BUILD: DETAILING THE ORIGINAL BATTLESTAR GALACTICA by Budgie from SFMuk Admin's blog


Many Yarhens ago, a bunch of talanted techno hippies were collected together and given the opportunity to work on some space movie. They pretty much achieved the Woodstock of spaceships and special effects.


After finishing the gig, they went home and thought they would probably never do anything like that again and looked forward to becoming session techno hippies here and there.


As it happens, something did come along, rumours abound that a sequel was in the pipelines, but that would not happen for a while. Instead, their leader got a gig on a TV series for Universal.


The hippies were called out of unemployment and they began work on what would become Battlestar Galactica.


Intended as a group of mini-series rather than a weekly tv show, they got to work. The shows huge budget would allow for unprecedented state of the art efforts in a tv production.


The hype and publicity pushed the first episode to be the highest rated sci fi programme in tv history across the pond. The network saw that it was making lots of mula out of it and decided to make it a weekly series.


Inevitably, this was the death blow and the show deteriorated into cheese and died a slow and painful death before cancellation.


The hippies disbanded pretty soon after the first few episodes and had their work rehashed in every subsequent episode, to go their separate ways. Half moved to the north to create what we now know as ILM and begin work on Empire Strikes Back. The others who did not get on too well with a certain bearded lumberjack style guru type remained in LA and became Apogee. The rest is history.


I'm not here to argue the points about the two projects and the various spats that came out of their inceptions. Instead, I am here to celebrate the efforts of these people.


There is something seminal to me about seeing those late 70's spaceships that sends senses and chills down my spine. The look, the chunky matte grey details, that are good enough to eat. The artistry, design and uniqueness of a place, people and time that no longer sadly exists. You just don't get that anymore in our high gloss CGI texture mapping sleek shot soul-less universe. There is no perspective that crafts were hand built in space ship factories in some industrial galactic complex, but merely dreamt out of some computer in some guys office. There are no welding marks, no pipes, no mesh of colours and shapes that alone make no sense but together communicates a certain reason as to how and why this ship works.


That is why the old school efforts remain such a classic and will never leave my psyche.


Revell released four kits of the A-list Galactica ships in the late 70's. I was lucky enough to see a few hanging from the rafters of a big model shop in Wood Green as a child, but that's as close as I ever got as they had none for sale. Patience they say is a virtue and sometime in 97, Revell re-released the kits.


Finally, I had a Galactica in my hands.


This article is about building up the detail on the model.


Basically, I built the kit in 97. But never fully completed it as it seemed a bit off. Thanks to the advent of the internet and being able to see other peoples work on the subject, I learned that one could improve their wants and skills and get a nice result on this kit.


The problem with the kit.


The kit lacks innumerable details on the side panels and arms of the landing bays. It is basically flat and kills any illusion to it's real life counterpart. There are two solutions to this:


I know of after-market parts available from the States. I cannot comment on their success as I have never used them. But some of you may like to try them.


The other, is to truly model, and do it yourself.

 

Step 1


As I mentioned. I already pretty much built the kit when I got it, so you would be better off starting from unbuilt to do a really proper job (for lighting purposes), but none the less, I had to figure out something else.




I studied various references (the best being the tv show itself) to see where the lights would have to go and drilled in the appropriate places. I used a 0.9mm drill bit for the windows.


There is a scale problem, basically the bridge itself. The Galactica bridge has a three storey window set-up.


I didn't bother trying to accurize this or attempt to scratch build a new bridge, basically the model is too small to really go for accuracy, and it is better left to give an immitated impression of the ship and the results will be acceptable.


Therefore, I drilled out a 1 storey window panel.


In some areas, although the drilling was done, no light shows through cuz I just couldn't fit a light into an already built area in the corners and so forth, so in some angles you can see light, in others you can't.


(Perhaps this could be solved with fibre optics but in trials, the fibres have no-where to reflect to as it's pretty much hit and miss working so blind.


I solved the lighting problem by pulling out the engine backing, mounting a row of LED's (in this case, 6) in a straight line and pushing it through the back of the ship til it reached the front. Job done.


Alas, I could not add lighting to the landing bays. I was too scared of breaking them by trying to unglue them but nevermind.


Step 2


Now, lets get to the build up itself. This would be best done after the kit is glued and sealed.


It's really up to you how you want to go about it. I watched the reference material and tried to follow what the modellers achieved. The Galactica ‘greeblies' are quite clever. The first section post the front piece are mainly pipelines and blocks. This is the 70's ethos, -Guts on the outside-.


Take into account the scale you are working in, figure out how you want your model to look, do you want it to be aimed at extreme close-up, or do you want to make the effect fit on an overall impression.


If you want to get down to basics for extreme close-ups, you are best taking your time and finding parts that work well in small scale.


As for myself, I used what was available to me. Tank kits can be great, but pictured are the kits I know I used parts from. These are cheap 1/72 scale kits bought specifically to use as spare parts. I also tried to give my own identity to the model by using parts of various sprues and cutting them/shaping them and bending them into angles and lengths.




The second (mid) section is small on this model, and does not allow for too much, I didn't really have too many canister shaped parts that fit the scale of my model, so I went for a more blocky build up. Where I could not find anything that matched, I would make my own, cut out of bits of cardboard. The more professional among you could go for styrene sheets.




The third section offers more room, and I made a mix of blocks and tubes.




Step 3


The landing bay legs have generally an arterial tile pattern. Mine are comprised of a mix of spare parts and cardboard cut-outs.


Step 4


One aspect that maybe overlooked is the top of the ship. The Galactica is a battleship, there is a lot going on it's surfuce. Various radar and gun turrets. I really feel getting this right is the apéritif of the experience. I didn't go crazy, and remained subtle, adding 5 ‘towers' of various shapes and sizes. I felt happy with the result.


Step 5


Don't go crazy. Be subtle, you will know when to quit when basically you reach the point where you basically cannot fit anyhing else, or what you add starts to detract from the illusion and everything begins to lose sense and start to look like a giant scrap heap of spare parts.


Step 6


Now we can paint it. A lot of the ships you see on screen that appear grey, are actually a matte white colour. It's the film-making and lighting process that gives them that grey look when the bluescreen process of old would reflect on the surface of the model and exposed over the blackness of space. My model is a very light grey. The airbrushers amongst you can probably obtain startling results in the mixing department, but for me, I do this by spraying the model all white, and then adding grey immediately, this way the two open up and mix together while drying.


Step 7


Decals. I found the decal sheet with this model was a bit inaccurate. The only part I used from it was the nameplate, which in itself, the font used seems wrong. I have yet to be successful with inkjet decals so I have not bothered to investigate this and make my own nameplate yet.


As for the other decals, the Galactica seems to have black markings, and not red like the decal sheet so I painted them on instead. The nameplate area of the ship also looks -innacurate- as to it's precise location and the details around it. I decided not to mess with this and left it as it was. Some modellers go as far as drawing in tiles with a pencil throughout the model. I decided not to, again based on the scale of the ship. I feared adding minute tile effects would make it look meshy or like a net covering the whole thing, or worse, that it would be wearing a Spider-man costume. The actual Galactica's tile grid is actually quite large and Revell have enough grid lines to compensate for this. So I left mine spartan.


And there you have it. One Battlestar ready for action.








What I feel is most important in projects like this, and the best advice I can offer is to ‘listen' to the model. You must understand what you can and connot accomplish based on it's scale/design/quality and so forth. Less is more as they say, and sometimes more can make for a lot less. Know your environment and listen to it as it were.


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By SFMuk Admin
Added Nov 22 '13

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