My movie version Enterprise was actually built several years ago, about 1991. This was before the time of all the accurizing parts and decals, as well as the published work on the Aztec patterns. At the time, I was able to create the tiled effect by painting the panels, then finishing with alternating matte/gloss finishes.
Painting and construction inaccuracies aside, the most interesting aspect of my assembly was coming up with a lighting technique which simulates the spotlights cast on the various insignia markings. Really, this was the most interesting concept introduced with the motion pictures. Space is dark, and all the lighting of a starship must be internal (duh, logical!).
As is well known, in the actual production of the movies, the spot light effect was achieved by using lensed, mini floodlights, which were cast on the models from mounts. The lights, in turn, tracked the motion of the models as they lumbered through Lucas-space. When it came to actually making all the lighting internal in real life, however, it was more difficult.
Using model train light bulbs with integrated lenses:
Using model train light bulbs solved the problem of creating this effect in a very compact, elegant way. At the time I built the model, I used Walthers 1.5V clear lights with a built in lens. The lensed bulbs have since gone out of production, but Model Power’s “152C” light bulbs are still available, also with an integrated lens.
These bulbs are very small, and were mounted in the model at various locations to illuminate the appropriate markings. It also helped to opaque out unwanted stray light on all the bulbs by painting them black everywhere except at the lens.
There were five separate circuits for the bulbs: saucer floods, all other floods, windows, and two blinker circuits. The two blinker circuits shared one 9V battery, the other three circuits used one battery each, four in all. All the batteries fit in the secondary hull, so if you insist on playing with your model after you’re done, this approach fit the bill.
Since there were so many lights running off each battery for the floods, it was necessary to overdrive them slightly. Instead of sets of (6) 1.5V bulbs running off a 9V battery, I used sets of (4) Walthers bulbs strung in parallel. You might have to use 5 for the Model power bulbs, but some experimenting is probably in order.
The flood light bulbs were mounted in various locations on the ship. I used Super Glue GEL, not regular superglue to attach the bulbs. This sets fast enough so that alignment becomes easier, and regular superglue tends to run over the lenses.
Lighting the warp pod registration numbers:
To illuminate the registration numbers on the outside tail ends of the warp pods, bulbs were mounted on the very wing tip corners located on the outside of the pods. It was necessary to melt away some of the plastic on the corner, then paint it black and mount the bulb with epoxy. Most of the bulb was then covered over with Squadron Putty and sanded down.
To light the numbers on the inside face of the warp pods, tiny holes were carved into the warp pod halves facing each other. The bulbs were then mounted so that the bulb from one half focused on the opposite side’s registration numbers.
Lighting the secondary hull and warp pod struts:
The other lights on the warp pod fronts were angled downward to light the secondary hull insignias.
The warp pod struts were lit by opening tiny holes just below the wing mounts on the secondary hull. The bulbs were aligned to light the strut the way they appear in the movies.
Lighting the saucer and the saucer strut:
The rear edge of the saucer, as seen in the movies, is lit in four places: to the left and right of each of the rear window panels. The outside edges of the windows were lit from the warp pod fronts, as they appear to be located in the movies. The other saucer edge lighting was mounted in the saucer strut, down on the bottom corner.
For the saucer floods, the bulb lenses didn’t have the right curvature to cast the right shape, so I just blasted them with light using “AA Microlite” penlight bulbs, mounted into sockets with leads attached.
The saucer strut was lit by opening tiny holes on the secondary hull panels, and mounting the bulbs at an angle facing the strut. There are also four sets of two small, square lights around the sides of the deflector dish shroud. The upper two sets were angled upward to light the “Enterprise” lettering just aft of the saucer bottom sensor.
Lighting the deflector dish:
The deflector dish itself was made by cutting apart the kit dish, so that the main part of the dish cylinder and an open ring was left. The ring was then attached back to the cylinder with pieces of wire to simulate the open, lit vents around the dish. The dish itself was created out of some appropriately shaped clear plastic, and applying some racing stripe detail and transparent blue paint.
Lighting the windows:
Windows were lit in a pretty standard way, with a bulb and some white cardboard reflectors. The windows in the secondary hull were opened by merely sanding the inside surface away until the windows were opened.
Adding the blinkers:
Blinkers were created using the 1.5V bulbs strung in series with GE Christmas Tree blinkers. Walthers bulbs were used for the main strobes on the saucer, warp pods, and secondary hulls, and Model power bulbs were used for the running light blinkers on the saucer perimeter and the shuttle bay.
Other accurizing included the clear blue impulse engine dome, the red impulse engines with transparent tape applied with ball point lines.
Over the years after the photos were taken, I accurized the bridge and lower sensor dome, as well as the impulse engines (they need to be sleeker). I also made the top saucer registration numbers larger by using the ERTL Reliant decals, and trimming them to create the correct numbers and make them a little straighter. The original decals for the saucer top were too small.
I think I’m pretty happy with the way the lighting effect turned out. The only inaccuracy left is the use of the original engraved panels, instead of the more accurate Aztec patterns. The only way I’d solve this now is to build another one using a smoother hulled version of the kit. Oh, but I DO have one of those….The Human Obsession is only beginning….