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MidnightOil

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Posts posted by MidnightOil


  1. A revolution in LED lighting is occurring now. One of the big topics at the major photography show this year was RGB LED lights. For the first time, photographers and filmmakers have the ability to precisely control the lighting of their scenes. They are no longer limited to using and mixing color temperatures and gels together to create an entire new spectrum of color and effects in their scenes. An important new tool for modeling and diorama photography!

    Read my full review on my blog at https://midnightoilstudios.org/2018/08/24/a-magic-light/

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  2. See our review of the incredible book Strange Worlds on the visionary dioramas of Matthew Albanese at https://midnightoilstudios.org/2018/07/31/the-illusionist/.

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    Train Wreck - Matthew Albanese 

    • Like 1

  3. Matthew Albanese: Modeler & Photographer

    Matthew Albanese’s fascination with film, special effects and movie magic—and the mechanics behind these illusions—began early.  Born in northern New Jersey in 1983, Albanese spent a peripatetic childhood moving between New Jersey and upstate New York. An only child, Albanese enjoyed imaginative, solitary play. He loved miniatures and created scenarios intricately set with household objects and his extensive collection of action figures. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography at the State University of New York, Purchase, Albanese worked as a fashion photographer, training his lens on bags, designer shoes and accessories—this small-object specialization is known in the retail trade as “table top photography.” Albanese’s creative eye soon turned to tabletop sets of a more wildly eclectic nature. In 2008, a spilled canister of paprika inspired him to create his first mini Mars landscape. More minute dioramas—made of spices, food and found objects—followed. In 2011, Albanese was invited to show at the Museum of Art and Design of New York. His work has also been exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Winkleman Gallery, and Muba, Tourcoing France. Matthew is represented  at Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York.

    See his amazing work at https://www.matthewalbanese.com

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    • Like 1

  4. One of the biggest changes in technology in creating models and dioramas is the wide variety of different inexpensive lights available to modelers today. You used to have to be somewhat of an electrician to wire the lights in models but today, many lights are battery-operated LEDs. The photo shows just some of the choices. I use most of these to light my dioramas. The square black light at the left top corner is a Litra light and I use these as photography lights. They come with filters and offer outstanding photographic light. (See the Litra site at https://litra.com)

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  5. normanwouldnthurtafly-nickinfield.jpg

    “Norman Wouldn’t Hurt A Fly” – Box Diorama Inside the Studio by Nick Infield

    Thinking Inside the Box

    Few would argue that Sheperd Paine was the greatest modeler and dioramist of the modern world. His amazing figures and models appeared as photos on model kits and motivated an entire generation of model-makers. His ideas about what could be done with dioramas opened up entire new areas to model-making and revived the old art-form of box dioramas.

    Shep was many things to many people but to me he was really a great illusionist. In his famous book How to Build Dioramas (Kalmbach Books 2000) in various chapters he talks about such things as ideas and planning dioramas, weathering techniques, painting figures and details and accessories. All of this (still) serves as perhaps the best advice available on these areas of model-making. However, I feel that two chapters at the end of the book are the most important and are what his book is really about. In effect, it is really about the ability to create illusions inside the confines of “shadow boxes.”

    In chapter fourteen titled “Shadow Boxes,” Paine notes “A shadow box is a diorama set into a box and viewed through an opening on one side.” It’s effect, is “essentially that of a three-dimensional painting.” He observes the shadow box is the ultimate form of the diorama “because of the degree of control over all aspects of the display that a shadow box affords the modeler.” As he says, “In a shadow box, you can dictate the viewing angle, lighting conditions, and, most important, the atmosphere and mood of the scene.” In the chapter, he offers a great introduction on lighting methods for illuminating the inside of the shadow box.

    Perhaps the main thing that separates the type of shadow box Shep Paine talks about from the school “shoe box” shadow boxes most of us have made is the requirement of using two boxes: an outer box and an inner box. The inner box contains the scene and the other box contains the lighting for the scene.

    The other key chapter of the book is chapter seventeen titled “Mirrors, Forced Perspective and Other Special Effects.” In this chapter he discusses techniques for creating special effects inside shadow boxes. Interestingly, he compares this activity to that of making films. As he says, special effects “allow the frustrated movie director that seems to reside in all of us to come forth and work out his fantasies on a little sound stage of his own, without the frustrations of dealing with a cast, crew and multi-million-dollar budget.” He discusses areas such as creating fire and explosions, using forced perspective and employing mirrors in shadow boxes.

    * * *

    In the almost twenty years since Paine wrote How to Build Dioramas, his thoughts and ideas on them continued to evolve as those creating them grew. Shep passed away in 2015 but his legacy is stronger than ever. This is powerfully evident on the incredible website Box Dioramas.  where works of leading box dioramists are collected. While numerous modeling styles and themes are displayed on the site, most all box dioramists acknowledge inspiration or mentorship from Sheperd Paine.

    Certainly, I have been inspired by his work as well as the work of others on the incredible Box Dioramas site. I ponder what it is about all of this that inspires me so as I came to this artform later in life from writing and photography. I think it comes down to what Paine says at the beginning of his book chapter on special effects and his observation that special effects inside boxes“allow the frustrated movie director … to come forth and work out his fantasies on a little sound stage of his own, without the frustrations of dealing with a cast, crew and multi-million-dollar budget.”

    Another way of saying this is that box dioramas – like film sets – allow one to create illusions by creating atmospheres and moods. This ability to create illusions seems to me the most important and enduring aspect of box dioramas. While the models and figures inside boxes are certainly important, the aspect of control over the atmosphere and mood of the box is most important. In effect, perhaps the best way to view box dioramas is by seeing them as desktop film studios rather than simply contexts for models and figures.

    5f4588038c4c4a46aee5b4af6dcb0e09.jpg?w=7

    Film Studio – A Box Within A Box

    Like a box diorama, a film studio also is composed of two boxes: an outer box containing the lights and special effects and an inner box or scene containing the characters and action of a scene in a story.

    The connection between the two forms of art – filmmaking and box dioramas – is very obvious yet seldom explored by box dioramists. With each new project, a new outside box (or film studio) is created to go with the inside box scene inside of it. However, what if a larger box is created that could be used over and over for various scenes inside of it?

    In effect, the outside box would have rigging on its top and sides similar to the set-up inside of a production studio. Lights could easily be hung from strips of metal of wood at the top and sides (and bottom) of the box diorama. The outside box might even resemble the inside of a sound stage at a film studio. Rather than build and rebuild it for each inner box, it would simply be “rigged” for a particular box diorama scene which is photographed (or filmed) and removed. The lights and effects of the outside box would then await a new box diorama scene to be placed inside of it. In much the same way that a production set is knocked down after a scene in a movie.

    The real product of box dioramas created in set outer box studios is not a final diorama for display but rather a photo (or photos) of the diorama using the special effects in the outer box. Its fate is the same fate of a scene in a film that lives on in an image rather than a physical form. Yet images today are able to spread much farther and faster than diorama models confined to modeling shows, museums or personal collections.

    There have been huge advancements in lighting technology since Shep’s 2000 book. There have also been incredible advancements in sound with the advent of Bluetooth devices. A box diorama desktop film studio becomes a real and exciting possibility. Not only can scenes and sets for stage plays and films be planned with this new tool, but the art of box diorama and “thinking inside the box” be taken to new levels of illusion.

     

     


  6. Box Dioramists: Masters of Illusion

    "The same objects look bent and straight when seen in and out of water ... and every kind of deception like this is clearly present in our soul." Plato, The Republic (380 BC)

    There is a small group of modelers out there today called dioramists. In effect, they are the greatest creators of that genre in modeling known as "dioramas" or models contained within a particular context rather than presented alone or on a stand. Dioramas offer the modeling these "contextual environments" for kit models or (increasingly) 3D printed models.

    Within the genre of dioramas (as modeling creations) there is a sub-genre called "box dioramas" and it is this sub-genre that this post is really about. One can waste a lot of time listening to all the BS in culture today. Or, one can visit the Box Dioramaswebsite where one can get lost within. The drama and the scenes expressed on the Box Diorama site are much more than a collection of miniature scenes but rather a number of powerful stories frozen in time. Box dioramas are created by some of the greatest modelers in the world but the real goal of box dioramists is not about creating models. Rather, it is about creating illusions. This art of illusion has little interest to fine-scale modeling enthusiasts.

    In effect, "box dioramas" are never just about particular model kits. Rather, they are about particular environments of the model in the context of time and space. It makes all the difference in the world. The box dioramist sees and understands the context that the symbol in the diorama attempts to speak to us within. It allows the artist to speak to his audience with a 3rd person narrative voice of context of a situation. It makes a comment on things from this third person narrative position on viewing the relationship of a model within a scene.

    * * *

    The other night I heard Jim Steinmeyer on Coast-to-Coast radio. Jim is one of the greatest illusionists in the world and wrote a book just published called The Secret History of Magic.  I immediately got a copy of it from my local library and am now reading it. I sent an email to Jim Steinmeyer today and also an email to one to one of the greatest box dioramists in the world, my friend Darryl Audette. Darryl is on the forefront of the illusionist dioramists today. Importantly, he is working in the dramatic compacity of performance theatre attached to a university in Canada. Darryl is one of the first to successfully combine theatre and drama with dioramas. He is a pace-setter in this area showing that the connection between dioramas and the art of theater and film is close indeed, needful of future research.

    * * *

    Here, in the Columbus, Ohio chapter of the IPMS (International Plastic Modeler's Society) dioramas and certainly "box" dioramas are pretty much unknown. Most members are interested in various kit models - old airplanes are a favorite modeling theme with the group. There is little interest in modeling environments of the kit models.

    The goal of making the model look real rather than placing the model in an environment or context. The interest of club members is in creating the reality of a modelrather than the illusion of an environment. But illusion is always within the environment and never within a particular object within the environment. Like the magician's object the audience is directed to focus on, the magic is in the area around the object.

    Box dioramas are at the forefront of creating illusions, of placing objects in symbolic environments in the same way that film or stage sets place actors in symbolic scenes.

    * * *

    I had originally wanted to create a scene with a helicopter over a night-time desert with its search-light beaming down and searching for the escape prisoners of a maximum-security prison.

    How to create the beam of light from the helicopter was the originating special effects idea for the scene.

    There is the white spray-painted piece of wood dowel attached by Gorilla Glue to the helicopter hovering above the night-time desert outside the prison gates.

    But this does not look right for some reason.

    I remove the helicopter and mold some mountains (using a WoodLand Scenics Shaper Sheet) against the panoramic background of a curving piece of dark blue poster board from Staples.

    I cut a hole in a ping-pong ball and stuff blue tissue inside the hole. I place the ping pong ball on a little close-out LED light from Staples.

    On a Litra Light, I place a blue filter and over this the diffuser cap. I hold the blue light a few feet away to suggest the hint of moon glow.

    I photograph the scene in a dark room using the High Dynamic Range technique.

    A full moon rises over desert mountains on a pitch-dark night.

    Perhaps something else is needed in the scene to create a story but for now it looks fine.

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    "Moonrise Over Desert Mountains" - John Fraim (My first attempt at a box)


  7. 899168760_NormanWouldntHurtAFly-NickInfield.thumb.jpg.3c132bf6a85cf7bf7f16b0b763bb9eab.jpg

    "Norman Wouldn't Hurt A Fly" - Inside a Studio Box Diorama by Nick Infield

    Creating a Desktop Studio / Thinking Inside the Box

    Few would argue that Sheperd Paine was the greatest modeler and dioramist of the modern world. His amazing figures and models appeared as photos on model kits and motivated an entire generation of model-makers. His ideas about what could be done with dioramas opened up entire new areas to model-making and revived the old art-form of box dioramas.

    Shep was many things to many people but to me he was really a great illusionist. In his famous book How to Build Dioramas(Kalmbach Books 2000) in various chapters he talks about such things as ideas and planning dioramas, weathering techniques, painting figures and details and accessories. All of this (still) serves as perhaps the best advice available on these areas of model-making. However, I feel that two chapters at the end of the book are the most important and are what his book is really about. In effect, it is really about the ability to create illusions inside the confines of “shadow boxes.”

    In chapter fourteen titled “Shadow Boxes,” Paine notes “A shadow box is a diorama set into a box and viewed through an opening on one side.” It’s effect, is “essentially that of a three-dimensional painting.” He observes the shadow box is the ultimate form of the diorama “because of the degree of control over all aspects of the display that a shadow box affords the modeler.” As he says, “In a shadow box, you can dictate the viewing angle, lighting conditions, and, most important, the atmosphere and mood of the scene.” In the chapter, he offers a great introduction on lighting methods for illuminating the inside of the shadow box.

    Perhaps the main thing that separates the type of shadow box Shep Paine talks about from the school “shoe box” shadow boxes most of us have made is the requirement of using two boxes: an outer box and an inner box. The inner box contains the scene and the other box contains the lighting for the scene.

    The other key chapter of the book is chapter seventeen titled “Mirrors, Forced Perspective and Other Special Effects.” In this chapter he discusses techniques for creating special effects inside shadow boxes. Interestingly, he compares this activity to that of making films. As he says, special effects “allow the frustrated movie director that seems to reside in all of us to come forth and work out his fantasies on a little sound stage of his own, without the frustrations of dealing with a cast, crew and multi-million-dollar budget.” He discusses areas such as creating fire and explosions, using forced perspective and employing mirrors in shadow boxes.

    * * *

    In the almost twenty years since Paine wrote How to Build Dioramas, his thoughts and ideas on them continued to evolve as those creating them grew. Shep passed away in 2015 but his legacy is stronger than ever. This is powerfully evident on the incredible website Box Dioramas.Com where works of leading box dioramists are collected. While numerous modeling styles and themes are displayed on the site, most all box dioramists acknowledge inspiration or mentorship from Sheperd Paine.

    Certainly, I have been inspired by his work as well as the work of others on the Box Dioramas site at http://www.boxdioramas.com. I ponder what it is about all of this that inspires me so as I came to this artform later in life from writing and photography. I think it comes down to what Paine says at the beginning of his book chapter on special effects and his observation that special effects inside boxes“allow the frustrated movie director … to come forth and work out his fantasies on a little sound stage of his own, without the frustrations of dealing with a cast, crew and multi-million-dollar budget.”

    Another way of saying this is that box dioramas – like film sets - allow one to create illusions by creating atmospheres and moods. This ability to create illusions seems to me the most important and enduring aspect of box dioramas. While the models and figures inside boxes are certainly important, the aspect of control over the atmosphere and mood of the box is most important. In effect, perhaps the best way to view box dioramas is by seeing them as desktop film studios rather than simply contexts for models and figures.

    * * *

    Like a box diorama, a film studio also is composed of two boxes: an outer box containing the lights and special effects and an inner box or scene containing the characters and action of a scene in a story.

    The connection between the two forms of art – filmmaking and box dioramas - is very obvious yet seldom explored by box dioramists. With each new project, a new outside box (or film studio) is created to go with the inside box scene inside of it. However, what if a larger box is created that could be used over and over for various scenes inside of it?

    In effect, the outside box would have rigging on its top and sides similar to the set-up inside of a production studio. Lights could easily be hung from strips of metal of wood at the top and sides (and bottom) of the box diorama. The outside box might even resemble the inside of a sound stage at a film studio. Rather than build and rebuild it for each inner box, it would simply be “rigged” for a particular box diorama scene which is photographed (or filmed) and removed. The lights and effects of the outside box would then await a new box diorama scene to be placed inside of it. In much the same way that a production set is knocked down after a scene in a movie.

    The real product of box dioramas created in set outer box studios is not a final diorama for display but rather a photo (or photos) of the diorama using the special effects in the outer box. Its fate is the same fate of a scene in a film that lives on in an image rather than a physical form. Yet images today are able to spread much farther and faster than diorama models confined to modeling shows, museums or personal collections.

    There have been huge advancements in lighting technology since Shep’s 2000 book. There have also been incredible advancements in sound with the advent of Bluetooth devices. A box diorama desktop film studio becomes a real and exciting possibility. Not only can scenes and sets for stage plays and films be planned with this new tool, but the art of box diorama and “thinking inside the box” be taken to new levels of illusion.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  8. One of the benefits of creating box dioramas is the ability to control perspective. The topic of forced perspective is covered in both Shep Paine's How to Build Dioramas and Ray Anderson's The Art of the Diorama. In my diorama Witness, I attempted to create forced perspective outside the "box" so to speak. The diorama was inspired by the movie Close Encounters of a Third Kind and a modeling theme of my particular IPMS chapter to create something from the movies. I envisioned a witness to the event who has pulled his car off the highway in the mountains and observes a roadblock on the highway below and below that (on the desert floor) the alien craft by the highway with two army tanks next to it. But above this witness, is another witness who is on a desert dirt bike and spies on him through a pair of binoculars. 

    The diorama is on four levels which represent four scales: 1/12 for the man on the dirt bike on the top level of the diorama, 1/87 HO scale for the witness who has pulled off the road on the next level, 1/160 N scale for the government roadblock on the next level and 1/220 Z scale for the tanks and the huge alien craft. The viewer looks at the diorama from the perspective of the 1/12 scale man on the dirt bike and sees the cars and highway become smaller and smaller as it is farther in the distance.

    Below is a side view of the various levels and the view from the viewer's perspective. An "out of the box" experience!

    (See planning this diorama on our site at https://midnightoilstudios.org/2018/05/13/witness/)

     

    2018-05-14 19-05-46 -0400.jpg

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    • Like 1

  9. Thanks for the note Dave. One of the secrets of this method is stretching the cotton over the chicken wire rather than simply pushing cotton balls into the wire. Also, be sure to build your wire cage over your model first and not simply try to add it last. In my reference to Bjorn Jacobsen above, he advises to use LED lights that plug into an outlet as these are the ones with the most power. However, I have found that LED lights from something like a light on a headstrap work just fine. I used these in the above explosion.


  10. I make dioramas and photograph them all. You can see a number of my diorama photos at https://midnightoilstudios.org/dioramas/. While I have a good SLR camera and often shoot using High Dynamic Range, I have found that my iPhone 8+ using the ProCamera app gets great photos. 

    One of the most interesting techniques I use is photographing dioramas against my computer screen from photos I've taken or ones downloaded from Google images.

    For example, the shot below is titled Deep State Swamp and features a model of the FBI Building on a piece of Burl Wood with a Woodland Scenics created swamp at the bottom and a cloudy sky in the background. The sky is on my computer screen and downloaded from Google Images. 

    Have many other photography techniques I'll be sharin,g in future posts.

    fullsizeoutput_e34.jpeg


  11. Creating realistic explosions for models is not difficult but takes a little practice. You'll need the following: chicken wire, cotton balls, orange and yellow tissue paper, glue, forescent yellow and orange spray paint, flat black paint and an LED light. I blew up a 1/63 scale RV with this mixture. For a great instruction on this see the Swedish modeler Bjorn Jacobsen's site "How to do It" at http://dioramas-and-models.com/how to do it.html

    See the final diorama of the below on our website at https://midnightoilstudios.org/2018/07/06/desert-patriots-last-stand/

    2018-07-05_15-41-39-0400.jpg

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