Category Archives: Products

Diorama accessories for 1:12 figures from TW Toys

Large scale figures are popular with fans of sci-fi and fantasy cinema, games, and world history. Many are sold as finished pieces already assembled and painted, while others can be found in kit form. More often than not, these figures are displayed as discrete items on a bookshelf. But for those who want to go a step further, Twelve World Toys has just announced several new products of interest. 

The company is releasing two items in September: a Stone Lanterns Diorama (stone lanterns are uniquely Japanese and would suit a samurai diorama); and an Abandoned Diorama, which consists of a damaged concrete pillar and rusted steel fence section. 

Scheduled for release in December is an Abandoned Steel Scaffolding display. It comprises an A and a B section which can be arranged in various ways to suit your preference. A display like this would be perfect for a Batman or Spiderman figure. Also coming in December is a Watertight Door with bold yellow stripes, which would provide a good background for a nautical or sci-fi subject. 

So if you want to take your 1:12 figures to the next level, check out these upcoming releases from TW Toys. Available at Hobby Search

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Aircraft Carrier Flight Deck Diorama from Sweet

Japanese manufacturer Sweet Aviation Model Division has released a Navy Flight Deck Set in 1:144 scale. At first glance, the product is a simple diorama base replicating a WWII Japanese aircraft carrier deck section. What makes it interesting, however, is the included aircraft elevator which can be set flush with the deck or in a lower position. This offers some interesting diorama possibilities, and fans of Tora! Tora! Tora! and Midway will have a field day. Ambitious diorama builders could even add a lower deck. 

The level of detail on the diorama base appears to be very good, and a full set of decals is included. A6M Zero kits and diecast replicas in 1:144 scale are readily available from a variety of manufacturers (including Sweet), so populating the flight deck won’t be an issue. N scale figures from model railroad suppliers (which range from 1:150 to 1:160 depending on the manufacturer) could be incorporated as well. 

The choice of 1:144 scale results in a diorama of modest dimensions which can easily fit on a small bookshelf. No need to buy a bigger house once the project is finished! 

In addition to a catchy name, Sweet has an interesting approach to packaging. Their products often feature manga style renderings of young female officers, mechanics, and assorted mascots attending to flight prep duties. The insouciant box art capitalizes on the popularity of manga in Japan and shouldn’t be construed as targeting a younger market. Sweet’s products are intended for intermediate to advanced modellers, and the company is in fact known for producing some of the finest quality 1:144 aircraft kits available. 

More information and photos are available on Sweet’s US distributor website at http://sweetaviationmodels.com

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Space: 1999’s Eagle Transporter flies again

Round 2 Models has just announced an upcoming injection kit of the venerable Eagle Transporter, the iconic spacecraft from Space: 1999. The 1:72 model will be approximately 36cm (14”) in length, making it slightly larger than the 30cm (12”) versions which have been released over the years by companies such as MPC, Warp, and Product Enterprise. Pre-production renderings show that Round 2 has taken care to faithfully reproduce the correct proportions of the Eagle.

It’s been 44 years since the debut of Space: 1999, and the fact that new tools of the Eagle are still being produced is testament to the staying power of this timeless spacecraft. Given that Round 2 just released a 1:48 Eagle Transporter a few years ago, the demand for Eagle kits is evidently stronger than ever. For a subject to be offered in multiple scales by the same company, it has to be extremely popular. 

Some fictional spaceships become famous because they’re associated with a hit show or movie. Star Trek’s USS Enterprise is a good example. Regardless of its own merits, it’s always going to have a fan base due to Trek’s immense popularity. This isn’t the case with the Eagle. Both seasons of Space: 1999 generated mixed reviews, and for many, Brian Johnson’s special effects were the most impressive thing about it. The Eagle stands on its own merits. 

A big part of the Eagle’s enduring appeal is its clever blend of the mechanical and the organic. On the surface, the ship is all machine: modular sections bolted to a tubular frame ‘backbone’ which runs the length of the ship. A straightforward, utilitarian design with no superfluous design flourishes.

But on a subconscious level, we perceive something organic. In designing the Eagle, Brian Johnson wanted to give the ship an insect-like appearance, and he succeeded. Its tubular frame  gives the impression of an exoskeleton. The landing gear struts flex like the legs of a grasshopper. And the command module’s two viewports at the front of the ship look like eyes. These organic design elements lift the design of the Eagle above the ordinary.

The Eagle is a practical spacecraft. The design is based on recognizable, real world technology. It uses nuclear propulsion, something which already exists today. Unlike the Enterprise or Millennium Falcon, it doesn’t travel faster than light. It doesn’t attempt to stretch the laws of physics. 

