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Author Topic: Building models for filming  (Read 28227 times)

John Stedman

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Building models for filming
« on: January 09, 2017, 10:44:02 AM »

I have an architectural and design firm, and recently we have started working for the film and TV industries to make models for the screen. Currently we are starting to plan to make a range of ships from the Second World War which will be used in dramatised documentaries. The idea is to film (or video) the static models in a dry studio, and to composite the images together with real seascapes from film shot in the 1930's and 1940's. The whole thing is then going to be blended together using Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). At the moment we have a list of ten vessels:
HMS Hood, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Repulse, HMS Rodney, HMS Devonshire, HMS Cossack, Flower Class corvette,  KM Bismarck, KM Prinz Eugen, German E-Boat.
We're expecting additions to the list, particularly Japanese, American and Italian vessels of the period. The budget is reasonable, but not to 'Jim Cameron' levels, so we're looking at the most effective and efficient strategies to achieve all this. I'd be interested in the views of anyone who is doing similar work, or is simply interested in the project for any reason. One of our first decisions will be on the scale of the models (and they need not be all the same) so ideas about that would be especially welcome :-)
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NFMike

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2017, 10:56:03 AM »

There must be quite a few high quality models of most of those ships already in existence, so 'hiring' or maybe even buying them might make more sense than building your own.

unbuiltnautilus

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2017, 11:31:30 AM »

Six of the above models have been or are available in the Graupner Premium range, all at reasonable sizes and scales. With a decent weathering job and suitably lit, they may be what you need. Prices are around 800 to 1200 per model.
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TailUK

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2017, 03:10:40 PM »

If the models are to be static and used with CGI you might get away with the easily available 1/350th and 1/200th scale plastic kits.  Most of the ships required are available and can be finished to a very high standard using aftermarket Photo-etched sets.
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John Stedman

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2017, 04:24:33 PM »

The rapid feedback is much appreciated! We had a meeting with the cinematographer today, and she thinks that to get the depth of focus and the quality of detail needed for today's Ultra High Definition images, we will need models about 12 feet long. In the case of HMS Hood and the other capital ships, this would mean a scale of about 1:72, which might allow a lot of off-the-shelf detail parts to be used (scuttles, anchors and winches, chains, railing stanchions, hatches, deck planking, hose reels, ventilators, ladders and railings etc). We will probably make a rough model out of foamcore this week so that a camera test can be done. We've recently installed a 3D printer and we would be able to use that to make 'blocks' which could be scanned and laser cut from data from the longitudinal plans and body plans of the ships quite quickly, fitted together and then finished with Plasticard 'plating' by hand. This technique would also be used to make the major parts of the superstructure. It's a bit like the method they use to make full-size cruise ships! I'll keep updating the progress, and would welcome further input from the Forum :-)
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TailUK

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2017, 05:00:27 PM »

The rapid feedback is much appreciated! We had a meeting with the cinematographer today, and she thinks that to get the depth of focus and the quality of detail needed for today's Ultra High Definition images, we will need models about 12 feet long. In the case of HMS Hood and the other capital ships, this would mean a scale of about 1:72, which might allow a lot of off-the-shelf detail parts to be used (scuttles, anchors and winches, chains, railing stanchions, hatches, deck planking, hose reels, ventilators, ladders and railings etc). We will probably make a rough model out of foamcore this week so that a camera test can be done. We've recently installed a 3D printer and we would be able to use that to make 'blocks' which could be scanned and laser cut from data from the longitudinal plans and body plans of the ships quite quickly, fitted together and then finished with Plasticard 'plating' by hand. This technique would also be used to make the major parts of the superstructure. It's a bit like the method they use to make full-size cruise ships! I'll keep updating the progress, and would welcome further input from the Forum :-)

You should be able to find some of the mentioned ships in 1/72nd scale.  The Flower class, the E boat are easily available as well as a lot of Royal Navy Gun and Torpedo boats. 
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John W E

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2017, 05:23:16 PM »

hi there

you could try Task Force 72 - it is basically an Australian Group which specialise in 1:72 scale models.  Also, I believe they have a very strong following in the UK - our friend the late Dicky D used to be a member and there were several other members from the UK - so they may be able to put you in contact with them or people with 1:72 scale warships which you require.
http://taskforce72.org/
john
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Colin Bishop

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2017, 05:57:11 PM »

I wouldn't get too hung up on the physical size of the models. The important thing is the definition of detail as it appears to the camera. A 12 ft model of Hood is going to require a huge amount of detail and consequentially a corresponding amount of work to build it. Yes, you can purchase a lot of the fittings but at 35p per stanchion at 1:72 scale for example, it isn't going to be cheap plus you will incur substantial labour costs in building the model.

