Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Battlestar Excalibur's Colonial Vipers Hangar Bay Diorama at the Crewe Model Show

This blog was re-edited on 16 Mar 2011

Talk about taking your group builds through great heights. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Modellers UK recently undertook a project that definitely ensures its foundation in the journal of Sci Fi Scale Modeling - a comprehensive diorama of a Battlestar Excalibur Hangar Bay, comprising of 12 bays and over 10 Mark II Colonial Vipers. Its not uncommon to see a Moebius Mark II Viper in a stand alone diorama, or a Battlestar posing in her full glory, but to see so many beautifully build up Vipers in one huge diorama display, that definitely makes an impact anywhere. Scale Modeling magazines ought to do a write up on this project cause I'm not kidding when I say it made an impact.

A name had to be developed for the project, and I gather since the markings on the Vipers were different from those seen on TV, this Battlestar Hangar scene couldn't be those from the Galactica, hence it was very democratic of SFM:UK committee to put up a vote to determine the name for their Battlestar, which I found out later to be the Excalibur. Very apt for out British Modeler Team since the Excalibur was King Arthur's Legendary sword, symbolising honour, duty, bravery and strenght in unity.

The idea is simple enough. Everyone had to build their Vipers according to a standard design (markings) in a landed position inside their hangar bay. They could create whatever scene they chose but each of these bays with their Viper had to be able to join together, creating one massive diorama worthy of ... hell, words alone cannot describe what these modellers have achieved. It truly is amazing.

From the SFM:UK site, I found out that this was made possible when the club itself managed to get a great deal for the Moebius Mark II Viper kits (that alone I found very encouraging). To commemorate the event, they decided to create a spectacular diorama designed to awe when it is shown at the South Cheshire Militaire Show at the end of February 2011.

The condition was simple. Club members who received these Vipers just had to deliver. Another word, they had to finish their Vipers along with a hangar bay diorama scenario. I guess to make sure these modelers deliver, a penalty was imposed, whereby failing to complete the model and their diorama would result in these members paying full price for their kit. If you seriously think about this, that's a good idea to get your member's undivided attention on their project.

The selection process was pretty strict. The Moebius kits did not go on a first come first serve basis, but rather it was given to members with proven track records. Further materials were also made available to them such as Paragrafix's Photoetch and Decal Detailing sets. And again I was impressed with the Club over this. The committee actually made it possible for its members to create something fantastic by giving them access to after market parts.
To achieve conformity, the Club further planned the Viper Squadron Group and their markings, calling themselves the Spitfire Combat Group.  Markings were then designed for all members to follow.

The Build Roster showed 11 builders who contributed to this spectacular diorama.

The Build Roster

The following pilots will be using kits and decals supplied by the site:

CPT Alun "Big Boss" Owen (2204UK) - CAG
LT Pam "Morticia" McGee (2303UK)
LT Paul "Archer" Mather (1415UK)
LT Ellen "Sparky" Goosey (1311UK)
LT Eric "Mangamax" Moore (2107UK)
LT Richard "Blitzspear" Jary (1940UK)
LT Chris "Cleric" Lloyd (1701UK)
LT Duncan "Merolink" Clark (1412UK)

The following additional pilots are part of the squadron with their own kits and decals supplied by the site:

LT Chris "Kramer" Suki (5150UK)
LT Iain "One Shot" Costall (2205UK)
LT Jay "Yank" Chladek (2328US)

When the builders and what they need are identified and provided for, the work begins and each builder holds their own Work In Progress Reports (highlighted through their own forum as well as other sources). I'm sure there is a committee guiding the team cause the massive diorama of the Excalibur's Hangar Bay shows a very focus and coordinated team effort.

I sure wish I have some of these modeler's WIP. I am currently building a MKII Viper myself, abet taking my own sweet time. Looking at some of these build ups, the work done is truly IPMS standard. Here are some of their build ups of the Mark II Vipers conforming to the diorama's agenda. They were basically given a freehand on how they want their Viper's to look like in terms of weathering and battle damage, but the markings had to be the same.

Completing the Mark II Vipers was only the first step. Members then had to create a miniature diorama using a section of the hangar bay. Again members had freehand on how they want to build these but at the same time, they also had to be able to blend together their diorama as a unit when these hangar bay sections joins together.

I can only imagine what transpired with their discussion group. Believe it or not, great ideas usually are developed there. This is one of the benefits you get when you join a Scale Modeling Club. It literally fuels the fire from within, compelling one to excel.

Just check out an example below of one diorama created using a section of the hangar bay. Noticed a story developing there?

