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Old 07-31-2012, 07:00 PM
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Default "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

This story is about an actual effects miniature rather than a replica.

In April I responded to a post looking for help building a model spaceship for a short film. Since the project was in New York, I referred this to my friend Rick Ingalsbe who lives in that state. After some discussion, we decided I would build the model and he would paint it. A budget was set and design work commenced.

We treated this project as special because in this era of computer effects spaceships are nearly always built as CG models. It seemed the days of starship miniatures in the film industry were long gone. After this project is done, who knows when we might get to see another physical model being filmed flying through space.

The producers were really easy to work with and the design process took about 6 weeks. In that time, I made a detailed computer mockup to help me prepare precise patterns for constructing the model.
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File Type: jpg RamjetInteriorCutaway.jpg (169.1 KB, 35 views)
File Type: jpg Update05-16--Ramjet_view1.jpg (179.7 KB, 21 views)
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Old 07-31-2012, 07:02 PM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

There were some serious design challenges for this spaceship. Four of the main engines (there are seven of them in total) are positioned at 12 O'Clock, 3 O'Clock, 6 O'Clock, and 9 O'Clock on a large ring structure. This meant any mounting points (called "pick points") aft of these engines would get illuminated by their lights. Mounting the model for filming would be difficult.

As if that was not enough, during the film the ship was to separate into different stages. This meant they needed three separate sections that could be filmed either separately or together. As a result, I would not be able to make one continuous armature to support the entire model. Wiring for each stage would also have to be separate.

The final challenge was the overall size of the miniature. Because they had limited space available for filming, they wanted a model no longer than about four feet. For a design this complex, that proved to be the most serious challenge. There were numerous lighting effects and all kinds of wires and fiber optics that needed to be crammed inside a very small space. In the end, we felt more like surgeons than model builders!
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File Type: jpg CustomWorkStands.jpg (77.7 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg EnginePrototype.jpg (63.6 KB, 40 views)
File Type: jpg LayingOutParts.jpg (96.6 KB, 31 views)
File Type: jpg ModuleOnStand.jpg (178.5 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg DetailsDetailsDetails.jpg (186.3 KB, 45 views)
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Old 07-31-2012, 07:04 PM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Construction commenced June 8. I enlisted the help of two good friends who volunteered to work with me on the project. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. If this model had been ten feet long, it would have been much easier to build!

More than six weeks later, we have most of it completed and we are now in the final detailing stage. My crew stuck with me through the entire process, frustrations and all. The model would never have reached this stage of completion so quickly had it not been for their extreme dedication and tireless effort.

I'm very pleased with how the model has turned out. It's taken a lot more time than originally anticipated. But, in the end, it looks like we may have something very special. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far, and I look forward to getting this ship in its crate and on the way to New York for final painting very soon.

Once again, I must give my sincere thanks to my faithful crew, Richard Lindstrom (aka "Richard_2001") and Preston Kabinoff for all their hard work on this project.
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg Overall-Day10-2.jpg (144.3 KB, 36 views)
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File Type: jpg RocketEngineCores.jpg (258.3 KB, 28 views)
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Last edited by star-art; 07-31-2012 at 07:10 PM. Reason: Added pic
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Old 07-31-2012, 07:09 PM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Lots more pics from the middle stages of the build. . .
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Old 07-31-2012, 07:12 PM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

As we enter the final stage of the project, we're spending more time on smaller details. We got the ring module primed and it will be the "anchor" for final assembly of the model on the armature.

Richard spent an entire week detailing the open hex module. This has become a showpiece, competing for attention with the ring and main engines. Because of all the work that went into this section, I decided it needs to have its own integrated lighting. We found a way to hide 8 individual fiber optic spotlights in the structure that make it self illuminate in the dark. The effect is amazing.
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File Type: jpg Update07-31_08.jpg (120.4 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg Update07-31_09.jpg (192.5 KB, 38 views)
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Old 07-31-2012, 07:14 PM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

It took about 3 days to build the "basket" for the turbine module. This removable assembly is not only one of the most intricately detailed parts of the ship, it also contains three separate built-in lighting effects. We tested one of those effects -- the red turbine glow -- and it looked incredible.

The original design was to have the heatsink sticking out of a large tube. I found that mounting it inside the tube makes for a much more dramatic effect. It now appears to glow red like an oven heating element.

I also spent time this weekend cleaning up and detailing the bow module. It's nearly complete and ready to be mounted on the armature.

The last remaining details to be attended to involve the cooling modules. Since they are the main mounting points, these must be complete before we can assemble the model on its armature. I have run fiber optics in one of the modules and there is still some more work to be done before they can be detailed.

We also have to finish detailing the three engines that go on the very back of the ship. Those are assembled, LEDs are installed, and they are ready for final finishing.



Charles
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:47 PM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Now THIS is special!

It's rare we're treated to something this cool---thanks for bringing her over to RI. We can always use the inspiration.

Glad this was a hard model----love the work some of the CGI guys are doing, but dadgummit----the real thing is always better IMO. It just has a "look" that CGI doesn't.
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Old 07-31-2012, 11:04 PM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

How often are we treated to such a detailed build log for something going onscreen?

Then, for something that is actually cool and chocked full of MODELING skills!

Thanks and good luck!
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Old 08-01-2012, 12:02 AM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Thanks! Here are the results of a lighting test on the open hex module. Keep in mind how small this section is. . .
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File Type: jpg Update07-31_22.jpg (162.9 KB, 20 views)
File Type: jpg Update07-31_23.jpg (103.0 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg Update07-31_24.jpg (105.2 KB, 33 views)
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Old 08-01-2012, 12:10 AM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

^^^Dang, quite effective.
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:22 AM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Very well done; thank you so much for sharing your work with us.

Robert
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:39 AM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Damn Charles, that's progressing nicely! I really like the concealed lighting, something I have plans for on a big project of mine. Sort of an optional extra. Nice to see the effects that can be achieved.

How do you think this will photograph on the moco stage? Separate pass for the lighting?

Mike
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:41 AM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Thanks! Since this is a filming model, I've gone to great lengths making the lighting as flexible as possible. That's one thing that makes a filming miniature quite different from a display model. Each lighting effect needs its own on/off switch and brightness control. Everything is independent for the most part. The result is a wiring harness that's almost as big as the model! LOL

We have a number of spotlights all over this miniature. Most are groups of 3-4 fibers. Because it's so small, the ones in the open hex module are just individual fibers. That means they will be 3-4 times less bright than the other spotlights. As a result, I plan to put them on a "separate circuit" so they can be adjusted independently to help balance out the effect.

Filming will depend on the schedule and the available stage space. They hope to film it motion control and that will allow for the flexibility of doing separate passes for each lighting effect.
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Old 08-02-2012, 10:55 AM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Excellent! Thank you for sharing this view into how you're bringing this miniature together. It's a rare treat indeed to see it in this kind of detail.
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Old 08-02-2012, 06:55 PM
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Default Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

Absolutely wonderful post. Will be coming back later to pore over each image in depth!
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