Making the Dioramas, Part II
Continuing where we left off...




The next step was to put together backgrounds.  There aren't a lot of graphics suitable for the scale of this task on the web.  Images tend to be action shots.  They prominently feature characters rather than a blank slate against which action figures can stand.  The backgrounds also had to be from the correct angle.  They should be looking straight on, the same as one would toward the figures rather than from an oblique angle that filmmakers employ to make a given shot more interesting or to emphasize the action.  Finally, the image had to be suitable for a head-to-toe plate.  That is, many shots are at the level of an actor's head or upper torso.  This would look awkward to place a figure in front of, obviously.

Although I was able to get some backgrounds from other diorama sites (the most famous of which is probably Niub Niub's Universe) and a few standard images (e.g., pictures of a forest to use in scenes for Endor), I had to resort to screen captures from the movies for the rest.  That part of the story is better told on this page.


Once we had all the images, printing them out turned out to be tremendously more involved than I had expected.  The images were placed into MS Word so that they could be sized in terms of inches on the page.  Because many of the images were right at or greater than 11" (the length of a standard sheet of paper, the computer and the printer had to both be made aware of the fact that we were using legal size (i.e., 8.5"x11") paper.  On a couple of occasions, a miscommunication (or incomplete communication) meant that Word would resize images slightly.  Unfortunately, the shift was small enough that it was not immediately evident until we would go to the trouble of cutting out the images and try to paste them up.  Then there would be gaps between them and they would be too short.  A whole print job would turn out to be for nothing.  Worse yet, printing wasn't cheap.  I was working with my little inkjet printer whose cartridges cost almost as much as the printer itself.  A color cartridge probably only made it through a couple dioramas before running out.

I had to buy stands for the figures eventually.  I only had a tiny fraction of the stands I needed for all the figures.  Previously I had purchased a small lot of stands when I had considerably fewer figures (we're talking two episodes ago; they've made a lot of figures from all the movies since then, not just the most recent couple).  This was about a third of what I needed, so I bought a bunch more in bulk.

Once all the backgrounds were printed, it was time (finally!) to get things hung on the wall.  Originally I planned to have three dioramas on each of the opposing walls.  However, just after Dani and I finished painting this room, she decided to rearrange the furniture.  Whereas the headboard of the bed used to be against the wall with the window, now it was against the wall where some of the dioramas were headed.  I had to admit that it was a bit of a better arrangement than before, but it did crowd the dioramas now if I put them on one wall.  (I was opposed to any arrangement that split them any way other than 3 and 3.  I didn't want the trilogies to be represented any way other than as such.)

Since we were going to put them all on one wall, we used the same strategy as with the guitar hangers in the front room and placed 2x4s across the length of the wall.  These are tied into the studs, and the dioramas can be placed anywhere along their length without worrying about about adequate support.  (The blue spots on the wall indicate the location of studs.)

While this is a good idea, it, too, turned out to be more of a challenge than expected.  I mean, making something level should be as easy as getting a level and scribing a line, right?  In an 80 year-old house that answer is WRONG!  We tried that tactic and found that the end of length of the 2x4s was about a foot and a half higher than at the other.  Clearly we needed to try something different.  Ultimately, we used the height of the ceiling as the determining factor, and that made it look very even.  Honestly, nothing rolls off of the dioramas, so it's level in all respects as far as I'm concerned.


Those are pieces of gift wrap cut out to the width of the dioramas just to give an approximate idea of the final positions before we got serious.

The original "A New Hope" diorama was hung like a framed picture.  In other words, via a cable draped over a hanger nailed to the wall.  Each diorama (with the figures) weighs a little over 20 lbs.  Since there are six of them, I really didn't want to play the odds of one of them coming down in the middle of the night and giving us a heart attack. 

This time around we used sheetrock screws (as with pretty much every other home improvement project we've undertaken) to attach the dioramas directly to the 2x4 runners, both top and bottom.  The heads of the screws were ultimately covered by the diorama backgrounds. 


We started with the two dioramas on either end, then worked our way across hanging the rest.  Although I thought they would look a too cramped with so little space between them, I'm happy with the way they turned out.

Dani got a splinter holding up a diorama so I could drill the holes and screw it in place.  However, this is good luck in the Star Wars universe since you can't name a movie anywhere in the saga in which someone doesn't have something bad happen to a limb.

Finally all the dioramas are in place... sans figures.  Here Dani is putting the backgrounds back in place to cover over the screws.  Having a partner who digs crafts totally rocks.  She came up with a lot of the little ideas that made this whole thing work.

Before you ask, the portions of the 2x4s left exposed between the dioramas were painted to match the wall once we finished mounting them all.


I boxed all the figures and such up separately for each diorama before we put them on the wall, so it was relatively easy to put the figures back later on.  I had Dani hand them to me while I returned everyone to their approximate positions.  The fine tuning was still to go though. 

That's a lot of light sabers.

Once the figures were put on the shelves, most of them still lacked accessories.  Only a small portion had their lightsabers, blasters, canes, spears, backpacks, shields, etc. in hand.  In getting the figures "armed," they were put into their final collective configuration.

If you want to see the completed dioramas themselves, you can either come over to my place or (faster) go to this page.

As for my next project...?  I'm sure someone somewhere has dioramas of Fight Club and Pulp Fiction in their basement.  But how about dioramas for movies like Capote or Annie Hall?  Hmmmm...



Copyright 2006 Alexplorer.
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