My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama FINISHED!

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Basically this is my introduction post here on the forum. I also explain at some length the early stages of my first/current diorama build (Hoth from Empire Strikes Back) where I will use sounds and lights to create a sort of dynamic scene from the movie. Future updates will be my build log. I plan on posting about once a week, or at least make some weekly progress, but I have no deadline, and will sometimes have to put this project on the back burner for a few days for various reasons.

So this is my first post here, and I guess I should introduce myself first of all; Simply put I am a Star Wars fan that only recently took up the hobby of building plastic kits (by recently I mean the past 12-ish months). Thus far I have only finished one kit (Bandai's 1/144 Millennium Falcon), and started my second (Bandai's 1/144 AT-AT). I like to combine this with my second interest; building small arduino projects. I got started with that when my girlfriend asked if I could make her a light-up dress for Halloween. Let me clarify that I only put together the electronics and code as my skills as a dressmaker are quite lacking ;-) However we were able to find a dress she liked, to which we attached the LEDs and such. She was happy, and that was the most important success criteria:)

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoy the problem solving involved in such projects, and so I have brought the micro controller aspect with me into my model building, which is how the Bandai Millennium Falcon came to have both lights and sound (see my blog posts about it here if you're curious).

This brings me to the present, where I am trying to do the same with a Hoth themed diorama..well, to be fair I started out small with a plan to _just_ build the Bandai AT-AT when it came out, then that thought spiraled completely out of control.

PSA: I should clarify that this is not only my second model (so expect skill level to be accordingly), it will also be my very first diorama. Period. So any advice, tips and constructive feedback is greatly appreciated!

I think I will divide this post into three parts; the idea, the electronics and the actual build.

At this point I am mostly done with the idea (yeah right..still subject to change of course)and the electronics (mostly, there might be some tuning of variables as LEDs are installed etc), and I am now mostly in the process of assembling, priming, painting and weathering. So expect my progress reports to be mostly about these steps. For those curious about the details regarding the early steps, please check out my blog: (

Also, for those interested I am trying to put out videos of the build on YouTube as well

For various reasons I like to finish the electronics prototype first, to see that I am able to electronically _manifest_ my idea, before committing to the physical build.

My vision/plan/idea:

  • One AT-AT with LEDs or fiber optics on the tips of the chin mounted HLCs, and also with a lit up cockpit. That red window slit looks so ominous.
  • Two snowspeeders: One crashed with the cockpit opened and the pilot (Luke..) missing (he will be dangling under the AT-AT, of course). The second snowspeeder will be in flight, attacking. There will be LEDs in the guns, and possibly the engines (for effect, but I am not decided as there are no lights in the engines in the movie as far as I can tell). I am also going to attempt at having some level of lighting in the tiny cockpit..but we will see when I get there. This also means an open cockpit. Shapeways to the rescue.
  • Some ground elements such as gun turrets, one of which I plan to make it look like has just blown up (with an LED inside), a trench with soldiers, crates and hosing like in the movie etc.
  • On top of all this I will layer sound. There will be the score from the Hoth scene under it all, then the AT-AT walking sounds, snowspeeders flying past, explosions and lastly the sounds of snowspeeders and the AT-AT firing.
  • The electronics need a place to go, so I plan to have Echo base as a mountain with an entrance at one end of the diorama to store them. This is also where I will have to make some delicate holes in the clear acrylic display case for the sound to come through.
  • A last, but not least, a remote control and tiny display, to make it somewhat interactive.

Some of these elements are of course extremely unneccesary and entirely on the "because, why not" level :)

I won't bore you with the (rather long) process I went through to arrive at these elements and this design. I have had some electronics at college, but that's some time ago, and most of it is sadly forgotten by now.

So basically this is the wiring diagram, subject to future updates:

And here is the code to make it do all the stuff:

Here is a short video of it in action, while still being prototyped:

I will admit that the audio files are of questionable origin with regards to copyright, so I will not be sharing those any time soon, but YouTube has been invaluable...

So to catch you up on the build process, because I have to admit I have done a bit before I came here to post this.

