Saturday, 31 May 2014

A New Use For Children's Binoculars And a Tea Dispenser!

For my next epic short film, I had it in my mind to create a landing vehicle that would transport a small girl to the Moon in order for her to visit her father. After working on the storyboards for a time, the girl's destination changed to that of Mars, rather than the Moon. The lander was still a requirement however and it was decided to build it in two different scales so as to achieve a variety of shots for the film. One version would be in approximately 1:72 scale and a smaller one was to be half that size or less, to fit with the scale of a manned base and landing platform that had been constructed previously. A larger scaled landing leg, for closeup shots, was also in the process of being created.
A long time elapsed, in fact a year or two, before I began work on the landing vehicle, due mainly to the fact that I was constructing other models and I just couldn't find the right materials and shapes to begin the project. Some time before, I had purchased a trio of plastic children's binoculars for a couple of dollars, intending to use them in the future. What intrigued me about them was the fact that when a button was depressed, a section of the top would spring out, revealing a red LED. The light was of little interest, however the spring loaded action was something that I kept in mind to act as landing gear for a type of vehicle. Fast forward a couple of years and I really wanted to begin work on the Lunar Lander as it was called at the time. The binoculars were pulled from a storage box and I began the search for a cylindrical plastic body that would become the fuselage of the lander. Having a huge collection of bits and pieces, it was not long before I came across a Caddy-matic tea dispenser, the kind of thing from (I think) the 60s and 70s that, when one pressed a button on the side, a certain amount of tea would be dispensed into a cup. Upside down, however, it would definitely become the basis for my landing vehicle that I had sketched on scraps of paper. I think I paid $2 for this item at a garage sale and it was the correct type of plastic for ease of gluing.
Rather than write, ad nauseum, about how the lander was created, I thought I would just let the photographs speak for themselves. The major difference between this model and many others was that the lander had been designed to be videoed and, as such, was constructed rather differently from the average model. Built from the inside out, the lander possesses four, brass tube  points which would facilitate filming from a variety of angles to disguise how it was to be supported in the shots - front of the nose, the rear dome (heat shield) and either side of the main body. The 7.5mm brass tubing was carefully built into the ship in the early stages of construction and glued firmly with two part epoxy cement. One tube runs the length of the ship, from nose to tail and the side mounts join in the centre at this longitudinal tube. A pair of LEDs give illumination to the passenger section around the middle, as well as the pilots' cabin in the front nosecone. The battery case for the lights can be concealed inside the rear domed heat shield that is removable, as is the entire nosecone at the front. The model can also be suspended, via fishing line, from small holes drilled into the projecting tip of the brass tube at the front. This is disguised with the use of a kit part that fits over the top of the tube. Much work and pre-planning went into this model, far more than I had envisioned, but I think it turned out rather well and I look forward to "rolling cameras" on it in the very near future.

The plastic, children's binoculars that looked interesting enough to buy three of. The hatch on the upper surface would eventually become the landing gear cover.
The Caddy-matic tea dispenser before any work was done on it. With chrome-plated plastic parts and a bright red body, every kitchen should have one! The binocular bodies have been stripped and placed into one of a few possible positions around the main body.
The constituent parts have been trimmed and sanded, requiring a few hours to remove the chrome finish on certain pieces.
Adding the windows to the circumference of the main body required the use of Evergreen strips and tiny sections from guard railings.
Tank and truck wheels detailed each of the six main rocket engines, while engine bells were borrowed from a Chinese rocket kit. The black inserts, part of the original children's toy, were each detailed and then returned to their positions in the binoculars.
The nosecone, actually the bottom of the original dispenser, was carefully sawed at near right angles to create the pilots' cabin which was then boxed in with ribbed styrene and given a clear, frosted acrylic window.
The main body taking shape. The 7.5mm brass tube extends the length of the ship, providing a pair of mounting points for the model.
A pair of LEDs provide illumination for both the passenger cabin and the pilots' cockpit. The wires run down through the ship to the tail where a battery pack will be temporarily installed.

The landing legs, constructed from various diameters of brass tubing and three or four kits wheels, would slide into a slightly larger brass tube, epoxied to the inside of the landing gear cover. The legs were made removable to facilitate filming of the model. An additional, smaller rocket engine bell, from a Saturn V model, has been inserted between the larger, main engines on each binocular.

Pet bird feeding tubes, trimmed to size and with added brass tubes for strength would become a trio of fuel tanks, placed alternatively between each of the three large engine sections. To cap each of them off, I poured three resin casts of domes from a previous project.

To cap off the tops of the three binoculars, I poured additional casts of the same dome and glued them to discs of styrene.
Putting it all together to see what it looks like proved rewarding. The landing legs needed more details, however I fully intended to minimise the external detailing on the outer hull.
Most of the outer hull detailing, instead of being plastic strips and kit parts everywhere, would consist mainly of pencil lines, pinstriping tape and decals. A few kit parts were added to the engine areas to make them appear a little more 'busy'.
To firmly join everything together on the outer hull, pairs of holes were drilled and tank wheels added to the interior. Brass tubing and two-part epoxy pinned all six sections securely.
It's amazing how a coat of primer can tie all the different areas together, creating a sense of unity.
Extra detailing being added to each of the landing gear legs. This consisted of girderwork from kits and various other bits and pieces.
The basic red and white colour scheme looks a little too clean at the moment. Pinstriping tape is being added to give extra detail.
All thirteen pieces, fully detailed, decaled and weathered with lead pencil, await final assembly.
And this is how the Pegasus looks after being assembled...
My favourite part - taking the photographs. Here, I'm temporarily supporting the model in front of a black bed sheet. the computer will later remove the support and add some stars.
The very basic setup for the space shots. Just prior  to this, the model had taken an unscheduled trip to the concrete floor of my shed because of unstable support. Luckily it was engineered very strongly as the fall resulted in just a small hole in an almost unnoticeable area of the hull. I was extremely lucky!
What the model looks like after removing the support and adding in some stars with Paint Shop Pro. The difficult part was keeping the light illuminating the model off the black backdrop and allowing the interior lighting to be seen.
For this shot, the 'planet' was the cardboard base from a hanging potplant suspended just in front of the model. I knew it would come in handy some day!
For the landing shots, the model was suspended from a simple rig and a smoke machine provided some 'atmosphere to the shots. This was all set up in under an hour.
The resulting shot was enhanced by removing the support wire, ie. the fishing line, the only digital manipulation necessary.
Just the support removal was necessary in this shot, the smoke providing the diffusion for the background.
The astronauts came from a previous project, as did the Rover vehicle. The surface of the planet came from my back yard.
Being cylindrical in nature, the Pegasus has only one or two good sides when being photographed. Overall, I'm quite happy with the result and look forward to seeing it in my next short film.
Using a section of an old pine shelf, I managed to create a diorama scene in only a few hours. Pinstriping tape was added for detail, along with plastic thumbtacks for landing lights.
The building and vehicles are leftovers and the PAD 4 lettering is shop-bought. A protruding brass tube supports the model in the middle and it was removed in the computer.



  1. Looking forward to reading more. Great blog post.Much thanks again. Great.