May 23rd, 2009

Serenity Paint Test #1

I know for the last few months the Firefly Ship Works has been somewhat short of, well, Fireflies. This was not a result of a lack of effort or commitment on the Serenity development team’s part. This was a result of us needing to invent some stuff. Really realistic paint, you see, is as unique as the ship it goes on. And for a unique boat like Serenity, well, let’s just say some innovation had to take place.

We wanted to wait to post any images until we had successfully completed a paint test that started to reflect the results we’re looking for. Once again, the incredible detail on this sculpt was as much a challenge as an opportunity. And because Serenity is probably one of the most realistic spaceships ever to grace the silver screen, an equally realistic paint master was required. In other words, the paint master needed to look like real metal and the weathering needed to look like what old metal would look like when it was 60 years old.

We had a lot of help from the movie CG files which cotain an incredible amount of surface as well as structural detail. As with everything else on Serenity, each armor section is different, like it was added at a different time in her life, maybe even using different metal in some cases. Serenity painted up looks as much like a patchwork quilt as anything else, and we needed to simulate that.

And then there are the wear patterns, old paint that’s partially chipped or burned off, and other things that would just make sense on a real ship. Note, for example, the exhaust vents around the neck – they have carbon build-up toward their interior that’s asymmetrically disintegrating toward the outer edge. Bolts have less patina toward their tops than their bottoms. Maintenance hatches are worn smooth toward their edges from use.

This is where you can start to really see the difference between a mass-produced replica and a professionally-made film-quality replica: Artistry. Someone completely immersed in Serenity’s design for months, who knows her intimately and with mad skills of simulation, will personally see to it your Serenity will be able to fool even the unforgiving eye of the camera.  Remember, before CG there were individually-handcrafted film models. And that’s what we’re creating here.

Okay, enough jabbering, on to the main event:

This paint test was done on forward section of the ship. Notice the subtle but distinct differences between armor plates.

Let’s dive into the close-ups: Those who’ve been following the Ship Works will know how small a section of model you’re looking at here. For example, that row of vents with all the lovely corrosion just under the portside window? That’s only a half-inch long (we’re talkin’ the big vent, not the little one).

Getting resin to look like metal is no simple matter. It means using custom-mixed metal paint and then aging it very carefully.

This extreme close-up shows just how tricky those little details can be, like bolts that are shiny steel on top and copper patina on the bottom. This is a pretty good simulation of what real metal might look like after decades of being exposed to reentry heat.

Here’s a shot of the starboard side of the canopy. You might notice a little paint chip missing from the plate over the starboard window section. Because we want minimal primer – a lot of primer blunts little details – and because paint with a lot of metal in it doesn’t always stick so good, we must do these paint tests. Clearly, we still have some work to do here.

This shot really shows the variation in the armor plating. Each one has it’s own little personality!

And just in case you’re thinking we’re taking liberties in the paint design, here’s a match test. Back half of Serenity is an orthographic printout direct from the movie CG files. Front half is our paint test. Pretty good, eh?

Below is a gallery of all the shots above, plus a few more:


33 Responses to “Serenity Paint Test #1”

  1. Anarchangel says:

    That looks very nice, but I’m a little worried. Will you be selling these as unpainted kits, hand-painted and assembled models, both, or something else? I was hoping for an unpainted kit myself.

  2. Jim in St. Louis says:

    OK. HA HA. Nice Try! That’s the filming miniature from Serenity. Now show us the real paint test.

    No kidding, that looks simply incredible!!! Talk about making plastic look like metal! That shot of the RCS thruster area of the neck,,,,,,, holy cr@p! The thing looks so weathered and beaten, I though the paint chip you talked about was part of the design. If it wasn’t a weak point in the finish, I would leave it like that.

    Hats Off to the QMx team and those geniuses over at thFXcompany! It was worth the wait.

    Thanks for the great update!


  3. admin says:

    Jim – Dang, you caught us! Oh, wait, no you didn’t. There was no filming miniature from Serenity…

  4. Jim in St. Louis says:

    Oop’s! I think I did catch ya. There was a miniature for the hard landing scene ;)


  5. admin says:

    Oh yeah, forgot about that one :-/ If you take a close look, though, it’s not actually screen-accurate – it doesn’t match the CG paint master and some of the sculpt details are off. Not saying it’s not pretty and all.

  6. Jim in St. Louis says:

    It is shiny but not as good as the QMx version!

  7. admin says:

    Aw, Jim, you say the *nicest* things! ;-)

  8. dartvhiper107 says:

    This stuff is great, so shiny.

    yeah, the filming miniature from the movie wasn’t very good, not very accurate plus it was barely painted at all, they even forgot to put the Serenity logo on the ship. And when it hits the cargo hold section starts rattling around and the wings start to become loose.

  9. Therese says:

    Really fine work, I am very impressed with the detail.

  10. BTB says:

    i want now
    great job guys this is something that i have been wanting since she first graced the TV screens late night unanounced on australian TV
    cant wait to give her a home in my house can you give us some details on the dimensions please ?

  11. Joe F says:

    Whoa. Good paint job.

    The more I see of this, the more I really want to have some idea of what it will cost. Can you guys do at least one little thing? When you finally announce the price and availability, please give us PLENTY of time to see if and how we can scrounge up the credits for this baby.