Now check out another build up of a hangar bay section, this time the diorama highlights a badly damaged Mark II Viper undergoing repairs.

Now you see a different story being told. And this is what that made the entire display so fascinating. How you interprete the stories are entirely up to your imagination. Imagine then when all these are joined together, all the different stories being told separately but yet stayed focus under the same theme - a scene of life in a Battlestar's Hangar bay. You can tell a lot of planning and hard work went into this project.

As for the details, a lot of the accessories you see there were practically scratch build using parts from other kits. The end result when each of them were brought together created an overwhelming and inspiring visual art piece, a complete display that somehow successfully captures each member's sense of creativity. And you have to understand, they did this under a time constraint with strict guidelines. The display not only successfully showed off the Club's professionalism with their builds, but also showcase their team member's team spirit. These lads really came through together.

When you actually see the entire diorama itself, it really can be mind boggling, so many things happening all at once. You literally need to stand there and see each of the hangar bays as they are to truly appreciate the amount of work done for each of them.

And as if these were not enough to satiate any Battlestar fan's fancy, another Viper made her grand debut in a spectacular manner.

Introducing Moebius' new Mark VII Colonial Viper. This Viper was build up by Miniature Sun without any instruction sheet or official decals (it was a test kit given to him to be shown in all her glory at the show). Every part had to be test fitted and decals salvaged from other kits, creating an end result that certainly do not reveal any of these shortcomings.

An excellent job by Miniature Sun if I do say so myself.

And what a way to make her grand entrance. I was informed that the Battlestar Excalibur's Hangar Bay Diorama and the Mark VII presence made quite an impression at the Militaire Show. I'm not surprised at all since it made quite an impression on me and I'm like thousands of miles away. Really wish I had been there to see this.

Kudos to all involved for such an awe inspiring work. This fantastic diorama could probably be 2011's grand highlight (unless another club tops her after seeing their achievement) that I'm sure many will talk about for years to come, I do believe that Science Fiction and Fantasy Modeller UK have also served notice to all the other clubs worldwide - "come top us if you can .. one spruce at a time". Its a challenge not to be taken lightly since the stakes are raised and the benchmark is high. Come to think of it, this is actually the first Club I've come across that proactively engage its members on an exciting joint project.

If you are a scale modeler residing in the UK or Europe, and you wish to learn more and improve on your own scale modeling techniques, I highly recommend that you get in touch with this club. From this project alone, I am very impressed with the way its committee steered the club, its practically like living in an exciting adventure doing something you enjoy. Wished more clubs elsewhere would emulate them.


  1. Bruce!

    This one of the coolest things I've ever seen! Thanks for posting this, I wish I could send a message congratulating these guys for pulling off a great concept. (I'm grinning like an idiot now) :D

  2. Wow. This is impressive. I might not know much about the Hangars but are they supposed to look that crowded?

  3. Eric, I wish I was part of that team building that. They're awesome.

    CFC, yup. The hangar bay is suppose to be filled with activities and space is a concern

  4. Hiya,

    I'm Mark (aka tak5haka) from SFM:uk, one of the admins and part of the trio who coordinated this group build (my Viper was flown by "Morticia"). Myself, Alun and Ellenbethsdad (aka "Sparky") came up with the concept about six months prior to the Crewe show and I can tell you that we were really pleased how it ended up.

    We had builders from across the UK and one in the USA - not only was the name of the Battlestar chosen by popular vote, so was the winning design for the basic combat markings. I had the dubious pleasure of translating these into workable decals and Ellenbethsdad built all the individual bases and the superb hangar door at the end of the diorama.

    Kudos goes to all the builders, especially Miniature Sun (we know him as Jargonking) for the loan of some of his impressive scratch-built accessories to fill some gaps. Everyone did a fantastic job and seeing the final thing in the flesh was jaw-dropping.

    We also came up with back stories for the pilots and scenes depicted in the diorama, as well as fleshing out the background of the Excalibur (the Battlestar model you can see on the edge of a couple of the shots is actually the Excalibur itself, built by our forum's founder Alun).

    Thanks for the praise, it's good to know that our work is being looked at across the galaxy ... lol

    By the way, even though we are primarily a UK-based Sci-Fi forum, we love having like-minded people come aboard, so don't be shy, we're planning the next group build already ...

  5. Hi tak5haka

    Thanks for the invite but due to the distance, well, that may be a problem. You guys really did a marvelous job there, and everyone involved deserves all the praises. Really hope to see more spectacular work coming from SFM:UK soon