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Posts Tagged ‘Sci-fi’

Polar Lights Models: Klingon K’t’inga buildup process Pt.6

posted by JamieH 3:17 PM
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Continuing our series of guest blogs covering our brand-new STAR TREK: The Motion Picture 1:350 Klingon K’t’inga model kit…

Painting in Klingonese. The Grueling (But Still Fun) Part.

James Small,

“The Making of Jaws” pocket book printed back in the mid 1970’s has a funny line placed as a caption beneath one of the photos of the crew preparing to shoot a scene. The line has always stuck with me. I quote it a lot because I think it’s clever and is true of many things besides just film making. It reads, “It’s not the time it takes to take the takes, it’s the time it takes between the takes that take the time to take.”  I was trying to find a way to adapt that to how you paint a model like this and fell short by a wide margin. The closest I could come up with is “It’s not the time it takes to paint the model, it’s the time it takes to prepare and mask the model that takes the time to paint.” Yeah. Really lame, I know. I’m not much of a meme generator. Hopefully I’m a much better model builder than a writer or I’ll have to go get a job at Wal-Mart.

Anyway, the following shows what I consider by far to be the most grueling part of building this kit. It requires tremendous patience and even more masking tape. The tape itself is important. Make sure you don’t use some cheap-o no-name bargain tape. Use something that really works. I like to use “Frog Tape” which is readily available even here in the backwater town of Truro, Nova Scotia. It’s twice the price of standard painter’s tape but is better for preventing paint seepage under it than generic tape, but still a hell of a lot cheaper than the hobby tapes like Tamiya and so on, especially when you need to use a lot of it like on this model. It comes in two types. Regular (green) and the yellow stuff made for delicate surfaces. I used both as you will see. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The green has a more aggressive adhesive, but the yellow type is semi-translucent and is less likely to peel off the paint you are masking over when you remove it. The hobby tapes are a lot thinner (meaning less wide) and people see that as a massive advantage. It’s easy to adapt the Frog Tape to do the same thing though. Simply lay a strip down onto a CLEAN, dry piece of glass and use a ruler and X-acto knife to cut strips to whatever width you like. Then just peel the tape off the glass when you’re ready to use it and put it in place.

But with the green paneling that covers the bottom and top surfaces of the main body and “wings” of the K’Tinga, I opted to simply cover the whole thing in tape and then use a pointed bamboo Kebab skewer, (but toothpicks could work too) to push the tape down into the nooks and crannies and then cut out the sections that will be sprayed onto.  Just make sure the edges are pressed firmly into place. Because there are three different green colours, it gets a little complicated and confusing, and is really hard to describe here so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

The yellow Frog Tape is laid down onto the darkest green painted surface. Normally you’d want to paint the lighter colours first and then cover that with the darker colours, but in this case the darker green is the main colour so it was put down first over the primed and light-blocked hull (the production kit will be molded in black so light blocking will not be much of a problem!).

The long and tedious task of cutting out the panels to be sprayed first, the “medium” green colour, begins.

Same for the bottom.

Spraying the medium colour with an airbrush is done and then the tape is cut out and removed for the next (lightest) colour of green to be applied. All the colours were mixed by decanting various rattle can paints into a mixing cup in previously determined proportions to match the colour chips that Jamie gave me to follow. How those colours were determined was covered extensively in Jamie’s previous blogs posted or linked to on this page.

With the medium colour done and dry, it’s covered up again and then the panels that will receive the lightest green colour are cut out and sprayed.

The green colours all applied, all the masking is removed. This procedure took me several days as the alkyd paint needed to be fully dry for 24 hrs or more before the next colour could be applied, and the masking alone took many hours. All the paint was applied with an airbrush, done by decanting the paint from the rattle cans into cups, mixed to match the colour chips Jamie provided me with and sprayed onto the primed surfaces.

With the three layers of green out of the way, it was time to start laying down the other colours. This part was actually a lot more fun, as it was a lot easier, less time consuming and really started to flesh out the final look of the ship! This picture shows the model with the “light black” sprayed on. For this, I used 10 parts black Krylon primer (which is not true black to begin with but actually an extremely dark gray bordering on black.. difficult to describe!) mixed with 1 part white primer, and it seems to have the right effect. The nice thing about using primers is that it dries quickly, is less likely to react with the paints underneath and provides a nice silky matte finish.

The indescribable brown/tan/pink/oxide/mauve/taupe style colour… (I’m convinced that the VFX people said to themselves “Let’s see if someone forty years from now will be able to figure THAT one out when they try to build replicas of this ship!”) was painted on after the black, so all the green and black were masked off as one should expect and the pinkish stuff was sprayed on. Since there was also a lighter colour of pink to spray on, the same was done for it as was done for the green for various panels. I cheated in some areas and simply brush painted a few of them.

Starting to look the part, eh?

Now some of the smaller details are decorated using the old tried and true brush painting method using the small jars of easy to use hobby paints. There are some errors as seen here which will be touched up before proper photography.

The model is nearing completion. Lighting is tested and paint work evaluated. At this point I did some photography of the model in this state for some of the painting instructions that will be included with the kit. Jamie will work his Photoshop magic as required to perfect the shots as needed to make sure the model is accurately depicted.

