It's the Little Things

How Small Detail Can Have Huge Impact

If there is one thing I like better than building a diorama, it is looking at a diorama some one else has made. I love a diorama that invites me in to soak up all the detail. Each aspect of the story line is clear, subtly directing my eyes about the scene, picking up little nuances here and there.
While building my current Hind diorama, I wanted to add a little something more to it, so it was just concrete, dirt and rubble. So I scratch built a telephone pole. That is not a mind blowing addition, but it alters the silhouette and gives the viewer one additional item to look at. 
A great diorama causes me to think man, I never would have thought to add that. Even better dioramas are the ones you can come back to again, and see something you had not noticed in prior views. Like this one:


I did not build this, and I am not aware of the creator. Never the less, the scene is fantastic from the building, to the ground work, to the vehicles to all the minute details in between. Another, less extreme example:


Again, I am unaware of who built this, but its fantastic work. 
I think a lot of times we forget about the trivial detail in a scene and only focus on the main characters, like the figures, vehicles, and environmental surroundings. Therefore, quite often we forget to give the diorama more life, more uniqueness and it just becomes another Panther in the mud.
One could simply use the above photos for the perfect example, but I thought I would indulge you with some real life images to inspire some creativity. Follow along and see what little details can be added to your models to add some character...


Lets start with armor.
If you can nail the weathering, modulation, chipping and whatever other popular techniques of the day are then you are well on your way to success. But adding a few things can really separate you from the pack.
Take for instance this tank. While if you replicated the look of this armored vehicle alone that would be impressive, but the addition of a flag can inject some color, improve the story line, or even imply movement.


You could also replicate the typical soldier's morbid sense of humor by mounting Hitler's head to your next M4 model...


Of course, not all wartime humor has to be so ghoulish. Give your scene some individuality in the same manner these tankers in Vietnam spruced up their M48...


In some cases, you can have an addition by way of subtraction. Simply removing parts of your armor can give it a well-used look. As you see in this photo, the rear stowage box is missing. Also note the buckets dangling from the exhaust...


You are not limited to armor.
Chains around the tires and even a tarp give this ubiquitous Jeep a whole new look. The chains on the tires also suggest a harsh winter environment...


Not everything has to be out of the ordinary either, like an umbrella or a Hitler effigy. A lot of figure kits have spare weapons and equipment, so use them to your advantage. Just by laying a rifle and helmet on top of a motorcycle, it adds more to the scene. This way, the eye isn't seeing simply another bike, but that the bike has a human operator and in this case, one wonders where he has gone off to...


How about aircraft? Of course, modeling your aircraft as a wreck adds a great deal of interest right there, but not every one wants to do that to their model. Keep in mind, there is nothing in the book that says your plane has to be sitting in a grassy field with the pilot standing proudly next to it. Make use of tarps, nets, or PSP as shown in this photo of an Me 262. I especially like the bomb sitting on the ground not far away...


Add some carts, trailers, and oil drums. Everything works together to possibly tell the viewer what has happened, what is happening and what is about to happen...


Don't forget about the guys that carry the drama - figures.
Take a look at these Germans and notice the weathered mess tins and the exposed metal in the soles of the boots. Also, note the machine gun belt wrapped around the MG 34...


Signs allow you to tell a story without doing much of anything. They can establish location, humor, or in this case, that danger is exceedingly close by...


You know all those scenes of soldiers "at rest" that are so popular? Why not stack some rifles to change it up a bit?


Contrary to popular belief, when a soldier is "at rest" he does more with his time than eat K-rats or play a violin. Why not have your troops doing laundry? I think soldiers do get a little dirty after all...


If you're looking for small ways to improve your scene, I hope this helps in giving you some ideas beyond just adding rubble, some foliage, and a dead German or two. The story can be carried along by the placement of small details that, like properly lit candles, can set the mood for the viewers. The more detail I can see in a diorama, the more excited I get about it. 
Thanks for reading! 

Comments

  1. Excellent post! It inspires me to start doing a diorama, but it's an aspect of our hobby I dread to dabble with.

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