were created by using separate pieces of polygon cubes. These were eventually duplicated around the circumference of the wheel.

Making the Tumbler-008

I created the rim with a polygon cylinder and decorated it with more cubes, cylinders and pipes. The rivets were fashioned out of half a polygon sphere. I duplicated the back wheel to create a second copy next to the first one. Next I mirrored both the front and the back wheels to the other side.

Then I built a parts library of nuts, bolts, rivets, clamps, hydraulics and lights. Though they appeared tough, the armored plates on the car were the easiest thing to create. One can easily get carried away with these. So early on I decided to create them with polygon planes to keep a check on the polycount.

Making the Tumbler-011

After designing the basic shapes of the armored plates from polygon planes, extrude and bevel tools were used to create the necessary thickness. I assembled the pieces together. Then I added the hydraulics and rivet to re-inforce the details.

Making the Tumbler-012

The production designers described the tumbler as a cross between a Lamborghini and a tanker. I did not model the Lamborghini part of it as it is not visible to us. Only the exterior armored plates are visible to the audience. It is a good practice in modeling to detail the parts that are directly coming into visual contact.

Next I started work on the elevons or the rear flaps. These are used as a break system as well as a stabilator. Their function is almost similar to the aircraft controls on fighter aircrafts. I modeled the basic shapes with polygon planes and extruded them for thickness. Then I added the hydraulics details modeled earlier to connect the flaps to the armored plates.

Making the Tumbler-015

Next I modeled the jet burner with a polygon cylinder. This one is supposed to be fueled by six propane tanks and is used for ramp less jumps and quick boosts. Additional details like the U pipe and the hydraulics system was also added. I also added the rear suspension and the axle. The front wheels do not have an axle. A truck’s axle was used for the rear axle in the original production design.

Making the Tumbler-016

Then I modeled the exterior details of the cockpit. I had to constantly nudge the pieces around to get them to fit properly. I also reinforced it with more nuts and bolts. Next I inserted the lights in-between the armored plates.

Making the Tumbler-017

The final part of the design was to create the nose of the vehicle in-between the front wheels. This was essentially done with box modeling. A pair of cannons was added to sides. This provides more protection to the driver who is already behind layers of armored plates.

Making the Tumbler-018

I decided to end the model here. The finished model so far is as shown below.

Making the Tumbler-019

I hope this article was helpful in providing an insight into vehicle modeling.

Happy modeling.

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