Friday, April 4, 2014

Eyeball Tentacle Monster - complete

Well, that's that then. All painted up and ready to go.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Light Stage — last one, I promise

I made this photograph to try out a group portrait on another painted backdrop.

The figures are from various manufacturers, and of various ages — the grey wizard (2nd right) and the thief in the middle are the oldest, and hail from the late '70s. The figure on the far right is the newest, and is one of WotC's iconic character figures, though I don't recall the name of the character or what her class was supposed to be.

I find it interesting how much the perceived image size changes the tonal range within the photo; clearly it pays to perform any tonal adjustments at the same size as the intended use size. A smaller image on-screen looks a lot darker than the exact same image at full size.

Click on the image to embiggen it.

This one was taken after darkening the backdrop considerably, which helped a lot with exposure, and with the light tilted forward somewhat so that I was getting more reflected light falling obliquely across the front of the figures.

I think I might be getting the hang of this.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Light Stage — more fiddling around

I've been experimenting with the use of a painted background sheet for my new light stage, and I'm reasonably happy with the results. It provides a decent setting for the models without being overly dominant.

I've also been playing with fill-flash. I'm in two minds about it.

It does benefit the reduced-size image (shown here at bottom-right), but in a larger on-screen image it tends to flatten out the tonal range a bit more than I'd like. I haven't bothered testing images for print, because frankly, I doubt that will ever be likely to become an issue.

I suspect that best results overall will probably be to use the fill flash, but to Photoshop the crap out of it to bring the tonal range back up a bit, if need be.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Light Stage - Addendum

I've done some test shots with varying parameters: a white or silver reflective shell, and a neutral grey or light blue background. Apart from setting the camera to macro and aperture priority (to maximize depth of field), I've let its automatics take care of everything else. Apart from cropping, the images have undergone no post-processing of any kind.

The results are unsurprising. The best combination to achieve the greatest fidelity in colour and tone is a neutral grey background, with a matte white reflective shell.

Neutral background, white shell

Neutral background, silver shell

Blue background, white shell

Blue background, silver shell

Light Stage

I've made myself a little light stage for photographing miniatures in. It seems to work pretty well, though I might experiment with it a bit to see if I can improve results.

Essentially, it's just a seamless stage built from foamcore and light card, surrounded by a cardboard cylinder, painted on the inside with silver matte white paint, and with a cut-out in front to shoot through. A single daylight bulb provides all the light I need; a key overhead light, and lots of diffuse reflected light from all around. It's not a lighting setup that would suit portraits of human beings, but it shows promise for little toy tanks and roleplaying dollies.

15mm (1:100 scale) Crusader Mk.I from Battlefront
The images do still need a little post-processing; I tend to leave my camera to do most of the work when I'm actually shooting, and then make fine adjustments in Photoshop. I admit, that's made me rather lazy about my photography, but life's too short to get too anal about these things, and I can no longer be bothered fussing and fiddling with my camera.
Don't know the manufacturer of this guy, but it's always been
one of my favourites among the huge-battle-armour figures.
Very old figure, don't know its details. The very, very long sword
is hammered and ground down from a nail to replace
the original, which got busted.

Eyeball Tentacle Monster complete

Here's my eyeball-tentacle-monster, all finished bar the painting. I've included an old Grenadier figure of a magician for scale.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Surplus-putty Eyeball Tentacle Monster - WIP

Here's another project that started life as an excess-putty-monster, and now has morphed into a mixing-up-putty-on-purpose-monster.

The eyeball is a 12mm ball bearing I had lying around, one of a bajillion I salvaged from a cheap Chinese magnetic construction toy that I bought to get the rare-earth magnets. I may extend its eyelids a little further forward; I haven't quite decided yet.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

1:300 BE2c — progress

The fuselage of my 1:300 scale BE2c is pretty much complete.

The majority of it is carved from a piece of clear 2mm acrylic, which is quite good for this sort of work because it's pretty hard, and takes good sharp facets. Softer materials are easier to work, but the down-side is that they're also easier to over-work inadvertently. It's easier to see what you're doing with opaque acrylic, but I don't have any to hand. Brass would be ideal, but again, I don't have any in the thickness I'd need.

The engine, crew and airscrew are made from stretched sprue, the cabane (?) behind the pilot is Green Stuff.

You find yourself in a tavern...
I don't believe I've ever begun to run an adventure with those words, and as far as I can recall, I've never played in a game where the DM started us out in a tavern, being approached by a Mysterious Stranger. Even by 1981, which is when I first started playing roleplaying games, it was a cliché to be avoided. It's kind of a pity, because it's a starting point ideally suited to provide a whole lot of background colour for the party without a whole lot of effort on anybody's part.

Who hangs around in seedy, smoky taverns, picking up dodgy jobs from furtive, wary strangers? Not your bright shining heroes, that's for sure. And nobody who's already well off. Immediately, everyone sitting at the gaming table knows that they're not the sort of people who are going to be invited to a royal garden party any time soon, and they're probably not a group who has an easy, problem-free relationship with whatever law-enforcement authorities may exist.

