Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Project "Aliens" : Colonial Marines' Dropship

I have a friend who picked up the Prodos Games AVP "Cheyenne Dropship," made famous in the 1986 movie "Aliens."  Since he has only a little experience with resin kits, he let me take on the task of building this kit for him.  What follows is a write up of my experience and my thoughts about this project.

This subject is something of a "grail kit" for me.  I've always loved it.  A 1/72 kit is out there from Halcyon and it's not bad but has been out of production so long that it's now both old plastic and prohibitively expensive. I actually had it at one time but tried to build it when my skills were much worse, and it eventually ended up...somewhere else. Along comes Prodos Games. Prodos has their AVP game in 28mm (or 32..depending on the version) which is approximately 1/56-1/60 scale, and a year or so ago they brought out the "cheyenne" dropship which is a version of this kit in the gaming scale.  That size brings this model in at a bit over 16 inches long and 10+ inches wide.  It's designed so you can display it with gear up or down, and with the wings/weapons pods open or stowed.  With a little creativity, you can find ways to do both.

I also have this kit, which I got earlier in the production run.  There are distinct differences I see in the quality of the parts of the two kits, but most of the issues are workable.  One issue that was *not* recoverable was the the casting of the forward wing bomb pods.  The resin is not fully cured and is not curing.  To complete the kit I was working on, I had to pull the pieces from my own kit.  I am still waiting for Prodos to come back with a reply about that.  3 messages so far, 0 responses.  Does not bode well.  But anyway, that is future-me's problem now.

One of the biggest challenges of this kit is the assembly.  There are some appreciable gaps in the seams, and while they may seem daunting at first, it can be worked with an appropriate amount of patience and quite a bit of green stuff.  In the end, the result can be made to be pretty nice.

If you're looking for screen-accuracy, then this will not be ideal for you.  There are many good basics here, but there's also quite a bit that was done differently for either expediency or for ease of use in the game.  If you really want to, you can customize the build, and get an even better result than just an out-of-the-box assembly.  I actually did that, choosing to rework the cockpit and add some lighting, as well as customizing it to where I could display it either gear-down/ramp down or gear-up/in flight.  The wings, both forward and back, are positionable as well.

In the end, I am moderately pleased with the result.  I did a video series of the build and I will link them below in the order I published them if you'd like to follow the build.  For the cost, this is a bit of a labor of passion.  It's not an inexpensive kit, but it is a very large, and somewhat well detailed offering for a subject you can't get anywhere else.  If you're very very focused on a screen-accurate kit, then settle in and plan to do some re-work.  However, it really can be done with this, even if it will require more than a little scratch building.

Like I said above, this is a "grail kit" for me.  It's a rare offering for a popular subject and it's in a scale that I like.  I like working in the gaming scale as I have so many thing in that size for various games and there'a always the opportunity to play with your toys with your friends.  The person I built this for seems to be happy with the result and that's what matters for this build.  I have started mine, as I used it to test out some options for building this one, and that will likely get attention through the year as I fiddle with details here and there.  I'm doing more reference research and may accurize mine a bit more for display purposes.  I'll still do the lighting with on-board batteries and will also make a flight stand, just in case, but I do like the potential for diorama builds for display.

While there are a lot of things one can complain about with this kit, there is also quite a bit of good to say as well.  In the end, my opinion is that if you're a big fan of the Colonial Marine's Dropship.. it's hard to pass up this limited edition kit.

Video 1 - unboxing and first look

Video 2 - first assembly steps

Video 3 - more assembly and build concepts

Video 4 - cockpit customization

Video 5 - cockpit and magnetization ideas

Video 6 - Process for handling the gaps

Video 7 - wrapping up the assembly and first main painting steps

Video 8 - base color choices and painting 

Video 9 - final view and reveal of the finished product

Some Photos of the final product are  here:

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Project Kestrel (2) Ha'la'tha VTOL

I continue to be unimpressed with Revell. The cabin build for the Kestrel is the H145M which is, apparently, a rebox of the EC145 kit from 2005. All the edges are soft except for the pieces that are specifically for the Military version. The engineering of the kit leaves some things to be desired as well. Several pieces are integral to the main cabin shell, and their alignment is critical, but there are no locating pins or even a shelf line. I've even found a piece that is supposed to be a mirror, but they cast it as a duplicate. The instructions tell you how to file and cut the thing to be the piece you need. That I would expect from a garage kit.

 Main instrument panel. Soft edges, there'll be some serious filling here.

The rudder, cyclic and collective controls are pretty nice. A little tricksy to get off the sprue, as there are gates on the very fine parts, but once you get them and if you're patient it can be worked.

Of course, I had to choose to do the troop transport version. Painting up the jump seats and then did a little research on the color gradations for red/brown leather. the instrument panel went together ok, but still needs some filling and work,

Putting the chairs in place and did a bit of weathering of the floor

a look at the main cockpit and controls.