The AT-AT head:
So my biggest fear, or hurdle, was how I would go about putting lights in the HLCs. So one evening I felt particularly brave I took my Tamiya Pinvise and went to town:
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After I was able to drill a hole lengthwise through both the HLCs I felt confident the rest of the model would pose few issues with regards to hiding the wiring. I know many people put batteries in the AT-AT body and solve the wiring issue that way, but that would not be a viable route for me since I need to control the LEDs from the microcontroller located in "Echo base". Next I set about making a path for wires through the neck section:
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I decided to ditch the fiber optics solution after I came across these tiny pico LEDs.
I used FO on the Falcon build, and while it worked well, it was a pain to fit in the tight confines..and the AT-AT head is NOT particularly roomy. I also opted for bigger LED inside the actual cockpit. I will not be gluing the head together, allowing for some access to the electronics, though if anything were to go wrong with the head LEDs I'll probably have to replace the entire assembly with a new head and neck anyway.

The AT-AT legs:
The second biggest hurdle of this part of the build is of course the legs. I need to pass three hidden pairs of wires up through the legs, and I won't lie; this caused some headache. Not the actual "hiding of the wires" part, but in what order to do things.

The process can be seen here:

I ended up with this order:
1) Posing the legs with a minimum of parts assembled.
I attached magnets in the bottom of the feet, and underneath a sheet of plastic with raised platforms so that the AT-AT would have something to be mounted securely to. The raised platforms are so that I can get some snow paste in under the legs so it looks like the AT-AT has actually sunk into the snow a little.

2) Marking the wire path with a sharpie

3) Gouging out excess plastic
I then gouged out plastic using a Dremel, a drill and an exacto knife.

4) Wiring
Trying to roughly keep the desired pose, I basically just followed the previously sketched out paths to add the wires. I also started glueing some parts at this point to keep the wires in place, but I was careful to avoid getting glue into the moving parts. I still need to fine tune the pose. I used 30AWG magnet wire (it's not magnetic, but that's what it is called). This is very thin which makes hiding it very easy.

5) Fine tuning the pose
After the wires were installed, and I had regained the desired pose I used Tamiya's Extra Thin Cement to glue the legs in place. The extra thin cement seeps into the cracks between the various parts. Very useful in this instance.

6) Priming and painting
I mage some mistakes in the video called part 2, so I had to make a "redux" video to address that:

The AT-AT body:
Very simple. Assemble and paint. The secret is in removing the inner connecting points on the "under carriage" part. This way the main body housing can be lifted up and off with ease allowing easier access to where the wires from the head/neck join the wires coming up the legs. Lots of room for soldering these together.

Lastly I soldered the wires from the head to the wires from the legs, and also I soldered some longer, and thicker, wires to the wires coming out the bottom of the legs. This is so it is easier to incorporate in the rest of the circuit.

A demo of the AT-AT (pre-weathering), skip to about the 12 min mark to get to the demo:

General issues:
So I had some issue with my airbrush where the paint would dry/semi-dry before hitting the surface. This made me redo the whole main body section, but with the legs I think I will have to make do the way they came out. The surface on those isn't too bad, not like the main body which was very sandy and rough. I am hoping this will not pose too much of an issue when I start weathering. If it does, well..then I am scheduled for yet another attempt at the legs..

That's it for this post. If you read this far and you have suggestions to what I could cover in greater detail, or less, please let me know. Also, any suggestions related to the build are greatly appreciated.

Next up I was hoping to do the snowspeeders, but I have to wait for stuff to arrive in the mail. In the meantime I might do some work on the variou ground elements like the soldiers and Shapeways gun turrets/crates.

Added a video of the priming and painting process as I had to redo that bit.


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Sr Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

Looking forward to seeing this finished, I've always loved dioramas and Hoth is one of my favorite parts of SW.


New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

Same here, though it might have something to do with me being from Norway..this is sort of "our" scene hehe :) At any rate, I hope I am able to do it justice with my end result!

