Sunday, June 18, 2017

"CUSTOMIZING THE CLONE WARS" - EPISODE 51




Clone Wars custom action figure artists, Peak-OB1 Custom Creations & Elias and Darth Daddy of "Customs for the Kid" get together to do their Season 3 Recap episode for "The Clone Wars" TV series and share a small sample of the Clone Wars custom action figures that they showcased in their earlier episodes this year.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Diorama Building Interview Part One with Frank D'iorio

I had a project for school that I recently completed. I had to teach myself a new skill for an end of the year project and I chose diorama building. Frank D'iorio was at the top of my list for individuals to contact for information on diorama building.  The following is a little information about Frank and the interview I conducted with him. 


Frank D'iorio, the creator of DioramaWorkshop.com, works in Movie Visual Effects as a freelance Digital Compositor. Frank has been building diorama playsets as a way to display his Star Wars collection and started sharing his some of his home designs with the world, first with his website NiubNiubsUniverse.com in the summer of 2000, and then in 2011, Frank joined the 21st century with the creation of Frank D'iorio's Diorama Workshop where viewers can enjoy "FREE" decals, blueprints, and step-by-step instructions that are great for individuals who want to build action figure dioramas in their own home for either display or as your kid's playsets.

Some of Frank's film work includes: 300, Final Destination 3, Fantastic 4, and Terminator Salvation among others. You can see his work profile over at IMDB.com

Since 2002, Frank has been working along with Lucasfilm, designing, and organizing all of the Diorama Workshops for all their Star Wars Celebration conventions. An opportunity that allows him to share his love for Star Wars and diorama building with kids of all ages.

Here are the questions I put together for him. I asked him to answer the following elaborately, and to the best of his ability.  Also be on the look for a second installment of my Interview Series with another talented Star Wars diorama builder very soon.


What got you into diorama building in the first place? 

I made model kits very early on as a kid like R2-D2, X-Wings, Darth Vader's Tie Fighter obviously, and I remember vividly also glow-in-the-dark monsters from the Universal Studios films, the Invisible man, King Kong, Frankenstein. So I always had that miniature creative build or knowledge of the fun of building those since I was young.

Now jump to my early 30s, when Hasbro started remaking the Star Wars action figures and after displaying them just on the shelf, I started diving into simple scenes which led to elaborate scenes which now lead to trying to reproduce as close as possible, the movie sets. So in essence the new Star Wars figures got me into the building of the dioramas

What about diorama building interests you? 

I like to display the toys or action figures out of the package, and making dioramas creates a more interesting display than just placing them on shelves.

Plus it's a little bit like making models like when I was a kid.

Why build Star Wars dioramas? 

I guess the main reason is that the Star Wars toys are the first that I bought, the ones that bring me back to my childhood, and my love for these films. Well the Original Trilogy, not the Prequels, yuck ha ha ha. I hated the Prequels even though I've done many dynamics from them. They just did not capture Star Wars for me the way the originals did. I must say that bad taste has gone away with the new movies coming out in the Disney area including Force Awakens and Rogue One which I hope to make scenes from soon, now that I've technically retired and should have more time to build again.

Have you built any dioramas outside of Star Wars? 
I have not yet, and yet is the important word because I would love to do some scenes from some of my other favourite films that have toys made for them. Maybe one day some Alien or Blade Runner or I don't know what fans would like to see.

How many different types of dioramas are there? 

That's almost impossible to answer, there are so many, I imagine a few, I can think of is miniature train settings that are like huge landscapes, realistic landscapes actually.

Then you have with some call dioramas of just having a figure, understand, but I find not elaborate enough to be actual diorama.

Then there is what I do, which is re-create as closely as possible the movie to display their figures in order to re-create the actual scene from the film.

What brands of materials would you recommend for each of the different projects you could do? 

In my case, it's not really brands, as I tend to try and find household items from dollar stores and hobby shops or Home Depot style stores so that people can easily find these materials and re-create my works at home.

Items like plaster, foam core or foamboard, hot glue, Styrofoam, knickknacks around the house and just regular latex paint.


What tips would you give novices, they wouldn't learn otherwise? 

Just have fun and take the time to build.