This is what I was talking about. you have to build up an inner shell, and then this will align with the windows and ports on the external shell. You can see fitment issues along the top, and it's hard to be certain where the edges are supposed to be.

Of course, I also forgot when I was putting all that subtle weathering in place that it pretty much won't be visible.  I am thinking I'll keep the side doors off, or at least open.  The rear doors I can leave open, and I'm also thinking taking it completely off and mounting a minigun might be a nice option.  

We'll see how it goes together from here.  : )

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Project "Kestrel" - The beginning. (Caprica-'verse Ha'la'tha VTOL)

Project has a name: Project Kestrel. I like the sound.  Again, staying wit the theme of a resistance-use aircraft, I actually have to put a bit more thought into the equipment maintenance and battle strategies. From what I understand, the Ha'la'tha forces had a decent run early but were overwhelmed by superior equipment, manpower and resources. However, they had to have some kind of infrastructure to start with, and working with smaller, more agile and flexible hardware would have been a good strategy.
So, the Caprica VTOL design is big, powerful and state of the art in appearance, compared to our early designs of Huey or Chickasaw. Essentially a merge of a jet-powered Osprey and the Blackhawk, the designers didn't try hard to hide the Blackhawks lines, so I'm not going to bother with it either. I'm going take the EC145 and work along similar design concepts.

I'm liking the upward bent gull wings with tip-mounted engines. The one thing I need to figure out is the tail.. the narrow beam looks "meh" to me. But, because I want to keep the doors, I have to figure something out. Either a twin tail boom extending off the rear of the fuselage or something wider and more robust looking. Not sure yet. We'll see. I do want to keep that rear-opening door. That allows the design to be variable like the 145, troop transport, special assignment, med-evac.. etc.

The engines will be a bit tricksy. I have a few ideas.. but there's a trick to the V-22: Fuel and control delivery. That was conveniently skipped in "Caprica" if you look at the images, but I will have to account for it on my design. (Engineer brain again.) but the Osprey hub solved that problem, I can simulate a similar resolution.
More to come. : )

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ha'la'tha Resistance Fighter build - 6 Completed.

Once the main colors were down, it really was a matter of getting stuck in on the weathering.  For this, I stretched my skills again and decided to try using oil paints.  Yeah, I know, pretty much everyone uses them, but they are new to me so all the techniques are going to be learn-as-I go. 

I intentionally was going for a heavily weathered and worn look.  This aircraft is part of resistance forces and so is operated out of hidden bases with minimal maintenance available.  That's the look I'm going for- flight worthy, funcitonal but used.  The first thing I went for was the panel- line shading and I pretty much used the shading to hint at lines that weren't even there.  The feathering worked out better than I had hoped it would and I was content with the end result. 

After that, I just got stuck in on chipping, dusting and fading the colors.  Eventually, I got to where I wanted to go, and called it done.  I learned an incredible amount of things working this model, and I'm quite happy with what I was able to turn out.  There are many things I think I would like to do differently in later projects, but that is what learning is all about.  

So, the final product:  the GAS F/A-3 Medusa Attack aircraft. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ha'la'tha Resistance Fighter build - 5

I have the final shaping and piecing done.  The contours are sanded and the panel-line scribing is done to the best of my ability.  I did make an attempt, and while I wish I could've done better, I did learn and will have more skills the next time I try.  For now, I will use weathering and shading to accent the lines and get me the look I'm going for. 

I added the cannons to the fuselage and also put on the hardpoints.  I'll add on the drop tanks as well.  I really do like the look of them underslung under the wings.  I dunno if it's going to please the BSG rivet counters, but hey, I'm building for me and this is fun. : )  It has the look I'm going for and I'm having a good time doing it.  I feel like the cannons have that Viper-call back feel, and it would make sense that the design element that placed them there in the first place would carry through to later Superiority Fighter designs, and cause the designers of the Viper series to do the same.

With the overall design done, on to painting.  I really like the camo I mentioned earlier, so I started with a base of desert tan, and then mottled with Flat Earth.   For the first time in..oh.. forever, I actually broke out my airbrush.  I like the airbrush but it's always a challenge getting my paints to work well.  I don't have the model AIR which I prefer, I mostly use Vallejo game color.  With a good mix of thinner and flow improver, it works well, but between the cheapo compressor and the set up I have, I find that I have to fiddle a bit to keep the consistency of the paint even.  It's not really a problem, it's just fiddly.  It's that fiddlyness that gets me to not use it enough.  I really should get the adapter setup for my good air compressor. 

The camo scheme has the look I like, so on to the decals.  ugh.  I tried to use my own custom decals and they are ... bleah.  I have had recommendations since to try the Testor's paper, which this was not, and a different fixer for them.  For now, I have only a few special ones and the rest of the placard decals are coming from the F4 kit. 

Overall, I'm not too terribly unhappy with the result.  They'll do for this run, and next time, I'll know more.  I will use weathering and use to try to fade these in more and give it the look I'm going for.  So far, so good.  Moving forward.