The latest large scale plastic kits such as those from Trumpeter at 1:200 scale are extremely well detailed in their basic form and can be readily improved by aftermarket enhancements such as deck planking and photo etched detail. It is likely that these would offer a similar cinematic quality as your proposed 12 foot models at a fraction of the price and effort. Moreover, I'm sure that someone who has already built one of these to a high standard would be willing to hire it to you for evaluation purposes.

Some details of the Trumpeter range here: http://www.anticsonline.co.uk/847_1.html
Many of the ships you mention are available.

More details of their Arizona battleship kit here:
 http://www.modelboatmayhem.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,56716.0.html
http://www.modelboats.co.uk/news/article/uss-arizona-bb39-1941/8714
 Colin
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John Stedman

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2017, 07:34:36 PM »

Yes, I'm a real admirer of the 'mantleshelf scale' kits from Tamiya, Trumpeter and others, and in my time I've built two of the 1:72 Flower Class corvettes from Revell (nee Matchbox). I also have fond (?) memories of supergluing hundreds of tiny bits of photo-etch onto a very imposing Yamato as well. Superb models for the home, or for exhibitions.
But the situation here is that we have been tasked with creating the convincing illusion of a real ship in a real sea on a cinema screen which will be over 50' wide, or a home cinema with a wall-sized UHD screen. This means using professional studio cameras and probably 35mm film (or an equivalent quality digital format), where depth of field has to be very carefully predicted and controlled. We can't simply pour a lot of extra lighting on the models and use a smaller lens aperture to increase depth of field, because many Second World War engagements (such as the Battle of the Denmark Strait) were fought in murky conditions that need to be replicated for authenticity. We're anticipating that the lenses will need to be set at around f4, or maybe f5.6, with the camera about 50' from the model in most shots to give the right perspective.
Audiences will need to be convinced that the model ships we show are not models, and this perception is very fragile. It's a gut feeling. Real battleships were awe-inspiring, quite terrifying, seemingly unstoppable, yet disturbingly vulnerable when they went into action, and that's how they need to look on screen. One reason we are using physical models and not CGI for the ships is because not only is major CGI work horrendously expensive, difficult to manage and very time consuming, but its illusion of reality often fails because everything that happens on screen is the result of a programmer's decision, and not the randomness and 'chaos' of nature.
So our cinematographer's current thinking that all the models will have to be around 12' long, which suggests 1:72 scale for the capital ships, about 1:17 scale for the Flower Class, and 1:9 scale for an E-Boat. The budget will need to be sufficient to build all these to an appropriate professional standard, and modelmakers' labour costs will certainly be a major factor in that. But there's a saying in Hollywood that "The money must be up on the screen". I think that money will probably be best spent on imposing models expertly photographed, coupled with minimal CGI. It'll be interesting to see how the camera test turns out, and how our 12' long preliminary prototype of HMS Hood looks when projected across the full width of a movie theatre later this week. Stay tuned!
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Colin Bishop

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2017, 07:54:08 PM »

Some interesting points there. A few years back I visited the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth to do a report on their models. http://www.modelboats.co.uk/news/article/naval-treasures/4501

They commissioned a number of large scale models to a very high degree of accuracy as teaching aids and a typical cost was something in the order of 20,000 each and that was maybe 15 years ago.

Colin
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unbuiltnautilus

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2017, 08:11:38 PM »

With the advent of rapid prototyping in all its guises, I would imagine it would be much quicker to produce mock ups, using foam block construction, laser cut card detailing, 3D printing etc. One advantage being that the models will not be getting wet! This gives many options not available to us 'water based' models.


I understand the move to larger models. It is refreshing to see the the large scale miniatures, (when actually used!), by companies such as Weta, and films like Interstellar..long may it continue.
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Atlantic Mouldings

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2017, 08:49:24 PM »

Anyone charging more than 20K is just ripping them off and filling there pockets. <*<


However charging a suitable amount for the build is acceptable, i too have made models for films on set locations there's no need to go ripping them off , if you do a good job and at a good price they keep coming back to you.


so back to the main point a model 12ft in length ,  yep 20 k built price plus delivery is were i would be tendering.







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Colin Bishop

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2017, 09:11:00 PM »

As a bit of an aside, I assume you are familiar with the last remaining Flower Class corvette HMCS Sackville, preserved in WW2 condition at Halifax NS. Obviously a good source of reference but I wonder if the ship could be digitally recorded in such a way as to enable the material to be incorporated in film sequences? Nothing like 1:1 scale really!