If the tavern looks anything like the one in this picture, everyone can be pretty sure from the get-go that they're not too plump in the pocket. That's not a salubrious or respectable establishment, and that doesn't look like a good neighbourhood, so the work they're likely to pick up is pretty likely to be... questionable, at best. Obviously there are much better, more comfortable parts of the city to be — we can see them over there, in the background — but we're not there. We're on the outskirts, in this shit-hole, associating with the scum of the earth.

Just showing this picture and starting with "you find yourself in a tavern...", and you've immediately set the tone for the whole campaign.

There's a reason why clichés become clichés. They work.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Madness, sheer madness.

For some reason, I became overcome with an uncontrollable urge* to build a 1:300 scale model of a BE2c (that's a very slow, very stable British WW1 aeroplane, for those who don't know).

Just on the off-chance that somebody else might be suffering from similar insanity, here's a link to a PDF I made containing 1:72 3-view drawings of the BE2c-d and BE2e, plus sizing/cutting templates in 1:72, 1:144, 1:288 and 1:300 scales.

* I suspect orbital mind-control lasers at work again.

Later that day...

I've begun the new teensy-tiny aeroplane.

I printed out the 1:300 template on to light card, and cut out all the flat bits — I'll use the drawings of the fuselage and what-not to check my proportions against when I come to carve it out of whatever I can find to do the job (probably a bit of perspex).

The struts are just 24 gauge copper wire, bent around a former to get a consistent parallelogram. There are more precise ways of achieving this, but for gaming pieces I don't really see the benefit in going to that much extra bother.

Having a computer and printer makes this process a lot easier than the last time I made cardboard-and-wire-and-wood model aeroplanes; that was in the late '80s, and then I had to laboriously transfer the drawings by hand.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The War In The Air Proceeds Apace

Now that I have all the tiny aeroplanes I've built (so far) on little magnetic stalks, I can actually start playing with them. I haven't made any arrangements for representing different altitudes as yet, but that can come later — I've ordered some 3mm clear acrylic rod for the purpose.

The rules I'm trying to learn are Canvas Eagles, which have the significant benefit of being free.

I've created a game mat by the simple expedient of whipping one up in CorelDraw, pumping out a PDF, and getting it printed at A0 size at Warehouse Stationary for about $25. At the moment I'm using roughly 75mm hexes, which provides plenty of room for multiple aircraft in the same hex, but I suspect that 50mm would be big enough, and would provide a larger playing area within the same board size. I'll see if it's necessary; if so, it's quick and easy to get another hex-grid printed.

There's a DH2 and a Fokker E-III in amongst the melee shown above. They really don't stand much chance of survival; it's just not fair at all.

MicroAirWar... the Continuation

Next in the line of 1:300 scale WWI aeroplanes to take to the gaming board is this SE5a of 1917. The model is by Skytrex.

It's OK as a gaming piece, but those wings are very, very thick. And that's after quite a lot of filing. As usual, struts were added in wire.

Painting the RFC roundels by eye is a bit nerve-wracking; they never turn out precisely round. However, I think they look OK for gaming purposes.

This is how I make my magnetic flight stands.

I glued together a 90° MDF jig, to the bottom-plate of which I glued a steel strip for the neodymium magnets to stick to, and on the back-plate, a magnetic strip for the dressmaker's pins to stick to.

I used a set square to draw 90° lines on the magnetic strip to align the pins by, and at the same time, drew lines from the bottom of the square on the steel strip. This ensured that the pins and neodymium magnets were centred on each other.

In behind where the magnets go, I put a few layers of masking tape. This creates a stand-off for the magnets so that they're not inadvertently glued to the MDF back-plate, and also pushing them hard against it centres them on the pin shaft, so I don't have to do it by eye every time. I checked by eye with each layer to make sure I was getting the right thickness of tape; in this case, I needed three layers.

Then it's a simple matter of dipping the pin-head in super-strength 24-hour epoxy and aligning the shaft on the lines drawn on the magnetic strip.

One other thing: I draw on the end of the magnets with a Sharpie when they're still on their stack, before I place them. This ensures that I can keep all the magnets in the same polarity just by making sure that the coloured end is always up.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tiny Halberstadt CL-II

Since I'm on a bit of a tiny-plane jag at the moment, I thought I'd put together and paint some that I've had sitting around for quite a few years.

This one is from Skytrex I believe (though to be frank it's been so long that I've forgotten exactly who the manufacturer was). It's 1:300 scale, with a wingspan of 34mm, and it's supposed to represent a Halberstadt CL-II, a German two-seater fast reconnaissance and ground-attack aeroplane which went into service in the latter half of 1917. The silhouette isn't absolutely perfect, but it's certainly good enough for gaming purposes.

Once assembled and painted, these Skytrex models don't look too bad. However, they do require quite a lot of attention to get to that point. I had to do quite a bit of filing to thin down the wings and tail, and I had to build the wing struts and landing-gear axle from wire.

The wing rib detail is incised into the surface, not raised, so I had to bring out the ribs with paint. That's OK; the scribed detail provides a pretty good guide for painting.

