Dear Gavin, Gn15 crew, Exhibitors and Show Layout Owners all...
I'll preface this by saying:
- over 15 years of show layout building and exhibiting experience
- 2 personally owned award winning layouts
- over 3 award-winning layouts I've helped build and "tune" for optimum "presentation impact"
(Please, this is not intended as bragging,
just setting out my "relevant qualifications"
Absolutely agree that "Presentation" is Critical to how a layout is percieved. Indeed, the owners/builders of the first show layout that I was involved with, a HO/HOn3/HOn30 aussie logger called "Swan's Crossing",
(covered in AMRM and Continental Modeller),
emphasised "Presentation" of layout, "backstage", and even the Layout operators themselves, as a complete package.
I'll take each of your points in sequence:
Yes, it can be done badly, but the difference between "Badly"and "Wll-done" is simply a matter of attention to detail. Of the 5 layouts I have built or been involved with, all have used black flat bedsheets as a source of lightweight, easily sewed and customised skirting.
The image above is of my last On30 logger, covered in the Oct 05 AMRM.
Leaving aside the "see-thru" look of this shot,
due to the "worklight" being used under the layout,
I assure you that it looks opaque in person.
The skirting is "flat line" skirting,
(which is significantly easier to make than "pleated" skirting BTW!)
using modified Esprit sheets.
These skirts are made to 1200mm long, which nicely matches my preferred module length. The "seams" between skirts are veldro'd, such that they naturally "sit flat" against each other when viewed front-on,
but easily split for access to switches etc by Right-Handed people.
(Yes, like mens and womens shirts, the "direction" of the seam overlap will "prefer" either Right or Left handers).
Look again, just to the right of the crowd barrier pole is a darker vertical line in the skirting. THAT is the seam overlap between 2 skirts. Right in front of the audience! But if I had not pointed it out, I bet you would never have known it was there...
The skirts are velcro'd top the modules, with the skirts using the "hook". The "catch"
(pun not intended...
is that the modules are faced with charcoal car carpet, which effectively works as the "loop" velcro half. This single-handedly avoids most of the aesthetic "issues" with velcro-attached skirts, and makes setup and teardown of the layout a breeze.
(Since "Swans Crossing" used this technique back in 1995, it has gone on to become very popular all over the Eastern Aussie show circuit!)
Oh, another major concern for exhibitors, esp when contemplating the use of "light" skirts, is the "Marilyn Munro" effect when the layout is placed in a particularly "jetstream-prone" position in the hall.
(someone opens a set of double doors, and suddenly your layout's in a wind tunnel!!!)
The Solution is:
You an pickup a packet of fishing lead sinkers, and have your Layout Skirt Seamstress sew them into the bottom edge in a "oversized hem". The skirts will hang flat and straight everytime, even under "extreme weather" conditions...
Now, for the practical issues.
The "Average" modeller may not have the skillsof machinery required to convert a black bedsheet into a "custom skirt". If you have a obliging seamstress/seamsman available, all the better. As long as you can provide the required "visible dimensions", your seamstress should be able to advise what "adjustments" will be needed to allow for the seams around each edge, the excess hem for the weights, and nicely sewing the velro in place. (I'm sorry, but while velcro may be "soo 70's", dang if it ain't cheap, works fantastically, and when used intelligently, simply "disappears" from view).
Absolutely agree. Signage should be visible, appropriate, and a tocuh of creativity wouldn't hurt
Again, check the image above. The "Nine Mile" sign is a pair of aluminium L channels, to which are bolted some aussie ironbark planks.
(These were donated by one of the layout operators, from the pile of materials leftover from the demolition of his back fence
Below that is a 5' crosscut saw I spotted in a antiques store located in the town that the layout's "prototype logging operation" was based in...
Both parts are anchored with 1/2" dia bolts and nuts to a length of 25mm aluminium tube, which is clamped in a 32mm galvanised post junction,
and mounted on top of a seriously over-engineered floor tripod stand.
All visible "metalwork" is rated at over twice load-rating, so there's no issues with having a sign hoisted over people's heads.
In today's litigious environment, all "live event" production crew consider load ratings and stability of structures in the hall very critically!
Now, a note. while I insisted on using brand new hardware for stength, Every piece of "visible" brand-new-metalwork was treated with a quick dose of Muriatic Acid. This created a totally authetic (Read : REAL) patina of surface rust, that really set the sign off...
(Consider it 12"/1 scale "weathering"...
NB that I mocked up the height and position of the sign in MSWord before I built it, so I could be sure that it would "look right" in position.
For another example, check the image at top left of this site
http://www.geocities.com/loggingloco1/B ... epage.html
it's hard to see, but this is a strategically cut sheet of corrugated iron,
again treated with the Muriatic Acid trick,
that was the sign for my first show layout, Broughton Vale Tramway.
As a final example of signage, this is the sign I literaly just built, for my current HO street switching layout, based on the corner of 41st St and 2nd Ave in Brooklyn NYC.
The sign itself is a sheet of 5mm foamcore.It is mounted in a aluminium tube frame, making a sign 600mm X 900mm in overall size. Please excuse the poor photoshopped graphic in the bottom right.It's "pinch hitting" for a totally scratchbuilt LED matrix display, comprising 64 x 10,000 millicandle 10mm dia RED LEDs. (The same as used in modern car hi-intensity LED brakelights
) It should be easily seen from accross the average basketball-hall-sized show hall...
