Thursday 29 May 2014

Modelling In The Eye of the Beholder

An anorak; the pockets are the wrong shape and size and its the wrong colour...

One of the curious aspects of modern modelling is how as kits have become more advanced and detailed over the years the accuracy of their shapes and even their smallest details has become more hotly disputed and subject to more demanding expectations. Forums are awash with pages of debate showing models and photos, claiming supremacy of this kit's shape over that or identifying the World's Greatest Fatal Flaw. This can even precede the release of a new kit as arguments are launched about the mock-ups and pre-production images. Once released a new kit is usually hailed for a brief period until inevitably its fatal flaw or flaws are pointed out and it suddenly becomes unbuildable without much hand wringing, soul searching and the correct resin correction sets, the accurate ones not those others which have got the shape of that tiny panel wrong. Or it becomes a  pariah of the kit world.

This disdain of 'inaccuracy' even extends to old kits once hailed as excellent in the simpler, less expectant era when they were first released. It is sometimes not even a question of criticism within reason as perfectly respectable but ageing kits are dismissed or scorned as a 'POS'. Call me an old cynic but I have sometimes dug out example pairs of the supposedly less than twin subjects of gushing praise and vitriolic ridicule, compared them and scratched my head to see much appreciable difference. A lot of it, like colour, seems to come down to preference, especially to brand preference, where A can do no wrong and B can do no right.

"Do not forsake me oh my darling..."

Reviewers once wrote glowingly of some kits which are now panned (e.g. Academy's 1/72 Spitfire XIV). Were they lying? Were their references less reliable or has the accessibility of imagery provided by the internet facilitated comparisons to an extent and level of scrutiny that were just not feasible then? The Spitfire is a good example because the demand for accuracy has now reached a stage  of critical scrutiny and expectation of details to the 'enth degree that make the building of a model a pretty intimidating prospect, especially for a tyro. And this is just at a time when if you compare a Frog Spitfire VIII (1974) to an Airfix Spitfire 22 (2012) the advance of moulding finesse and parts count over those 38 years is nothing short of staggering. But will my oleos be correct? What about my wheel hubs? Should that blister be there? Should it be as big as that? Is the cowling too long/too short/too square/too thin? And what about the panel lines? Better put the parts back in the box and wait for the perfect kit...


Dan Salamone said...

Hi Nick, I agree that at the end of the day a modeler needs to make their own choice as to what brings them pleasure and enjoyment from the hobby/art form. Too much is lost when the online reviews are taken to heart without a person using their own critical thinking.

I think that you have probably written this in a reference to the new Eduard Bf-109 kit and the furor over the kit being out of proportion and having shape issues. If so, I think the criticism of Eduard is spot on since they ran a month long propaganda campaign at Hyperscale about how "perfect" their kit is.

I too have compared older kits to the newer "uber-version" and quite frankly disagree more often than not with the online consensus. Personally I prefer the 1/48 Hasegawa A6M5 kit to the newer Tamiya kit. Maybe I'm just old school and stubborn, but also not afraid to say so in public :-)


Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hi Dan,

No, it wasn't specific to the Eduard 109 issue which had passed me by! Just a general observation.

Zero kits are, I think, still a little way off the scrutiny that Spitfire and 109 kits attract!


Dan Salamone said...

Yes, indeed. If it is green and has hinomaru then the kit must be perfect! :-)


Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Don't get me started on green!


Calin Ungureanu said...

I remember how eager I was a few years ago to buy the new (and finaly correct) FW190 from ..... After I build it I sat and wonder, how the heck the old and incorrect Airfix looks more like the Wurgers I saw in the war pictures and the newer one documented and demonstrated in reveiws to be spot on looks more like a movie mockup !?
I have this hobby for two precise reasons: It let me to express a certain artistic side of my personality and I think I try to replicate more the artistic feeling of a real model (airplane, afv or others), and secondly because it offers me the pleasure of adding some missing or incorrect parts by scratchbuilding. The satisfaction at the end (for me at least) is incomparable than after building a boxshaker. Plus, I get the chance to complain at the club about how much I have to scratch at my late project.
So yes, I'm allready old.

