He Swims Among Us
By Nick Infield
Its taken me 8 years to finally complete this diorama. Back at the 2008 Chicago show, me and Mike Good were wondering through the vendors area, and I happened to stumble across the finest sculpture of the Creature from the Black Lagoon that I had ever seen. It was lying there in a box with other second-hand models for sale. It had no bag or box, and I seem to remember giving the chap $10 for the 75mm resin sculpture.
Back in 1953 when they shot the movie, 3D was going through the hot-new-thing faze. The Universal camera department was given the task of designing and building a practical underwater housing with the help of the underwater cameraman Scotty Welbourne.
The idea of pairing the creature and the camera crew for a diorama struck me like a flash. My original idea was to set everything in a block of clear casting resin, so the creature, bubbles and divers would be suspended in animation, but the reality and complications of putting something like this in a block of resin were insurmountable. The idea outstripped the reality. So I shelved the diorama until I figured out a way to do it.
It was Andre Korbanics II who prodded me and talked me into completing the diorama, and to be honest, I am very glad he did. This box is definitely dedicated to his memory. Miss you, mate!
The Creature was sculpted to perfection by T. Holter Bruckner, and it needed no alteration at all. Research was easy, for the most part. I found nearly everything online. When it came to researching the camera... well, I know a man who knows a man who hooked me up with the camera housing that shot the movie, giving me the reference that I needed, as in what kind of set-up or the staging of the diorama. I drew upon my own experiences shooting commercials and movies and one photograph of divers building a parallel, but I had no actual picture of the crew shooting this shot this way.
Most of my prevarication comes out of deciding which material to use to building various elements, i.e. the kelp needed to make a lot of believable kelp! After experimenting with paper and wire and various other unsuccessful techniques and materials, I settled on making the kelp out of brass. It wasn’t so much of a problem to make the kelp as it was getting it to flow and feel like it’s being moved by the current. Anyway, the choice of brass would serve two purposes: a proper feeling of movement and a perfect way to hide the creature's supporting rod. Researching the bubbles was fun. Again after some experimentation, I finally settled on a mixture of bead-blasting clear glass beads, crushed-up iron pyrite and clear casting resin.
Then a way to rig and suspend the said bubbles. Thus the glass case, for bubble suspension.
This kind of presentation of a diorama is usually used by the waterline ship modelers.
I find it a highly effective presentation to our particular kind of modeling; it certainly adds the aquarium kind of feel to the diorama and help with the illusion. The two divers were built out of my old favorite A & B epoxy putty on wire armature. The oxygen tank and dive equipment were mainly built out of brass, RenShape and putty. The camera was also built out of RenShape. Anybody scratchbuilding would find it beneficial to get to know this material; it is truly versatile. You can cut, drill and shape with ease; glues and putty stick to it perfectly, and it is an ideal surface to paint. No, I don’t know where to buy it, but the internet will help you find it if you are interested!
After much prevarication, the diorama started to take shape! After undercoating every surface, painting had begun. I like to undercoat with acrylics and paint with very, very thinned-down oil paint. Special emphasis on the very very.
I had always planned on adding some kind of lighting gag to make the piece pop and give the wave effect on the floor of the lagoon. For this I used a theatrical/movie light (source four mini leco). This lamp features a foco spot with cropping leaves and a nifty gobo slot to put patterns into. The info on this equipment is online and readily available.
Now all I needed was some fish!