Looking forward to seeing this finished, I've always loved dioramas and Hoth is one of my favorite parts of SW.
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New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

Thank you! It did take some time to compile and write up this post, so I am glad to hear you liked it!
Hopefully I'll be able to make smaller updates as the build progresses and keep the posts a bit shorter :)

Thanks very much for taking the time to share all this info !!! Can't wait for more.


New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

Update, finally!

So, it has been a while. Much much longer than I had anticipated, sorry about that. Suddenly I got very busy with work and other things. So much so that while I have been making progress, it has been extremely slow going, and I haven’t taken the time to write about it afterwards.

I’ll try to catch you all up to speed on what’s been going on. I will have to do it in steps as I found there is a limit to the number of pictures pr post :)

To sum it up; I am done! Yay!

Well..not done, done..I mean, one is never really done..right?

I still have a “remaining items list” in my head:
- Touch up the snow here and there
- Do some tweaking on the code. Specifically the OLED girlfriend says I should use it for something cool since it is there.. I am partial to agree with her on that.
- Replace the clear display cover that cracked..
- Probably something else I will realize at some point..

On to the update!

I will start with the electronics:

So I did away with the snowspeeder engines. After watching the Hoth movie scenes a few times I noticed there are no lights on the engines on the what to do with those extra LEDs I bought? Add a second snowspeeder of course! Two is better than one.

I also added a 128x32 OLED screen, because why not. Actually I had a plan for it, but it was not a very good one, I'll admit that. All it does is show the Imperial logo and the word Hoth..scrolling scrolling scrolling.. Then if you press pause on the remote, it says pause..and if you increase or decrease the shows the volume as a numerical value :)
Helpful, but as I wrote above, not very impressive..

Here is an early code test

I have also mounted all the boards (Pro Trinket, audio and amplifier) to a sheet of plastic. This made it easier to move around while working, but also meant I now had a restraint with regards to the space it would take up once fitted inside the mountain.

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Soldering was made easier by writing up a wiring list. So not just having a drawing, but actually writing up the connections in a list, then ticking them off as I complete them. Even though it is fairly small in size, there is still a considerable amount of solder points to get right. It also makes troubleshooting much easier afterwards..being able to reference documentation and not having to check the code every time to know what pin does what, is helpful..also knowing where a wire was supposed to be when it suddenly broke off due to carelessness..priceless..

Here is a picture of the list of connections. Notice the corrections made with arrows in the lower right.. Had to perform some “field soldering” with everything connected inside the mountain..turns out documentation is great as long as you actually follow it…

I won't be going through the code. Its been a year since I wrote most of it, but if there is interest I can give explaining it a shot. My code is written to work, not to be very efficient..disclaimer.. :) At any rate here it is:

One final image to show the electronics mounted and connected inside the "mountain":

That's it for the electronics. I will update with a complete wiring schematic later.

- - - Updated - - -

Having some issues with the updating.. I will fix the images asap..


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New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

Next up is the mountain part of the diorama.

This was not mentioned last time I think. Early on this was just going to be the AT-AT..then the AT-AT with some LEDs..then some sound..and then we arrive at where we are at now. At any rate, I realized I had to store these electronics somewhere out of view.. Last time I had stand onto which I mounted the Millennium Falcon. This was great, because I could hide everything that did not fit in the MF, in the base of the stand. So early on I figured some kind of hill, or mound..something..but as I recalled the scene it was fairly flat and open around the after some iterations I came up with this version.

The core is insulation foam from a local hardware store. The blue kind you’d expect to find underneath your garage or something. I am not a builder, but this is some heavy duty and light weight polystyrene. This was cut to size and roughly shaped using a hot wire.
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I then proceeded to mould some rock outcroppings using Woodland Scenics hydrocal plaster. At first I thought the coloring should be added to the plaster mix, but later figured out it was meant to be applied afterwards. I decided to color the entire mountain using this stuff..not sure why I did that, but maybe to avoid any potential for blue spots next to any of the outcroppings later. The rock formations were held in place using Woodland Scenics foam putty. I used a lot of that stuff to shape the mountain.
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I cut out a hole in the back for the electronics. And I also made a little cave that was going to be Echo base. This cave thing was later ditched when a colleague asked me where the big base entrance door/gate was going to which point I felt compelled to create both that gate..and also a kind of interior..with lighting of course.

