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Lighting Advice

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  • Member since
    September, 2017
Lighting Advice
Posted by Tesoe on Thursday, September 28, 2017 1:46 PM

Hi everybody! This is my first post and I'm excited to join the community.

I've been building Bandai models for years and was thinking about getting back into more. "traditional" models to try out lighting them. 

I've been thinking about getting Revel's Republic Star Destroyer kit to start out. I noticed everyone seems to use fiber optic wire to light all the windows. I was wondering what was the advantage was of doing it that way instead of running an adhecive LED strip along the inside of kit near the windows. Especially when it comes to the main hull of the ship.

Thanks in advance for your time!

  • Member since
    September, 2017
Posted by JBritt1234 on Saturday, September 30, 2017 9:26 AM

I'm working on my first FO install on a model, the Revell/Avezda Star Destroyer.  There are people that use the LED strips, but I think FO is way more popular.  A few of the reasons why;

Drilling holes and then lighting inside, tends to give a verry varried look as you look at the hull of the ship.  If you are not looking directly at the hole, there will be shading, or just appear dark.  There would be light holes all over the ship that would get various amounts of visible light from outside.

Using the light strips gives a lot more opportunity for light bleed from the inside of the ship.  You would likely have to do a pretty good deal to mask that light, not just a coat of paint or two.  The FO uses much less LED's, which are typically in some kind of barrel or shrink wrap, so they do visably shine as light.  The strip would be like having exposed light bulbs inside and you have to make sure the hull of the ship does not glow, just the lights.

Those are the two main reasons I decided to stick to FO, i'm sure there are others.  Lots just comes down to personal choice.  There are plenty of people that have used stips on these models.

  • Member since
    April, 2013
Posted by KnightTemplar5150 on Saturday, September 30, 2017 5:20 PM

There are a couple of advantages that fiber optics give over strip LEDs in this case. The first is the very small size of the windows can cause a twinkling effect with strip lighting. Strip lights can be very intense, so as a viewer moves around the model, the light gets obscured as the angle changes because it has to pass through the holes you've drilled. The fiber optic brings the light directly to the surface of the model, so there are no shadows and the light shines through clearly and evenly, no matter the angle.

The holes at this scale are quite small, so painting becomes an issue. With strip lighting, you need to be careful with how much paint is being applied and steps need to be taken to keep it from filling in the holes. With the fiber optic, you simply need to leave the strands a little length to stand proud off the ship, then you can trim it flush after painting and sealing. It makes things a lot easier than having to mask things off and it saves a lot of time in the end. 


  • Member since
    September, 2017
Posted by Tesoe on Saturday, September 30, 2017 10:05 PM
That makes a lot of sense. Thank you.
  • Member since
    September, 2017
Posted by Tesoe on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 12:14 PM

I've been doing more research getting ready for this project and I had kind of a tangential lighting question.

Using fiber optics to prevent twinkling make perfect sense to me. So why don't I seem to be seeing it done much with Star Trek models? Is it something as simple as the windows being proportionally larger compared to the wall thickness of the kit, and thus twinkling not being as much of an issue?

  • Member since
    April, 2013
Posted by KnightTemplar5150 on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 2:38 PM

The scale of the kit and the thickness of the plastic are two major considerations.

The 1/350 scale Enterprise kits have windows that average right around 1/4" wide for most areas of the ship, but at 1/1000 scale, those holes become the diameter (roughly) of a #75 drill bit. The plastic is roughly the same thickness, but the differences in how light gets distributed is pretty remarkable. As you get smaller (1/2500, 1/5250, etc.), the holes become smaller still and both keeping the twinkling effect down and drilling straight, even rows of holes become issues.

Those large scale ships measuring out to 1/350 have some tricks to them. Some builders will lightly sand the clear parts the kit supplies to help even out the lighting to prevent the twinkling effect, while others leave them out entirely and wait until after painting the ship to fill the window openings with canopy glue. That gives the appearance of glass, but it is not optically clear, so the light is diffused and scattered evenly. 

Some areas of the 1/350 NX-01 are more easily lit with fiber optic simply because of space issues. There just isn't a lot of room inside the kit at points to run a lot of wiring or not enough clearance for light strips to sit and allow parts to come together properly, without gaps. The fiber optic is relatively easy to use in those areas.

It comes down to your preferences and the variables you find in the kit whether to use strips, fiber optics, electro-luminicent sheeting, flo-tubes, or daisy chains of LEDs to get the effects you have in mind. 

  • Member since
    September, 2017
Posted by Pinkbooger on Thursday, October 26, 2017 5:38 AM

I am interested in lighting up some of my models later when I get better. I was wondering where is a good place to get FO light kits and how expensive are they?

"You underestimate the power of the dark side"

-Darth Vader


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