Many have asked me in the past years to make dioramas for them, and I told them they are very easy and can be done at home. You just have to put the hours in to do it

Sometimes, people have told me, "Oh, mine doesn't look as good as yours. I spent three hours" and I tell them that I spent 60 hours so that's why doesn't look as good. You just have to put in the time. Everyone has the skills, you just have to practice and believe in yourself.

But mostly, it's about time. The more time you put in the nicer so it will look.

How long (on average) would a large (2' by 2') detailed diorama take? 

This is an impossible question to answer as it depends on what scene or location you're making. For example, a Tattooine scene from Star Wars, where the movie set is all run down, you don't have to spend as much time to finish it and the less feel you have the more it looks like the movie. A simple Tattooine can take a day or two.

If you try to re-create the inside of the millennium falcon for lightsaber training with Ben Kenobi and the hover ball, that took me almost 3 months to get it movie accurate.



What difficulties might one come across while constructing some of the dioramas you create?

Not sure I would say difficulties, except when designing from scratch, because sometimes the technique you think will work doesn't, and you have to scrap the whole thing and start over. That's wasting time there.

I guess if you think difficulty, one is in terms of easy, medium, hard, it could be related to skill level, as well, which would also fall into the more you practice, the better you get at it. For example, using hot glue or cutting foam board with your X-ACTO blade.

At first, many don't know how to hold the cutting knife and thus don't make smooth edges, but with practice and time, you get to learn this and overcome these difficulties.

About how many dioramas have you built (including the very, very small ones)? 

Oh my God I have not counted in the long time now that I've moved. I've actually had to abandon a few dozen thinking I will re-create them and videotape them to make better instructions. On what I have on my website, I'd say at least 200, I would say in the past 25 years.




Out of the dioramas you have made, which one/s is/are your favorite? 

My favourites would be hard to choose. I would say between the Docking Bay because of the mirror affect doubling the hundred Stormtroopers that I already have making it look like the army from the film, and I love the inside of the Millennium Falcon.

And I think the half medical base, because it's just decals but looks really cool. Oh and if it's for objects to decorate dioramas, I loved the simplicity of the Luke moisture evaporator.



How did working in film come about for you? 

Like everybody, my age old, ha ha, I was 13 in 1977 and saw Star Wars which made me want to do this working at ILM one day. Many, many years later, I studied graphic design at University and was lucky to land a job in one of the big local television stations of Montreal. From there I gained experience in high-end commercial work doing VFX for TV, then switching to miniseries for television doing Discovery channel's Dinosaur Planet which led to Scooby Doo 2 and 300. The supervisor of 300 happened to be the brother of a supervisor at ILM and there was my connection, my passport if you will, to open the door which got me my first job in the big big leagues and my dream of ILM in 2007 working on the very first Transformers movie.

How did your diorama building contribute to the filmmaking process? 


Diorama building had nothing to do with the filmmaking is just happens to be my love of Star Wars. I guess which link the two together. Digital compositing in film requires no skills learned from diorama making. Ha ha ha, it really is just a hobby that I love very much.

What do you think is the hardest part of building a diorama? 

This sounds silly, but the hardest part for me is time or finding the time to make them. Especially now in the past years. Working in visual FX big movies sounds glamorous, but also brings the downside of working 70 hour weeks, which leads or leaves you to have not much extra time to build dioramas.

Add a love of playing video games on my PlayStation leaves even less time. Ha ha so the balance of real life, work, plus video games, watching movies and then finding time to build makes it difficult.



How long did it take to build your favorite diorama? 

My Millennium Falcon interior as I said took me a couple of months. Some of my other favourites like the interior half medical bay, maybe four or five weeks but that's mostly weekends so it's maybe six days or seven days, once I did all of the graphics.

How did you land the gig at Star Wars Celebrations of doing the Diorama Workshop? 
That was quite easy. Just being right place right time I guess. Rebelscum was hosting my first website niubniubsuniverse and they were selling autographs at Celebration 2. The contact with Mary Franklin from Lucasfilm was already established with them. Scum casually mentioned to Mary if she thought the kid's diorama workshop would be something they'd be interested with. She said yes of course. Mary gave us a small room to test and the result ... Mos Eisley... was a huge success. After that we have been asked to return to every US celebrations ever since. This past April with the Death Star building marked our 15th anniversary.


