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Old 2020.10.17, 05:14 PM   #1
SuperFly's Avatar
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 645
Build your own Mini Z diorama

I guess I've reached that point in life where one no longer feels shame for totally nerding out, and with Covid bringing virtual unemployment and shutting down racing opportunities, I've had to find something new to obsess over.

Taking pictures of finished custom bodies is always fun, but sometimes finding a good background is tough. Sometimes I shoot outside, but then there will be some leaves or other crap in the background that kind of ruin the "scale" part.

Often, when I'm painting custom bodies, I have to draw the line between obsessive perfection and "good enough." I always tell myself I'm going to race it, so any flaws will blend right in after a few races. So, in that spirit, here's how to make a "good enough" diorama for Mini Z. My work for clients sometimes has rounds of revision into the hundreds, so with my personal projects, I try not to sweat the little things and accept the first or second pass at something. As I write this post, I can see half a dozen things I could improve right away. Maybe I'll get to it, maybe I won't.

I do graphic design for my day job, so I probably have access to some stuff people might not have, but the concept is pretty simple. I have an 11"x17" color printer which makes some of this possible, but one could tile letter size sheets, or go to Kinko's. I did some quick photoshop work to make a couple "scenes," an urban parking lot and a typical garage shop. Link to the files at the end.

1. Fairly standard 15.5" x 10" x 6" cardboard box. If you order a pair of shoes online, this is the box the shoe box will come in. This is a good size for several reasons. An 11x17 print will cover any surface. It comfortably holds 2-3 cars plus decorations. One of the things I end up doing a lot is scale math. For example, you can Google that a standard parking spot is 9 feet by 18 feet. 9 x 12 = 108 inches, 108 divided by 27 (mini Z scale = 1:27) equals 4. A mini Z parking spot is 4 inches wide. A typical car track width is 60". 60 divided by 27 = 2.2", so I made the tire tracks on the floor 2.2" apart. Anyway, you can apply this to anything and figure out how big it should be in Mini Z world. One of the dilemmas I'm running into is there's a lot of scale accessories available at 1:24 scale (coming in the mail) and that's close enough that you want it to work, but far enough away that it can ruin it. I'm thinking strategic placement and camera angles will allow it to work sometimes.

2. Determine which corner of the box is best for your diorama corner. One of the corners will have a glued flap, don't use that corner.

3. Cut the flaps off the box and set them aside. Leave the flap attached to the long wall you are removing, in case you want to use it as a floor surface.

4. One of the flaps you removed should fit in the gap on the floor between the other two flaps. Secure all floor flaps with packing tape, use something square to make sure your corner is square before you tape it down.

5. As I mentioned, I have an 11x17 printer, but use what you have. I prefer Spray Mount for this step, but two-sided tape could work.

6. Trim white edge of print so image bleeds all the way to the edge. Apply Spray Mount to back side of printouts. Start with the short wall, then the long wall, put the floor in last. I just fold the extra over the top and let it stick to the back side of the box, and just take scissors or an Xacto and trim off the extra.

7. Looks pretty good! At a quick glance, believable.

8. Spice it up with your own decorations. Every mechanic's shop in the 70s and 80s had that Farrah poster. Try to match the lighting for your photo so it matches the lighting in the scene. I know it's far from a perfect illusion, and if you were paying me, I'd take more time and do a better job, but it's close enough.

It helps to get the camera down to the eye height of a 1:27 person

This was my original test of the idea, I included these files as well.

Here are the graphic files, it's a 28mb .zip

edit: watch this thread, I will post some updated files, and put them in a properly sized pdf for easier printout.

mini-z gallery

PDX Mini-Z

Last edited by SuperFly; 2020.10.19 at 04:02 PM.
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