WORKBENCH

Here, you can see some jobs that liteFX has worked on, and review some of the techniques used. If you are new to modeling and want to make a start, feel free to use this as a tutorial to get you started.

Here's a list of what's on this page - click on a topic to go there. I'll add some more from time-to-time, so check back.

lighting a model

planning the jobscalepower supply lightproofinglight sources.

surface weathering

find a samplechose the materialsmatch the effect

real models

•scale •materials

sets

some set building

timescales for production

See how long it takes to produce a model

lighting a model

Planning the job. At one end of the spectrum is the Perry Rhodan ship Marco Polo. This is a simple sphere, but by placing the light source (2 wide angle led's) at the focal point of the ship, an even distribution of light is achieved. Finding the focal point was a case of moving a torch bulb around inside until an even image of each hemisphere was obtained.

At the other end of the spectrum is USS Voyager. That took several days just to set out where the lights had to be, and how the wiring harness would be handled. There were different voltages to deal with, and the engine hinges still had to work to let the pylons swing into the up position. Here's a sketch I used to plan the position of the lights, and work out how to minimise the number of wires involved - not for the cost, but for the room.

The flasher circuits and the power supply regulators for the fluorescent tubes were located either side of the upper tube - see the USS Voyager detail page for a picture.

Scale. On a model such as the USS Voyager, it's no good just sticking some l.e.d.'s on the surface of the plastic - they'd look huge in comparison to the real thing. Also, you can't just cut some holes and hide a torch bulb behind them, as the thickness of the plastic means that, if you look from more than about 20 degrees off-centre to the window, the light 'goes out'.

Here's a trick I used on Voyager and other kits. It involves bonding an led into place under the model surface with epoxy resin injected to fill the space made by a preformed putty plug, then sinking an acrylic light guide into it. By blooming the 0.75mm diameter light guide plugs with heat, it's possible to get sub-millimeter sized light sources. And you thought liteFX models were expensive?

Power Supplies. For powering a model, I might decide to use batteries or a mains power adapter. If it's for a display at a convention or club, I'll use an adapter if I can guarantee access to power. For a customer in a domestic situation, batteries are usually best, as the models tend to be powered up infrequently.

As far as light sources go, fluorescent tubes require optimal power at all times, or they quickly start to darken irreversibly. For led's, it's the current that you have to watch. All led's are sold with power specifications - if you can't find out what those are, because you shop at a general retail outlet, don't buy them - select them from an electrical goods retailer that can let you browse a catalogue. The normal arrangement calls for a series resistor whoes value is given by the (supply voltage - forward voltage) divided by the maximum current an led will take.

Lightproofing. Sometimes it's not possible to have tightly contained light sources, such as in the Marco Polo. In this case, the interior of the open space is first sprayed with hi-build spray putty to seal microfissures, then matt black to prevent any light leaks, then silver to reflect light back and give it a chance to come out of the windows again, to make maximum use of the light source. To help prevent light leaks between halves of a hull to be glued up, I might use a thick elastic band or a piece of foam rubber draft excluder - something that will deform and conform to the shape of the parts being glued.

Light Sources. Here are the common light sources that I work with - there are occasionally others on the market, but I can't guarantee the availability so I tend to use them only on special jobs.......

The wavelengths are marked beside the colour, and I've coloured the text to represent the actual colours, as the digital camera was (apparently) quite deficient in yellow and deep blue, which have showed up very dull in here......


This is a difficult one. There's no guarantee that, just because the lights look the right colour on the inside, they'll look good when the model is put together. The most common reason for this is that the external lighting for a model may be deliberatly coloured to achieve a certain look that can't be done with just paints alone. A favourite model for this problem is the USS Enterprise from the original series - the t.v. image came over as various shades of pale blue or white, but the studio model was grey-green! When selecting white light sources, fillament (torch bulbs) often have to have the colour temperature raised with a blue filter - I often paint them with clear blue varnish. For blue led's, shorter wavelength emission peaks (460nm) are usually better - the cheaper 475nm led's are distinctly turquoise. The same goes for green - the shorter the better, or they look too yellow.

There are a few ways of describing the colour of light. Longer wavelengths are redder, and have a lower colour temperature. The colour temperature of a source describes it's tint - 4700K is a nice pure white, while 2500K is distinctly yellow. The temperature, in kelvins (K), is the temperature that something would have to burn at in order to radiate that colour of light. Many fluorescent tubes will burn at 3800K, and fillament bulbs will be down around 2200K, and have a yellow hue. This can be adjusted using filters - a blue filter will hold back some of the longer wavelength, lower temperature, red light, raising the average colour temperature of the source, but at the expense of light intensity - it'll get dimmer as well as bluer. External lighting on a model may have a blue or green tint for tv and film, to help with the mechanics of image capture, but this makes 2200K lights look very yellow.

It's essential to consider reflected light as well as radiated light. If you shine white light on a red model, the model reflects the red light and absorbs all other colours, and you see red. If you shine a pure green light on it, it'll look black - there's no red light falling on the model to be reflected by the red paint!

Surface Weathering

Find a sample The best way to start weathering something is to look at something similar. That means that you have to pay attention to scale as well - a dirty family car doesn't look the same as a dirty trawler, for instance.

Weathering patterns often follow panel lines or joins, but not always. If the model is of something that moves fast, there will probably be directional streaking, usually at the leading edge of anuthing raised, but again not always - finding an real example is the key. On an aircraft, for instance, there will often be smudge marks in the strangest of places due to hugh speed airflows, thrust reverser plates on the engines and rain running down when it's at rest - these will often give conflicting streak directions. I often add directional patterns with an airbrush, then run a 10% solution of paint in thinners down the subject several times, blowing the layer thin with a straw to make a realistic look.