Are there any useful tips you picked up on while working in the diorama workshop at previous Star Wars Celebrations?
I want to say I picked up useful tips as I am the one who designed all the workshops, Ha ha ha, so the tips I guess would have been learned at home. I think this question would be better asked to fans who built at the Diorama Builders Workshops, because I try to introduce different techniques for every show.

What do you think is the most useful skill in the diorama building subject? 

I guess the most useful skill for one to learn, because it's what you will use 95% of the time, is how to properly cut foam board or form core without making jaggy edges and how to properly apply hot glue gun.

To become a true master of diorama building, how much experience would one need? 

Millions of hours, ha ha, seriously master is a big word that I am still find today a little embarrassing when people throw that at me. The more hours you put in, more time well that's the same thing actually, you will get better and better. I guess after you made scenes for a couple of years, you would be a master of sorts. Even more so if you specialize in one technique, like a master painter or master designer.

Are there any other things you'd like to add?

Thank you for wanting to chat with me, it's always a pleasure. I'm just an ordinary guy, geek like all of you, so to think that what I have to say is important and such, always makes me laugh, but I enjoy sharing, chatting with people any chance I have, so thank you!

Glad I could help Elias
Best, Frank

Thank you Frank!

To get started on your own Star Wars dioramas, we highly recommend you check out Frank D'iorio's Diorama Workshop!




Frank Diorio makes it easier to navigate!  The Diorama Workshop is one of the neatest Star Wars Custom Websites on the world wide web and it just got a little cooler with quicker and easier to use index links to put all those cool resources at your fingertips. From Frank, "Once the Index Links Cool Zone link is selected, you have a choice of 10 specific categories to select - Making of, DecalsBlueprintsComparisonsFrames etc... Then on THAT category page you will find EVERY SINGLE LINK that is onsite for that specific category. So if you LOVE Movie Comparisons, you can now read a list of ALL the photos and click directly on their links to warp to that photo without going into every scene workshop menu. Give him your feedback, let him know if you think it was a good idea. Have a great weekend!



Diorama Building Interview Part Two with Ron Hembling aka HemblesCreations

For the second installment of my project for school that I recently just completed we'll be showcasing the second part of my interview series. For my project, I had to teach myself a new skill and then do a presentation in front of my class about the learning process.  For my presentation, I chose diorama building. Besides making a diorama of my own, part of that project also required me to conduct some interviews with some individuals involved in diorama building. This post is the second of the two interviews, and it is with none other than Ron Hembling.

Ron Hembling aka HemblesCreations is a name that almost every Star Wars customizer knows. He's famous for creating lifelike dioramas filled with custom action figures that are among some of the best ever made. This Australian native is definitely within the ranks of the top three Star Wars customizers of all-time. His paint applications add so much realism with their masterful weathered appearance. I can recognize a HemblesCreations piece immediately because there is no one else out there quite like him. He has a signature look that creates such uniformity when looking at all his pieces as a group. They would all display so well next to each other. HemblesCreations work is consistently classy. One masterpiece after another. I love the way he captures and exhibits the world that Lucas created.

Ron is unique in the community for sometimes turning his super-articulated action figures into frozen statuettes. Once he poses an action figure in his diorama and gets it into its desired position, he will sculpt over the joints and hide the parts of the action figure that take away from the sculpts sense of realism. By the time he finishes hiding all the lines in the figure that could only come off a machined assembly line, HemblesCreations has a piece like the ones pictured below.

This artist really shows his mastery by being able to work within so many different scales. Ron's been one of the most supportive members I've come across in the custom action figure community, and talents like his don't come around as often as we all wish they would.

We actually posted some of his recent YouTube tutorial videos here on our blog for the excellent educational content that they offered.

This time around I thought it would be nice to share with you all the interview that I conducted with Ron on diorama building and



What got you into diorama building in the first place?

My dad got me into the hobby back when I was about 12 years old, he was always building military models from tanks to ships. When I wanted to start making them he gave me a kit and taught me how to cut and clean the pieces, how to paint, and how to make all my diorama parts from scratch, as at that time there wasn't really a market out there selling diorama kits.

Then, over the years, with what he taught me, I went a step further, and added to that by developing my own style and techniques to the ones that he had taught me.

What about diorama building interests you?

The main thing that interests myself in diorama building is to work out how I'm going to have a diorama look so that is looks as realistic as possible, so it just doesn't look like a plastic figure or vehicle sitting a base.

Why build Star Wars dioramas?

