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Creating Micro Movie Sets (6mm) Part I

My worldwide award-winning 6mm diorama featuring two waterfalls and living plants.

My worldwide award-winning 6mm diorama featuring two waterfalls and living plants.

Inspiration?

The moment I saw Aliens, when the marines went down into LV426, and when I saw the inside of the crashed spaceship... I knew I was hooked on creating, designing, and building worlds. I AM Weyland Yutani... building better worlds...

Now big worlds (movie sets), they are a massive undertaking requiring large teams, big budgets and power tools. But when I went to my first Games Workshop store, I realized that people are doing this on small scale, for less then a sixteenth of the budget, without power tools.

Conventional Scales?

Most games are played in 28 - 32mm. This is the industry standard, a standard I get paid to paint with almost 90% of my commissions.

What is a 'Micro Scale'?

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When I first heard about scales 15mm and below, I was transfixed and changed. Something about micro scales excited me in a way I can honestly not put into words. When I would be on hikes in the woods of Santa Cruz, I would imagine little worlds of elves, fairies or beetle-riding creatures living below the shade of a leaf, or on the top of a patch of moss. When I went to school for biological sciences, I realized that there are worlds all around us, in much smaller scales then micro. And that's where it began. It began in a philosophical and wholly spiritual journey of appreciating the smell of roses, and the worlds therein, whenever I passed them during a busy day.

This is a Zen practice for me, and I practice daily.

Why do I work in 6mm?

6mm is where I practice and hone my skills as a miniature painter and set designer. If you can do it in 6mm, you can do it in 15mm, in 32mm, in real-life scales. 6mm is the ultimate scale to get GOOD because you have very little surface area to work with. Your weathering, your fine-tuning, it has to be micro precise, it has to be well placed... nearly anything you may imagine to be a good skill in greater scales can be honed to surgical precision in 6mm.

Let's begin!

Step 1:

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In the Warhammer 40k universe, there is a legion of warriors known as the Death Korps of Krieg. They are gas-masked wearing Prussian-like soldiers who value their own death and namelessness over life. They are the endless tide of attrition. And in them, I find some sort of weird and warped solace and love.

Each unit in my game represents a 10 man squad. x2 10 man squads makes a platoon, and 4 platoons makes a division. Each squad I fit on a Flames of War base from Battlefront Miniatures.

Step 2:

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We will be gluing things to this base, so we want the glue to really adhere to the surface. What I do is cut a criss-cross of etched marks into the surface so that the glue can seep in and really HOLD.

Step 3:

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Moving small miniatures around is tough. So, to tackle this issue, I've decided to drill a little metal rod (pin) into the back right corner of each base. Each rod will be for moving the unit, and it will also be donned with a squad flag indicating the squad number and the division they come from... I will also nick and mark the rod so that it blends in with my little set.

Step 4:

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I use a Cyanoacrylate glue. This glue is brittle, but it is exceptionally strong. Everywhere you see glue, you'll see a cyanoacrylate. These glues can bind metal, wood, plastic, just about anything to any surface. It is the Golden Standard of glues in the hobby space.

Step 5:

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Now I build out my main features of the scene. Here, I've purchased some little rubble building pieces from eBay and cut them to fit. These are scaled 6mm. It is IMPORTANT to scale any terrain features for your set to the scale of the 'actors' in your set. Any size difference will be jarring to the viewer and dispel the illusion.

Step 6:

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Now I gather a bunch of 'filler' or 'accent' pieces of terrain. Here I have a few cuts of nickle-coated armature wire, a little razor wire from a 28mm game, some chain I purchased on MicroTools, etc... note: armature wire is GREAT for making pipes, or building material as it is SOFT and pliable. The softness allows you to cut marks into it that, when painted, will accent the piece to make it even more realistic. I've also gathered small gauge wire to serve as loose wiring in my set.

Step 7:

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I add the accents to my set, particularly careful to add them to areas where the 'set pieces' or 'rubble' meets the rest of the set to 'blend out' or 'smooth in' those bigger features.

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NOTE: Anywhere you see 'white' you will notice the cyanoacrylate 'blooming' feature which is not great, but a byproduct of the chemical reaction.

Step 8:

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I've now created a number of bases for a total of 4 squads and 1 smaller base for a command squad.

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Step 9:

Now I've begun to add my individual 6mm figures to the set, and paint the set.

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Note: the Space Marine is 28mm in height, giving you a scale comparison.

Step 10:

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When all my 6mm figures are placed and glued, I will then paint mud into the base. Stay tuned for the final completion of this little set!

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Bryan Merlonghi