They will also result in different colours. Some of the nastiest weathering jobs I've seen (I used to do them this way!) are plain black smudges - weathering is rarely black. I use greens and browns most of the time, but any colour can be used if called for. An airbrush is essential, but so is a good stiff brush, especially for brushing silver over black or rust over silver - that's a job that stiff, short bristle brushes were made for.

Ever seen old paint on a metal cladding? It loses it's gloss finish and the colours fade in and out because of sun bleaching, acid rain, diesel fumes, and moss - and none of these will be black!

I usually end up doing a swatch board. This is a strip of material with the same surface finish as the subject, and painted with the same paint scheme, then I add a selection of weathering techniques to square panels. I'll then look at these in the sort of light that the model will be viewed of photographed in, and make a final selection to apply to the model.

Match the effect Don't think that you have to weather a model with enamel paint. There's acrylic paint, oil paint, soft pancils, charcoal, chalk, and even plant materials! To get the effect that you need, it's often the case that the colour of the model will have to look odd. This was the case with a few models I've built so far, and the original series Enterprise and Thunderbird 1 are good examples. The Enterprise is quite plainly green, because the customer wanted it to match the original studio model. This meant that it would have to be viewed under a lilac coloured light to look white, which throws off the colour balance of everything else in the set - but that's what they wanted.

Thunderbird 1 on the other hand was painted silver with red and brown weathering, created with coloured pencils, paints and chalk dust, and sealed with several coats of laquer, then a matt varnish. This gave it a very accurate finish, very true to the original cartoon series, and this turned out to have some peculiar properties as you can see here - it's whatever colour you want it to be!

Real Models

Real Models Models of real objects are much more difficult to make, because they have real surfaces and finishes. This church door prop was for a test for a small Arts Council funded film, and it comes from a local church, so I had easy access. The material for the stone was polystyrene, and the door is made of balsa, stained with oils. The hinges were cast from a plastic master with Milliput.

The styrene was cut unto blocks, roughned up then glued together to give convincing fissures. The shapes for the blocks were worked out on computer from measurements of key points (every 5cm!) to get the curves spot-on. The prop has no back - nobody would see it!

The door was made from individual strips of balsa, again roughned and distressed, then glued together. The stains naturally gathered in the bruised fibres and accentuate the look.

The polystyrene was blue to start with. It was surfaced by coating with PVA glue, then covering with sand sieved to 0.2mm to get the scale right. It was than undercoated with a stone-coloured acrylic blend, then weathered with mossy greens, greys and browns in paints and chalks, by brushing, spraying and pouring, as required.

 

Sets

The producer of Life Goes On makes some last minute adjustments to my crashed plane in a field, which is actually set in a field..... Extreme accuracy was required, with a high degree of surface finish, and yet the engines, propellors and wheels could be swapped to give flexibility in shooting on location.

The Art Director gets ready to animate my tank in the same film. The models andf scenery here were historically accurate, including the colour, and quite demanding.

Just about to start filming on the Terminus set. My hut here is actually about 2 metres tall, and took quite a bit of carrying round!

Are you wondering why it takes so long to produce a model? Well, to be honest, so was I - so I kept a diary of how long I spent working on an Enterprise 1701-D, and the results are in this table.

Here is a breakdown of the working hours spent on the job - it totals 195 hours, including waiting for stuff to set or dry.

Now, I can't spend 195 hours on a job of course: I have to eat, sleep, go shopping, etc., and hold down a day job..... so the 195 working hours actually took place throughout a span of 524 real hours, which is 22 days: so the breakdown actually looks like this....

And I can tell you that working at this rate in a sustained fashion (i.e. year after year) requires a certain pasion for the work!

And here is a list of the actual tasks, in the order that I completed them....

log (hrs)

process

0.5

paint blending

0.25

led/colour/effects matching

0.25

pinouts/switch/circuit selection

0.15

wire colur selection

3

plan assessment (over whole job)

3

window cuts

3

window tidy

0.25

mass balancing

1

hull shot bulkhead

0.25

aft torpedo tube

1

nacelle painting

0.5

warp bulkheads

0.25

warp external priming

0.5

warp external painting

1

warp led clusters

0.25

light test

0.5

warp shot setting

0.5

warp connection assessment

0.25

warp lightproofing

0.25

warp pin prep

0.5

warp fitting

0.25

dish assessment

0.5

dish template

0.25

dish led fitting

0.25

power plug fitting

1

warp strand embedding

0.5

warp wiring

0.5

hotel light wiring

0.25

sail light proofing

0.25

impulse bulkheads

0.25

warp clear part prep

0.15

warp clear part mounting

0.25

warp nacelle mounting

0.15

power plug wiring

0.25

wire loom prep

0.2

wire loom fixing

0.25

hull parts arrangement

0.25

hull parts fitting

0.3

wire loom adjustment

0.2

deflector fitting

0.25

hull halves fixing

1

lego jig

0.2

hull setting

0.25

sail/saucer setting

0.3

sail/saucer/hull setting

0.25

priming

3.5

lifeboat masking

0.5

basecoating

1

highlight masking

1.5

highlight painting

4.5

aztec template prep

2.5

aztec pattern painting

0.25

laquer coat

1

decal application

0.25

laquer coat

0.5

matt coat

1

weathering

0.75

circuit board

0.25

resistor balancing

0.25

circuit board mounting

0.3

stand template cutting

1.5

stand assembly

1.5

switch cut-outs & installation

0.5

stand power sockets

0.5

painting

0.15

labels

3

spray prep (over whole job)

3

spray clean up (over whole job)

72

drying time

72

setting time

6

paint set-up (hanging)

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