The mounting point modifications I made for this particular one can be seen here used as designed. In this case, the left grille, normally held in place with a magnet and seen here below the Polar Lights logo, is removed and the model mounted to a C-stand in front of a black velvet backdrop over a mirror to bounce light up onto the underside surface to give it a flat-lit appearance. It was shot using a 300mm lens from about 25 feet away, making the photos appear mostly orthographic so as to best show off the paint work in a blueprint-like format. The removable grille and other hatches designed into the modified kit as described previously allows the stand to be mounted into the model away from camera so as not to be in the way of any other parts of the it when photographed. This technique has become a staple for much of the photography I do for Round 2’s box art that Jamie uses to show how to decorate the kit for you, the builder. This makes finishing as clear as possible using actual photographs of the finished model in full colour instead of the usual crude grayscale diagrams that used to be done by kit makers in the past. Similar setups will be used after the model is completely finished with decals and weathering and dramatically lit for some VFX shots for the main box art photography.

Now you can see why I made all those modifications!

One more blog post to follow when the model is completely finished.

Jim did an excellent job matching the paint swatches I sent him, but everything turned out lighter in real life than I had guessed. I would never ask him to remask and repaint this ship. Luckily, we have the weathering stage to darken it up and the magic of Photoshop to get the look we want on the packaging. But did you see the light!?! Holy cow!!! -JH

Not to get confused with our buildup series from Jim Small, Jamie Hood has returned to share his research into the paint colors of the Klingon K’t’inga filming miniature featured in STAR TREK: The Motion Picture. Here is the first of three parts…

Who remembers this from a few years back…?

The world cracked in half trying to decipher the real color of this dress. Was it blue and black or white and gold…? (I guessed wrong, but who cares?) I have spent the better part of the last six months studying a similar conundrum in the paint guide for our upcoming 1:350 scale STAR TREK Klingon K’t’inga model kit. The goal is to supply a paint guide that would represent the look of the filming miniature on its first day on set. Why do we have to get that specific? Well, because changes were made to the miniature immediately before, during and after filming. Therefore, the way it looked the day it was first filmed is most likely the way it was intended to be.  This story is a long and winding one, but I’ve learned too much not to share. Besides, I fear that without giving this complete explanation we will get letters about how we got it wrong. The truth is we can’t know exactly what it looked like that day AND no one says a modeler HAS to paint his model to match. You do you. Paint it however you want, but the decoration notes in the kit will be our best advice to this end. I’ve looked at this thing every which way, and though I am confident on the direction we will supply, I just changed my mind about some of these colors again yesterday. Besides determining the design of the small clump of detail that sits on top of the bridge dome, figuring out this color situation has been one of the biggest time sinks of this whole project for me. I’ve spent days (weeks) on both…

Let’s start with what we have to work with. Some of it you may be well aware of, some bits have just been revealed as our team has offered their best evidence for the paint colors that were actually used on the model. I’ll start with what we’ve been aware of for the longest time.

STAR TREK : The Motion Picture – The advent of HD makes it easier than ever to get a decent look at the ship in its appearances on screen although the color of the model was very washed out in some of its appearances. It isn’t the best we have, but it will become apparent how much it offers as I go. Photoshop helps too. It can punch up colors, adjust contrast and even sharpen images. It can actually pull hidden details out of shadows in some cases.

Cinefex 1 & 2 – These classic issues featured behind the scenes info on the effects process that shed a little light on how the model was handled.

Bill George Photo Survey – A few years back FX production artist, Bill George, posted the series of photos he took of the miniature when it was uncrated for the ST6 redressing. I have had a chance to get further info directly from Bill as I’ve been studying the model. He did a great job IMO of photographing the model, but he stated they weren’t taken under the most ideal of situations. Shooting in tight quarters made the color wash out in some images. He said the color temperature of the images matches his recollection of the real model and this statement stood up when I took the step of checking the color balance in Adobe Photoshop. One mystery remains about the model as we see it in his photos though. You will notice a white substance that clings to the panel lines and other details on the model. Some might think it is dust that settled in from storage, but dust wouldn’t have settled just as much into the bottom of the model as it would to the top. This white substance is evenly distributed over the model. Bill said that it wasn’t powdery, but would come off when touched. The best theory we have about this was that it probably had to do with some of the “lightning” effects shown when the ships were destroyed by V’Ger. We have all stared at these great photos for so long, we are used to it and we see it as weathering. It really ties the whole ship together. But if it was used for special effects, was it there the first day of shooting? My working conclusion is “no”.

Michael Middleton Photo Survey – This set of pics was taken outdoors and in one case has an Apogee logo on them. (As I understand it, Magicam built the model and Apogee filmed it.) It is immediately apparent that the model was modified by Apogee after this survey, because details were added to the bridge dome including lights. The greater mystery was what more was modified after this set of photos was taken? Some of these pics have been floating around for a while, but they were low res and the color temperature seemed significantly different than the Bill George series. Trek Production Designer, John Eaves, recently shared high res versions of these images and more. However, they all had the same color temperature problem as the low res versions. These higher res images were released pretty late in the game relative to developing the kit. I wish we had them earlier, but they helped check our work and they also helped determine our color research once the color balance was corrected.

Various other photos of the miniature – These range from a lower rear shot that had been shared online by one of the guys that helped design the ship, Andy Probert. We also found an uncredited photo of the ship literally sitting on its crate after being taken out of storage. There is also a survey of black and white photos. They are relatively low res and they hold little value in determining color. I have been shown a few images that couldn’t be shared (Hey, this is sci-fi modeling… These things happen), but I think I can work around them and still make my point.

“Real” paint swatches – This is the latest and greatest! This was shared by Gene Kozicki who was working with Virgil Moreno’s estate. This is a scan Gene took from the original swatch card. Although it does not show every color used on the ship, it provides notes on a few specific model paints that were used. This lined up with additional information from Paul Newitt that Russ Simpson had brought his own full rack of Floquil paints to use on the miniature. In addition to this, Bill George received a couple paint matches from John Goodson who had run paint scans through the Smithsonian Institution’s database like they did on the ST:TOS U.S.S. Enterprise restoration. Although those results were a bit head-scratching, I think I know how and where they were used. More on these as we go.