I love building Star Wars dioramas because there is such a huge diversity within the Star Wars universe that there are no limitations on what you can build. I could build a Stormtrooper on Endor and then my next diorama I do, I could have a Stormtrooper on Jedha as there is so much Star Wars can offer in building dioramas. You can even build your style of planet for a diorama. The possibilities are endless.

How many different types of dioramas are there?
There are hundreds of different types of dioramas from all types of genres and these are just a few, dinosaur, space, sci-fi, military, trains, planes, boats, cars, water and the list goes on and on.

What brands of materials would you recommend for each of the different projects you could do?

That is a very good question as you use all types of different materials for different dioramas and the list is huge. You can use balsa wood, plastic card, cardboard, wire, straws, plaster of paris, spakfilla, lids, containers and paints. You can also use real earth materials like I do such as grass, branches, dirt, sand, twigs, rocks and leaves it really just depends on what type of diorama scene you are wanting to make.

What tips would you give novices, they wouldn't learn otherwise?

The best tips I can give a novice is to plan your diorama, the internet is a fantastic place for research as there are millions of picture subjects that you can choose from be it from a desert diorama to a water diorama. But the ultimate research is studying real life scenery, just go outside and look around your own backyard or local park. Going outside you can see how things look naturally, such as the base of a tree. Have a close look and it's not just a tree pushed into the ground it as grass growing around it, it has dirt and could even have moss on it. Also practice before you start on a diorama as this will help you learn how to place materials on your diorama to make it look life like.

How long (on average) would a large (2' by 2') detailed diorama take?


On average for myself a 2' x 2' detailed diorama will take me about 30 hrs all up. I plan days even weeks ahead of how I want a diorama to look and then I start the research part of the project by gathering pictures and reference material.

About 2 weeks before I start the diorama, I will collect all the materials and products I need to make it. Once I have collected them all, I then work out how I want the diorama to look. When I'm happy, I then make the figures and/or  vehicles, paint and weather them,  and then start on the diorama itself.



What difficulties might one come across while constructing some of the dioramas you create?

These myself are the most difficult things that I have come across in my time building dioramas. They are time itself, as real life problems do occur, your diorama will be put on hold due to real problems. You can also became unmotivated when building a diorama as it might be taking longer then expected, or you need more materials, so you need to wait for them to arrive.

But the biggest difficulty is when you're building a diorama, you don't like the way it is looking, so you need to step back, and look on how you can fix the problem by either taking it apart and move things about, or start all over again.

About how many dioramas have you built (including the very, very small ones)?
I have built well over 500 diorama's from little 1:72 scale all the way thru to 1:6 scale.


Out of the dioramas you have made, which one/s is/are your favorite?

I have two favourites the first one is an Indiana Jones diorama of Indy on horse back 1:18 scale from Raiders as it is such an Iconic look for Indy. The second one would have to be a 2 in 1 diorama of two Sandtroopers, one on a dewback, and one standing next to them in 1:12 scale as Sandtroopers are my favourite troopers, and the diorama just looks awesome.



How long did it take to build your favorite diorama?

The most favourite and longest build was the Sandtroopers with the dewback diorama that took me over 30 hours all up, as I wanted to make sure that the dewback looked great and also the rock cliff behind the figures looked natural.


What inspired you to create video tutorials on YouTube?

I kept getting emails and PM's and even phone calls about what I use and how I do things with my diorama's that I decided to actually show people what and how I do the things that make up building a diorama.This helped as people could actually see what I was talking and speaking about, and they can actually understand the process better.



How did your diorama building contribute to the filmmaking process?
It helped me by letting people understand what goes into building dioramas, and also let people see more in depth processes that were hard to explain such as how to make mix products and build certain things such as walls and trees.

What do you think is the hardest part of building a diorama?
I think the hardest part of diorama building is getting the layout and feel of it correct. You can have an amazing looking figure or vehicle but it can get lost if you over power the diorama with to many things on it as the main focus point is that figure or vehicle that you built.

The other thing is that you want your diorama to tell a story, for example you have built a diorama and I see it for the first time and say to myself,  "Hey that figure is doing that, or that vehicle is doing this without you having to tell me." This comes down to what you have on your diorama and that all the elements are positioned correctly.

