Saturday, 7 September 2013

On 26 June IN 2013, my friend from the local ABC, Dan Battley, arrived on my doorstep with his novice offsider, Leticia, in order to record an interview with myself regarding my hobby/obsession. With professional cameras in hand and yours truly all wired up for sound recording, the interview was conducted over about five hours, showcasing some of my creations that had been made for my short film, "Dogfight!" All was progressing well, the questions and answers flowing freely, the witty repartee breaking some of the tension for both Leticia and myself, her being the novice interviewer and me being the battle-worn interviewee. We had filmed shots of many of the models, some with me holding them amid illuminated backgrounds and copious quantities of stage smoke.

Dan, Leticia and myself setting up for the "interview of the century"!

Dan had asked in the days leading up to the interview if we could set up the Lunar Base - Sheffield model and he would film me in time lapse fashion in order to try out some new techniques he wanted to showcase. Me being the co-operative soul that I am, I was more than willing to carry out his wishes. I had suspended the 1.3 metre by 1 metre model on its acrylic sheet between my two filming tables and added various broken pieces of polystyrene and large garden rocks as bumps in the lunar surface. I had purchased a 20kg bag of cement to represent the lunar dust. In past photographs the cement dust had accurately portrayed the grey colour of the lunar surface. 

My idea was to surround the base with sheets of newsprint paper, after which I would spray this with grey primer, followed by a sifted layer or two of the cement powder. All was progressing well, Dan setting the camera to record every few seconds or so to achieve the time lapse effect.
I sprayed areas with the grey primer and began sifting the cement powder onto the surface. Being such a large area, I was unable to reach all the way through to the middle of the set, so I grabbed the bag of cement after climbing up onto the table and proceeded to reach out over the landscape with the sieve. Now because the tables were now a metre apart, there was a sizable gap between them, a gap that I had temporarily covered with a sheet of thin Masonite. Sifting the cement powder was progressing well until the time came when I had to heave up the cement bag and shift position to the opposite side of the set. Both filming tables have been over-engineered in their strength and can support the weight of a number of people my size. Unfortunately, there was one small section that wasn't quite as strong as all the rest - you guessed it, the Masonite sheet. And perhaps you can guess exactly where my 20kg heavier foot happened to connect with the surface - right in the middle of that Masonite sheet. There followed a strangled cry of alarm from me, the crack of broken Masonite, the slow but inexorable fall of an 80kg man and clouds of cement dust - all descending through the 6mm sheet of acrylic that the lunar base was glued to - and colliding violently with the rather solid concrete floor of my shed. There was a moment of silence, after which I heard the muffled curses from Dan as he raced over to see if I was okay, lying on and amid the remains of Lunar Base Sheffield that I had spent a number of months creating. Luckily for me I had landed flat onto the acrylic sheet as the broken shards were extremely sharp and could quite easily have pierce my skin in many unfortunate places. And no, before you ask, Dan's time lapse sequence did not capture the dramatic event, however Leticia's phone/camera had, at least the initial scene of me disappearing beneath the tables.
After I had picked myself up and been checked out for damage - three swollen fingers and two huge bruises on my left leg - we surveyed the damage to the lunar base model. Nearly every building had been knocked loose from its position, some had pieces missing from them and a couple were even broken in half. There was a thick layer of cement powder covering nearly everything, including myself. Funnily enough, I wasn't too concerned with the state of the buildings as they could be repaired fairly easily. Luckily we had completed the majority of the interview and this was the very last piece to be done, so all was not lost.
RULE #1 - Watch where you step when walking on your sets!


Watch the actual destruction of Moonbase "Sheffield" online at:
(Thanks Dan)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Now that the Aurora – Earth to Moon Shuttle was finished, work moved on to the surrounding launch area, specifically the structure dubbed the Launch & Assembly Building, or LAB. Along with that, there was also the launch platform itself which needed to be large enough to accommodate the shuttle. After locating a thick piece of plywood, 1.2m X 60cm, I knew I had the base that could support the LAB, the shuttle and the surrounding area comfortably. After a short search in one of my many boxes of “goodies”, I came across a quartet of lids from old computer disc containers and these would become the basic structure for the launch area to be built upon.
The LAB itself was closely based on a design by fellow modeller, Keith McNeill, from the UK. In fact, Keith sent me the dimensions for his 1:200 scale structure, which I promptly doubled in size for my version. I needed mine to be large enough to appear quite massive in the short film in which it was to appear. As well as that, it needed to be about 60cm tall to match the scale of the Aurora shuttle which was about 1:72.