In the beginning of my study, I had to consider the possibility that the model may have been completely repainted at some point because the color in the oldest photos looked nothing like the color in the newest photos. But none of the reference photos we have were native digital files or even scans from slides or negatives, but scans of prints. In some cases, old-school photograph color integrity degrades. The original photos (or negatives even) could have color shifted significantly in some cases. So, was it repainted or was it just bad color balance in the reference? “Real” paint swatches helped, but they didn’t solve all the mysteries…

More to come…

Continuing our series of guest blogs covering our brand-new STAR TREK: The Motion Picture 1:350 Klingon K’t’inga model kit…

 K’tinga Build Part T’ree, Ready for Paint…

James Small,

This is the last step in the main building of the various sub-assemblies and main assemblies, rounding the bend now, getting ready for the really grueling part, the massive paint job. Not a lot to cover here but I do want to point out a few things, and it was my “overthinking” of a lot of it that put me so far behind. The biggest problem I thought I would encounter was the fact that the main body section of the ship has to be all sealed up after lighting is installed, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes before sealing up the top and bottom main sections. The way the kit is designed I thought would be … “unfriendly” at this point because I usually like to be able to install or at least be able to access a lot of the lighting gear even after main sections are glued together. For example, I wanted to be able to install the engines AFTER the main body was assembled so as to make clean up easier. That’s why on two of the kits I cut large sections out of the insides of the battery box tub so that wires could be reached with tweezers etc, to pull them back in if they slipped out and went back inside the body after I had it all assembled. This is STILL a good idea but it turns out my concerns were unfounded. I spent far too many hours thinking this through and it turned out to be unnecessary for the most part. However a lot of other time was spent thinking through the special requirements for the modified photo model too (which still took too long!).

Note:  The rest of this mostly applies to the stock kit, not the one I made with the modifications for photography.

You assemble the engines with the lighting installed and the wires hanging out the top of the nacelles. Then you glue the finished engines to the bottom of the lower hull section pylons. You glue in the “wing radiators” at this time as well. With lighting firmly installed in place (AND TESTED!!!!) as shown, you can then glue on the top body section you see there, making sure to feed the wires in through the bottom hole in the battery tub. Once it’s all glued together, and if you are careful (remember that gluing hints article I referenced in a previous post) cleanup is really easy, no putty needed. With patience, it all goes together remarkably smoothly, everything lined up perfectly. Yes, it’s a bit of a chore to get all those locator pins to line up and all fall into place, but once you do, you just run a little liquid plastic cement along the seam allowing capillary action to do its thing. (I actually use a concoction of my own, a half-and-half mixture of lacquer thinner and acetone which is a lot cheaper and works better for me than the overpriced hobby glues and even dries quicker, but only works for joints where capillary action is used.) Press together, let the melted plastic ooze out between the joints and hold or clamp ‘til set. When dry, just use your knife to trim off the bead and you have a nice clean joint, no putty required.

Yes, I know the plastic is translucent. Light blocking will be done by first coating the model (after careful masking) with Krylon gray primer which is effectively opaque. The colour coats will be applied over that. Also, some lighting elements are not yet installed. Those can be done after all the paint work is done.

Next I glued the neck in place and held it to the body using elastic bands (modified model shown here but principle is the same for stock kit). Like joining the body together, just push it in place (everything lines up perfectly) then apply the thin glue along the edges and let it set. Once dry, I removed the elastics and was able to put on all the little greeblies that get attached to the bulkhead. I also installed the thin rear panels that go in between the wings at this time as well.

All three models’ sub-assemblies are finished (for the most part) and ready to begin the massive job of masking and painting. A few parts not shown here such as the top bridge dome will not be added until painting is finished.

Due to time constraints to get the photography model done in time for Jamie to use for his box art and publicity material, I will now concentrate on just getting the modified model done first and will finish up the other two after the first one is all finished and photographed. Most of the time delay was my fault because I was overthinking so much of it.

Building this model is the easy part. Painting it will present some wonderful challenges… Hint: Most of the colours that were heavily researched by Jamie ended up being quite a bit different than I was expecting or appears to be in most photos! More on that as this build continues.

Polar Lights Models: Klingon K’t’inga buildup process Pt.3

posted by JamieH 8:39 AM
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Continuing our series of guest blogs covering our brand-new STAR TREK: The Motion Picture 1:350 Klingon K’t’inga model kit…

The K’tinga Build Part Deux, A Mounting Problem

James Small,

As I’m building three of these at once, I made the decision to modify one model to make it easier to photograph for the box art and publicity images. Therefore, this particular post deals primarily with the modifications I have done to this model to put stand mounts (AKA an armature) inside the model so that it can be positioned for photography at various angles, similar in principle to the way Motion Control miniatures were made for bluescreen filming back in the day.

The first thing was to decide where the mounts needed to be. One obvious mount is the stand hole that is included in the kit so it can be bottom mounted. That part is not needed to change of course, and Round 2 thoughtfully provided a plug/hatch that covers up this hole for underside shots and for people who may not want to use the provided stand.  Another mount already built into the kit is also a natural, the torpedo tube on the rear. The inner tube is a bit short, and must still contain the lighting inside, but I can make a post to fit for the purposes I need. The way the kit is designed, this torpedo tube will be strong enough to support the model when mounted from the rear. However, I needed to make the model mountable from the sides and the top. Because of the ship’s design it’s impractical to make a mount for the front. For shots involving the rear of the ship facing camera, it can be mounted from the sides, top or bottom depending on the angle needed. It seems, based on photos of the original model on stage, that these were the mounts used on it as well.