  12. admin says:

    Hi BTB – She’s 1/180 scale, which makes her 19″x12″x6″ (48.26cm x 30.48cm x 15.24cm). That’s without a stand. She’s be a bit bigger all around and taller once she’s “posed”.

    Joe F – That’s a very reasonable request. It won’t be long before we have numbers for you. We’re working on the paint master and electronics right now. Custom electronics are *expensive* and, until that’s done, we won’t know where we’re landing, pricewise. One thing we are considering if letting buyers chose to get their Serenity without the pretty lights. That should shave a considerable amount off the final cost.

    We’re also looking at ways to make this an easier pill for folks to swallow. In fact, we have an idea that will be a first for our industry that should make the whole buying process less painful and a whole lot more fun. Stay tuned! :-)

  13. Anarchangel says:

    So it’s not going to be available as a kit?

  14. admin says:

    Hi Anarchangel – we currently don’t have plans to offer this Serenity design as a hobbyist kit. It would require an extensive redesign to be made into a workable plastic model kit and would likely loose a fair amount of the detailing in this design in the process.

  15. john vaughan says:

    Ah…WOW, forgive any doubt.

  16. admin says:

    John – no worries. Sometimes doin’ things the way they should be done just takes time ;-)

  17. Harold Lewis says:

    Ok, I want mine on a stand, I need the dimensions so I can purchase a glass cover that snugly fits on a hand carved piece of cherry wood.



    Respectfully, Lew

    Stay Shiny

  18. Robin says:

    Who’s a pretty girl? Serenity’s a pretty girl, yes she is. [/babytalk] And just the right size for the top of my computer cabinet. :)

    The paint job looks amazing, guys. Can’t wait to see how the final product turns out.

  19. Akin says:


    I remember how big the model is, yet how incredibly tiny the details are… so this paint job is just incredible. I’m picturing some guy wearing a hat with magnifying lenses on movable arms sticking out every which way, a la Hannibal Chew from Blade Runner (What can I say? Just watched the bluray yesterday), with a brush with a single strand of hair sticking out, dipping it in the paint and painstakingly applying it to the model…

  20. Atom says:

    I quit my job 11 months ago, I had plenty in saving then. Now I’m hurtin’ -I knew I should have set up an secret account I couldn’t touch. Does Blue Sun have a credit card or lay away program?

    I thoroughly enjoy the work you guys are going. As a model builder I’m curious about certain paint techniques, are the stains and coloring washes? I presume that you are using a metallic based paint? Are each of these to be hand painted? And where is the goram buffer panel?!

  21. admin says:

    Hey there Atom – We’re working on an installment plan for Browncoats who need to work on a budget; hope to have more to share on this in a month or so.

    As for your technical questions – the paints are metallic, but they’re our own mix (not something you can buy off-the-shelf). And every model will be painstakingly hand-painted by a real working, special effects artist, and every one will be supervised by John Eblan, whose film credits include Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

  22. Anarchangel says:

    I was thinking a resin kit rather than plastic, but that’s cool.

  23. Sean Kennedy says:

    It’s SOOOOOOOOO Purdy!! Having built several of these in 3D I can honestly say that is incredibly cool! makes me want to take up kitbashing again….

  24. Chuck says:

    She does look great, “Ship like this could last you a lifetime” and I can hardly wait. Any news on the shuttle release date and price? Just want to say thanks for all the good work,

  25. Wolvster says:

    Been awhile since I have checked back in but I
    must say…. SWEEEEEEEEEET !!!!! :)

    The FX Company is doing the old girl PROUD
    in my opinion, and I cannot WAIT to see her
    all finished in her SHINY GLORY !

  26. Warship says:

    Now wen will it be available and how much?

  27. Rambie says:

    My birthday is in Aug… not a hint or anything. ;)

    The model and painting detail it’s just so amazing, I want one but I’m sure with this quality they’ll be pretty expensive. The payment plan sounds like a good option so does the light-kit as an option.

    Think about adding an option to buy the model non-assembled and non-painted, or painted but not assembled. I’d love the challenge of assembly and/or painting. I couldn’t match you guys, but I’d still like to try.

  28. Joe F says:

    Ok, so… the tax refunds just came through here in Sweden. Where do I send the $? :)

    Seriously though… what are the ballpark time frames for ordering / release of this baby? Are we talking summer/fall/early 2010? Even a “not until **** at the Earlyest” (yes, I spelled that wrong on purpose) would be great.

  29. Joe F says:

    Any news? Or news about when there might be news?

  30. Ali D says:

    This is totally cool and I am so excited! Love, love, love the notion of a lighting option. I’m hoping the cargo bay doors will open so we get a look inside our shiny ship. Kudos to you all for doing such stellar work, look forward to the updates.

  31. Washinton Raines says:

    I am very concerned about the price they haven’t told us about. Wondering if we are going to need to empty out the stock account, no wait the government already did that. cash in the savings account , no wait had to use it to keep the house. Ah, I’ve got it do you take the first born in as payment, then his college fund money freed up maybe I could afford the the more expensive lighting option. Seriously I’m hoping that the only people to afford one will be the big time collectors or investors looking to turn a quick buck

  32. stacy says:

    Get mine ready to package. next best thing to bringing back the series

  33. Zina Noli says:

    I like it alot! I’m in the process of doing some diy at the moment and your thoughts are definitely going down nicely!

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