This backside hole needed a cover, which I was going to make out of styrene sheets cut to shape. This was done in two iterations as well. I wanted to attach this (and almost anything else) using magnets. I came up with this 3-layer concept where I could make holes in the middle layer for the magnets, then glue the sheets together and voila. Invisible magnets. My mistake was the amount of glue I first all seemed well, then after about a week the thing started warping..and I tried to remedy this using a heat gun..which actually worked, until I noticed the, almost, soggy patches where the magnets were located. The glue was still eating the plastic. Without air, it did not see the point in drying.. So I had to remake the backside..but managed to screw up the magnets I resorted to digging into the side of the mountain and flipping the magnet I had placed there instead.

The interior of Echo base started out as just the hangar door, then I figured I could make a small box with some clever lights and shadows, and that I could use this cavity for the IR sensor. I wound up with two iterations here as well, with the second being quite involved having to calculate angles and stuff. I found some even smaller snow speeders online after a follower on Instagram suggested I try that for a little bit of an optical illusion. This way it might look like they are either further inside the base when you catch a glimpse of them (they are hard to spot as you have to get really low and look straight int the opening).
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The mountain side was covered in AK Interactive Acrylic Snow.
I had some differing experiences. They say you can dilute with water, but I suggest you wait a very long while before you use the stuff. Mixing introduces air, which for me manifested itself as bubbles that froze near the surface, causing a bunch of tiny bumps. I resorted to cutting these out with my exacto blade, and dabbing a bit of snow in the hole. In that regard the product is very forgiving, and layering is no issue. Finally the rocks were hit with a very light white color applied with a dry brush, just to get a bit of highlights.

Finally the mountain could be mounted on the foundation:
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New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

Part three; the ground!

This was done using more of the blue styrofoam, but this time in smaller sheets. I went with about 10 mm to 11 mm thickness using two different sheets. One 3 mm and one 8 mm. The 3 mm was used in the bottom layer and cut to allow wires to be pulled in to the mountain from all the dynamic pieces (AT-AT, OLED and explosion). It would also serve as the bottom of the trench feature.
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This was then covered with a jigsaw puzzle of the thicker pieces. This became a jigsaw as the glue did not want to dry evenly, and to avoid areas that could be pushed down I cut them out and re-glued them in place. Easier to deal with solid unevenness than areas with actual movement. I fear that acrylic snow might crack and get ruined with too much flex.
The jigsaw was also secured in place using foam putty.

I noticed that the acrylic snow actually dissolved the permanent marker I used to draw where things were supposed to be mounted.. The result was pink snow the morning after I had applied the first layer of snow. Fortunately the product is forgiving (as staled earlier) and I could save this by adding a new layer of snow. In the end I applied about 3 layers all over and in someplace there are even more. I also used the snow to fix soldiers and other extras in place.

The downed snowspeeder required some extra attention, and I actually cut out some of the blue foam to make a hole for it to stick its front into. The snow around it was roughed up so as to make it appear to be disturbed by the crash by applying a thin layer of almost dried snow in a dabbing motion.

The final product hides most of the chaos that exists beneath the surface (fortunately...)
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New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

The snow speeders

These posed the second biggest challenge (the AT-AT won that competition) as I had to cut the cannons and replace the thin parts using brass tube (1 mm thick) in order to get the LEDs to the front of the cannons.

I also replaced the cockpits and upper airbrakes with parts from Shapeways (The Age of Plastic).
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This was a bit tedious, and mistakes were easily made. I carved the openings using my exacto knife, and the blade would jump out and scratch the snowspeeders if I didn’t concentrate 100%.

The history behind the snow speeder with the single airbrake being open is that as I was mounting the second one the frame of the custom cockpit snapped, and somehow I managed to bump into my glue pot so that it tipped over..ruined my cutting mat, my knife..the airbrake/engine-thingy I was about to mount..
Disaster..ruined a brand new cutting mat in seconds..