The stand hole molded into the lower hull section is deliberately quite deep and intrudes into the battery tub which is molded into the upper hull section (top), and I wanted to keep the upper hull removable until the model was at a near complete stage so lighting could still be installed. So I had to carve away some of the plastic so the square tubing I’d use for the armature would fit over it (bottom right) for support and without gluing. I drilled a hole in the top of that mount so that the hatch plug, which covers the stand hole when bottom shooting is required, could be pushed out from the backside when its removal is needed.

The armature, entirely glued into the upper hull battery tub section was made from Evergreen styrene square tube to fit the stand mount square stock (rather than cylindrical tube) so that the model would not have a tendency to rotate during set-up for shooting. Visual effects miniatures usually use much more robust armatures machined from aluminum or similar because the fairly large and heavy models must be kept rock steady during motion control filming, but this kit is so light that plastic armatures are good enough for my still-shot photographic purposes. You can’t really see them in the photos here but extra web reinforcement was also glued to the back of the square tube mating with the battery tub for added strength. Sections of the tub were also cut away to aid in wiring for the lighting as well as access to other sections during construction and/or possible servicing. The side  armature had to be kept short so that it would not block the lighting for the forward bulkhead up front. The light will be blocked when the stand mount is plugged in but that won’t matter since I won’t use the side mounts when that section of the ship shows to camera. The top corrugated panel on the forward section of the main body was made separate in the kit, which is perfect to aid in painting and also act as a natural hatch for the top mounting point. A pair of glued on neodymium magnets hold it perfectly in place.

The problem with the side mounts is that, even though the grilles on the sides look big, they are at a very steep angle (about 60 degrees) so the side profile makes them very narrow. This had to be taken into account when planning the mounting rods and armature. But the problem was that the grilles on the kit were made to be cemented in from the backsides of the body before you attach the top. How to make the panels removable, yet easily replaceable when the model is finished? The answer can be seen here. First, the grille panels were modified so that they could be placed from the outside. Then a magnet was added to the inner surface. Why is there a screw? Because when you’re dealing with this kind of thing with all those crazy angles and no apparent mounting surface, you can’t be absolutely sure where things are going to fall. By putting a screw (which the hatch magnet will stick to) into a solid point deliberately set further back than you might anticipate, adjustments can be made if things don’t line up quite right.

Here you can see the grille hatch unmodified and modified with trapping sections cut away and a magnet added. Then you can see the result of what the finished model will look like with the grille hatch removed and attached. They work fairly well. How do you remove the hatches? Because the screw is roughly in the centre of the hatch and acts as a crude fulcrum, you just push on one end, the other end pops proud and you can just grab it to pull it free. Another advantage in making those grilles removable is that I can complete some of the wiring even after the top and bottom body sections have been glued together. I still have the likely problem of light leaks around the removable grilles. I’ll work on that next along with a bunch of other things. More stuff to think through.

Looks easy doesn’t it? But with many things, it takes a lot of thinking to come up with the simple solutions to what look like complex problems. There are so many crazy angles to think of here that it seems very daunting at first, and you have to think ahead and carefully examine everything. Will it impede lighting? Will it stop the assembly from going together right? Will it allow for stand clearance? It takes time to work all that stuff out and you don’t want to make a modification that won’t work and become impossible to reverse. In fact I’d say ~90% of my time in building this model’s various modifications so far was spent thinking about how to do it and if there were better alternatives. In some cases maybe there are and I just didn’t think of them. The actual work itself takes relatively little time once you come up with the idea.

Meanwhile, if you future K’Tinga builders out there have a desire to mount your model from different points other than the standard bottom mount, maybe what I’ve done here can give you some ideas of your own.


Just like Santa takes a vacation the day after Christmas, model kit brand manager Jamie Hood has dropped off the goods (in this case, that means K’t’inga test shots) and is off on vacation. In the meantime, Round 2 consultant and model builder Jim Small will be sharing the process of building our display model that will be featured on our box art and will be making appearances at shows like Wonderfest next year. We hope you are hungry for this series of blogs.

Three Delicious Servings of Styrene Goodness!

James Small,

Well, well, well!!!! Look at THIS!!! A wonderful plate of appetizers came to the carnivorous lair of Small Art Works today, filled to the top with three test shots of the next fantastic model kit release from Round 2 and Polar Lights! I’ll be building all three of these at once, assembly-line style for the most part. All will be lit, but one of them I plan to try and install mounting points on the sides, top bottom and rear of the ship the way the studio model was done, which will aid in the photography I’ll need to do for publicity photos and box art etc. Only one lighting kit was supplied by the factory so I’ll have to scratch the lighting for the other two. Several parts had come loose from the runners and were put into ziplock bags.  Each of the three main large sprues shown measure over 17” x 11” in character, so that gives you a good idea of how big this model will be!

I’ve taken some pictures of all the sprues here so you can see for yourself the delectable ingredients supplied with the upcoming kit, the loose ones were put in place into the runner locations they came from to show you. The parts are very crisp and clean, panel lines are perfectly recessed to match the original and the fine seasoning of detail is very sharp! This kit is exactly half the size of the actual filming miniature as seen in Star Trek, the Motion Picture. Yes, this kit really IS as good as it looks to be and will make a satisfying full course meal for all avid Trek fans!

As I write this I have examined the parts overall and have tested the lighting system. Next I will be studying it all to figure out the best way to cook this thing and work out assembly and painting strategies. Likely I will be looking for the “quick” subassemblies to get out of the way first.

