Last of the Dengeki Hobby magazine

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Alas signs of time… Dengeki Hobby is going to publish its last printed copy. I haven’t bought any hobby mags for a while until recently, as I love the feeling of flipping through the pages and looking at the attractive magazine layout. Well to be honest I was also bummed that I somehow missed the Bandai Premium’s 1/20 space Scopedog :) So I needed some alternative source of information on upcoming stuff. Also I like the build ups of the kits that I was excited about (Neo Zeong, Nightengale etc.)

But you’re looking at the inevitable. These magazines are really expensive (> $20 with shipping), and I have to wonder about their circulation. Even when Dengeki came out 17 years ago, I thought to myself, is this hobby huge enough to sustain 2 monthly mags? They’ve done an admirably job, and in general I like Dengeki slightly more over Hobby Japan. But their functions has really diminished hugely over the years with the web, and in terms of build up, there are many modelers out there that had done a much better job on kits than the ones featured in the mags. Not the fault of the mag’s featured modelers since I have to assume they were given a very tight deadline to finish their kits for publication :)

I’m going to miss it. The last copy I’ve gotten is last month’s Reconguista special… we’ll have to see how their new “digital format” will play out won’t we?

MyPublisher/Shutterfly/Mixbook/Blurb photobook experience

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I was making a photobook for my parents. I had used Blurb and MyPublisher before, and although both were decent, I simply can’t understand why everybody fails in one way or another.

My last book was done with MyPublisher. It always has some big sales, and with those sales the books become quite reasonably priced especially for its quality. Let me just summarize the pros and cons:

  • Its lay-flat binding and super glossy pages upgrades get you something very professionaly-looking.
  • When you time it for promotion, the price is actually one of the best for the quality it offers. The $70 for 100 pages of very large photobooks was great if you can stuff the book with pages.
  • It has some nice clip arts and backgrounds if you’re into those.

Its cons, however are many:

  • Its software is just horrible. I won’t comment on how clunky it is nor how many bugs and crashes I’ve encountered, but in this round I simply couldn’t even place an order. After working on the project for over a week, I was super angry when it crapped out. Moreover this was right when the promotion was ending. Great. Their customer service came back with a downgraded version of the software which seem to do the job, and they also extended the promo, so in the end I still went with them. But why does it have to be so painful?
  • I’ve experienced this in my last photobook with them, but since I’m senile I keep forgetting this crap they put through people. If you upgrade to lay flat, it costs $45. The super glossy is another $20. Now here’s the unethical thing they do. If you don’t get either when you check out, you can actually get both upgrades for just $26. That’s more than half off! If you paid the regular price, you DO NOT get a discount and will never know this deceptive practice.
  • They have a very small collection of backgrounds and clip art, and there are very limited customizations you can do to photos, when you compare with other options like Mixbook which allows you framing and shadows etc.

I still order from them because of the price/quality. But you have to wonder why people would give them very low ratings – they’re simply poorly run. I dunno whether this is an effect of them being acquired by Shutterfly, but what a horror story.

I switched to two different services and tried to redo my book on Shutterfly and Mixbook, after MyPublisher’s initial screw up and my lost faith in them.  Shutterfly turned out to be much more expensive with less options, even with a 50% off coupon applied. The software was way better than MyPublisher’s and I had a breeze working with it. But since it was so costly, I looked elsewhere, and turned up Mixbook. By far, Mixbook was the most versatile. It has many different options for photo placement and decorations, the most important one for me being shadows to make photos “pop”. When you layer photos in a collage, shadows let you get away with piling things up, and I find it indispensable. Since MyPublisher was still a better deal and my book was complete with them, I didn’t use Mixbook this time, but I’ll certainly try it for my next book.

Oh, and what about Blurb? Its options are so limited that it was pointless to continue with it. It also wasn’t particularly cheap when you throw in all the options – and it didn’t have lay flat binding either. So it quickly became an afterthought.

Gundam X the anime

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I refused to watch Gundam X for a long time… the mechs were underwhelming and  the reviews were far from positive. However the new MG Double X was half way decent so I decided to watch it during my gym hours to see, perhaps, I might like it a little bit. (Incidentally HLJ really need to fix their search function… this is a relatively hot mecha and yet you can’t find it easily!)

Boy was it a disappointment. It just felt like a bunch of characters who didn’t really care about what they’re doing, and the protagonist Garrod is just a moron and he stayed a moron. Tiffa doesn’t do much. The mech fights were boring. As cool as Double X was, it was badly utilized… it just felt like it was totally wasted by Garrod. I really liked the concept of satellite canon… how sad. Victory Gundam, despite all its flaws, was more interesting than this disappointment.

Photographing the Neo Zeong

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I finally got to use my bigger studio set up for the massive Neo Zeong. I wanted to get the psycho shards to have a glowing effect, hence I placed a flash behind it.

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However the skirt of NZ casted a big shadow on the ring, so I had to compensate by using another flash to fill that section.