Mike Starmer said...

Hi Nick
Well said sir. I like to get the basic details right in as much I will improve or replace certain items that could be improved but otherwise I am not that fussy. I am however more particular about colours, since I have always believed that the colours of a nation's aircraft are as much as characteristic of the nation as the distinctive features of their aircraft. I admit to trying to get as close as possible whenever possible.
Mike S

Stefan Sjöberg said...

Hi Nick, I totally agree with you. I admit, sometimes I also dig into the details searching for "the ultimate kit". Nothing wrong with having high expectations when a new kit is released, but from time to time I feel it gets exaggerated.

All the best/Stefan

Jacob Terlouw said...

Hi Nick,

Not an easy question. When you're at a certain age
and have seen a lot of different kits of Messerschmitts
Focke Wulfs, Zeros, Hayabusas and Hayates do you go fort the best kit? In retrospective some of the old kits were not that good, but the best in their time and they stirred my interest in Japanese aircraft a lot. I have a lot of J2M kits and when I look at the old Tamiya one I see the 'flaws' but I still love'm.

Iskender said...

I think that most modelers' taste for accuracy evolves with age. You build more models, you start to research more, you get more knowledge and your tolerance for inacuracy gets close to zero. My personal experience tells me that most modelers who spend days discussing shapes and outlines and number of rivets and bolts online are well over thirty years old and in most cases have extensive knowledge of the discussion subjects. The rage against inaccuracy is further fueled by the fact that the extra little time spent on more careful research by the producers could have indeed resolved most of the accuracy/shape issues at the design stage, given the abundance of publicly available information nowadays thanks to the internet and online enthusiastic communities. The dangerous downside is that accuracy crusaders spend more and more time on research and heated online debates instead of actually building models. On the other hand most newcomers to the hobby and very few experienced and I would say wise modelers are happilly building models more or less out of the box...I sometimes miss those times when my old OOB 1/72 Airfix Zero brush painted with light grey Humbrol seemed nothing short of perfect...



Young Ian said...

A few years ago, I came to the realization that I wouldn't be totally satisfied with a model I made unless I used all the original construction materials, painted it with coatings made to exact original specs, and built it in 1-to-1 scale.

WD said...

I spent nigh on almost thirty years in historical reenacting and living history of various periods both as an avocation and vocation. The attention to detail which I paid to my impression was obsessive to the point I was branded a "stitch nazi", and I proudly bore the title most of the time. As far as I was concerned, if I was going to portray men who had given their all for my or some other country, then they deserved nothing less than my best effort at their portrayal.
What does this have to do with scale modeling?
As I started to age and do less and less with reenacting/living history, I decided to return to that hobby I once enjoyed in my youth. I brought a lot of my attitude towards authenticity to the workbench, etc. I thought this would be a good thing, and for the most part I think it is. However, while I somehow made peace from the beginning that my physical impressions would never be "good enough", living history portrayals always being a compromise in that you can never truly recreate the past. I was good with "this time was great, but my next portrayal next month will be even better" aspect of my hobby. Somehow though, in scale modeling I haven't come to terms with that. No matter what I do, there is either a fault with a kit that I lack the talent or skill to correct, or someone on the internet points out that the kit I've chosen is a pig beyond redemption. Don't ask me why, but somehow that sucks all of the joy out of it for me.

Sorry for the long ramble.


Anonymous said...

Indeed, pretty funny how AMS takes over to a point where it's almost frightining to build an actual kit.
Since I recently got interested in Japanese aviation subjects, I kind of let go the "idea of accuracy", especially since I started building Sanger Vacu kits. If you aproach these with the "AMS syndrome", one should bin 'em, though will mis out of the real modelling challenge ;-)