The biggest challenge of this kit will be the tasty paint work… the “icing on the cake” as it were, as there are many colours in this menu which will need a LOT of masking! Jamie will be supplying me with the paint colour information as he’s probably THE world authority on this model by now because he’s been preparing for this feast for quite a few years and has worked tirelessly to make it as complete and accurate as possible! He knows more about what goes into this dish than just about any other galaxy class chef at this point.

I’m going to really enjoy preparing these meals over the next while, and I’ll post my progress here as I go, so bookmark “” and keep checking back! You may find some of what I bake here a helpful series of hints to supplement the main recipe that will satisfy your taste buds when you place your order!

Let’s get ready to dine with the Klingons! (Bring extra napkins, and yeah, I was hungry when I wrote all this.)


See how crisp and clean the fine detailing is? Delicious!

Quick-and-dirty testing the lighting system. Looks like a mess here but it’ll be worked out.  Two of the bulbs flash which is why one is off as it blinked during exposure. All lights work perfectly.

Higher resolution pics can be found at the Small Art Works Facebook page here.

Star Trek Models: Klingon Bird-of-Prey & U.S.S. Grissom

posted by JamieH 7:44 AM
Thursday, July 5, 2018

[UPDATED to show decal sheet]

In the midst of summer activities and staying at work on our new Klingon K’t’inga kit, we don’t want to overlook another exciting Polar Lights kit we have in the works – the Klingon Bird-of-Prey and U.S.S. Grissom 1/1000 scale snap-together kit. These are two fan-favorite ships and the Grissom is getting produced as a kit for the first time ever thanks to the numerous requests we’ve heard over the years. These two kits make a fine addition to our line or 1:1000 scale snap kits.

Here is a look at the packaging which features box lid artwork by Star Trek Production Artist, John Eaves. The box utilizes the updated Star Trek style guide and as has become our habit, we show a full color decoration guide on the sides of the box bottom. Both models come with stands and the Bird-of-Prey can be assembled with its wings up in cruising position or down in attack position.

After some delays in the tooling and test fit phase the kit is in production now, and product should arrive around the end of August.

Polar Lights Model Kits: Quick update

posted by JamieH 10:44 AM
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

[UPDATED] I know it has been a while between posts and that is due purely to getting super-busy. (It happens all too often… but that’s a good thing, no?) I just received something to share that is worth interrupting my busy workday, but it will need to be quick. But while I am writing, a few updates…

POL952 U.S.S. Defiant – Arrived at our warehouse this week. You should be seeing it available from your retailers in the next couple weeks.

MKA028 Eagle Weathering Panel Decals – I totally overlooked the announcement of this. It is essentially the same sheet we included in the Brian Johnson special edition we did of the 22″ Eagle kit. These should be available in mid-late June.

MPC881 Hawk – Should be available from your retailers by the end of June.

POL957 U.S.S. Grissom & Klingon Bird-of-Prey – Due to delays in getting the test shots refined, this kit is slipping back to August. The shots look pretty good, but refining fit for a snap kit is always tricky. Packaging for the kit is being worked on now and we’ll show that off soon. We are thrilled to announce that it will feature a box lid illustration from Star Trek production designer John Eaves!

POL950 Klingon K’t’inga – Good news/ bad news … Delays in refining the CAD has caused this to slip all the way back to October. That’s only part of the bad news. The other is that this delay also pushes the test shots past Wonderfest by a few weeks. So we won’t have a fully built and painted model on display. On the good news side, the revisions were definitely worth it, because the factory was able to supply a second mockup based on the final CAD data and it has been assembling like a dream! We will have a new primered prototype with the lights on to show off at the show along with all of the buildups of the rest of our new kits mentioned above. We really look forward to seeing everyone at the show!

Now on with the thing I mentioned. A behind the scenes look at the K’t’inga nacelle tooling being created…


With a great license like STAR TREK, there is no end to the subjects we can introduce as new kits, but sometimes the question does arrive of “What should we do next?”. That question is usually tied to the investment needed for tooling the kit. It isn’t easy to do large, grand scale kits very often, but there are plenty of ships to consider at smaller scales like our popular 1:1000 scale kits. Except for maybe the Klingon K’t’inga, we have represented most of the recognizable ships in one scale or another. However, it seems like nearly every time we’ve asked modelers what ideas they had in mind, we often found one ship asked for over and over… The U.S.S. Grissom. The Oberth-class ship is a bit of a departure from the usual Starfleet fare. Though a fan-favorite, the Grissom was infamously taken out by a Klingon Bird-of-Prey in STAR TREK: The Search For Spock before other Oberths went on to appear in three more films and several episodes of ST:TNG. The ship is a relatively small design with an accepted length of 120 meters. That gave us bit of pause to do as a 1:1000 scale kit. A kit of this size wouldn’t be substantial enough to stand on its own. Though a 1:350 scale kit of the ship seems very appealing, we felt the need to check the reaction to a smaller investment first and come back to a large scale later if that seems feasible. So, what could we do? We could have reboxed our Enterprise Refit and included it in that like we did with the Botany bay in our TOS Enterprise kit, but I wanted to hold out on that and see if teaming the Refit with a dry dock kit might be viable later on. With the Refit still available and our recent U.S.S. Excelsior release, it became apparent that the last of the ships from STIII: The Search For Spock was the Klingon Bird-of-Prey. A smaller ship with a debatable length of about 90 meters, we could afford to team the two ships together in a 2-piece set and allow modelers to build a collection of every ship from that film. The KBoP is a beloved design and is in my personal list of top 5 space ship designs.

The Grissom is based on CAD work by Angelo Bastianelli and the KBoP will be based on our larger AMT kit. The Bird-of-Prey will come with two sets of wing baffles to build in either cruising or attack modes. Both kits will feature snap assembly to fit right in line with our other 1:1000 snap kits.