So I had a double rescue operation going. Fix the cockpit (or loose one of the cooler elements of the diorama) and come up with a solution for the disfigured plastic piece. Fortunately I had thought ahead to this very moment..I am kidding, but I had thought about the cannons I was going to customize and how difficult that was going to when we visited Japan last year I bought a whole bunch of those snow speeder I had replacement parts..but the Shapeways part was already bonded to the deformed piece using epoxy..thus, the single airbrake which of course means it is banking to the right.. I actually think this made it appear more “real”. The cockpit was saved with a tiny drop of superglue and paint.

All the snowspeeders were painted and weathered the same using a mix of Vallejo and Tamiya paints, Tamiya’s black panel liner and some AK Interactive and Amm by Mig washes and streaking effects. I also used Ammo by Mig's Oilbrusher to make the tiny red markings.
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Finally the two flying ones were mounted using pieces of 3 mm styrene tubes. The one used for the snowspeeder in the banking turn was bent using a heat gun. The trick is to be very very careful and remove it from the heat just before it starts to move..when it moves it is too late.

After mounting them the hardest part of them all was the soldering that had to be done inside the mountain. The hair thin wires from the snowspeeders had to connect with the thicker wires to the connector. After a lot of swearing, and some crossed wires (…again, documentation is nice to have..if you use it), the tube and wiring was fixed in place by filling the cavity under them (inside the mountain) with a generous helping of foam putty.
During the soldering I used tin foil to protect the foam from any tin drops..I also had to use the heat gun to shrink some shrink tubing to avoid shorts.

A video of the final product in action:
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New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

It is getting late, but I have more in the pipeline for tomorrow.

Let me know if there's stuff I should focus more or less on..or if I need to double back and be more thorough on some parts of interest :)

I don't know what's going on. Are you guys seeing the images, or at bunch of "Attachment<number>" links?

I keep correcting, and the images keep dropping out..this is a bit discouraging.
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Sr Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

Hm. The last post has no images. The one before does.


New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

This is annoying.. I seem to have to add the pictures twice. The other weird thing is they seem to go missing some time after I post...

Hope you can see the pictures now?

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New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

The explosion:
This element came to be when the gun turrets arrived from Shapeways (308Bits) and I saw that the turret and cannon were two separate parts that had to be glued together.
I promptly ordered one more which I did not intend to assemble.
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Instead I chose to find a very bright and wide LED onto which I glued some cotton that I airbrushed black and orange. Did some tests and made a few of these cotton balls before I chose the best of the bunch.
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I then glued an acrylic disc to the inside, bottom, of the turret.

In this disc I had drilled two holes for the LED pins, and I also drilled two bigger holes for a pair of magnets. I also built a small platform onto which the turret would be place, with a hole of the wire, and corresponding magnets.
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This was a bit sketchy. It turns out 3D prints of this size are fairly brittle, so the the turret almost cracked, as can be seen in the on the right side on the second picture above. A chip flew away as the drill bit dug into it. Fortunately that’s easily hid under a pile of snow :)

The final result in action:
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New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

The Extras:
By extras I mean the remaining gun turrets, crates, metal walkway plates, soldiers and the dangling Luke, and last but not least hosing.

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The gun turrets were glued together, then painted and weathered much the same way as the snowspeeders.

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The crates were also found on Shapeways (the vendor eludes me, PM me if interested). When they arrived I drilled a hole in each and glued a cut off pin (pointy end out) into it. This made it easy as cake to add them to the diorama when the time came. I then primed, painted and weathered them with a final highlighting using some Abteilung oils, because I like trying new stuff out.

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The metal walkways were made using some metal siding Evergreen styrene sheets that I cut to size using the Choper II. They were stuck to double sided tape, flat side down. Primed, painted and weathered (rust and whatnot). I drilled small holes in a few so that I could glue running rebels to them. The plates were then stuck to the snow using more snow.

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The soldiers and Luke were sourced on eBay. The soldiers are an assortment of WWII soldiers from both sides (US, UK and German). I chose the once with poses that seemed to best fit the I ditched the german soldiers throwing the potato masher grenade for example. Luke was sourced from a set of 144 scale figures by Bandai. They have a set where one of the figures is a rocket man. I snipped off the rocket backpack with pair of cutters, then painted the figure as a snowspeeder pilot.

