Got'cha Covered

Intro – Before You Read
This feature is long. It covers a lot of material and includes techniques, thought processes, materials, and even links to other site content. I understand that it would be difficult to sit and read this feature front to back for just a ‘piece’ of information. What I did to make it easier to get information was to break the feature down into sub-sections and to highlight certain areas. I did this with section headers and bold highlight accents. So if you have an idea of what you’re looking for simply search through and look for these accents.

This diorama came to life from many different inspirations. I have read a number of books that showed how the US used the M16 quad 50 cal half-track to provide air cover for bridges. Another inspiration was blockhaus (an Armorama member) and his wonderful "cork method" build construction. Here is one thread discussing this method Thread 1, another one Thread 2. Lastly, the inspiration that rounded out my ultimate design was a Custom Dioramics piece for a review. The piece was the European balcony.
The Plan
The story would be an M16 covering a bridge in an urban setting. Next to the bridge would be a backdrop/center piece building made using the "cork method". The balcony is a very ‘strong’ element and warrants a large outstanding building. My goal was to have both the building and the M16 balance the diorama. The heralded visual triangle would be two-fold. The first inner triangle would be supported by two pairs of figures and the M16. The second triangle would encompass the inner one and be anchored by the M16, the building and the corner detail of a phone booth.

Planning, Planning, Planning... You can never do too much. I had done my research and knew that an M16 would be in its element in my diorama. In doing the product review read it here I found that the balcony would also be fitting for a strong building in Europe. Perfect because the M16 served in that theater. I also found a number of canal photos and had a canal kit in my stash.
The balcony was my focal point in the design of the building, having one balcony; I felt that positioning it on the side of a building would throw the building out of balance. In order to achieve good balance led me to put it on the corner by itself. It's weight and strength would carry the corner and make it look really good. So I set off to do as much Internet surfing as I could to find examples of European corner buildings with balconies. In general, I will take some artistic license during projects, but the more you base your diorama on a reality the more gratifying it becomes. The buildings I researched yielded some detail work I wanted to reproduce in my diorama. So I found solid examples and extras.
With idea in hand I drew a few sketches on paper to get an idea for the number of windows, doors, detail etc. I changed this a few times, and settled on a final design. In the sketches I tried to make everything uniform and consistent. Even though the sketches weren't 1/35 scale, consistency gave me a sense of scale and cohesiveness. Once I was satisfied with a design I then measured critical elements such as doors and windows in a 1:1 building. I then adjusted for 1/35th scale and drew the building on a poster board (heavy card stock 2'x3' available at department stores or craft stores). I cut out each wall piece and taped it together to move on to part two of the plan. The second part was the size of the 'ground' elements: bridge, road, and sidewalks, canal....
I took a large sheet of brown paper and sketched out the basics. I placed my poster board building on the base and adjusted things from there. I made a cardboard cut out the size of an M16 and placed it in various positions to get a good sense of balance and positioning. I included the cardboard cut out of the canal retaining walls as well. At this point it is important to have as many elements included as possible. That way you won't end up with a tight squeeze when it comes time to place your kits. Remember, this is the time to 'play' and re-arrange things. It's easy to change things now, not later.
During the entire planning stage I have been focusing on diorama basic rules
  • 1. Nothing parallel,
  • 2. Fill empty space (or plan it away),
  • 3. Ask the "how did it get here" question,
  • 4. keep things within view,
  • 5. research research research.
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    • aaf_planing_testfit2
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    About the Author

    About Scott Lodder (slodder)

    I modeled when I was a teenager. College, family and work stopped me for a while. Then I picked it back up after about 12 years off. My main focus is dioramas. I like the complete artistic method of story telling. Dioramas involve so many aspects of modeling and I enjoy getting involved in the ...