The sign graphic is derived from a graphic on a T-Shirt I own. It was scaled, stenciled, and sprayed over with a selection of cheap (read : end of line discounted) spraypaints from the local hardware store...
Given the layout's "down and dirty NYC" nature, IMHO it "suits" the layout nicely...
Now, the practical issues:
Sure, you could take to a signwriter, perspex pro, or neon sign guru,
(I was contemplating using one of the signs from the Brooklyn Brewery as the sign for the "Brooklyn : 3AM" layout,
until I worked out how fragile such a sign would be...)
however, all of the sign examples I've shown are totally do-able by any modeller with the skills to build a layout, and a "regular toolkit" set of tools. This saves time, $$$, and most importantly, puts the "creative control" in the hands of the modeller....
This is a funny one. If you follow the Iain Rice or Carl Arendt "theatrical" school of layout design, then the idea that "backstage"/"offstage"/"staging yards"/"show crew relief area" area really should be screened off from "public view" is not new to you.
However, you will be amazed at the number of punters who try all manner of acrobatics to see what happens "behind the curtain"...
(Shades of the Wizard of Oz,
"...Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!..."
This is a skewed shot from Front RH. Notice that "backstage"is not visible!
Here's a "backshot" of the layout, showing one of the operators working on a figure, another getting some equipment ready for it's turn on the layout, and the mandatory "show card table" with a spare cassette staging system, ready to be loaded.
(There is another visible on the layout...)
You will also hopefully have noted that all of the layout operators were wearing matching blue "Nine Mile" embroidered shirts. These are nowhere near as expensive as one might expect,
(AUD$20 for setup, + AUD$5/shirt,
I personally supply cotton shirts of decent quality so I KNOW the shirt color we are getting, and that they will work under all seasons of Aussie conditions...)
It's maybe not so critical for "one man shows", but if you have a regular "team" of operators, it's a worthy investment in the layout's overall presentation...
Now, having a layout that uses "procenium modules" with integrated roof/lighting rig is not really everyone's cup of tea, and can maybe look funny on our often "microlayout" sized Gn15 efforts.
(Must watch what I say here,
I've just built an all-foamcore module with integrated roof for a 500mm X 210mm On30 "Microlayout",
pics available if your Really Keen...
However, tag-team this module design with a "near eye level" display height, and "backstage" almost hides itself
So what about other situations?
here's an example, C/O one of our other GnatterBoxer's, "OzTrainz".
This layout is a promo for a local 2'gauge museum. The "track height" is barely 900mm above the floor, so even young kids can get a "eye level view". The top of the layout is a shelf for display of other models, and promo materials for the Museum. Ergo, kids get the "look at the trains!" wow-factor, an the parents get the "pitch"...
This layout again has carpeted modules, velcro-attached weighted skirts, and a sign mocked up VERY quickly to look like a New South Wales Govt Rwy station sign. (It's 2 thicknesses of foamcore,
a handful of 3mm MDF letters from the crafts area of the local hardware store,
and regular modelling paints!!!)
Here are some other examples, C/O the Aust NG Convention, held over Easter '07 in Melbourne Australia.
Laurie Green's On3 layout "Delores"
"Toms Creek" On30 logger. Note the smaller sign, and the affect of <NOT> taking care when folding/ironing your layout skirts!!!!
"Totternhoe Mineral" Oe.
This has a particularly interesting approach. The layout "modules" are actually displayed fairly low to the ground. They are in trestles, and faced with flat black layout skirting.
However, instead of hiding any "backstage" operator antics,
and forcing them to operate from the front with the punters,
(which is my personally preferred approach, better "punter interaction", and a much more engaging experience allround),
the operators stand <behind> the layout modules,
but in FRONT of a full-height black theatrical drape, which wraps around and encloses the sides of the layout stand area.
Bearing in mind that not all show layout stand positions will allow you to hang a drape off a wall,
(you may not be placed up against a wall!)
and the size of such a drape becomes a interesting logistical exercise to get to the show, set it up,
tear it down, and get it home again.
(And you thought keeping a 1200mm layout skirt "pressed flat" was a challenge....
As a final set of examples, I offer the following
These 2 images are Left and Right hand views of Geoff Nott's "Leigh Creek" On3 layout, as shown at a Fine Arts show on Sydney Australia.
The layout skirts here are again built from black flat sheets, velcro'd onto the modules. In this case, the modules are painted black, so the "edge" of the velcro is hidden by a small-cross-section pine beading. This also acts as a nice "guideline" when installing the skirting at high speed...
Elsewhere on the GnatterBox recently, someone suggested that the level of craftsmanship shown on most layouts is well within the realms of "Art". Seeing the examples prevelent in the NG modelling community, I completely agree, and have seen this particular layout easily "stand up, stand proud, and stand tall" amoungst Oil paintings, sculptures,and other examples of "traditional Fine Art"...
Practical Issues :
Depending on the layout design, shielding the "backstage" area can be as simple as hanging a black flat sheet across the rear edge of the module,
or as complex as the "Totternhoe Mineral" example. Either way, I totally agree that the overall presentation of the layout as a unified display would be materially improved....
I hope this is helpful,
any questions, feel free to ask....