Thanks for watching! Because this is a long video I’ve added in some clickable timestamps (pinned in the comments). If there is something specific you want in future videos or if you have any questions feel free to ask!
The implied task is creating mock-ups. Just like one should test fit the assembly of a complex kit, it is important one checks composition throughout. That includes not only the vehicle and figure placement but also the overall layout, vegetation, objects, buildings, even simple things like manhole covers. Everything should be balanced and one should fill as much negative space as possible.
As a diorama is something designed to get a story across within a small scene, there is no room for wasted space. For this reason, it is best to leave the actual dimensions of the base for last. Once the scene is figured out, figuring out the base can be equated to cropping a photograph. You want to remove as much of the unnecessary areas as possible while preserving balance.
Plenty of my past works have been done on predefined bases. I’ve found that more often than not, I am either trying to cram a scene into a base that is too small to do it justice, or I am left with a lot of negative space that detracts from the overall scene.
One thing to help with a scene’s composition and size could be dramatic variations in elevation. Not only is it more visually interesting but you can highlight the size of objects or help direct the viewer’s eye. Want a tank to look significantly larger next to a person or highlight how it looks from a birds-eye-view? Put the tank nose down in a ravine with a figure at the bottom of the embankment looking up. The footprint of the scene becomes much smaller as well.
Take pictures during the planning and mock-up processes. Show the mock-up or photos to friends and family. Share the development with the modeling community online or at a local club. The trick is not giving away the story ahead of time. You’ll find out how much of your desired message gets across on content alone. It’s a way to check the strength of the storytelling elements. Other perspectives can give you new insight or change the way you tell your story. I’ve even changed the story itself because someone saw the beginnings of a more compelling theme!
For a good example of an “after-action” diorama, check out this ongoing work by Hamilkar Barkas:
Reference and planning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNfWWYdDBXE
Build log: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqAgKYPH688
If he had done a “before the action” scene, it would have been very strange. A StuG and a T-34 staring each other down? There would have been no figures and no easy way to get a sense of speed or action across to the viewer. One asks, “Are they parked? What’s going on?” It wouldn’t answer the “why”. A “during the action” scene would be alright, but it wouldn’t lend itself very well to figures. They would likely all be buttoned up inside of their respective tanks at the time of the impact. One could use some artistic license and show a few crew members that were thrown out of hatches, but it just doesn’t work as well as the scene he has actually chosen to depict- the “after-action”.
In the “after-action” you can see more of the story- it is clear the Germans were the victors even though both tanks are effectively disabled. This is evident by the surrendering Soviets and a large number of German troops and their casual poses. Clearly, the StuG crew is angry – they were injured in the ramming and no doubt want to exact vengeance on the T-34 crew that didn’t yield earlier. But everyone else seems at ease. One can imagine seeing a traffic accident where the two parties are hurt, enraged, or emotionally drained while the onlookers are excited to see the carnage and flock to the scene.
All in all, an incredibly effective example of storytelling. The clothing, weather, vehicle models, all of this can tell us “who; what; where; and when;” but the figures give us the “why” and “how”. Replacing this with a mass of Soviet troops and a few Germans surrendering would quickly flip the script, especially if the T-34 had wound up on top of the StuG.