The landing gear are set wide apart to provide stability on take off and landing. The vertical thrusters are where you expect them to be to provide lift. A bit of poetic license has been taken with the fuel tanks, which are too small to provide enough liquid propellant for all but the shortest journeys, but this is a minor quibble. The interchangeable pod amidships allows the Eagle to perform a variety of roles, transporting both passengers and freight. I wonder if Brian Johnson took inspiration from the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter of the 1960s, which accommodates interchangeable payloads. 

Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane

The sound designers of Space: 1999 decided to give the Eagle a recognizeable jet turbine sound. So when it’s flying, it sounds like any jet aircraft you might see at the airport. This again constitutes poetic licence, since the Eagle is rocket powered, but it helps establish a sense of familiarity. 

The ultimate test for any fictional spacecraft is how good it looks when it’s flying. The Eagle takes to the air in a flurry of moondust as its vertical thrusters power up. This is much more visually interesting than the anti-gravity drives common to science fiction vehicles, which give no visible indication as to when they’re operating. 

The Eagle banks and rolls like an ordinary aircraft, even in space. Although not technically accurate, this is a convention which most science fiction shows and movies have adopted, simply because audiences are used to seeing aircraft flying in the earth’s atmosphere. However, the Eagle’s lack of anything resembling wings gives it a unique look when in flight. 

One thing the writers of Space: 1999 got right was coming up with plenty of stories in which Eagles ran into trouble and crashed. These sequences were done entirely in camera with models flown on wires through elaborate miniature sets, and still stand today as some of the finest crash landings ever filmed. Few computer generated effects can match the visceral thrill of an Eagle crack-up. The most spectacular sequences occurred in Season Two, where Eagles could be seen careening into dense forests with flashes of pyrotechnics. My Eagle Crash diorama was inspired by these scenes.    

In many ways, the Eagle has always been the true star of Space: 1999. It successfully melds present day aerospace concepts with an optimistic look towards the not too distant future. 

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

Sea Water from Tomytec

Diorama modellers who like to build scenes featuring ships and boats know how important realistic looking water is to the overall effect. Depending on the location being portrayed, water  can look transparent, translucent, or opaque, and can take on a wide variety of colours, including blue, green, grey, teal and turquoise, to name a few. Its surface can range anywhere from glassy smooth to wave tossed. 

If you’re working in larger scales like 1:35, water is much more visually appealing if it’s translucent rather than opaque. Even a muddy river has a top layer which is translucent. Getting this effect is usually very labour intensive. My Drug Runners diorama required five layers of two-part resin infused with blue paint to get the effect I was after. Ripples were added to the top layer with a spatula, before the resin had completely set. Creating the wake for the speedboat also took some experimentation before I was satisfied with the results. 

Generally speaking, smaller scales will have more opaque looking water. If your taste runs to naval vessels in scales such as 1:144 or 1:200, you’re in luck, because Tomytec has a solution. Simply referred to as Sea Water, Tomytech is offering a set of two A4 size sheets of PET depicting an ocean surface in 1:150 scale. The sheets are thin enough to be cut with scissors, so you can easily customize them to fit a base of any shape. 

Tomytec doesn’t specify if the sheets are translucent or opaque. Translucency would provide more control over the final appearance of the ocean surface you’re modelling. You can always make a translucent surface more opaque, but not the reverse. 

With these sheets, all you have to do is affix your waterline hull model to the sheet, add some wake, and you’re all set. Infinitely easier than creating your own water using resin mixes. 

Tomytec’s Sea Water sheets will be available in June. You can pre-order them at www.1999.co.jp

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

T2 Judgement Day diorama

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) was one of those rare sequels that outdid its predecessor both critically and commercially. Featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger at the top of his game, director James Cameron’s second time travel flick has stood the test of time. T2 is still the defining installment of the Terminator franchise nearly three decades after its release. None of the subsequent Terminator films have come close to capturing the frothy mix of inventive plotting and brilliant chase sequences that made T2 so successful. 

Pegasus Hobbies offers a number of kits based on the Terminator franchise. One is a diorama featuring T-800 Endoskeletons patrolling a post-apocalyptic battlefield, recalling the opening scene in T2. Although the kit has been out for some time, there’s now a special edition featuring chrome plated figures. Pegasus doesn’t specify a scale, but resellers put it at 1:32. 

Kits with chrome plated parts are a rarity. Few manufacturers go to the trouble of adding this process to their production lines, perhaps because so few subjects require it. Unless you build kits of 1950s and 1960s cars, you may have never been faced with the task of creating a chrome finish. 

If you’ve attempted to duplicate the look of chrome, you probably found out that even the most sophisticated multi-layer airbrush techniques won’t give you a realistic looking chrome finish. No matter how much you layer it and polish it, at the end of the day, silver paint will just look like silver paint. This is where chrome plated parts come in. 