Paying a visit to my local hardware shop netted me a sheet of 3mm thick Medium Density Fibreboard(MDF). Slightly warped in one corner and sitting next to the industrial bin, the sheet was given to me for free, the very best price to pay! I did purchase some packets of small wood screws, along with two dozen metal angle brackets, the smallest size available at the shop. I roughed up the basic size and shape on paper and then transferred the dimensions to the sheet, cutting out a pair of identical shapes using a sharp Stanley knife – hard work to say the least, but necessary if I wanted smooth edges. After cutting out the shapes and sanding any rough edges smooth, I cut small lengths of 9mm X 9mm square dowelling and added these to each of the angled sections, exactly 5mm inside the outer edge, all the way around the perimeters of the two shapes. This was to provide bracing for sections of 2mm styrene that would become the sides of the structure. Evergreen strip, #128, would have to be added after the styrene pieces had been glued on as I wasn’t willing to pay the high price for scribed styrene to cover such a large area. To give additional support for the building’s tall shape and to provide an interior that could be detailed with girderwork, a styrene box was constructed and firmly glued to the inside of the back wall. I used copious amounts of epoxy glue, timber bracing and six of the metal angle brackets to securely fix the box into place.


To give a little interest to the building, I decided to add a pair of flashing beacons to the top and purchased some lengths of brass tubing and two, 5mm red LEDs. A recent visit to the doctor had gained me a couple of plastic pieces that were used when viewing the insides of ears and these were sufficiently interesting enough to become the bases for the protruding brass tubes. The tubes themselves were passed through small holes drilled into the interior box, where the LED wires would be led out through the sides and down to the building’s rear where a small switch would be installed. The styrene section on top was detailed with various kit parts, along with the ear-viewing pieces before being sprayed with car primer.


Detailing the interior of the building required an amount of girderwork that was provided by two kits – the Airfix Pontoon Bridge and the Hornby 3 Piece Pylon set, along with some lengths of plastic fencing that were found on the spares box. After a couple of hours of experimenting and carefully placing pieces into position, grey primer was sprayed on the see the results. At my local electrical shop I had spied a 9 LED strip that I thought could provide some interior illumination and to accentuate the girderwork. I bought this for $9.95 and, because the backing was adhesive, it was easily placed against the back wall in the centre of the recess, while the wires trailed down to the bottom and out through the back to connect with the supplied switch. The dorsal ribbing part from an old Airfix “Space:1999”Eagle was added over these vertical wires to disguise them.

With the interior sprayed with grey primer, the colour it would remain on the final model, it was time to wire up the lights to the batteries and switches and to join the two halves of the structure together. This was achieved with more epoxy glue, dowelling and a few additional metal angle brackets.

I located a display base for an aircraft diorama and proceeded to cut out the rectangular centre with my Dremel. Using more girders from the Pontoon kit, I added them to the underside edges, around all four sides. Eleven of the twelve footpads from the Pylons kit were placed around three sides of the platform to add extra detail.
With the two faces securely glued together, it was now time to begin adding the styrene sides to the structure. This was accomplished with epoxy glue and held in place with masking tape during the drying process.
  Once the various sections were completely set, the addition of the many ribbed pieces could begin. I used many packs of Evergreen #128 to complete the ribbing, equally spaced apart with extra pieces of the same strip.

 Thursday 28 November 2013
Due to work commitments over the past few weeks, this is the first time I've been able to post some more pics of the LAB. At the moment it is painted in the white base coat, awaiting detailing and weathering. I'm very happy with it so far, especially with the large size and it should photograph quite well whenever I get the time to do some shooting! Enjoy the latest pics!

The styrene box arrangement was created to add detail to the rear of the LAB, but will not feature in the next video production. It is solely for displaying the entire assembly at next year's local ModelComp 2014. It hides the switches for the lights of the LAB and I also added some plastic "bits and pieces" for extra detailing.

The five and one quarter inch computer diskette boxes that form the base of the launch area, four of them in all, were detailed with sprue, kit parts and styrene sheet. Once painted, they should look the part. The crew/passenger gangway leading to the Aurora Shuttle were constructed from Evergreen square tubing and more sheet styrene. Detail consists of kit parts like 1/35 scale tank treads and such.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Well, it’s finally finished! After about 6 gruelling months the Aurora Earth-to-Moon Shuttle and the Launch Assembly Building and surrounding pad are completely done and ready to be filmed within the next year or so – when I get around to doing it of course!

All looks good and I’m very happy with the final result. The LAB features interior LED strip lighting, purchased from a local electronics shop, as well as flashing red beacons on top of the masts. The launch area was constructed from four, computer diskette boxes and detailed with sheet styrene and various kit and toy parts. It’s attached to the plywood base with a number of stainless steel angle brackets, as is the LAB itself, which won’t be too apparent in the film. This allows me to remove the structures when I’m rigging the Aurora model to ‘launch’ and to redrill the hole in the centre for smoke effects to be pumped through. The brackets also let me take the entire assembly apart for transportation purposes, something that was desperately needed with some previous creations.
 The completed dimensions are as follows: Base - 600mm x 1200mm, Total Height to beacons - 900mm, Launch Base - 800mm x 450mm, LAB - 400mm wide x 620mm high 9minus beacons).

I just took this series of photos yesterday, against my sky cyclorama and this is how it will appear in the final film, hopefully. What’s next, you ask? Perhaps the large scale lunar lander model that needs to be built to transport the little girl to the Moon. But, at the moment, I’m taking a well-earned rest for a few weeks to get over the ‘Silly Season’ and to spend a few days totally cleaning out and revising my work shed. Should be fun!

To all the model makers out there, have a great 2013 Christmas and New Year and keep on modelling!