Have you gotten any surprising feedback from your diorama tutorials?
I have indeed, I have gotten great feedback from people saying thank you for showing them how to do certain subjects so that they can make their own. On the other foot. I have had people tell me to stop making them as I shouldn't give my secrets away, LOL, I just ignore them, as this is an awesome hobby, and the more people learn how to do things, the more they will show what they have done.



What do you think is the most useful skill in diorama building?

The most useful skill you can have is patience, because if you don't have that, you will always build crappy dioramas, as will you will always get frustrated if something doesn't go right, so yeah patience is the best skill you can have.

To become a true master of diorama building, how much experience would one need?
Very, very good question, I honestly don't think there is such a word as a true master diorama builder, as you are always learning new techniques and ways of doing things. To get to where I am in building dioramas today, it has taken me 37 years, and as I mentioned, I still learn something everyday, so I think it depends on the individual, how much do they want to do the hobby, and how much effort they are willing to put in.

Prime example is yourself, I remember when you started making action figures to where you are now. Your skills have grown 1000 times better and that is over only a couple of years, so in all essence, you can be called a true master, it's honestly up to the individual.



Are there any other things you'd like to add?

Yeah only two things, Have fun and ask questions about the hobby, because if you don't have fun doing, you will quickly start to hate doing it and there is an old saying, If you don't ask you won't know so ask as many questions as you can until you are happy.

Thanks for letting me be a part of this school assignment mate and good luck and look forward to seeing your next build.

Cheers,
Ron

I can't thank Ron enough for helping me get an "A" on my project and for taking time out of his busy schedule to help a kid in middle school with a class project.

I highly recommend you all follow the work of HemblesCreations at the links below!


HemblesCreations 






Watch his videos at the link below:




Tuesday, June 6, 2017

STAR WARS REBELS "GRAND ADMIRAL THRAWN - IMPERIAL OFFICER BATTLE ARMOR" created by Darth Daddy

This was a custom we wanted to make ever since watching the season finale of Rebels, "Zero Hour". It was cool to see Thrawn sporting his battle armor, and we knew if we put some effort into it, it could be an easy figure to make. First, we modified the chest armor and accessories that came with the Vintage AT-AT Commander aka General Veers by filling in the controls located at the abdomen by filling the recessed space with Aves Fixit. When we were done sanding our spackle job,  we expanded the size of the rank insignia with the sculpting compound that we had left over before it dried. After, we painted the goggles, armor and helmet white, we followed up our primary layered paint applications by adding in all the fine details and accents to the figure as needed.  

On the figure, all that we had to do was paint Thrawn's hands glossy black for Thrawn's gloves, and then fix the colors in Thrawn's rank insignia that Hasbro got wrong in their own paint application.  By the time we were done, we had one cool looking action figure.  We kept the action figure's five points of articulation to keep it consistent with the Rebels line.

Oh, and on a side note, if you haven't read the new Thrawn novel, pick it up it was a fun read.



STAR WARS REBELS 
"GRAND ADMIRAL THRAWN - IMPERIAL OFFICER BATTLE ARMOR" 
created by Darth Daddy






















Friday, June 2, 2017

"Braconnor Bakiska aka Fu Manchu" created by Darth Daddy

Braconnor Bakiska was a male of the Stennes species who lived during the time of the Galactic Civil War. During the year 0 BBY, Bakiska was present in Chalmun's Spaceport Cantina, located in Mos Eisley on the planet Tatooine. Braconnor Bakiska was sitting inside the entrance to the cantina when the former moisture farmer Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi came to the cantina looking for a pilot to take them to the planet Alderaan. During that time, Bakiska sat at a table with the Defel Arleil Schous, the Advozsec Bom Vimdin, the Arconan Hem Dazon, and the Siniteen Pons Limbic. Some fan somewhere came up with the moniker, “Fu Manchu” for this guy, based on his rather unimpressive mustache dangling from his upper lip. 

We sculpted down a Firespeeder Pilot (Battle of Coruscant) action figure from the Saga Collection with a Dremel to remove all of the strapping and reduce the size of the head peg.  After we painted the hood from the Sandstorm Luke Skywalker action figure to recreate the character's wardrobe for this one.  The head is a cast of a sculpt by the extremely talented artist Evergrey that I was fortunate enough to acquire from a close friend. All we had to do was paint the head to complete the figure.


"Braconnor Bakiska
aka Fu Manchu"
created by Darth Daddy