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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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.

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StarshipBuilder.com, www.AirshipModeler.com
Author, MODEL DESIGN & BLUEPRINTING HANDBOOK, Volume 1 SECOND EDITION NOW AVAILABLE
 

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That is so sweet. Yeah, I guess except for yours and the 12' Serenity filming model those days are gone. It takes a different kind of artist to be able to do a CGI model, and they are very much artists. But still nothing beats the "hands on" physical model.
 

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Very cool designs! Nicely constructed to boot! I like to see lots of tanks on "real space" looking designs.
 

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Hats off to you guys!. Your design work and execution are beautiful. :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

Regards,
MattL
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks! I've tried to make it look as real and believable as possible given the constraints of the design. I've added a lot of realistic looking details so far. We're using parts from real space subjects and even some Star Wars bits. Trying to pay homage to real space, Star Wars, and 2001 A Space Odyssey.
 

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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.

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

NOTE: I've reached the limit of space available for attachments here at HobbyTalk. If you check my post at the RPF in the Studio Scale Modeling section, you can see many more photos.

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StarshipBuilder.com, www.AirshipModeler.com
Author, MODEL DESIGN & BLUEPRINTING HANDBOOK, Volume 1 SECOND EDITION NOW AVAILABLE
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I deleted some old attachments to make room for more. I also created an album to share some of the best pics from the project.

Last night I did a lighting test on the Open Hex Module. I was able to photograph the fiber optic spotlights under both low light and total dark conditions. This effect allows the model to "self illuminate" in the dark. It was inspired by the effect created by Douglas Trumbull for the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

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StarshipBuilder.com, www.AirshipModeler.com
Author, MODEL DESIGN & BLUEPRINTING HANDBOOK, Volume 1 SECOND EDITION NOW AVAILABLE
 

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Discussion Starter #16
This week we reached a major milestone in the project -- final assembly of the modules on the main armature. The front half of the ship has now been permanently mounted on the frame and the front wire harness (umbilical) has been installed.

Work continued on the final three rear engines in the very back of the ship. The mounting structure (shown) was built and detailed. The engines themselves (not shown yet) have been built, lights installed, and they are undergoing final detailing.

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Author, MODEL DESIGN & BLUEPRINTING HANDBOOK, Volume 1 SECOND EDITION NOW AVAILABLE
 

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Discussion Starter #17
We also completed the lighting effects for the ring section and main engines 1 and 2. In addition, custom miniature "can" lights were fabricated and installed in the front cooling module. These face aft and light up the hex cargo module. As far as I know, this is the first time such lighting effects have been created in miniature using fiber optics. The overall look is very similar to what you might see on a building at night.

The open hex module (shown in the lighting test last week) is next to be installed. After that, we'll button up the rear mount and install the turbine module with engines 3 and 4.



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StarshipBuilder.com, www.AirshipModeler.com
Author, MODEL DESIGN & BLUEPRINTING HANDBOOK, Volume 1 SECOND EDITION NOW AVAILABLE
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Richard was here for another marathon building session starting Saturday. We are in the home stretch in our push toward final delivery. The more we get done, however, the more it seems there is still left to do! This is one complicated model. . .

We installed the rear cooling module spotlights for a lighting test. All spotlights are now on individually controlled circuits so the lighting for each section of the ship can be adjusted independently to balance out the effects.

Because the open hex module creates a "choke point" inside the model, there was too little room to run all the wires and fibers through that area. This forced us to improvise some solutions. I added a rear wire harness/umbilical to the aft cooling module that exits the left side of the model. I also had to redesign the electronics and wiring inside the turbine module in order to get everything connected. We now have a new circuit board in there and everything is ready for final hookup and testing.

To reduce heat buildup inside the model, I am stepping down the supply voltage from 12V to as low as 5V. This means further lighting tests will have to wait until the control box has been completed. Fortunately, the wiring design is well laid out and modular so this did not require any rewiring inside the ship. All I needed to do was swap out some resistors on the internal circuit boards. We also added some improvised air circulation vents to the hex cargo module.

Before wrapping up work yesterday, we moved the model from its work stand to the crate base in preparation for final delivery. We are expecting triple digit temperatures in our area starting today and lasting through the weekend. Since the shop is not air conditioned, further progress will be slow until things cool down a bit.

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StarshipBuilder.com, www.AirshipModeler.com
Author, MODEL DESIGN & BLUEPRINTING HANDBOOK, Volume 1 SECOND EDITION NOW AVAILABLE
 
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