Low level flying has a visceral thrill for both pilot and observer, since the speed of the aircraft is emphasized by the proximity of the ground. Here, a Spitfire Mk.IXc buzzes a castle in the English countryside. Buzzing is what pilots call a low level pass, especially when it’s directed at a specific person or place.
I used forced perspective to fit everything into a compact box diorama format. The Spitfire is a 1:72 Eduard ProfiPACK kit, and the 3D-printed castle is around 1:500 scale.
This diorama is the second half of a matched pair which I built concurrently (Evening Kill being the other half). Buzzing the Castle was originally going to be a daytime scene with no lighting, but when I put it next to Evening Kill, it didn’t quite match. So now it’s a moonlit scene.
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.
Browsing through the Pegasus Hobbies website, I noticed something in the Featured Products section I haven’t seen in a long time: two box dioramas, one ready-made and one requiring assembly. Both dioramas are based on the film War of the Worlds and depict battles with alien “tripods,” tall, gangly invaders that fire powerful energy beams. Pegasus already offers a War Machines Attack Diorama from the same movie, but it’s not in the box diorama format.
A box diorama, as its name implies, features one or more subjects displayed in a square or rectangular box with an open front and top. The three vertical sides of the box form the background (usually printed on cardboard) and the bottom panel acts as the terrain. The box diorama’s simple shape makes it easy and inexpensive to produce, and the inclusion of background panels makes the product more appealing than a standard base-only diorama. I talked about the many advantages of box dioramas in a previous post.
What I like about these offerings from Pegasus is that they provide an accessible entry point into diorama building for modellers who have thought about making a diorama but never got around to it. They’re educational in the sense that they provide the modeller examples of how combining good design with the right number and scale of subjects creates a compelling scene. Chances are that after finishing one of the Pegasus dioramas, the budding diorama modeller will have enough experience and confidence to start building his own dioramas from scratch.
Pegasus is not the first company to offer box dioramas. The concept has been tried by various kit manufacturers, but never gained enough momentum to become a permanent fixture of the scale modelling world. Pegasus has set the price point for these products at a level which should be accessible to most hobbyists, and that should broaden their appeal. Time will tell if these two offerings gain enough traction to become heralds of a long term trend.
I wanted to show the Spinner in flight—it’s much more graceful with the wheels tucked out of sight. I also wanted to capture the night-time ambience which was integral to Blade Runner.
To meet these requirements, I used the box diorama format described in my previous post. The box started out as a wooden picture frame. I extended the sides with basswood panels to provide more depth. The Spinner is supported from behind by a U-shaped arm mounted to the base of the box. The Duratrans backdrop is back-lit with an LED strip.
The typical diorama uses a flat board as the structural base. This configuration has a number of limitations. It doesn’t usually include a background, which means the artist is constrained to working on only one surface when recreating a scene, lessening the overall verisimilitude. Another drawback is that this configuration requires premium real estate when displayed—either a book shelf or an empty stretch of wall where it can be attached with brackets, usually at waist level. This can be an issue when space is limited.
Enter the box diorama, sometimes called a shadow box. Leveraging multiple surfaces, it offers the artist complete control over background elements as well as lighting. There is also more control over what the viewer sees, since the box can only be viewed from the front. This makes it easy to add hidden supports to display aircraft in flight. And since the box diorama is usually displayed at eye level, it takes up no more space than a painting.
When I decided to create a showcase for my Spinner model from the film Blade Runner, it was clear that the box diorama was the way to go. In the film, the Spinner was shown only at night, which showed off its dazzling lights to maximum effect, and made its medium blue paint scheme appear dark blue. I wanted to capture both these elements.
My next post will feature the completed Spinner Over Police HQ box diorama. Stay tuned!