A few things to note on the mockups. On the Oberth, the factory made a couple mistakes. they grew an earlier copy of the deck. So the mockup shown here has the incorrect detail on the back the rear edge of the deck also shows more detail than we will end up with in production. They put a base rod hole in the bottom large enough to accept the rods for our 5″ dome bases, but these kits will come with our small bases, so that will be less obtrusive. On the KBoP, they forgot the base hole altogether. More significantly, they were supposed to grow two sizes of the ship. the one shown in thepics measures about 3 1/2″ long and would be comparable to the kit included in the AMT Adversary Set. At this length the ship would have been 90 meters long “in real life”. However, this deviates from the debated, but generally agreed to length of 110m. The second mockup was to be about 4 1/2″ long to bring it in scale with that measurement. The detail looks great at the smaller size, but we will most likely kick it up to the larger size. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Here, for the first time, is a look at the upcoming kits. The set is scheduled to be released by May 1st. So look for it at Wondefest 2018.



Now, I’ve been mulling “something” over… We are working on another brand-new kit. It will be big, and probably unexpected. I wish I could talk about it. It is really driving me nuts. It has been in the works for a long time already, and we are nearly finished with the CAD work. We will probably get a mockup within the month of January. I was hoping to hold out on this announcement until Wonderfest, but if we manage to stick to our development timeline, the kit should be out in August. In which case, we will probably announce it before that. I’ve been considering announcing it now as a Christmas gift to all of the sci-fi modelers out there. BUT, we all know how these things go. Any number of circumstances could crash down on the project. So I won’t say any more except…

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! I hope one (or more) of your gifts is a model kit, but even more than that I hope you receive the peace and joy behind the season.

As described in previous posts, I enlisted Jim Small to assist with the new Space:1999 Eagle with Cargo Pod box illustration by having him build some environmental props shown in the nuclear waste storage fields in Space:1999. So with all that work done, it was time to start photographing everything in context which could then be used as reference for the illustration.

Our method of working through this is kind of like a director working with his director of photography in a film, but we work long distance and transfer images and direction via chat messaging. Jim has everything set up in his workspace and sends over a photo. I usually plug that into my box layout that already holds all of the other design elements. Then I send direction back to him. Is the angle alright? Is the lighting correct? Etc. is worked through. In this instance, Jim sent me one quick photo just to generally set stuff up and see how the angle works, and this was the initial shot.

The angle was fine, but I had him play around a little bit with the location of the storage silo, but ultimately landed on the decision to position it below the rear of the Eagle. Once that was settled, we moved on to the other elements. I had him adjust the lighting and position the nuke cone platforms to the space I had built into my design.

My initial vision was to have a row of lamp stands in the foreground, but I thought we would be missing out on seeing the signature light flares coming off of them in that position. So I had him re-position them to the far side of the scene to judge later.

With all of the elements now available to me, I dropped them roughly into photoshop and tweaked positioning where needed and added a photo of the moon surface. This gave me the opportunity to play around with color and to judge where to position the lamps.

I ultimately decided to go with my first instinct (because they always tell you to when you can’t decide) and leave the lamps in the foreground. I wanted to use red to pop the box off the shelf, but I am not a “red guy”, and I wasn’t sure to what degree I wanted to push the “red alert” theme I mentioned in my previous post.

I continued to play around with color and asked for Jim’s input again. As a purist, he thought it might be better to make the moon surface gray and leave the ship white. The only way to separate them in a painting then would be to make one element “warm” and the other “cool”. I went through the exercise of proving one or the other of us wrong.

This is the image I used to base my painting on.

The painting itself was painted at 100% print size because the total box area is pretty big to begin with. I learned a lot when doing the first Eagle painting. If you recall, I actually did two paintings the first time around, the large main image and then I painted the smaller background Eagle separately and actually did that one first to get back into practice. I and many other people liked that smaller painting better than the larger main one. I liked it because I thought the end result was a better interpretation of the ship. (I think others liked it more because it was a longer-distance shot with less distortion in the ship) I think the fact that it was smaller made the paint on the board look more satisfying so I didn’t want the ship to get really big again on the new painting. Besides, working larger (which most illustrators do to allow details to sharpen when printed) would have required a large unruly board to paint on. So it was essentially one half a piece of illustration board measuring in the neighborhood of 20” x 30”.

I used acrylic paint again and ended up limiting the number of paint colors with maybe 10 different tubes in the mix. I used cooler reds for the shadow areas of the moon surface and warmed them up under the light of the lamp stands. I started by masking off the ship to preserve it’s pure whites. I then started roughing in the lunar surface before tightening up a few details like the craters, etc. I then moved on to the lamp stands and nuke cone platforms. I tend to paint secondary objects first in order to “keep my juice up” to paint the really exciting stuff like the ship at the end. I only transfer lines for what I intend to paint next. So that means details don’t get drawn in until the overall forms are painted.

One of the things I got hung up on with the first big painting was mixing the colors for the facets of the shoulder pods, and ended up painting over them several times. So I started there on this one, and only ended up painting over them a couple times before being satisfied. That helped set the value key for the rest of the ship. I laid in pure blacks just to get me rolling in detail areas. I tinted the whites a little bit where I wanted subtle color tones. In my digital color study, I purposely put a touch of purple in the outlying areas and shifted to a slightly greenish tone in the central area of the cargo pod. This was in hopes of attracting the eye to that area with it clashing against its complimentary background. For no other reason than not knowing where else to go, I started in on painting the details of the ship at the rear and moved my way forward, leaving the spine for last.

