Sunday, 19 August 2012


Making Small Things Just That Little Better!

Take a close look at the background of any expansive model panorama from shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90 and a host of others and one will notice a collection of parked cars, heavy duty transport vehicles, grounded aircraft and the like, all carefully placed in the shot to convey a ‘busyness’ to the scene and to create interest for the viewer. Scale model aircraft were assembled and Corgi and Dinky toys, along with a host of Matchbox cars, were added to flesh out the background – set dressing as it were. Parked in front of buildings, waiting on the tarmac, moving across the screen – they provided additional ‘eye candy’ for the TV viewer and made this model world that much more real. We expect vehicles to be present in these circumstances – along city streets, parked near airport buildings, occupying car park spaces and the like, so the addition of toy ones into the scene reinforces our view of that scene as being more ‘real’ than it actually is. Perspective played a huge role in filming these scenes, the model trestle tables not being particularly large in area. The ‘hero’ model would be placed in the foreground while smaller vehicles such as the ones already mentioned occupied the background and extended the apparent depth of the scene. Car kits of varying scales were used in many parking scenes, from 1/24 down to the aforementioned Matchbox ones. Store-bought, cheap and very readily available, many hundreds of cars, trucks and model kit aircraft were utilised over the years of filming the various episodes. Many were left untouched and used as is, some were repainted to give more realism, most were lightly weathered to read more convincingly on film and a few were reworked with added signage, lighting and other details. Here are just a few examples from various shows:
Because I’ve needed to replicate the look of these Gerry Anderson shows with my own creations featured, I’ve had to assemble a collection of small vehicles for use in photographic situations. Some have had some minor work done to them, mostly in repainting and added kit details, although a few of them, chosen because they looked quite futuristic, have survived virtually intact. Occasionally I’ll find a small toy in a shop, but more often than not, a hunt through the local markets will net me half a dozen cars and small trucks that will fit the bill nicely. Second hand vehicles are usually a little worse for wear after being played with for many years and they require a little cleaning up to make them acceptable. If repainting is required, then the toy is spray primed and then given its final coat of colour. Tyres are painted and details lines added. With very little effort, an entire fleet of cars and heavy vehicles can be produced in a short space of time, ready to be placed in the background for photography.                                                                                          

Matchbox-scale car collection

N-Gauge scale cars for far distance shots

All background cars and vehicles stored safely in
their containers

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