Another thing was that the clear pipe didn’t work too well to support the big guy without the booster legs, the Kit tends to lean backwards. I’m not sure the psycho shards have anything to do with it or not, but it wasn’t good. The Big guy actually fell in the ground from a chair at one point, but it managed to survive with minimal damage… That was scary.

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I didn’t update the last bits of wip, but I did some more detailing on the weapons container and added some hydraulics to support the opened hatches. These came from spare the Millenium Falcon again… Without the hatches seem like they just popped open without some support.

Full Armor Unicorn MG 1/100

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This was one of the big kits I built last year, but I had to wait for the couple of Armor DE before I could complete it. Now that the PG Unicorn is out with the Full Armor add on, I want the MG version to look different, and the Armor DE was a perfect fix for that. Its massive size is also more suitable for the name Full Armor.

Anyway this was the 4th MG unicorn I’ve built so it’s gotten a bit boring. I had some serious disaster with enamel wash melting the plastic, the gatling guns were in pieces… alas. managed to put them back together though. Also I treated this as a fixed pose kit… really how the heck do you play with all that frigging armaments attached to the beast? Moreover the shoulders are not going to be able to hold all that weapons! So I just superglued the shoulders to this final configuration. I actually wanted the beam javelin to go in as well (it can!), but while I could manage to do that with the regular shield, it failed with the Armor DEs so bye javelin. I didn’t like it that much anyway :-/

I played with the photography a bit this time. The clear green plastic responded to the blacklights as I’ve tried before with my Nu Gundam, so it gets a couple of seconds of black light exposure here. But I also tapped my lens lightly to make it slightly diffused, which looks more like it’s glowing. I love it.

 

What is Mr. Color Thinner?

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For as long as I’ve used Mr. Color, I always wonder what the composition of its thinner is. After all, they are so dang pricey, and we all know paint manufacturers just love to repackage common chemicals and resell them for ridiculous prices (e.g. enamel thinner = mineral spirits, Tamiya X-20A = alcohol). But Mr. Color is different. True you can thin it with hardware store lacquer thinners, but it is actually hotter than Mr. Color’s, because the latter doesn’t melt styrene plastic that all model uses.  Also it dries wayyyyy to fast and crazed my kits.

After a bit of browsing today, I found the  chemical composition of Mr. Color sheet.  To read off the pdf, it says 2-Pentanone, 4-hydroxy-4-methyl- + 2-Propanol + isobutyl alcohol + 2-Pentanone, 4-methyl + Ethanol, 2-butoxy-

Ummm, ok.  Apparently 2-Pentanone is called MPK which is related to MEK, and that mixes up with alcohol is what Mr. color thinner is. May be I’ll try it when I’m short on the expensive stuff.

Neo Zeong details

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I forgot exactly when I started building NZ, but from my posting history it’s a bit over 2 months ago. I have been working on this pretty constantly so it felt like a long process.

The weapon container is one of the more detailed parts on NZ so I gave it a bit more spice. The found openings I added a couple of builder’s parts to it to give it more dimensions, and the hatches are given Kotobukiya square molds (2).  I opened up all the depressions on the edges and added some missile-like details from underneath, using my Macross weapon sets. This photo was taken a while ago, the 4 “division” sign details were removed in favor of exhaust etch parts.

Some skirt details below. This is the area aounr the I-field generator, and it’s a bit barren so I thought it could use some detail up, which was done using Kotobukiya pistons and springs.

NZ has its hidden sub arms that wasn’t available in the original kit. Here I got Kit’s Power resin kit for it. I saw the kit photo with two arms and thought it’d come with two, but ended up with only one, and now it’s sold out. Alas. One arm it is.

The kit came with resin joints… obviously they recasted bits of Kotobukiya’s joint systems in resin. The instruction told you to replace these with the regular Koto ones for more sturdy joints, but since I didn’t want to wait yet another month for them, I used my spare Volks MM units… much sturdier :) Also got 4 of the smallest HobbyBase joints for the fingers.

I spent 1.5 days over the weekend to decal the dude… now ready to coat.

Neo Zeong arms II

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While moveability of NZ isn’t one of its forte, I was quite taken to its pose in the mechanic file, where it has its arms outstretched. The kit wouldn’t do it as one of the parts was obscuring the movement.

I opted to convert the part to a double ball joint…

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And now the arm can almost stretch out completely!

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The last details I wanted to do are the weapon containers.

Neo Zeong arms

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Getting closer! Detailing the arms is a real chore since you have to do it six times. That’s the beauty of this beast.

Following the mechanic file image, added these details…

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Realized that I can use the kotobukiya pistons for the funnels, I think I’ll go with this

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Exhaust details for Neo Zeong

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Continuing on NZ, with exhaust flaps from photoetch parts.

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I was debating whether to detail the bowl in the tail, but found a satisfactory configuration of parts so here we go.

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I have a hard time mixing a red that I like since I can decide between the original dark red vs a lighter more Char red. Wish I just went with the Gundam Color but I didn’t know they have a NZ red available.

My scale modeling diary