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“Building Large Scale Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models” Review

Many thanks to David Fisher of Amazing Figure Modeler Magazine for the following review of our title, Building Large Scale Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models by Jason Gares.

You may know Jason Gares as a modeler, author, and the host of the Video Workbench YouTube channel. Jason has written frequent articles for the excellent British publication Sci-Fi and Fantasy Modeller magazine. Sadly, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Modeller ceased publication in 2017. Luckily for us, Jason has compiled eight extensive articles written for the magazine into a new e-Book, published by KLP Publishing. The articles include varied sci-fi subjects such as:

• BAN DAI’s C-3PO and R2-D2
• Dragon Models’ Hulk
• Lunar Models’ Invaders from the Fifth Dimension from Lost In Space
• Quarantine Studios’ Mars Attacks diorama
• How to mold and cast a moon base
• Apikitt L. Highway’s Engineer from Prometheus
• Masterpiece Model’s Time Machine
• Spyda Creation’s Tournament Challenge

Each article features in-depth instructions for the completion of each project. When I say in-depth, I’m not joking around guys, Jason’s build of BAN DAI’s Star Wars figures weighs in at a whopping eighty pages! Everything you’ll ever need to know about building and weathering C-3PO and R2-D2 are in this massive article. The articles cover many subjects, mostly figure related, with the exception of the Time Machine. Speaking of, I really liked the Time Machine article. There are so many techniques used to create this amazing kit. It’s worth purchasing the book just for it alone. What’s great about articles like these are there are many tips and tricks you can gather to help you not only recreate what Jason does, but to apply these techniques to projects of your own. There are dozens of techniques to explore. Jason walks you through general prepping and priming kits, painting, and weathering, working with putty, molding, and casting, applying pearlized and metallic paints, working with stencils, decal work, wiring and lighting, and so much more. One thing I like is that Jason mixes it up using many products from different sources which gives you a fine overview of the variety of choices modelers can draw upon to finish their own projects. Nearly every major company has something featured.

The book itself has 473 pages that feature a clean and bold, easy-to-follow design with multitudes of excellent photographs to illustrate each article. In all, the book is an excellent undertaking and well worth its reasonable price. This is an e-Book, so you’ll need to purchase and download your copy from the link provided in this review. If you are reading this review, then I know you already have a PDF reader of some sort to access and view the book. I commend Jason for his hard work and effort, whether you are a beginner or experienced modeler, there is something here for you. I recommend you add Building Large Scale Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models to your modeling library!

Many thanks, David! Building Large Scale Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models is available from our webstore for just 20 Australian dollars.

And in a bit of sneaky news for 2023, Volume 2 is currently in pre-production!

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Mini Portable Lightbox Review

Photographing our scale models can feel like a black art at times, and it can be a frustrating process for those of us who post images of our work for public consumption, whether that be online, or in books and magazines. Often, our photos simply don’t do justice to our lovingly-crafted creations.

I experience this very struggle myself, and am constantly on the lookout for ways to improve my results. One of the secrets to quality miniature photography (or any photography, really) is lighting, and I recently stumbled across a portable lightbox that seemed ideally suited to photographing small assemblies and parts:

Being a mere AU$12 on eBay, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying one out—especially after seeing Matt McDougall’s post about a similar unit he had purchased. The thing that really appealed to me about this bit of kit, however, was that it comes with built-in USB-powered LED strip lighting! A USB cable with integral switch is supplied:

It has a standard USB plug (USB-A) at one end, while the end that plugs into the lighting strip features a micro-USB plug (micro-B). Here’s what the LED strip lighting looks like:

Now, I already have a large photo table with studio lights on each side, but I wanted something that would allow me to take quick in-progress photos of small sub-assemblies, such as engines and cockpits, where the light source is closer to the object.

The unit comes as a folded flat-pack, tucked inside a carry sleeve of sorts. I found it awkward to release the unit from its folded state (confession: I had to get my wife to do it!), but once extended, the sides come together in three layers, and are clipped together with a press-stud arrangement.

The unit appears to be made from some kind of PVC plastic, and while durable enough, it’s a little flimsy once assembled, and the sides on mine curve inwards, rather than being stiffly upright. I may try to affix something stiff to the external sides to keep them perpendicular.

The lightbox itself has a small footprint, being 23.5cm high and 22cm front-to-back. Width is also 22cm. So, it’s not really suitable for taking photos of completed aircraft models, or particularly large assemblies. It would comfortably handle figures and small-scale armour, however.

You also get five coloured inserts to use as backdrops for your photos—red, blue, green, black, and white:

These inserts only cover the floor and rear of the lightbox, so whichever colour you use, the sides will still be white. I like to photograph against as light a background colour as possible, generally, so I put the white insert into my unit for these test photos. The other colours are too strident for my liking.

On Test

As I’ve already noted, the LED strip lighting is USB-powered, so something like a phone charger is an ideal power source—provided you can set up near a power outlet! Luckily, I had something better: a portable USB power brick:

It’s basically just an external battery that is charged, and provides charge, via USB. Very handy!

Here’s what the unit looks like powered on:

Unfortunately the combined weight of the USB cable and switch has conspired to pull the right corner down a little bit, but this did not interfere with testing. You can see in the photo above just how severe the sidewalls curve in, and this is definitely blocking a small amount of light from reaching the work surface.

For testing, I used Quickboost’s 1/32 F4U-1D resin engine (QB 32 036). Here’s the initial photo, uncropped and unedited in any way, other than to reduce its dimensions:

It’s relatively dark, and has a mild blue/green cast. This is as much a function of the deficiencies of my camera than anything else. There’s also an odd pattern of overlapping lines in the foreground, which I suspect are caused by shadows from the curved sides. You can also see that the the lower rear corners have gaps through to the outside world, which limits the width of any object you can capture cleanly, without having to resort to editing out the background.

As I always shoot in RAW these days, it becomes a simple task to correct the while balance and exposure levels on images like the one above, so the image below shows the result of this editing, along with cropping out the unwanted corners:

Much better, and more than acceptable! I think there’s still a slight green cast in the part itself (along with some JPEG artefacts), but I don’t see this as an issue.

Sadly, I don’t think it’ll replace my larger set up for small parts any time soon:


So, what do I think? Well, it’s a very cheap solution, and it shows in places. Even while preparing this review, the double-sided tape holding the LED strip lighting in place started to let go (thanks to me leaving the USB cable dangling from it). The bending in of the sides is also annoying, but I will seek to address that somehow, and will re-test the unit if I do. A couple of my backdrops arrived with dents in them, too.

But for AU$12, I really can’t complain. While no substitute for my full photo rig, this unit will certainly allow me to take in-progress photos away from it, such as at the workbench itself, or even at a fellow modeller’s house.

The real value of a unit like this, however, lies in the utility it offers modellers who wish to improve their in-progress photography without having to invest in a large and potentially expensive studio set up. Sure, you’ll outgrow it quite quickly during the progress of any large build, but it’s a handy little unit all the same. If I’m able to fix the issue with the collapsing sides, I’ll test it again a publish the results.