Sunday, 23 April 2017

Woe is Wednesday's child ... the dreaded Error 01 rears its ugly head among other misfortunes

Wednesday's child is full of woe so goes an old nursery rhyme or poem known as Monday's Child. Well colour me woeful for I'm a child of said day and faced with numerous equipment misfortunes. It all began with the dreaded Err 01 message on my camera display. Initially, the error message seemed benign enough. After all I just had to clean the lens contacts right? Pfft ...    

Err 01 - a sight I did not want to see on my DSLR display ... like ever
Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 camera lens - my trusted hobby lens of choice

Suffice to say the problem was much more serious for a simple act of cleaning to solve. As my luck would have it, the entire front group lens assembly was shot to hell. Since I have had the Tamron lens for over four years now, that meant I couldn't rely on its already expired three-year warranty for free repairs. So a costly repair bill lies on the horizon. For now, I'm using my camera's stock lens as a substitute. Other than lesser clarity in small details, the stock lens also has a slight lens barrel distortion somewhat akin to a fisheye effect. From the two photos below, you'll notice R2-D2's all-terrain treads (legs) tuck further back into the back of its body when shot with the stock lens.  

R2-D2 photographed using a Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens
R2-D2 photographed using a Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 lens

For a while I toyed with the idea of replacing my old macro lens with the latest model namely the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD. Only for a while though as it retails for USD649. It's actually a very good value-for-money entry-level macro lens but sadly still too pricey for me. Looking at this new lens was just a way for me to keep my spirits up because a further succession of mishaps and failures meant any longing looks at this new lens remained pure wishful thinking.

Tamron's successor to my old lens and top of my wistful wishlist - the SP 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD
This lens is a thing of beauty and don't get me started on its Vibration Compensation functionality

It sucks when things go wrong. And boy did things go wrong these past few weeks. Adding to my macro lens woe was a whole litany of equipment breakdowns. In brief: my fridge up and died necessitating a replacement; my car's entire clutch assembly - yes, I still drive a stick shift - had to be replaced; the air-conditioner turned into a heater and had to be repaired; and the washing machine stopped powering up resulting in yet another dead appliance. This has not only burned a hole in the metaphorical family wallet but also figuratively obliterated it. Sigh. Time to put on the blues and wallow in self pity. Unless my ancient classic iPod also conks out ... D'oh!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Star Wars R2-D2 - Bandai 1/12 Scale Plastic Model Kit [Completed]

It's hard to put my finger on why building the Bandai 1/12 scale model kit of R2-D2 was so much fun. If I had to hazard a guess it was the exaggerated sense of accomplishment in putting R2 together. Exaggerated in a good way. Because let's face it, the model kit is so well engineered and designed (apart from the seams on the domed head) that it doesn't take much skill to put together and have it look awesome even when unpainted. Of course going forward it's then up to the respective modeller to take it to another level with the appropriate painting and weathering effects.   

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale R2-D2 plastic model kit [Completed]
Weathering effects and panel lining on R2's main body helped to increase the astromech's level of realism
Painting R2's metal parts with blue, silver and gold metallic paint was essential in mitigating its toylike, plasticky look

Anyone researching a movie-accurate colour scheme (specifically A New Hope) of R2 would have noticed that the astromech's main body/chassis is actually ivory in colour. It's not, as many would believe, a hue arising from a weather-beaten white chassis. At least that's what I can gather from reference photos found in Star Wars Costumes, The Original Trilogy by Brandon Alinger.  

There is actually an option for R2's third (or centre) leg to be retracted into the main body
Painting R2's main body ivory is an option for future iterations but for now weathering on white will suffice
Back view of the completed 1/12 scale R2-D2 plastic model kit

So I had a choice. Either maintain an accurate colour scheme by repainting R2's main body in ivory or keep the whites and apply slightly heavier weathering effects all-around. Ultimately, I decided on the latter as the blues in this version of R2-D2 isn't exactly movie-accurate either. Coupled with my gamble on the unsightly seams backfiring, it seems silly to get only parts of R2 right. Moreover, I will likely attempt another more fully movie-accurate version of R2-D2 down the line anyway. 

It was tempting to over-weather R2's main body, something I resisted as best I could
Weathering was accomplished using Tamiya Weathering Master products

It's fitting that this model kit comprised two different droids in one set. When paired together for a photo shoot, they look simply adorable. Apart from the seams, another design decision I feel Tamiya should have taken with this model kit is to mould R2's main body in hues similar to BB-8. But as you can see from the photograph below, shortcomings aside, both look great details-wise.  

