"C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model

star-art

Sr Member
This story is about an actual effects miniature rather than a replica.

In April I responded to a post looking for help building a model spaceship for a short film. Since the project was in New York, I referred this to my friend Rick Ingalsbe who lives in that state. After some discussion, we decided I would build the model and he would paint it. A budget was set and design work commenced.

We treated this project as special because in this era of computer effects spaceships are nearly always built as CG models. It seemed the days of starship miniatures in the film industry were long gone. After this project is done, who knows when we might get to see another physical model being filmed flying through space.

The producers were really easy to work with and the design process took about 6 weeks. In that time, I made a detailed computer mockup to help me prepare precise patterns for constructing the model.
 

star-art

Sr Member
There were some serious design challenges for this spaceship. Four of the main the engines (there are seven of them in total) are positioned at 12 O'Clock, 3 O'Clock, 6 O'Clock, and 9 O'Clock on a large ring structure. This meant any mounting points (called "pick points") aft of these engines would get illuminated by their lights. Mounting the model for filming would be difficult.

As if that was not enough, during the film the ship was to separate into different stages. This meant they needed three separate sections that could be filmed either separately or together. As a result, I would not be able to make one continuous armature to support the entire model. Wiring for each stage would also have to be separate.

The final challenge was the overall size of the miniature. Because they had limited space available for filming, they wanted a model no longer than about four feet. For a design this complex, that proved to be the most serious challenge. There were numerous lighting effects and all kinds of wires and fiber optics that needed to be crammed inside a very small space. In the end, we felt more like surgeons than model builders!
 

star-art

Sr Member
Construction commenced June 8. I enlisted the help of two good friends who volunteered to work with me on the project. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. If this model had been ten feet long, it would have been much easier to build!

More than six weeks later, we have most of it completed and we are now in the final detailing stage. My crew stuck with me through the entire process, frustrations and all. The model would never have reached this stage of completion so quickly had it not been for their extreme dedication and tireless effort.

I'm very pleased with how the model has turned out. It's taken a lot more time than originally anticipated. But, in the end, it looks like we may have something very special. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far, and I look forward to getting this ship in its crate and on the way to New York for final painting very soon.

Once again, I must give my sincere thanks to my faithful crew, Richard Lindstrom (aka "Richard_2001") and Preston Kabinoff for all their hard work on this project.
 
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vistaVision

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
That's looking great! I hope we'll get to see more pics and description of the build/paint. I honestly thought that the ships we built and shot for Starship Troopers all so long ago were going to be the last of their kind! Glad to see the art and science lives on...
 

star-art

Sr Member
Thanks, Jason! :) Told ya I'd been busy. . .

You know, I hate to say it, but this sort of work is a lot more fun when you don't have to ID parts and then try to match details to photos of an existing model. LOL

This has been my first creative kitbashing project and I think I will do more of this sort of thing from now on.

Can anyone guess what we used for the main rocket engines?
 

star-art

Sr Member
I've tried to make it look as real and believable as possible given the constraints of the design. We've added a lot of realistic looking details so far.

We're using parts from real space subjects and even some Star Wars bits. Trying to pay homage to real space, Star Wars, and 2001 A Space Odyssey.

As far as "Easter Eggs," nothing really obvious yet. There's a small Y wing used here and there. We haven't had a chance to put anything else on the model that would be considered an "inside joke" detail just yet.
 

ringa

Well-Known Member
I want to congratulate Charles for the outstanding job he has done on this model with the help of Preston and Richard. I am looking forward to painting this beautiful ship.

I had the good fortune to have worked on the film 5-25-77. If it had not been for Charles Adams posting photos of my SD on his Starshipbuilder.com where my dear friend Scott Alexander 'found' me, I would never have had this incredible experience.

I always wanted to be able to return the favor for Charles. When I accepted this project for the "C" ship, I always had Charles in mind to be involved. He is one of the most talented and amazing engineer/model makers around, and, in my opinion, he MUST be involved in movie making.

This project is a long time coming for Charles and me. If any of you have a copy of his book (the latest edition), you can read as part of his acknowledgments that he and I will get the chance to work on a movie together someday. This is finally that time.

You see, originally we were supposed to work together on a film called The Genesis Code, which involved a huge space station model. Unfortunately, the producer decided to scrap the model for CG, which was a major disappointment because Charles, with Preston's help, put in unspeakable hours building that model for nothing. For this current film, the producers are going with no CG at all, so there is no chance of a repeat of Genesis Code.

Again, Charles has done an amazing job, and when this film gains notoriety, he will gain the recognition he deserves. Great job, my friend!
 
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star-art

Sr Member
To answer a previous question, the digital mockup was done in Rhino.

Thanks Rick. :) I hope we know what we're getting ourselves into. LOL

I don't think I ever posted anything on the Genesis Code model before. Not to get too OT, but it was a very unique and challenging project. In short, I was asked to build a giant space station similar to the one in 2001: A Space Odyssey but with a single wheel. And, it had to actually rotate. I was to build the model in Seattle, then ship it to Michigan where Rick and I were going to finish it.

I spent about a week designing the model in Rhino, then Preston and I worked on the structure for two weeks. Imagine trying to build a giant wheel that had to be perfectly round and perfectly flat but made in sections. Since it was 7 feet across, there was no way to cut it out of a single piece of material. They wanted to get underneath it to shoot, so I had to build a giant filming rig and work stands.

This model was so big I had to rent a storage unit to have enough room. We had a single light bulb overhead and no place to plug anything in, so we had to use portable power tools.

I came up with a counter-balancing drive wheel that was turned by two Roller Blade wheels. A custom machined drive shaft could be chucked into a portable power drill. When you pressed the trigger, the entire model began spinning gracefully.

Unfortunately, on Day 14 we were informed the director had been let go and they cancelled the project. So, all that work was for nothing. Fortunately, the model still survives. Preston is using it as a set piece in a short film he's been working on.

OK, back to the C model. . . :D
 

star-art

Sr Member
As we enter the final stage of the project, we're spending more time on smaller details. We got the ring module primed and it will be the "anchor" for final assembly of the model on the armature.

Richard spent an entire week detailing the open hex module. This has become a showpiece, competing for attention with the ring and main engines. Because of all the work that went into this section, I decided it needs to have its own integrated lighting. We found a way to hide 8 individual fiber optic spotlights in the structure that make it self illuminate in the dark. The effect is amazing.
 
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