A Model History

Report on our meetings held 23rd January 2017

The Prior Rick Hudson welcomed members and guests and introduced the speaker Chris Hobbs. Chris has a degree in Design Representation (Model Making) and worked for a number of years in the film industry including on the Harry Potter and Bond movies. Currently he is Production Manager at York Paragon Creative.  Chris’s talk was entitled “A Model History”.

Chris began by showing pictures of some of the models he has created including a giant Antonov aeroplane and a helicopter both used in Bond films. He outlined how modern technology has changed the way models are used in films.

Models can help bring history to life. Chris explained that much of today’s work for model makers is from museums and visitor centres. Making the exhibits accessible to those with all forms of disability, as well as being socially responsible, helps to secure extra funding. The aim of the model designer is to “get the story across” with elements to suit both the serious historian and the casual visitor. The topographical model and displays in Rudston church are examples of Chris’s work.

The first stage is to produce a number of different layout proposals for discussion and selection by the customer and he showed examples of these. He mentioned a particular problem at Norwich Castle museum. They have on display sketches of WW1 dugouts complete with measurements made at the time by Cecil Upcher. These are a rare and informative record but patrons take little notice. Chris explained how the plan is to put these behind windows and a 50/50 mirror. At the press of a button a model built on its side, and in reverse because of the mirror, lights up and superimposes in the mirror and brings the sketch to life.  This well known illusion is called “Peppers Ghost”. Sound and light effects will also be introduced.

Lots of models are “hands on” and need to be robust. A 12 metre long model showing the Northern Ireland coastline near the Giants Causeway is suspected to have been used by schoolchildren to sit on and eat lunch, there being no chairs provided. Also a large theme park by Dreamworks about to open in Dubai will have a queuing area modelled as a village.  A slow moving queue and idle hands can result in a lot of damage to a reproduction that isn’t robust.

Chris added that model makers have other problems too.  At Dover Castle a series of models showing how the use of gun implacements changed through the ages needed to be built in situ. This was a very damp environment.  The problem was to find a material to suit the environment. The answer was a kind of pickled MDA, expensive but durable.

Although Chris is now a manager he still builds models for his own and his son’s enjoyment. A fleet of historic battleships with working components and sound effects are the result.

The vote of thanks was given by Bro John Walker.  He thanked Chris for his informative talk and his help in creating the local history display at Rudston church which featured in Chris’s talk.