Working Around Old Adages


Old adages are what they are because they have generally proved to be correct. The proofs are repeated time and again as the disbelieving young try things out. Sometimes the results are cheap and easy and sometimes they take skin off and leave criminal records.

In the model boating and model airplane world there are the adages that you can’t scale down water or air. If you make a wonderful scale model radio-controlled battleship small enough to fit into the back seat of the car and take it down to the local pond expecting it to look like it is sailing on the North sea…you generally have to admit defeat – it sits there amongst the leaves and duck poop and just bobs about.

To get the real action of the waves and the wake of the ship you have to make it bigger – and making it bigger means making it heavier. Eventually you realise that you cannot transport it  anywhere and you might as well take up aero modelling.

Then you discover what a puff of wind will do to your balsa wood and tissue airplane…

In the scale model studio I am discovering that it is also difficult to scale down light. Books suggest it is possible to do anything with a set of studio lamps and some cardboard. Experience says differently. The sun in the sky is three things – small ( relative to the rest of the perceived sky ), bright, and shining everywhere. It lights up the other major portion of the natural set – the blue sky – with a surprising intensity. Then it reflects off any number of surfaces onto the scale model subject.

I have been looking closely at the real world lighting to see what shadows do under cars and people, and I think that it is going to need a real effort in light placement and modification to get the studio strobe to go anywhere near the real thing. Scenes with night lighting are easier – once the sky stops adding any contribution to the effect it is easier to use little artificial sources.

The question of reflections will also be a whole new chapter in scale model lighting. We can see a lot more of the world in the surfaces of the subjects than we think and we need to make those reflections realistic as well.

More reports as the experiments progress – first quest will be for a realistic sunny day!


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