Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Grievous inaccuracies in movies

It’s always entertaining — if a bit frustrating — to read movie reviews from modelers, aviation enthusiasts, and armchair historians, who are always quick to call out inaccuracies to show how knowledgable they are. For example, one discussion I read a few months ago about “Sully” included the observation that the squadron Sully was assigned to at Nellis AFB flew the F-4D not the F-4E. Never mind that the producers had access only to an E model.

For what it’s worth, inaccuracies can be found in movies of all genres if you look for them. In "Bottle Shock,” a movie about the 1976 Judgement of Paris wine competition, there’s a scene that was filmed at Chateau Montana, a winery in California. If you look in the background you’ll see wine fermentation tank controls that, I’m told, where installed by Hale Winery Refrigeration. Unfortunately those tanks hadn’t been installed when the events in the movie took place.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Like, who the hell cares? I suspect that's how 99 percent of the viewers of "Sully" would respond if told about the inaccurate Phantom.

Sometimes I think our knowledge about a subject can get in our way of enjoying a simple movie.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

More of the same

Five days into the new year, and there’s already evidence that we’ll see yet more multiple releases of the same vehicles and aircraft from the manufacturers. Feel free to yawn now, and don’t be surprised if someone else yawns, too.

On January 1 Trumpeter announced a new kit of the BMR-3 on Facebook, and I complimented them on moving into the realm of engineering vehicles, an area that has been underserved by the manufacturers. But then yesterday Meng announced their own kit of the BMR-3.

What the what is going on among the manufacturers? Why do we see so many concurrent announcements and releases of the same subjects?

I pondered this question almost exactly a year ago. In that post I mentioned the T-10, SCUD-C, and MiG-31. Since then we’ve seen three new kits of the Su-34, two kits of the ZSU-23 Shilka, two kits of the 9A52-2 Smerch, three of the BMPT, two of the King Tiger, and several M1A2 Abrams in its different incarnations.

I point out this phenomenon again with the same frustration I felt a year ago, with the realization that for ever model kit that a manufacturer produces, it’s not producing something else. If Manufacturer A announces a kit of a vehicle or aircraft and then Manufacturer B decides to produce their own version of it, it means that Manufacturer B is not producing something else, something unique that could drive sales equally well. I don’t know who conceived the BMR-3 first, but the company that responded in kind should have chosen something different, like a BREM-1 T-72 recovery vehicle, which is not available in plastic form.

At the beginning of every new year I'm excited about new kits that have not been previously announced (there are always surprises), but that excitement is tempered this year knowing that several kits will be variations on a theme.

So, who's taking bets on how long it will be until Tiger or Takom announce their own BMR-3?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My disappointing year

Every December Hyperscale readers post photos of the models they built throughout the year, but while many modelers are enjoying the fruits of their 2016 efforts, my look back is leaving me dejected. I had a terrible year. Not only was my output low, but the quality of what I finished was below my expectations.

I like to think that my skills are growing from year to year, but if 2016 is any indication, my skills are declining. It began with my build of the Airfix 1/72 P-40, a project that was originally conceived as being a super-detailed build, complete with cockpit, engine, and open ammunition bays. The model quickly went south when I struggled to find a way to properly mount CMK’s resin engine to the fuselage, and I had to scrap the kit and buy a new one. And I struggled through it as well.

I also fought Hobby Boss’s 1/72 Rafale M to its mediocre end. Like the P-40, I had to buy a second kit after I screwed the pooch on the first one, and the final result does not reflect my best work.

(You can read more about both models here.)

I’ve had issues with my most recent build as well, Academy’s 1/72 F-16C. I didn't properly address a seam in the intake, which now looks horrible, and I failed to anticipate the consequences of attaching the ventral strakes prior to applying the complex Thunderbirds decals to the lower fuselage. When I tried to apply the aft-most decal, it wouldn’t fit around the strakes and  after trying to cut it and slice it to make it fit  I had to discard it.

Last but not least was another ill-fated attempt at armor. I started Trumpeter’s Pz.Kpfw 38(t) with optimism, but as you can see in the picture below the final application of pigments resulted in a total mess. My hat's off to those of you who’ve mastered the use of these media, but I’ve decided to go back to techniques that I’m comfortable with and refine my own style rather than copy the style of others.

As I look at what went wrong with these models I think it all comes back to planning. I need to better visualize every model’s assembly and the consequences to its painting and weathering. 2017 has to be better.

Friday, December 16, 2016

How to promote your contest

I often see folks post to the forums advertising upcoming model contests, but their promos often fall short of being completely effective. If you're talking about an upcoming contest, your goal is to entice people to attend, so you need to make it as easy as possible for prospective attendees to:

1. See that you’re promoting a contest.
2. Quickly determine if the contest is close to them.
3. Learn where specifically the contest will be held.
4. Learn more about the contest, vendors, and related events.

Here are a few suggestions.

First, always include the following items in the subject line of the discussion thread:

  • The name of the contest
  • The contest date
  • The contest state *

* This is a US-centric suggestion, so those of you in another country should find a suitable reference point.

In the body of the message repeat the above items and include the following:

  • The complete address of the contest
  • Directions (not everyone uses GPS)
  • A link to the contest web site
  • Contact person and his phone/email

You should also use the opportunity to mention anything that might further entice modelers to attend. For example:

This year’s theme is Eggplanes Weathered in the Spanish Style!

25 vendors will be attending, and they’ve all promised not to sell mold-covered models.

Master modeler John Smith will give a demonstration on how to paint your armor so that is looks like everyone else's.

Last year’s contest included more than 300 models (although 15 were dusty as hell).

Registration is only $5 for 5 models.