Finally I used Ammo by Mig 0.03 mm rigging to create the ascender wire. I attached this using a tiny drop of CA glue. I ditched the attempt at threading this rigging through a hole under the AT-AT and chose to just drop it down the side between the shell and the undercarriage. This way I can stow Luke when I need to move the diorama.

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The hosing was made using stuff I found on eBay called 1.0mm Miniature Fine Conduit Hose. It is a bit shiny, but brush it with some ultra matt varnish by Ammo by Mig and it looks alright. Mounting it was a bear, using pins to hold it in place while the glue set. The holes were covered using more snow.

- - - Updated - - -

Looks great! Also good to see my snowspeeder detail parts out in the wild. :)

Oh wow, those are your creations!? Cool! Great work!

I have been trying to give credit (aim business your way as it were) when posting pics of them on Instagram etc, but I didn't know if you had a profile on there or not.


New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

The AT-AT:
I messed this up a number of times.. I think I bought like three or four kits..and ended up with just one completed build. This is what happens when I try to modify it for wiring up through the legs using a Dremel and other power tools..

I guess a lot of it could have been avoided with a steadier hand, and more focus on the task in front of me.. Anyway, there were lessons to be learnt here as well, apart from the use of caution when hacking away at an important part. Bandai plastic does not take well to AK Interactive washes and enamel thinners. All is well if you did a good job priming, painting and clear coating the thing..but I found that there are place that aren’t possible to hit with any of inside the AT-AT’s “toes”. I had two of those snap off with minimal effort.
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Saved using CA glue..towards the end of the build I almost resorted to carrying the AT-AT around on a silk pillow.. Seen here in a separate display case while work was done on other parts of the diorama..
There isn’t much to say about the AT-AT beyond what was said last time. I redid the wiring, but mainly because I made another silly mistake and the wires were too short afterwards.

Here are a few progress shots:
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It was weathered using Starship Filth, winter streaking grime and rust, and possibly some winter streaking grime. Some might say I overdid the weathering, and they might be right. I like the look of this one, but I also like the look of the less dinged up ones out there. If I ever build one more of these I might do a less weathered look.

A video of the final result in action:
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New Member
Re: My take on a 1/144 Hoth Diorama WIP

The diorama base

Boring part, but quite necessary since everything was built on top of it :)

The acrylic display case came with a black, flat, bottom about 5 mm thick with notches around the edges so the clear cover will stay in place.

With the decision to make the base layer using blue foam I quickly realized my hands are not steady enough to make cut the foam edges in such a way that they look nice. My solution revealed it self one day at the hobby store as I was looking at their selection of balsa wood sticks.

I ended up using proper wood after the balsa creation I had put together snapped in two..guess that light weight comes at the cost of structural integrity ;-)

The wood was cut and glued to make a full square around the entire inner circumference of the display case bottom. Once the glue had dried I sanded the corners and painted the wood black using a paint called Bengalakk here in Norway.
Finally giving it a coat of matt varnish (I simply used a brush and applied several layers of Ammo by Mig matt varnish).
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I then proceeded to glue the wood to the acrylic case bottom using CA glue. I probably should have had an extra pair of arms for this since I can see some gaps here and there. I think I am the only one who’ll notice them though.

It was a bit hard getting the transition from black wood foundation into snow covered landscape right, but I figured I would have the snow come all the way to the edge of the diorama, and with a ton of wet cotton sticks I managed to keep the wood fairly clean through this process.
Finally I did something I should have done almost at the start. I cut a hole where the AT-AT will be located to make it easier to pull the wires from the feet into the diorama base. Afterwards the platform for the AT-AT was superglued in place above said hole.

That is about it..

- - - Updated - - -

The final result!

I will leave you with this collection of pictures of the end result. I will upload a video as soon as I have had time to record some good footage. I might try to snap some pictures with the diorama in regular sunlight as well, but the weather hasn’t been cooperating when I have been home..

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