Monday, 24 September 2018

Finally getting to the Backdrops

Over the past few months when not getting distracted, I have made a slow start in addressing one of the major unfinished aspects of Philip's Creek, the lack of backdrops around most of the layout. This may be the first of several posts on this topic as I work my way around seeking to depth to what is otherwise a very narrow strip of ground, probably little more than 50m wide in 1:1 scale.

The first obvious question, why the hell didn't I address this in an orderly planned way before I started building the layout? The short answer is that I was too bloody impatient and wanted to get track down and run trains. As a plea in mitigation, the layout evolved over time to fit the available space. When it started in 1996, Philip's Creek was a continuous run loop and the viewing direction was inwards. A few years later, it became a point to point operation and the viewing direction was reversed as the layout started to run around walls. So even if I had installed a backdrop before laying track, it would be been superseded as the layout evolved.

Currently, the two primary methods of installing backdrops are to glue or fix some combination of panorama photos or to paint an appropriate scene on a blank sheet of timber.  Having said this, I can foresee the day when both methods will be  a thing of the past and we have some combination of wide screens behind the layout showing a backdrop where clouds move across the sky as well as vehicles, people and animals move in the background, all linked with appropriate sounds.

But back to the present, I wrestled with the decision as to whether to install a photo panorama or attempt to paint a scene. I believe that a good photo panorama, properly scaled provides the ultimate backdrop. However, these work best if installed first before track is laid. Terrain features such as creeks and hills can then be aligned with the panorama. As I said, I didn't have willpower to do that so, in essence, I'm playing 'catch up football' . A few years ago, I did experiment with a panorama which I photographed near Armidale. After some 'photoshop' work I did a test printout, taped it together and installed it near the Phillip's Creek coal mine. I was able to align a creek but it didn't seem to fit with other terrain features. For me, this represents the ultimate problem with a photo backdrop, the challenge of matching the backdrop with existing topography already in place on the layout such as the Hall's Creek module shown below.


So I decided to have a go at painting a back scene. I am certainly no Michelangelo or Albert Namatjira but there is plenty of advice around. There is a great article in Issue 6 of the Australian Journal of Railway Modelling together with numerous items and video on the internet. 

One consistent theme in most of these is the need to work from back to front or the distant to the foreground. Another is the need to dab with a bristle brush  rather than paint when seeking to create distant vegetation. All part of the learning experience.

As the painting moved to the foreground, there was the challenge of how to transition horizontal elements onto a vertical face which can be viewed from several angles without loss of perspective. For this module, the creek is that major element.








I sought to achieve this by representing a bend in the creek which then disappeared behind folds in the terrain. I painted a small portion of water on the backdrop which then appeared to disappear behind other hills.






 
 


The other thing that I have actively sought to do is to place trees on the terrain which has the effect of breaking up the backdrop particularly at corners.





The overall view of the module with the completed backdrop is shown below. This is another case where the camera presents a different view from what appears to the Mark 1 eyeball, particularly matching the colour of the terrain with that of the backdrop. The colours seems to be a better match than they appear in the photo below.



I'm reasonably happy with this as a first effort, but I suspect that I have done the easiest one first. The next one, Kingston Plains will probably be more challenging particularly with roads and probably buildings to be included on the backdrop. Work has just started with clouds added and a number of potential scenes identified. More to follow in another post.





11 comments:

  1. Phil, Like the before and afters for photo 1. It certainly improves the perspective in the area. Keep going, you can practice on yours then come and do mine!
    Bob

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    1. Bob,
      Thanks but a lot a practice will be required so it will not look out of place with your excellent scenery.
      cheers Phil

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  2. Phil

    Good work, your paintings have done well, while the concept of backdrops on the new Essence is a way off as the layout was to come first I will continue having a blend of the panorama backdrops at least on one wall where it was previously.

    However, I will also be doing painted backdrops on the other areas of the layout albeit in a modified from.

    While starting the backdrops from scratch, I intend at least with the commercial ones to put them on the back board first and attach to the rear of the layout before it is placed on the frame.

    I look at your work and you have done an excellent job, having trees on the hill tops improves the scene and both adds and blends in well with the overall layout

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    1. Col,
      Thanks for the feedback. I trust Essence is moving forward in its new form. I trust that when you attach the layout to the commercial backdrop, it all lines up with any existing scenery.
      cheers Phil

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  3. Way back in 2004, I attended a clinic at the NMRA convention in Seattle. The subject was lighting within the backdrops, as opposed to how we normally do it. The clinic presenter used a simple translucent (milky white) plastic as the primary backdrop, however, there was a hollow cavity behind the plastic, where he could employ various backlighting effects - from blue, to reds, and oranges for sunset - these could be cycled. The effect was magic. He also did a trick with a flashlamp for a lightning effect. Whilst unlikely to be a mainstream technique, it goes someways towards your futuristic backdrop with moving clouds.

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    1. Rob,
      Thanks for the comment and I can understand how it would work but if I have interpreted it correctly, the focus was very much of the sky rather than any distant terrain. I'm sure somebody will move down the path that I have predicted although I have no feel for a time frame. It certainly won't be me. I have enough challenge painting a backdrop.
      cheers Phil

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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Ray, much appreciated. 1.8m down, only 10.2m to go!

      Delete
  5. Looks great Phil! Really enhances the perception of depth in the scene. Look forward to seeing your progress as you go.

    Ben G

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Ben, much appreciated

      cheers Phil

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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