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  1. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 1:08 PM - "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #1

    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.
  2. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 1:10 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #2

    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!
  3. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 1:16 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #3

    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.
    Last edited by star-art; Jul 26, 2012 at 12:18 AM.
  4. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 1:17 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #4

    Even more pics.
  5. vistaVision's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 1:19 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #5

    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...
  6. RPF Premium Member knightdriver2001's Avatar
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    Aug 2002
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    Vernon/South Windsor, Connecticut
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    Jul 25, 2012, 1:39 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #6

    Looks awesome.

    Love all the detailing and the lighting.

    Can't wait to see the final results!
  7. IEDBOUNTYHUNTER is offline IEDBOUNTYHUNTER
    Jul 25, 2012, 1:39 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #7

    Charles, Looks cool.
  8. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 10:22 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #8

    vistaVision said: View Post
    That's looking great! I hope we'll get to see more pics and description of the build/paint.
    Thanks guys. I've got plenty of pics. If you want to know more about any aspect of the build, just ask.
  9. Choosy moms choose Jif™ RPF Premium Member moffeaton's Avatar
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    Jul 25, 2012, 10:29 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #9

    I am in love with this thread.
  10. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 26, 2012, 12:11 AM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #10

    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?
  11. Gone but not forgotten.
    Member Since
    Dec 2007
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    Danville KY
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    Jul 26, 2012, 4:05 AM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #11

    This is so cool! Any easter eggs in the build?
  12. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 26, 2012, 11:37 AM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #12

    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.
  13. Yodajammies's Avatar
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    NashVille, TN
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    Jul 26, 2012, 1:46 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #13

    Wow, fantastic work.

    Was your original model done in Rhino?
  14. Member Since
    Jul 1999
    From
    Toronto, Canada
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    Jul 26, 2012, 1:47 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #14

    I was looking forward to this movie before I saw this thread. Now I'm really excited.
  15. yuumi2891103's Avatar
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    Small local town near Narita airport
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    Jul 26, 2012, 4:37 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #15

    Woow!! Charles-san, this is the builders dream!!
    Fantastic design!

    katsu
  16. ringa's Avatar
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    Jul 26, 2012, 4:56 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #16

    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!
    Last edited by ringa; Jul 26, 2012 at 5:09 PM.
  17. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 26, 2012, 5:25 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #17

    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. . .
  18. KrokoHunter's Avatar
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    Jul 27, 2012, 1:43 AM - #18

    Looks awesome guys. I've been eagerly awaiting to see progress of this projector some time :-)
  19. 3d-builder's Avatar
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    Jul 29, 2012, 5:34 AM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #19

    Some serious stuff in here Guys hats off!!
  20. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 31, 2012, 4:46 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #20

    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.
  21. star-art's Avatar
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    Jul 31, 2012, 4:48 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #21

    It took about 3 days to build the "basket" for the turbine module. This removable assembly is not only one of the most intricately detailed parts of the ship, it also contains three separate built-in lighting effects. We tested one of those effects -- the red turbine glow -- and it looked incredible.

    The original design was to have the heatsink sticking out of a large tube. I found that mounting it inside the tube makes for a much more dramatic effect. It now appears to glow red like an oven heating element.

    I also spent time this weekend cleaning up and detailing the bow module. It's nearly complete and ready to be mounted on the armature.

    The last remaining details to be attended to involve the cooling modules. Since they are the main mounting points, these must be complete before we can assemble the model on its armature. I have run fiber optics in one of the modules and there is still some more work to be done before they can be detailed.

    We also have to finish detailing the three engines that go on the very back of the ship. Those are assembled, LEDs are installed, and they are ready for final finishing.



    Charles
  22. star-art's Avatar
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    Aug 1, 2012, 12:59 AM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #22

    Here are the results of a lighting test on the open hex module. Keep in mind how small this section is. . .
  23. TheNylonGag's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
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    Homestead, FL.
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    Aug 1, 2012, 8:47 AM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #23

    I just love a scratch built originally designed ship

    The red turbine glow is outstanding, you can almost feel the heat coming off the thing

    Brilliant

    The Nylon Gag
  24. Choosy moms choose Jif™ RPF Premium Member moffeaton's Avatar
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    Baltimore MD
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    Aug 1, 2012, 9:05 AM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #24

    GORGEOUS work!!
  25. Member Since
    Jan 2012
    From
    Los Angeles
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    Aug 1, 2012, 6:25 PM - Re: "C" Movie Starship Miniature Effects Model #25

    Fantastic work! I posted a link to the film's Kickstarter page a few months ago, and it's great to see more detail of the actual filming model. I have a lot of respect for the filmmakers' choice to use practical effects over CGI...especially with so many scaled miniature effects shots. I really do miss seeing not only the multi-pass techniques of 2001, but also the motion-control chromakey methods used in the original Star Wars trilogy. I still think Return of the Jedi has the most effective and imaginative space combat sequences ever committed to celluloid.

    I'm an aspiring filmmaker who has been educated in the digital age, but grew up loving practical effects far more than anything rendered by a computer. The way light interacts with physical objects...we just aren't there yet with CGI. Not even close.

    I've noticed that current virtual camera movement also contributes to the "uncanny valley"-type issues plaguing CGI models in cinematic applications (especially spacecraft). For example, you'll have a virtual camera dollying toward a virtual spacecraft, then twisting impossibly through the superstructure before somehow entering the craft or transitioning in a way that a real, physical camera could not if it were photographing an actual spacecraft.

    Scale models limit the movement of the camera and the subject, but that limitation only serves to both enhance the reality of the shot and force the filmmakers to think outside the proverbial box. It requires more creative thinking and planning, and therefore (usually) a better end result. Psychologically, the audience sees a virtual camera interacting with a virtual object in an impossible way and some background process in their brain says, "That's not real." Whereas with physical models and actual cameras, the brain reaches a point where it suspends disbelief and stays there so long as the effect is consistent.

    My dream is to one day write and develop a feature film that seeks to not only tell a compelling story with three-dimensional characters, but also revive many of the effects techniques that have been thrown out with the bath water. I think a hybrid of practical and digital (to "hide the wires") is really the way to go. Current thinking in Hollywood is just plain wrong-headed. Just because a technique is old, doesn't mean it's not useful.

    I'm also trying to find some CGI folks who are interested in playing with digital modeling conventions and virtual camera techniques...mainly with starships and spacecraft sequences in mind. I have this idea regarding textures that could help ease the pain of seeing CGI models replace the real thing.

    In any case, it's really phenomenal to see folks doing it "the right way." Love your work, and I look forward to seeing the finished film.


    ~J. D. Ford

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