Colin
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mudway

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2017, 10:16:35 PM »

hi there

you could try Task Force 72 - it is basically an Australian Group which specialise in 1:72 scale models.  Also, I believe they have a very strong following in the UK - our friend the late Dicky D used to be a member and there were several other members from the UK - so they may be able to put you in contact with them or people with 1:72 scale warships which you require.
http://taskforce72.org/
john


Yes most of our members are in Australia but we have some good links to the guys at the Richmond Model Boat Club who have quite a collection of 1/72 models.  http://glasgowrichmondmbc.co.uk/About.html. Size doesn't matter, some of our smaller models have actually featured in TV programmes in Australia.
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warspite

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2017, 10:57:10 PM »

Alternatively - there is a museum in Liverpool / Manchester / London that use to display large scale static models of 'Museum' quality, a bit of research and a well placed phone call may yield exceptional quality models that could be put to use that are otherwise languishing in storage., I remember in 2005, the museum behind the natural museum in London opposite the V & A, they had a queen elizebeth (think it was Warspite) on display that may have been kind of what you are looking for.

Sorry the photos are low quality
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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2017, 11:04:27 PM »

Revell do a model of HMCS SNOWBERRY at 1/144 scale  which is well detailed. I hope this helps John
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NFMike

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2017, 11:35:09 PM »

Yes, I'm a real admirer of the 'mantleshelf scale' kits from Tamiya,
..................
 a movie theatre later this week. Stay tuned!

Very interesting and thanks for sharing.

"... this perception is very fragile. It's a gut feeling." So true. It always amazes me how good human sight (and hearing) are at being fooled by fairly crude simulations (like current VR goggles) and on the other hand spotting that what they are seeing just isn't quite right.

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2017, 11:40:13 PM »


Some interesting points there. A few years back I visited the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth to do a report on their models. http://www.modelboats.co.uk/news/article/naval-treasures/4501

They commissioned a number of large scale models to a very high degree of accuracy as teaching aids and a typical cost was something in the order of 20,000 each and that was maybe 15 years ago.

Colin


Malcolm Darch was charging 15,000.00p for his model of Moshulu in 1983 and it was nowhere near 12' long.


I visited his studio in Salcombe and chatted with him personally after reading his articles in Model Boats magazine.


Jim.
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Umi_Ryuzuki

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2017, 02:38:42 AM »

Sounds like a great project.

We recently started working up fittings for a pair of 1/72nd scale Kagero class destroyers.

 :-))

John Stedman

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2017, 08:39:51 AM »

Many thanks to all those who are contributing to this thread! Your contributions are very helpful and are helping to widen our perspective on this project.


We have talked with a number of individuals and museums that might be relevant, but in most cases their models were too 'model like' on close inspection. The main problem was the way they were painted, because to look right on screen a miniature has to be 'over weathered' to reinforce the onscreen illusion that it is a full size ship. Many models also showed the subject ship at an inappropriate and fixed time in her career. This is a particular issue in the case of HMS Hood, which spent 20 years as the RN Flagship and went though a number of refits which changed her silhouette considerably. Even the short-lived HMS Prince of Wales - sunk after only seven months of service - evolved between the Bismarck action and her demise. Generally, naval vessels in the Second World War went though frequent updating of their radar systems and anti-aircraft armament, which were quite noticable. Our models will mostly have to be built with optional parts which can be switched around to represent different eras in their histories. We want them to be as accurate as possible. As this Forum shows, there are a lot of knowledgeable people out there!


Museums, and most individuals, would insist that their models could only be borrowed if they were returned unaltered. This is entirely understandable, but would not be an undertaking we could give. Making our own models gives us the freedom we need to make sure that the end product - the on-screen image - has priority. The human eye/brain system is not the same as a camera, and we always have to be focussed on the cinema audience's experience. When James Cameron made 'Aliens' in 1986, there was no CGI, and the 'Sulaco' starship was a fibreglass model about six feet long. It still exists, in a private museum in Los Angeles, and when I saw it I was amazed to find that it was only detailed on the starboard side. The port side is completely bare. Jim asked for this deliberately, because all four shots of the vessel that appear in the movie only show the right-hand side. He correctly argued that it was better that the modelmakers did twice the work on the flank that would be seen by the audience, and no work at all on the unseen side. That's a good example of how the thinking behind 'models for film' has to be different from conventional 'modelling for pleasure'


