Dev Tutorial Reference Material Hierarchy

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An Orange Bus
Dec 10, 2015
1: The real thing
1.5: Manufacturer blueprints
2: Photographs
3. Manufacturer artwork
4. 3rd-Party artwork

The most accurate reference material is always the real thing - you can directly measure all aspects of it, as well as determining the shape from all angles with your own eyes. This, combined with modelling skill, is the only way to get the highest accuracy of model. SCS use 3D scanning and/or photogrammetry to get their reference material for modelling. It also possible to purchase the real thing, although generally only small parts rather than the whole bus.

Manufacturer blueprints are the diagrams that are used to actually make the thing and are therefore 100% accurate to what was manufactured. These are almost impossible to come by for the whole of a bus, given that they would be very valuable to competitor companies. Some companies that make parts (e.g. Hella, who make the lights that are used on many buses) do publish their blueprints.

Photographs from many angles are invaluable for determining the shape of some part when you don't have access to the real thing, but tracing from photographs should generally be avoided. If you are going to use photos to trace from, you need to ensure you use a camera/lens setup where the lens distortion can be accurately dealt with and ideally also a photogrammetry setup is used to align the photos to the modelling axes.

Manufacturer artwork refers to diagrams and drawings in brochures and other documents from the manufacturer. These could be based on measurements of the real thing, in which case they'd be very accurate, however they are often simply an artists' impression of what they think the bus will look like when they finish designing and prototyping the bus.

3rd-Party artwork refers to paper bus nets, diagrams on blueprints websites, existing 3D models, miniature buses and other representations created by anyone that's not the manufacturer. In the case of a "blueprint" for an iPhone they'd be made from measurements of the real thing, but that's not going to be the case for buses because they're a lot harder to get hold of.

From either source, artwork is what someone else's impression of what the thing is like. Like the game "Telephone", the more steps you get from the original, the worse the recreation gets. Miniature buses have to take into account the properties of the cast metal/plastic, some some detail will be lost or printed on or exaggerated. Paper bus nets are often pixel-art, losing a lot of detail in the process, and are a series of flat planes usually assembled into a cuboid, so loose almost all of the shape of the vehicle.

Some examples of accuracy issues with source material:
Fig1: A photo I took of a Pointer 2 Dart, with a series of dead straight and level lines to demonstrate the effects of lens distortion:

Fig2: A diagram taken from an ADL workshop manual for a Dennis Dart... the front is clearly a Pointer 2, but the rear is a Pointer 1 that's far too wide...


Well-Known Member
Oct 25, 2016