The post it's mounted on is a 1mm thick panel pin epoxied to a 3mm neodymium magnet. Eventually, when the 3mm clear acrylic rod I ordered arrives, I'll make a bunch of magnet-tipped flight stands and hopefully start using all these little planes to play some wargames with.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sausage-fingers vs. Tiny Planes, part 2

Following on from my last post, I thought I'd give creating a photo-etching template a go. I've never done it before, but I think I know roughly what's required.

These are all the flat (or flattish) bits for building a 1:288 scale DH2. I haven't included any construction instructions, but if you know roughly what a DH2 is supposed to look like, I think it's all pretty simple.

I've assumed that it would be etched from 0.35mm shim; probably brass would be best. I don't know how one goes about allowing for partial etching, so I haven't included any fold lines or anything. Hopefully it will expose and etch well enough using something like Puretch, but having zero experience myself, it could all be a terrible disaster waiting to happen.

Here's a PDF of the template for high-resolution printing.

If anyone should decide to give it a go, I'd love to hear how it went. I'd love to try it myself, but I can't readily lay my hands on the photopolymer... maybe some day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sausage-fingers vs. Tiny Planes

A couple of months ago, a company (whose name now escapes me) had a half-price clearance sale of their Heroics & Ros 1:300 scale WW1 aircraft. Naturally, I couldn't resist bait like that, and I bought a whole bunch of them.

Among them is the DH2, a British pusher (i.e. with the propeller at the back) scout (i.e. single-seat fighter).

This thing is a double-buggering bastard of a model to assemble. I've scratch-built a micro-scale DH2 before, back in the Olden Days when I still had things like eyesight. It's the painted model in the left foreground of the photo. I made it out of wood, cardboard and wire, and I'm pretty sure it didn't take me as long to scratch-build that one as it's taking me to assemble this prefabricated model.

The problem with the H&R model is that almost every single piece is cast separately — every wing strut, each tail boom — and there is no easy way to keep everything straight and square while you're putting it together. The components aren't cast terribly precisely either, so the struts and booms are out of scale and everything has visible mould-lines where the moulds were slightly offset. I've replaced all the wing struts with wire, which still looks massively over-scale, but at least it's round and smooth.

This is a model that would be vastly improved by having most of the components made in photo-etched brass, with only the nacelle really needing to be cast. I'd make a template and do it myself, except that I don't have access to the means of exposing and etching the brass.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dungeon Doors

I bought these resin pieces many years ago, in the late '80s, and I no longer remember who it was that manufactured them. They've been sitting waiting to be painted all that time, and now they are.

I probably should have photographed them with a figure for scale, but I didn't, so tough luck. They'll do fine for 28mm miniatures.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bonesium Orc

Reaper Bones 77056: Orc Sniper (Archer) by Tre Manor
This is the figure from my Sculpey-baking experiment, all painted up and ready to go. It's a speed-paint with a very limited palette, since he's just going to be one among many orc-mooks, but I find it kind of suits him.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Super Sculpey and Bonesium

I like to mount my figures on steel washers, as I've mentioned before. That often means I have to extend the figure's base so that it doesn't look like it's just been plonked down on the washer.

Normally I use Green Stuff, but that takes an age to cure, and I don't really have as much patience as I ought. So I've been looking around for something that I can model easily and that cures quickly. Super Sculpey seems to fit the bill nicely.

It doesn't cure without being exposed to heat (130°C, 15 minutes per 6mm thickness), so I can take my time with modelling, unlike with fast-cure epoxy putties. I was a bit unsure whether the heat would be too much for a plastic miniature, but it seems to be fine: the Bonesium does get soft and wobbly, but the low temperature required to cure the Sculpey doesn't come close to melting it.

The only issue I've found with using Sculpey, as opposed to Green Stuff, is that it doesn't stick to the plastic very well at all. That's not a huge problem though, and I can see times when it would be a positive advantage.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Toys

Yippee! New toys from Reaper!

  • Back left: 77184 Spirit of the Forest (x 2) — ents. Or treants, if you don't want to anger the Tolkien machine.
  • Back centre: 77103 Nor'Ock, Ettin — two heads good!
  • Back right: 77183 Frost Worm — a remorrhaz, basically, except for licencing purposes.
  • Front: 77185 Large Earth Elemental (x 3) — Grrg-nak! Grrg-nak!
  • plus a sample bottle of paint of horrible hue.

These things are amazing hard to photograph due to being incredibly white and ever so slightly translucent; this photo required considerable post-processing to get any detail showing at all.

Once again, they've sent me a sample pot of their paint. It's a pretty lurid, horrible pink, and I don't know that I'll get a lot of use out of it. I will be interested to see if this bottle suffers from the same flow restriction as the first they sent me.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Terrible Sword Babe

I've had this figure sitting on my painting table for years. Many, many years, since the late '90s or thereabouts. I never got around to finishing it because frankly I think it's a pretty awful figure; today I painted it pretty much just to get it out of the way.

It's a Citadel figure, and far from one of their best. Her grip on her sword is weird — I wouldn't say impossible, but definitely improbable. The armour is mostly pointless. And she's wearing a fucking thong. Jesus.

Now that I look at the base, it looks to me like she's sliding around on Green Slime. That'll end well.