My long-time readers know I’m a big proponent of contests. Contests should be the heart of the hobby, so don’t neglect the importance of fully promoting yours.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Where does the time go?

As I left work last Wednesday I was filled with enthusiasm. A four-day weekend was directly in front of me with the promise of copious free time to spend in the workshop. True, there was Thanksgiving, but unlike prior years, this year I was cooking only for my fiancée. I anticipated making great progress on my Thunderbirds F-16, applying a final coat of white paint, painting the exhaust and the black areas around the cockpit, and laying down a coat of Future for the decals. I also planned to start a new piece of armor so that I could continue trying all these newfangled weathering media and refine the techniques used to apply them. How exciting!

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Here I am, the day after this promising weekend, and I think I spent not more than five or six hours at the workbench. I didn’t touch the F-16, so it’s at least three or four days behind schedule. I did pull an old Tamiya Stug III from the stash and begin assembling it, and truth be told, made decent progress due in large part to my not detailing the model. But all those road wheels sucked at least 60-90 minutes of my time to clean up.

This feeling of frustration, this inability to make the time to build, is not unique to holiday weekends. It happens all too often. I could argue that it shouldn't be a big deal, that I should spend time at the bench only when I’m truly motivated, but when I look at my stash of unbuilt models the reality hits me that I’m unlikely to build them all, and that leaves me feeling dejected.

As I get older I’m exploring ways to re-frame my enjoyment of the hobby. Last year I offered five ideas to increase your modeling output and suggested that you paint cockpits black. But even with changes like that, I suspect we’re all left with the harsh reality that there’s simply not enough time to do everything we want. I think my challenge — and maybe yours, too — is to find satisfaction in whatever it is we are able to build and finish. There’s happiness in building five models as much as there is in building 10, or 50, or 100.

I just have to convince myself of that.

P.S. I have to admit that the weekend wasn’t a complete waste. I spent quality time with my fiancée, cooked four great meals (such as the butternut squash and kale risotto pictured below), enjoyed a number of good wines, watched a good horror movie and a few episodes of Shameless, and spent time with family. And those are good things.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie review: Toward the Unknown

I’d never had much interest in USAF aircraft of the 1950s. I grew up during the Cold War, so I’ve always had an affinity for the aircraft that flew during the 1970s and 80s. Then I visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force in 2015 and really studied these old aircraft up close, and I was hooked. There’s something intriguing about the raw functionality of those aircraft, their almost primitive nature (that is, primitive compared to an F-22, not a Wright Flyer).

You’re probably familiar with the aviation-themed movies from the 1950s. Strategic Air Command is probably the most famous and has received a good deal of buzz over the last couple of months with its release on DVD, but another notable movie is Toward the Unknown, starring William Holden and Lloyd Nolan. The movie was based on a novel by Beirne Lay, who went on to write the screenplay for another aviation movie, Above and Beyond, as well as Strategic Air Command.

Movies like this don’t have much of a plot. This one sees a broken fighter pilot make his return to the air at Edward AFB’s Flight Test Center thanks to the support of an old flame. Pretty boring stuff. Movies like this are worth your time just for the flying footage. If the B-36 and B-47 were the stars of Strategic Air Command, the weird and unusual XB-51 (dubbed the XF-120 for the film) is the star of this one. It’s a huge, ungainly aircraft — one that we almost never see or talk about — so watching it climb and dive is a real treat for enthusiasts like us. You’ll also see the F-100 and F-102 in flying sequences, and too many 50s era aircraft on the Edwards flightline to count.

It’s interesting to note that only two XB-51s were manufactured, and one crashed on its way to Eglin AFB for filming of the movie.

Check out the Turner Classic Movies web site for future airings of the movie. DVR the movie and fast-forward through the non-flying segments.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dustbin walkaround

Last month Replikant Technologies announced a new product, a 1/35 scale dustbin. This is another welcome addition to a growing trend in the hobby where we're seeing more and more diorama accessories. Miniart in particular has been producing some great products (you may recall my having fun at their expense last month), so it's good to see the cottage industry jumping on the bandwagon, too, enabled in large part by the growing availability of 3D printing technology.

Knowing how obsessive many of you can be in adding maximum detail to your models, I thought you might find it helpful if you had a thorough walkaround of an actual dustbin. I thought about offering these photos to Prime Portal, my favorite site for walkarounds, but since they don’t have a section for household items, I’ll just share them here.

Here's the first side of the bin. Note the dirt stains at the bottom where I "kick" the bin to tilt it over and pull it around. Also notice the wear on the plastic wheels.

Here's the left side of the bin. The Replikant item doesn't have the Toter Incorporated logo, so we can only hope that Eduard produced a photoetch set that includes it.

The front of the bin, which receives the most abuse when the sanitation engineers lift it and empty it into the garbage truck. The manufacturer's logo appears here as well.

The right side of the bin, again featuring the manufacturer's logo.

The bin lid, which features usage information and warnings, the latter I assume mandated by the government. These would be too small to read in 1/35 scale.

The underside of the lid. Notice how little wear and tear it receives, save for the edges.

The inside of the bin. My bin is used only for household trash, always bagged, so it's in relatively good shape, even after 15 years use. Be sure to put a few leaves in yours to add a degree of authenticity!

A detailed view of the lid's hinge mechanism. Note the use of rivets and not screws to join the two assemblies.

The underside of the bin, which as you might image receives the most abuse. A few strokes of a course grit sandpaper on Replikant's model should represent this wear quite accurately.

So there you have it. Scale Model Soup's first walkaround! I hope you find it useful.

Next month I’ll feature a walkaround of this milk jar to help you with Miniart’s 1/35 “Wooden Barrels & Village Utensils” set.

Be sure to check out Replikant's web site. They have some really cool products, most which don't require a bogus walkaround.