In the olden days, before computer generated imagery was easy to do and so commonplace that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s made up any more, most special effects were accomplished using scale models. If you needed a battleship to blow up, you’d get the props people to make a large scale model, float it in a tank of water and blow it up. If you needed to stage a train crash on a limited budget, you’d call in the model makers and get creative with lighting. If you needed a spaceship, or a complete space fleet and a Death Star or two, who are you going to call?
The original Star Wars trilogy was typical of this. In fact, the special effects company that did the work was created specifically for the films—Industrial Light and Magic. They developed many innovative ways to use models for many feature films. I challenge to you spot one in the linked list you haven’t seen at least once!
I still love watching films and TV shows were real craft is used for special effects. I love the insane amount of detail that gets crammed into spaceships, often only to be seen for a split second—or blown to bits! I love the fact shortcuts are made by repurposing commercial plastic construction kit components, as well as ordinary household objects. I love trying to figure out how big models are, and how they’re made.
Take this detail shot, for example.
This is from an Imgur site, sharing dozens of detail shots of Star Wars special effects models. As a railway modeller, it’s not hard to spot the use of a steam locomotive firebox backhead, complete with fire hole doors, gauges, lubricators and the regulator handle! In the right context, though, this makes a perfectly acceptable maintenance or access hatch on a spaceship.
Spend a few minutes wandering through the images in the site. You won’t be disappointed, and if you grew up with the original Star Wars films you can enjoy a pleasant trip down memory lane. You will be forgiven if the Star Wars theme plays in your head while looking!
Incidentally, it’s also worth a look at the imgur site of joinyouinthesun, who posted the Star Wars images.
Thanks to my friend Mark Casey for linking to these photos in a post over on X404.