By John Douglass - images & text © 2002
This model is a filming miniature that represents a mile-long space-station.
At a mile long, most small details, like windows and panels, are lost in this scale. All that's left is architectural-sized objects, and gross over-all form. With that in mind, and a, ahem, missed deadline, I opted for a design like one I used a few years ago to build an underwater city. Back then, I made a giant pueblo-esque mushroom by layering uneven but concentric disks of plexiglass. I did the same here, stretching out the mushroom a bit, and limiting the height. In both cases, I made the top relatively clean, whilst letting most of the details hang down.
Although most space-stations would be somewhat regular in shape, like a city, a truly massive one should not, I would think. And since mine is massive, it's pretty irregular, in two dimensions, anyway. I cut-out all the 1/4-inch plexiglass shapes using a jig-saw, starting with the main (long) deck. I didn't bother to sand the edges smooth since I wanted some texture anyway. After glueing together the plexiglass shapes I drilled mounting holes in various places. The tallest structure got a fairly wide hole drilled through it, while the main deck in three places got a fairly small hole drilled into its edge. The small holes are for the cinematographer who's not afraid to tilt the camera on it's side, as the plexiglass is probably too brittle to hold its own weight through a hole in its edge, and the large hole is for those who can't tilt the camera or can't bring themselves to tilt all the "ships'n'stuff".
After the aforementioned excavation came the fun part - bits and pieces of little shapes - Lots of domes, a few globes, and the ever-present tank track links. To add some interest and texture to the otherwise un-detailed main deck, I glued-on a section of grocery-store fast-food container - You know, the square-corrugated stuff - and some Evergreen Plastic sidewalk. The most fun were the six capital-ship docks (at an angle) and the five power-generator heat-exchangers. Well, those and the five landing platforms sticking out in various places. And, on further contemplation, the... basically, it was a pretty good therapy-piece: a project that takes minimal concentration, goes quickly, and doesn't look too bad afterwards. I.e., fun. Particularly the painting.
I always use ModelMaster enamels, as I never buy airbrush- clogging acrylics, though acrylics would have worked well here, I should think. I started, as always, with a can of Krylon Sandable Primer followed by Floquil black which, in my experience, is the only Floquil enamel that has to be ever-so-slightly thinned before airbrushing. Next was the base-coat, ModelMaster SAC Bomber Tan, chosen to complement the other ships in the film and so that, when lit, it has a chance of not becoming a white blob. Paint application was per a nifty technique used to good effect by Sean Patton with his "Thunderhawk". Dry-brushing with a really big (one-inch wide, short bristle) brush, although initially slower than airbrushing, leaves more black around raised areas with less effort than a series of washes. Thus, it's ideal for SFX work that requires a high-contrast surface appearrance in minimal time. Did I mention it's less likely to pull off paint than washes? And it's quicker when applying several layers?
Anyway, after the base coat came the scary part: battle-damage.
I used a wood-burning iron with a pointed-wedge tip. Perhaps you can see the tell-tale wedge-shaped holes. I carved-in a few areas where significant amounts of destruction had been targetted, with a few surrounding holes to simulate dear-misses. I airbrushed around these areas, and particularly inside them, with black to simulate smoke/heat damage. Yes, I know it probably wouldn't look that way in Real Life. But it looks good - that is, anybody seeing it briefly, as in a film, will perceive "battle-damage" before being distracted by the main action in the film. Using a heating device to make the damage has a useful side-effect. It creates a raised lip, which catches dry-brushing with the base-coat.
Afterwards I stood-back and looked at the station, noticed that is was a bit chiarascuro, so I lightly dry-brushed a few areas with rust. The alternative was eleventy-thousand hair-width (to keep in scale) strips of red and yellow paint. One is more fun to do. Over it all went a airbrushed coat of Floquil Dust, because it's ultra-flat, and it helps blend-together all the different colors and textures.
Like I said, it was fun, and relatively quick. Done again, I think I'd add more texture to the edges, particularly the main deck, but for the time I allowed myself, it'll photograph fine the way it is.
This page copyright © 2002 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 27 February 2002.