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale R2-D2 and BB-8

Finishing a project always fills me with optimism of what's to come. With new techniques and more experience under the belt, I tend to have an exaggerated sense of self-confidence in my hobby skills. While not necessarily a reflection of reality, it is nonetheless a feeling I should act upon or I won't ever dare attempt any of the projects I'm contemplating. This to-do-list comprises painting vehicles at various stages of decay - from weathered to rusted beyond repair; creating more intricately detailed paint designs for miniatures; as well as begin work on C-3PO who is a relatively harder droid to built and paint, amongst others. So I had better get started before this feeling of euphoria dissipates.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Star Wars R2-D2 [WIP - Domed Astromech Head]

Despite almost constantly waxing lyrical about the Bandai Star Wars plastic model kits, I must admit there have been instances when they've fallen short of expectations - Darth Vader being the prime example. Sadly, R2-D2 is another kit with a major flaw albeit one inherent straight-out-of-the-box sans any further modelling fix-ups. As you can see below, R2 has two unsightly seams where the two halves of the dome head attaches. And it's driving the perfectionist in me completely nuts.  

Bandai R2-D2 work-in-progress, domed astromech head
"The seam, the seam," yelled Tattoo in a (sadly non-existent) Star Wars-themed Fantasy Island remake

It's an eyesore, no two ways about it. The more I look at those seams the more I feel like stabbing an Ewok on the foot. Okay so I jest. I would gladly stab an Ewok anyway. To be fair, this so-called issue has a solution. Modellers better than I, have successfully smoothed out those seams through skillful work with putty and abrasives. That route requires a lot more work not only in itself but also by the need to assemble the dome together first before painting. This in turn requires the non-silver metallic parts to be masked off during the spray painting process. In the end I took a chance that the seams wouldn't be as bad as predicted. It certainly looks like my gamble didn't quite pay off.    

Yet another view of that unsightly seam on R2's domed head
Blues on R2 came out a tad darker than I intended but still much preferable to a brighter version

Blues and silvers on the domed astromech head were repainted using Tamiya spray paints namely TS-19 Metallic Blue, TS-71 Smoke and TS-30 Silver Leaf. While the requisite parts were already moulded in colour, they gave out a plasticky vibe that would've made the R2 figurine too toylike.   

 Repainting the domed head with metallic silver was necessary to recreate a realistic look
Pixelated red/white decal brilliantly imitated the display light on R2's head

Decal-wise R2 had some cool pieces which increased realism sans any detailed painting. This was especially true for the long rectangle piece at the back of R2's head which had a pixelated red/white design to simulate electronic instrumentation as well as the two short rectangle pieces at the front with a pixelated blue/white design for similar reasons. And by adding to that, the brilliant tinted part for R2's primary photo receptor, then we have a combination of small details which increase realism. 

Did I mention the seam?
One thing that Bandai did get perfectly right was the reflective, translucent lens 

Despite that one straight-out-of-the-box flaw, I still have high hopes for how R2-D2 will eventually turn out. Seam or no seam, Bandai did create a highly detailed and fairly movie-accurate model kit of R2-D2. It won't be perfect due to my gamble on the seams but hopefully close enough. Work is progressing nicely on R2's main body and it should be completed by next week. Before the new week arrives though, do have yourself a great weekend ... what's left of it anyway.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Star Wars R2-D2 [WIP - Painting on sprues]

A short, quick update is in order as I get my Star Wars mojo back and resume projects on characters and vehicles of the Rebel Alliance as well as the Empire. Ever since I began this journey with the Bandai plastic scale model kits I've become more receptive to painting on sprues. This is partly due to Bandai's excellent placing of undergates which allow parts to be removed from sprues without damaging painted surfaces. Granted this is not always the case but any damages (usually minor) can easily be touched up especially if the model kit in question is going to undergo a weathering process.

Bandai R2-D2 - Panel lining the main body and applying a semi-gloss coating

I perfectly understand why this is still a no-no among purists who feel that fixing damaged paint is not only double work but also prevents a smooth finish where required. However, I believe the trade off is acceptable in situations where it would be time consuming to anchor small parts for painting and when the model is going to be weathered anyway. In R2-D2's case, I applied black wash/panel lining on the main body and applied a clear semi-gloss coat over everything. 

R2's metallic parts were detailed using diluted Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color

And because the grey parts didn't look in any way like the metal parts they were meant to be, those parts had a layer of metallic paint applied, specifically the Tamiya TS-30 (Silver Leaf) and was then given a diluted black wash. Meanwhile, hardest of all to do was to get an approximation of R2's blues, especially since I wanted to use an existing hue straight from a spray can. With such a restriction in place, it's no surprise I wasn't successful in locating the desired shade of blue. I did the next best thing with available resources namely Tamiya Metallic Blue (TS-19) and Smoke (TS-71)

An approximation of R2's blue using Tamiya's TS-19 (Metallic Blue) and TS-71 (Smoke)

Next on the agenda is to put the astromech's head together followed by his main body. Then minor touch ups to the paint job and some weathering should see yet another Bandai Star Wars project reach completion. I find having the simple stuff done up on sprues speeds up the project considerably. Having said that, there are still things I will not paint on sprues, and that includes organic flesh and clothing parts. Both require time consuming techniques comprising numerous diluted layers of paint which doesn't take kindly to paint touch ups of any kind. So I guess I haven't completely gone over to the dark side. The again, a wise master once said ... In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way. Master Yoda, if you were wondering.

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