I was pinched for time by the time I got the painting finished, but it didn’t require the stress of staying up through the night and bringing in a slightly unfinished piece in the end. I had to touch up a few details and add logos and weathering patches digitally to the first painting. This time around I was able to paint everything in, and realize the fortuitous angle negated the need to paint Moonbase Alpha crests.

Scanning and digitally “stitching” a large painting like this is a tedious process even with a ledger-sized scanner. It took a total of 12 scans to capture the entire piece. One set of scans was taken from one direction then, turned and rescanned. This step helped eliminate the texture of the board and paint that is inherent in the scans. I tweaked the values to nicely match the original painting. We’ll see how it looks when printed.

A cause for concern arose when I showed the painting to Tom Lowe. His first question was “what, is it landed?” Um… Not in my head, and the colors should be tipping off everyone that knows the show that the Eagle is taking away one of the nuke canisters, right? Well, I couldn’t get the comment out of my head, and I had always wondered if I shouldn’t “cheat” and show the lamp light flares even though we never see such flares from behind a light source in reality. I thought adding them was worth giving closer consideration, and this IS an illustration. It should show the ideal, not necessarily reality. the light flares were created in photoshop and I think they really do help to show what is happening as well as stressing that the warm red under the ship is coming from a light source.

So, with all that ado out of the way, here is a sneak preview of the entire package layout with the painting and Jim’s buildup photos in place.

I didn’t want to spoil this post by putting this at the top. We had announced at every opportunity that the winch boom included in the Cargo Eagle kit would be magnetic, meaning that we would include the magnets in the kit needed to make one of the nuke waste canisters cling to the boom without requiring glue. Well, it would have been nice… We have been advised that in order to prevent the possibility of child endangerment, we should not include the magnets in the kit under any circumstances. The kit is engineered with locators for the magnets in case anyone wants to procure their own. In lieu of the magnets, we added a peg to the boom that can be easily removed for the sake of accuracy.  Was this an over reaction? Probably, but we couldn’t risk the liability.







As part 2 of our look into the packaging for the new MPC Eagle with Cargo Pod model kit, we have a special article written by Jim Small. Jim is our go-to guy for all of our sci-fi model kit buildup work. He also supplies endless consulting on all of our sci-fi kits and especially everything Space:1999 related. In our last blog post, I mentioned that I had him on the hook to do a little scratch-building/heavily altering a set of Eagle nose cone parts to show a wrecked nose cone for the box bottom and a few stand-in mockup parts that could be used for reference for the box illustration. You’ll find, as you read, that Jim really went above and beyond what I asked for. My kudos and many thanks to him for that!


Special Box Art Effects, One Shot at a Time.

James Small,

The newest release in Round 2/MPC’s fantastic Space: 1999 lineup is the Cargo Eagle with Winch Pod. As with every great kit, there needs to be great packaging. The work prepared for the box cover needs to be engaging and authentic to satisfy discerning fans today.  Jamie Hood, Round 2’s senior designer, product development expert and resident Sci Fi artist is, as usual, right on top of his game with the soon to be revealed new boxtop design showing the iconic Moonbase Alpha workhorse in the fantasy situation as seen in the opening episode, “Breakaway”!

Although another one of Jamie’s gorgeous hand painted illustrations will grace the main box cover, he needed some model photography to flesh out the box bottom and sides to show off how great this kit is, and he asked me to help produce some of that work. I had been supplied test shots of the new Cargo Pod and accessories which I built, finished and used in conjunction with an existing Eagle model I had previously built.

Jamie knows how much I love to photograph models in a dramatic fashion, so he asked me to try and recreate some original scenes from the show using the actual built and painted kit.  Jamie started by showing me some screen grabs of the scenes he wanted to recreate. Because of the predetermined photographic layout Jamie had provided, I knew that some of the pictures had to be choreographed somewhat differently than the screen grabs to accommodate the spread.

Two models made using test shots of the new Cargo pod and accessories, one painted, the other left unpainted but decaled to show how great the kit can look even without any painting at all! The special machined aluminum accessory sets are also attached to the models.

Normally I like to do all my photography completely “in camera” with no digital effects, but in this case because of the limited space in my shop and the expanse of the scenes needed I had to cheat and use Photoshop to assemble the various elements that had to be shot to create the visuals. Also, one of the shots needed to have three Eagles in the picture, but I only had one finished model at my disposal at the time so I had to do some digital manipulation. The picture would also show the red striped Rescue Eagle, but I had only a finished plain white passenger pod available which was earmarked for a customer so I couldn’t paint it. Jamie would later add the red stripes in digitally.

I also needed to scratch build some props not included in the kit to make the scenes required for the box art so I built some quick-and-dirty replicas to scale with the 22” model to provide the necessary backdrop. I made correctly scaled light stands, a simple rectangular landing pad matching the original, a nuclear waste disposal area cone and a “pit” that contained the canisters which matched what was seen in “Breakaway”. Jamie also liked the idea of showing the Eagle carrying away the damaged nosecone as seen in the episode “Missing Link”, so he sent me a spare nosecone from his parts bin which I re-worked to simulate the banged-up cockpit section.

Making the props was a LOT of fun for me as I do love to scratch build and modify stuff. It gives me some real creative license as well as the challenge of reproducing the original models used in the show from scratch. Time was limited so in true traditional VFX style I built everything with just the photography in mind. The waste area cone, for example, was made from a disposable plastic martini style cup and detailed to suit.

The “nuke dome” being started, the cone cut from a plastic martini glass of the type seen at left which coincidentally has the close-enough-to-work angled sides.

Details added to the cone using sheet and strip styrene.