One of the earliest kits I remember building was a beautiful chrome plated CF-104 Starfighter, and the factory chroming process was exceptionally good. Assuming the process being used by Pegasus is similar, the results should be impressive. Just remember to scrape the chrome off the areas that will receive glue (otherwise the parts won’t stick together). 

The T2 diorama is a tad sparse. It consists of five figures, a relatively flat circular base, and a ruin of a stone gate. A standard out-of-the-box build isn’t going to give you anything that looks like what you saw in the film. Adding some additional elements, like a rusted out truck or Hunter Killer (which Pegasus also makes), would liven things up. Even a few rocks and pieces of scrap metal would help. Since the battlefield in T2 was shown at night, some lighting would go a long way to recreating the ambience of the scene. To quote John Connor, ‘there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.’ The same is true for your diorama.  

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Review of Diorama Design

My book, Diorama Design, has just been reviewed in the Winter 2019 edition of The Potomac Flyer. This is a quarterly publication of the Potomac Division, NMRA (National Model Railroad Association). The review is by Nicholas Kalis, a veteran NMRA model railroader and author who has written many articles devoted to the hobby. 

Mr. Kalis does a great job in his review of discussing how the principles in Diorama Design apply not only to dioramas, but to model railroads as well. After all, a scenic model railroad can be thought of as a diorama enlivened by the motion of miniature trains. I wrote about this in a previous post.  

Unlike two-dimensional art forms like painting and photography, dioramas and model railroads share a sculptural aspect and a reach-out-and-touch-it physical presence. They also utilize similar construction techniques and materials. Above all, modelers in both camps share a common interest in creating visually compelling miniature environments.

Based on these similarities, Mr. Kalis makes a strong case that model railroad aficionados can benefit from the concepts outlined in Diorama Design. So if you’re a model railroader looking to add some visual punch to your layout, you may want to check out the book. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon. 

Thanks to Mr. Kalis for sharing his insights from the world of model railroads, and for taking the initiative to write the review. You can read it here

-Ivar

Death Star II and Star Destroyer mini kit set

Bandai’s latest Star Wars release is a pair of palm-sized mini kits which offer endless diorama possibilities. The second Death Star, even more menacing than the first, is scaled down to 1:2,700,000. The Empire’s might in the palm of your hand! Accompanied by a Star Destroyer in 1:14,500 scale.

Star Wars Wikia tells us the following: “Upon completion, the Death Star II would have been an immense battle station 200 kilometers in diameter that featured 560 internal levels which could house 2,471,647 passengers and crew.” To quote Darth Vader, “Impressive.”

I’m hoping that the Death Star II is in fact a kit with a good number of parts rather than a one-piece casting. This would make lighting it much easier. We’re so accustomed to seeing the Death Star lit up with thousands of internal lights, that an unlit version might come across as rather lifeless. Even adding a few dozen lights to the model would make a big difference. 

The ideal design for a kit of this type would be a thin outer shell which can be easily drilled to accommodate fiber optics. The same is true for the Star Destroyer. The challenge in both cases will be to find enough room for all the electronics.  

Diorama possibilities range from a simple scene of the Death Star II in space to a full blown recreation of the Battle of Endor. And because these are mini kits, you won’t need your entire living room to display the finished piece!

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my new book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Death Star Attack Diorama from Bandai

Finally, a diorama kit of the climactic trench run scene from Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Modellers have been scratchbuilding dioramas of this scene for years, using Death Star tiles (resin castings depicting segments of the Death Star surface) from garage kit producers. But this is the first mass produced injection kit of the subject to come to market. Bandai’s timing is quite leisurely: it’s been 41 years since the release of the groundbreaking film that started the famous sci-fi franchise. 

To keep things to a manageable size, Bandai has rendered this kit in 1:144 scale. There have been several releases of 1:144 Star Wars vehicles in the last year or two, and if you were wondering why anyone would need a 1:144 X-Wing when it’s already quite compact in 1:72 scale, here’s the answer. 

The attack on the Death Star was the pièce de résistance of John Dykstra’s revolutionary special effects sequences which helped make A New Hope a cinematic milestone. This scene showcased the capabilities of the new Dykstraflex computer controlled technology to its fullest, making a lasting impression on sci-fi fans everywhere. So brilliant was the trench run scene that it’s been copied a number of times, both within the Star Wars franchise as well as in other films. 

Since this kit is coming from Bandai, modellers can rest assured that it will meet the highest standards in terms of accuracy and fit. It will likely be engineered to go together quickly and easily, requiring no advanced modelling skills. 