Certainly it is very useful to examine full-sized ships that have been conserved, and the USA is the prime hunting ground for this. HMS Belfast in the Pool of London - a short walk from our Studio - is a must-see, as is the Flower Class corvette in Colin Bishop's picture. Technology is certainly available which can scan large areas with a laser and produce 3D datafiles, and this is now commonly used in surveying aircrash sites, and in other situations where accurate spatial information has to be gathered quickly. Other techniques such as Photogrammetry (analysing still photos to deduce dimensions) are also valuable, and we have found the 'Anatomy of the Ship' series of books to be a great help. Companies like Tamiya still use many old-school techniques, such as 'walkaround' photography, the trusty tape measure and template 'combs', although with their contemporary car models - which have very complex 3D curves - they're more likely to strike a deal with Ferrari or Porsche to use the actual CAD files downloaded direct from the factory.


With regard to the cost of our project, it's too early to be definitive. Once we know the number, scale and quality of the models we will be making, and the timescale, and have then quantified all the likely resources needed, we'll sort it out.


Our prototype hull for HMS Hood is now being made. We coded the body plan, ship's lines and longitudinal drawing into the program that we use to produce models of objects with double curvature, which we mostly employ for architectural design projects. The 12' hull is being carved from 46 foam resin blocks, which will then be stuck together with two-part epoxy adhesive. We sandwiched an alloy plate along the vertical centreline to prevent distortion. It's going well, and should be ready for camera in a couple of days.



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Ron Rees

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2017, 10:52:21 AM »

See....I'm not the only one who makes models out of foam!!............great stuff.
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Capt Podge

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #21 on: January 10, 2017, 11:37:35 AM »

What a fantastic thread this is turning into - John Stedman, your explanations of the many, many things to be considered, both modelling and cinematically, go a long way to help others understand the problems you people face. Thank you very much indeed for taking the time to do so.

Regards,

Ray.
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Colin Bishop

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2017, 04:21:32 PM »

Yes, this is a very interesting departure from conventional modelmaking in order to meet a very specific requirement which imposes its own methods. Please do keep us in the picture, so to speak.

Colin
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Martin [Admin]

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2017, 04:27:59 PM »

Sounds like a great project.

We recently started working up fittings for a pair of 1/72nd scale Kagero class destroyers.

 :-))

"Traditional" model building or 3D printed?
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John Stedman

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Re: Building models for filming
« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2017, 05:24:32 PM »

The 1:72 hull for HMS Hood is complete apart from final sanding and priming, and the process went very well. It took two of our people one whole day to get the resin blocks cut on the 3D printer sorted out, checked for fit and then glue them in place, that's about 18 working hours to make a 12' accurate hull from scratch. The new technology makes a huge difference, and everything lined up fine. We used epoxy with a 5 minute set, because it takes care and time to position everything exactly. This brings back memories of my time at Sandhurst, where we learned 'The Six P's' (Proper Planning & Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!)
The lightweight resin foam worked well for most of the hull, but didn't seem tough enough for the finely tapered bow. So we used the foam piece to make an RTV Silicone Rubber female mould, and then used this to cast a solid resin bow, which is very robust. This was attached to the aluminium spine and to the forward foam blocks with more two-part epoxy adhesive. Although the stern looked less liable to damage, we decided to be on the safe side and did the same there as well. Now the whole hull shape is complete, we'll leave it overnight for everything to fully set before smoothing it all off and giving it a couple of coats of grey primer. We've got an industrial size airbrush to spray this on since it would take ages to get it done with our normal 'modelling' setup.
We're safety conscious here, so we always 'wet sand', to reduce the amount of airborne particles, but even so a filtered mask is essential. After finishing, we ventilate the area thoroughly and wash away all dust. You can't be too careful with your health!
The next stage will be to 3D print some more resin blocks for the core of the superstructure elements, the two funnels and the circular turret bases. Once these are all in place we will have enough 'bulk' to film the basic prototype model. We're going to stick some 'focus targets' in a line from bow to stern (a bit like those things you see in car crash testing) to check how sharp the filmed image is from all angles.
For filming we'll be mounting 'The Mighty Hood' on a powered special effects gimbal called a 'Model Mover', which can be computer controlled to move the ship in pitch, roll and yaw. This is quite similar to the support mechanisms beneath an airliner flight simulator, but smaller. If we have time, we'll also put a Hachette 1:200 'KM Bismarck' and a Revell 1:72 'Flower Class' on the rig and see how they compare...

 

 
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