Lance Mindheim’s piece last week about prototype modelling strikes a chord for me. You should read it yourself, but to précis, it is an argument for flexibility in prototype modelling to augment appearance.
Embedded in the essay, Lance says,
Its taken me decades to realize this but the two, appearance and accuracy are, in fact, often mutually exclusive.
This realization echoes a theory I’ve been harbouring for about a year: realism and accuracy are not so much mutually exclusive, but orthogonal. That is, you can have both together, but increasing one has no affect on the other. This is why you can have such successful freelance layouts as Lance names in his post. It is also why you can’t simply drop Rapido’s latest offering on the tracks and feel it is alive.
Accuracy and realism are orthogonal because realism lies in the colours and textures of spaces between details while accuracy lies in the details themselves.
It’s interesting to think about space and detail at different levels of proximity. Close to an individual model, details are the grab irons, rivets and so on. Having the right number of either doesn’t make the model more realistic, but it does make it more accurate. The treatment of individual panels and the texture of surfaces makes the model believable and satisfying.
At the next level out, a scene is made realistic by the colour and texture of surfaces between the models, as well as the realism of the models themselves. Having the right buildings in the right locations only serves to make the scene prototypically accurate. At the layout level, realism lies in having enough space between towns so that it feels as if trains are going somewhere; having the towns in the right order serves to make a more accurate rendition of the prototype.
I haven’t used it in this way yet, but I think you should be able to use this theory to decide where to focus your talents and resources. Can you, for example, elide some details in favour of a great weathering job, and still have a believable model?