By the end of my previous post in this build log, I’d finished lighting the Paragrafix cockpit for my Moebius Discovery spacecraft. Now it was time for the pod bay. When I first bought the Discovery kit, I acquired the Paragrafix photoetch pod bay to go with it, but was a little disappointed with its general flatness. To be honest, that shouldn’t be a big issue in practice, because in the completed kit the view through the pod bay doors is pretty limited. But after a while, as the Discovery kit languished unbuilt in my stash, I became aware of the Green Strawberry pod bay, which is a mix of resin and photoetch that promised to give a much more three-dimensional result. So I acquired that, too.
I hoped to build this model with one pod extended on its platform in front of the open central door, like the iconic scene in the film when Dave Bowman leaves the Discovery for the first time.
I’d set myself the task of having the pod lights illuminated, but also to be able to remove the pod and its platform to make it possible to inspect my (hopefully) gorgeously lit pod bay interior more easily.
I had an idea for this, but it needed a bit of proof-of-concept work. Key to the process was some square-section brass tubing from Albion Alloys. I got some lengths of their 1.6mm and 2.4mm tubes (codes SSB1M and SSB2M)—the smaller slides fairly neatly inside the latter, meaning I could (in theory) produce a conductive pathway from the pod bay to the pod platform, while being able to remove the pod platform and its supporting brass tubing as required.
So first I needed a bit of surgery on the underside of the Green Strawberry pod bay floor and pod platform, carving out channels for my brass tubing, soldering the wiring in place where it will be concealed under the pod bay floor, and drilling out a hole in the pod platform so that I could eventually run wiring to an LED inside my pod:
At this point, I merely pressed the brass tubing into place on the underside of the pod platform to check fit—I’ll need to get the pod bay to the point of fitting it inside the command sphere before I can decide on the right length for my sliding brass platform supports.
Another bit of wiring has to run through the pod bay floor, to light up the test bench, which is visible in my film still, above. Green Strawberry provides a resin bench, but I decided to use the hollow, folded photoetch version provided by Paragrafix. This is pierced in strategic locations, and HDA Modelworx provides a decal that covers the piercing and can be transilluminated by an LED concealed inside the bench—so the same effect as I’d previously exploited when illuminating the Paragrafix cockpit.
Here’s the bench, lit up:
Then I constructed the resin pod bay floor, painted it white, applied Green Strawberry’s black decals, and attached the test bench, running its wires through a hole in the floor and light-sealing the join between bench and floor with a dollop of plastic filler smeared around the bench’s interior edges.
Then I pushed a couple of balls of screwed-up kitchen foil into my under-floor brass tubes, to improve electrical contact, slide in some test lengths of the finer brass tube and an LED, and wired the whole thing up to a battery for a test:
Yay, it works.
As you can see, Green Strawberry provides a trio of fiddly support structures to sit under each retracted pod platform. These don’t seem to be visible in the film, and for a long time I wondered what reference source Green Strawberry had used. I think they may come from pictures of the pod bay set taken during filming:
It makes a lot of sense that hidden support structures were required for the pods on the set, but they make much less sense in the “real” thing—the pod bay is supposed to be in zero gravity, after all. They’re a bugger to assemble and position, each consisting of one fragile resin part and five photoetch struts, and mine required to be slightly shortened so that the pod platforms could sit level with the pod bay floor. If I were building this again, I’d be strongly tempted to omit them.
For my illuminated pod, I used one of the excellent 3D-printed Falconware pods distributed by Shapeways. These come with premoulded channels for 0.75mm fibreoptics, so that the four headlights can be illuminated with one LED in the hollow interior. I drilled a fifth 0.25mm channel in the location of the red “HAL eye” on the front of the pod, so that I could light that up, too. The pods come with a selection of extremely delicate arms, which are initially protected inside the hollow pod, and need to be carefully extracted. The locating channels for the arms are the same diameter as those for the fibreoptic headlights, and also extend into the interior space, so there’s definite potential for absent-mindedly attaching an arm to a headlight channel, or vice versa.
The pods are moulded in translucent plastic, so I brush-painted the interior with four coats of white primer, then a couple of coats of black, then a couple of coats of white to provide a reflective surface for my LED. All this tended to clog up the fibreoptic channels, so I ran them through regularly with an interdental brush, and intermittently cleared my 0.25mm channel by poking it with my fine drill bit.
With that done, I painted up the exterior in white, and then applied fine detail with a mixture of hand-painting and some custom decals I printed to reproduce the larger detail visible in the film. Here’s the final version (still without arms and lights) poised on a UK penny for scale:
Here’s the decal sheet, for anyone who’s interested in using it—the resolution for printing is 600dpi:
With the pod painted, I cut some short lengths of 0.75mm optical fibre, and melted the ends by holding them close to a hot soldering iron. This makes the ends blob up into nice curved surfaces:
The fine “red eye” fibre got a blob of red paint over its interior end, once threaded. I placed my LED in the pod interior, and threaded its wires out through small hole in a piece of thin styrene sheet I’d cut to form a base for the pod. Adding this base made the job of eliminating light leaks between pod and platform easier. Here’s the final result, mounted and tested:
(The red light has inevitably bleached in the photo—it’s redder than that in real life.)
On, then to prepare the various pod bay parts for lighting.
There’s a little lab area on the starboard side of the pod bay, accessed by a ladder, and rather dimly lit in the film—a few instrument screens, a downlight above the ladder, and light from the pod bay itself coming in through a large window:
Here it is from outside, seen behind the astronauts;
Green Strawberry provides some solid resin parts, with photoetch and decals for the instruments. I chiselled out a hole in the resin behind the photoetch computer screens, so I could mount a light box behind the wall to transilluminate the decal and simulate the screens, which will then shine visibly through the lab window. I also drilled a small hole through the lab wall so that I could illuminate the door-control panel, reproducing the prominent red light visible in the film still above.
The main lighting challenge, however, is the iconic illuminated octagonal tunnel that enters the rear of the pod bay:
The Green Strawberry part is made of solid resin, with multiple little photoetch plates and black decals to simulate the appearance of the tunnel, but with no option to light it realistically. Here are the parts, with the photoetch already painted white and decalled:
The photoetch has slots exactly where the tunnel lighting should be, so I decided to eliminate the resin walls and replace them with thin styrene sheet, which I could transilluminate. Here it is, measured, scored and folded, with the photoetch parts ready to be glued in place:
And an exterior view of the final assembly:
You’ll see I’ve retained a cuff of the original resin tunnel. This is because the last short segment of the tunnel lacks lighting in the film—and, as a bonus, the resin part helps shape the styrene. The blobs of black paint are blocking light-leaks at the corners of the octagon, where the photoetch panels don’t quite come together in the interior. I used an LED temporarily placed inside the tunnel to ensure I put my paint only where it was needed.
Then it was just a matter of building a lightbox around the tunnel, using the styrene-and-foil method I illustrated in previous posts when I was building the cockpit. I used warm white LEDs to try to simulate the difference between the tunnel and pod bay illuminants visible in my film still.
Here’s the result:
And the illuminated screens and door light for the lab:
(Looking a bit grubby in that photograph—I’d slightly overdone the dark wash to bring out surface detail. I’ve since fixed that.)
So all the pod bay components are ready to be glued together and installed in the command sphere:
That’s all for now. Next time—the pod bay and command sphere final assembly, and even more lights.