Cooking show scenery

Yesterday, I visited Barry Silverthorn at the TrainMasters TV studios in Belleville to record another instalment of The Roadshow series. I was joined by my friend Chris Abbott, and we spent a delightful few hours in front of the cameras to craft a video on creating a meadow.

 photo TMTV-20150518-01_zpsutu3wacu.jpg
(Barry and Chris look on as I lay out four work-in-progress boards, finished to various stages. Note the backlight on the cabinet, and the camera mounted on the ceiling)

 photo TMTV-20150518-02_zpspxgsk5ev.jpg
(Barry ponders a helicopter shot as Christian Cantarutti looks on. The monitor between them allows those on-camera to see what the ceiling-mounted camera is shooting. It takes a lot of people – and equipment – to make great TV)

To prepare for shooting day, I created four 12″ by 12″ demonstration pieces out of foam board insulation. These, I finished to various stages, each building on the previous stage:

1 – Plain foam, roughed up on one surface.
2 – Sculpta-mold applied to create some rolling terrain.
3 – Base coat of paint, plus various scatter materials, glued in place with dilute Weld-Bond.
4 – Static grass applied and airbrushed.

Chris and I used these as our starting points to demonstrate various techniques. (For example, we added scatter material to board number 2 and static grass to board #3.) On a layout, this work can take several days – mostly spent waiting for the previous step to dry. But when doing this on camera, it needs to be done in hours, not days. So the approach is similar to a cooking show, where recipes are prepared to various stages. Rather than wait for the glue to dry on a scenery board (or for the chicken to roast in the oven), we can simply move to the board that represents the next stage, and demonstrate what happens next.

Also like a cooking show, where recipes are tested and perfected before the camera rolls, doing the scenery boards ahead of time allowed me to think through what I wanted to demonstrate, what tools and materials I’d need for each step, and so on.

The result is that shooting the segment went smoothly and the final board looked really good. It received flowers, weeds and bushes on top of grass and basic ground cover, and I think TrainMasters TV subscribers will enjoy the process and like the results, when this segment airs this summer.

We even had a couple of great meals as part of the day. Chris and I started with breakfast at Fran’s – a Toronto institution since 1940. For lunch, Barry took us to The Boathouse for fish and chips: Yum!

Thanks, Chris, for coming along – always fun! And thanks as always, Barry, for allowing me to be a part of your awesome show!

11 thoughts on “Cooking show scenery

  1. There’s only one place I would deviate from the steps in creating a meadow. I use Sculptamold over foam for my scenery. However, I mix my Sculptamold with earth colored latex paint diluted 50% with water before applying it to the foam base.

    I do not see how Fran’s has lasted 75 years without grits on the menu. I like fried potatoes; I even make fried potatoes, but sometimes I just want grits, especially with eggs. 8>)

    • That’s the great thing about scenery, Jared – there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to approach it. I use Sculptamold in spots – not all over – to add some contours to the carved foam. It’s also great for patching joints between pieces of foam. I don’t bother to colour it, since I haven’t had any problems with it chipping.

      Grits are a regional delicacy. We do things differently here…


    • Whenever I’ve added paint to the Sculptamold mix, it has greatly affected the drying time. In one case I had a batch never properly setup, so I stopped tinting the mixes.

  2. Thankyou for a peak behind the camera… I have been enjoying your Train Masters series and your modeling thoughts. I congratulate on a much improved more natural delivery in these programs!

    I am looking forward to seeing these and future sessions.

    ‘Frans’ is an institution; I fondly recall many visits when attending the Ontario College of Art in downtown Toronto in the early Sixties, the College St. near Yonge location was visited often.


  3. I don’t know about the paint extending drying time. I do know that with my paint-Sculptamold mix I can work the Sculptamold for a hour or more before it starts setting up. I give it 24 hours to dry.

  4. If one wants to add colour to the Sculptamode mix without affecting the material, why not use powder paints? Surely, that would save all the problems.


  5. Trevor:
    I’m considering an investment in a static grass applicator. It appears that you are using a Noch brand SGA. I’ve heard good reviews on the GrassTech SGA. What is your recommendation?
    Also what length of grass and brand?

    • Hi Charles:
      I like the Noch GrasMaster. It’s the only one I’ve used, so I can’t comment on other brands.
      I also like the Noch Wild Grass. I get it from Scenic Express.

  6. Trevor.
    I have returned to the scenery segment several time since the original “air date.” (Is there “air” in the “cloud?”) Could you please provide us humble followers the Scenic Express item numbers for the products that you used in your demonstration.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Charles:
      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the scenery segment. As for product numbers – I don’t have any. In any case, the scenery I cooked up for my southern Ontario scene will be different than what you need for your scene, I suspect.
      I didn’t want to provide specific products because scenery should be about developing one’s own eye for it, not blindly following what someone else does. I encourage you to browse the Scenic Express web site… buy some materials… and give them a try. Make up some 12″ square test boards, like I used in the show.
      If the materials you buy work for you, great! If they do not, then buy different materials and layer them on top. Or toss the test boards and start fresh – until you get the look that works for you. That’s the thing about scenery: There are few wrong answers, yet not everybody’s “right” answer will be the same. It’s not like building a model of a specific boxcar, where right and wrong are absolute…

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