The top of the cone is turned on a lathe from a piece of leftover resin from another project.

The “damaged” nosecone was detailed only on the side that the camera would see. I cut out panels, detailed the voids with kit bashing and made dents on the surface, simulating the damage incurred during a crash landing, using heat from a small blow torch (very gingerly used!) and a Dremel tool. The opposite side, left mostly unfinished, had a plug-in mount installed where the left sensor dish would be so it could be propped up with the supporting rod (simply a wooden dowel) positioned away from the camera.

The Eagle nosecone modified with kitbashed parts put into into holes cut out of the kit and painted to resemble crash damage.

I also put functioning LEDs into the light stands and the cone beacon to add authenticity.

Four light stands were fabricated using sheet styrene and square tubing. These would later be mounted to a base which supplied the power using a 3 volt battery box underneath.

Testing the lights on the stands. Three 5mm “Straw Hat” style LED’s were used in each stand.

The red areas on the trunk of the light stands were also to appear lit up, but this was a VFX cheat, borrowed from Brian Johnson and his crew when they lit up the main model of Moonbase Alpha’s windows, by using red reflective “Scotchlite” tape applied that would bounce the light back to the camera when it was shone from the camera’s point of view, just the same way road signs are lit with car headlights.

All the finished props built for the box art photo shoot.

Some of the shots I did were the relatively simple ones, those shot against a black velvet background for the outer space beauty shots of the model shown on the sides of the box cover. Because I knew that the motif of colour that Jamie had designed for dramatic impact was to have a significant red tint, I used a red fill light to enhance the shots. I also shot a couple using green and blue fill light to impart a more colourful tapestry in case he had some other ideas in mind, but Jamie wisely rejected them.

The finished Cargo Eagle model shot against black velvet and fill-lit with a red spotlight for dramatic effect.

The  rectangular landing pad the Eagle is shown sitting on with its flatbed loaded with nuclear waste canisters was made quickly from sheet styrene using screen grabs as a guide for proportion and detailing to scale with the 22” kit. Coincidentally, the actual VFX shot for the episode used the like-scaled studio model 22” Eagle!

Jamie H. butting in here. Just for the record. I discussed making prop “stand-in’s” with Jim, all I asked for were rough placeholders. I told him to take some photos of the Eagle matching the angles shown in the unloading scene because it was a nice angle of the ship. Much to my surprise he sent me some photos one morning of the platform itself! Textbook example of “over-delivering.”

Lunar regolith was simply made from sprinkled concrete powder on the 3 foot square work surface. The waste cone was repositioned for different exposures and assembled in Photoshop to make it look as if there were several of them in the scene. Since a true “multiple exposure” is impossible with a digital camera (I currently use a Canon Rebel T3i), this compositing technique was necessary. The same thing was done with the four light stands to make it appear that there were more of them in the scene.

All the shots taken for the Eagle sitting on the pad with the waste cones surrounding it. Several shots were done identical except for lighting effects and the waste cone prop repositioned for each shot so that when composited, it will look like many cones surround the model using the single prop. Not all the pictures were used in the final comp, of course, but I took a lot of extra shots to provide different options.

The models were all photographed with the camera mounted to a tripod and suitably lit. Time exposures had to be used to achieve maximum depth of field. The hanging “damaged” nosecone and waste canisters were solid mounted and shot separately to be matted in later, as just the slightest movement during exposure with them hanging off the Eagle would have blurred them in the picture.

In some of the examples of the raw pictures shown you can that see some of the elements were shot against a green screen thinking this would be helpful in isolating them for compositing, but in reality this caused more problems than it solved due to fringing and “green spill”, so that idea was abandoned and I just used the ones shot against black velvet instead.

Some of the elements shot separately which would later be combined into the finished VFX pictures. Not all shown were used, some were used that are not seen here. Some colour correction and sweetening would also be employed to maximize the look of the finished composites.

Two of the scenes also required mountains for the background and foreground hills. Because of the limited space on the table I actually made the distant mountains from small pieces of carved foam, sprayed with gray primer which further textured them and sprinkled with concrete dust. These mountains in reality were just about 6 inches wide or so, but shot in extreme closeup and lit harshly. They were simply matted in behind the models. A similar technique was also used by Johnson’s VFX crew for distant mountain ranges, but without the aid of digital compositing! Instead, they had the miniature mountain photographs blown up and mounted to large wooden flats, propped up behind their model sets. I had considered doing the same thing, but it was far less expensive for me to plop them in using Photoshop.

In addition to these VFX shots I also took a series of photographs that were designed to help Jamie compose his painting, but he will cover those in his own article shortly, and are therefore not presented here. I also shot several “orthographic” pictures of the finished model for the box tray sides to show decal placement and paint schemes for the consumer to use as reference. The miniature was propped up in front of a black velvet backdrop, suitably lit and shot with a 300mm telephoto lens from about 25 feet away to help eliminate perspective distortion, making the picture plane look as close to a blueprint-like image as possible.

The three finished composites using the previously photographed elements. You will find these images gracing the box tray. Compare to the inspirational screen caps from the show.

I always have a lot of fun building models, but just as fun is when I have the opportunity to recreate the spectacular scenes that remind us why we loved a TV show like Space: 1999 in the first place.

Special thanks to Jamie Hood and all the wonderful people at Round 2 for finding a place for my work to be included as a part of the box art that will soon be on hobby store shelves for everyone to enjoy, containing yet another fantastic kit. Dreams are continuing to come true, thanks to Round 2!

You are welcome, Jim.

If you want to learn more about model photography, be sure to check out the article Jim wrote on the Central Nova Scotia Modelers web page here.

Next time, we will reveal the box illustration…