The design is well thought out, with a laser cannon tower balancing the X-Wing on the opposite end. The diorama will be small enough to fit on just about any bookshelf. 

The only shortcoming of the kit, based on the initial publicity photos, is the visually clumsy support post for the X-Wing. Supporting a flying vehicle with a plastic post puts a dent in the overall realism of the scene. With a few modifications, the vehicles could be hung from wires for a cleaner look. For Star Wars modellers who haven’t yet ventured into the world of dioramas, this kit is the perfect opportunity to make a go of it. 

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my new book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Scaling things down with GEO Craper

Everyone loves big models. Much like the biggest sculpture in an art gallery, the sheer size of a 1:24 aircraft or a 1:16 tank immediately commands our attention. But sometimes it pays to go small, especially for the diorama artist. 

Which brings us to the diminutive GEO Craper series of urban terrain modules offered by Nihon Takujo Kaihatsu . . . in a very modest 1:2500 scale. Each interconnecting module measures 6cm square and can be combined with other modules in a variety of ways to create unique cityscapes. The modules come pre-painted and ready to go out of the box. 

GEO Craper product categories include Basic Units (dense clusters of urban buildings), Landmark Units (famous Japanese structures such as Edo Castle and Tokyo Tower), and Extension Units (highways, industrial complexes, etc.). 

You may be wondering what use a 1:2500 cityscape would be when it’s so far removed from common scales like 1:72, 1:48, etc. There are in fact several ways these modules could make their way into a diorama. 

One application would be for fans of Japanese cinema and television who want to put their Godzilla or Ultraman figure in an urban environment. Everyone knows Godzilla is huge, so enough said. Ultraman fans know that this superhero has the ability to change size at will. This enables him to square off against any size of opponent he is likely to meet. So a medium size Ultraman figure will look just right towering over a GEO Craper cityscape. You could also pair him up with whichever monster of the week suits your taste and create a battle scene. 

Another application would be a forced perspective scene with an aircraft in a larger scale flying over the GEO Craper cityscape. 

These are just a few examples but you get the idea. GEO Craper products are available through HobbyLink Japan. 

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my new book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

New 1:350 K’t’inga and a Klingon Battlecruiser retrospective

Star Trek fans will be delighted to hear that Round 2 has announced a 1:350 Klingon K’t’inga Battlecruiser kit, scheduled for September 2018 release.  The kit is based on the miniature which appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and will no doubt conform to Round 2’s high standards of detail and accuracy.

Until now, Trek modellers interested in a 1:350 scale kit of the venerable Klingon ship have had to rely on expensive limited run resin kits. These “garage kits” tend to be relatively costly since independent producers cast the pieces by hand, which is a time consuming process. These producers also pay retail for the resin which goes into the kits, so raw material costs are high. The result is that garage kit prices are never competitive with mass produced injection molded kits. Moreover, the kits require substantially greater modelling skills, and a great deal of patience is often needed to correct surface imperfections in the parts if the quality of the resin is not up to par.

Pricing for a resin garage kit of the K’t’inga could easily run upwards of $USD 500, whereas Round 2 will be offering the kit through dealers at a suggested retail price of $USD 100. This is an incredible bargain. Moreover, the injection molding of the kit means that lighting can be incorporated quite easily (a separate lighting kit will be offered later). Full details of the release are available on Round 2’s website.

The K’t’inga is a fascinating design (as Spock would say), connecting an insectoid pod-shaped head to a delta wing body via a long tubular member. The angled down wingtips terminate in beefy warp nacelles, giving the ship a powerful, broad shouldered look. The K’t’inga’s impulse drive gives off a flickering red glow (the flicker being unique to Klingon technology) which further enhances the menacing look of the ship.

The battlecruiser from the original Star Trek series was designed by Matt Jefferies, who also designed the Enterprise. According to Wikipedia, “the D7-class battlecruiser was designed … to mimic the appearance of a manta ray,” and Jefferies wanted it to appear “threatening, even vicious.”

The K’t’inga which emerged in the Trek films many years later retained most of the original D7 design. The changes were largely cosmetic, consisting mainly of tweaking the geometry and adding surface detail to impart a better sense of scale.

The K’t’inga has made many a bold appearance in the Star Trek films. One of the most memorable was the opening sequence of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which featured three of these magnificent ships facing off against V’ger. This sequence stands as one of the finest visual tributes ever made to a Trek vessel, showcasing the K’t’inga in its full splendour to the backdrop of a rousing martial soundtrack. Although the film was a critical failure, the producers got one thing right, which was giving plenty of screen time to the iconic vessels of Star Trek. 

Modellers will have no shortage of inspiration to create a diorama featuring the ship, although working in 1:350 scale will confine this pursuit to those with lots of space!

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my new book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar