Wednesday 18 April 2012

Abandoned-ish Project: Dreadnought "Britannia"

You see Mister Prime minister? You see?! THIS is what happens when a nerd ends up Long-Term Unemployed... with access to foam board, card, and Battlestar Galactica DVD’s.

This was part of a speculative commission (in my limited and mediocre defence); an artist I knew wanted collaborators for a space-based comic, and after I mentioned that I did stuff with miniatures, she wanted to see some sort of evidence. So a plan to build and shoot a model space ship emerged, and I set to work with foamboard and scalpel.

The inspirations are equal parts Battlestar and the little-known, but fantastic 80’s Japanese kids TV puppet series “Starfleet X-Bomber” (I say kids tv show, but it had a fairly staggering amount of death, destruction, and violence). This gem was something I grew up watching, fondly remembered, and tracked down on DVD recently. Look it up on Youtube, look beyond the cheesy voiceovers, and marvel at the miniature effects instead, which is what I always tended to do.

The problem that started it all- the Hangar Pod with functional lighting and interior...

The original configuration, before the stepped-neck was added, which also contibuted to making the rest of the model that bit longer and more unwieldy...

As most of my projects do, this one suffered a degree of what our American friends call Mission-Creep (or the “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Then He’ll Want…” effect). Being lazy, to avoid having to build a separate hangar-bay set, I decided to make an interior for each of the hangar pods. The size of these was dictated by the size of the interior lighting- all I could afford on a budget of about nothing was some poundworld LED push-lights, about the size of a coaster. I then ended up having to scale the body of the ship to match the hangar pods. Which meant that the nose had to be scaled to match the body. The mad plan then formed to have some degree of internal illuminations for the fuselage, nose, and engines- so poundland LED torches were bought, which dictated the size of the engine pods and other parts. By this time the decision was also taken to have the model constructed from parts which could slot together, allowing it to dismantle down into pieces that were easier to store (a rare nod towards practicality for one of my builds- given that I don’t have the massive shed/lockup/aircraft hanger that miniatures builds often require).

This led to the main problem- with the model being constructed in sections, without properly realising it until it was too late I ended up with a huge foamcard model that was about 3 and bit foot long when assembled, heavy, unwieldy, and which would have been next to impossible to hang up from wires and shoot, assuming I could have found anywhere to actually shoot it. By this time the artist I was wanting to work with announced she had abandoned the space comic anyway, making the whole excersie a collosal waste of time.

So the thing was relegated to the cellar, and abandoned as a cock-up. If anything I was embarrassed that I’d wasted a lot of time building something like this (despite the fact this was meant to be my “hour a day to calm myself down after job hunting” remedy, the Job Centre put much effort into making me feel incredibly guilty that I wasn’t spending every waking moment job hunting… and I only dared mention photography to them once, and was told “that’s just wasting time, photography will never get you a real job in an office or kitchen!”. Not that I’m still wound up about my time signing-on or anything…).

Back to the model- finally last year it was dismantled and stripped for parts, mainly because having moved out of their house a while after construction stopped, I suspected my In-Laws patience with bits of half built model kits cluttering their place up would seriously strain our family relationship.

Not the end of the saga though- being a massive Red Dwarf/UFO/Space 1999 fan, I still fancy having a go at doing spaceship pics, so am rebuilding the Dreadnought design to a much more manageable scale recycling some of the parts- I have a desire to actually do some miniatures photography with spaceships this autumn. However, all models will be built to a more suitable scale. Lesson learned. Hopefully.

Its quite sad that as I type this, I’ve learned of the death of Peter Wragg. An experienced Visual Effects… well genius to be frankly honest, his work with miniatures on shows like Thunderbirds and especially Red Dwarf got me hooked on this sort of miniatures build in the first place. RIP.

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