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Star Wars Venator Class Lighting Kit (FX02 for Revell)

1:2274 GreenStrawberry

 

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One of the coolest ships from the Star Wars Prequels (IMHO) was the Republic Star Destroyer, having a definite Star Destroyer vibe, and taking quite a big part in the films, carrying Clone Troopers and their equipment into battle.  The Revell kit has been around since 2005, and was last re-popped in 2016, so there are doubtless plenty of them languishing in stashes around the world just waiting for these wonderful upgrades.  We recently reviewed the detail upgrade sets that GreenStrawberry have laboured over here, and they really bring the kit’s sometimes soft detail up to modern standards, while adding a full interior bay to complete the blowing of your mind.  Sci-Fi kits scream out to be lit, and when you’ve spent that much effort on a kit, it would be rude not to really, which is where the fun really begins, especially if you know nothing about electronics in models.

 

 

With the advances in small portable SoC (System on a Chip) devices, meaningful computing power is now available for relatively little outlay, such as the Raspberry Pi (RasPi) and the Arduino in their various guises.  There has been an explosion in technology that is useful in creating lighting control systems for models, which coupled with the affordable cost of light-guides/fibre-guides/fibre-optics, makes it even easier.  The final nail in the coffin of lightless models is the size and availability of bright, colourful LEDs of various sizes and styles, which consume a tiny amount of electricity, create very little heat to melt your models, and can now be crammed into small spaces thanks to the infinitesimal size of SMD (Surface Mount Device) LEDs that rival the grain-of-wheat bulbs of yore.

 

The Kit

This kit is specifically engineered and configured to be used with the Revell Republic Star Destroyer as it is called, but GreenStrawberry have named their set after the series of ship that Revell have kitted, the Venator Class.  It arrives in one of their grey/black themed boxes that is held together by a large green/red sticker that shows a completed Venator class Attack Cruiser floating through the void, plus a small thumbnail of the lighting set in the top right.  Inside is a small PCB with an ATMega328PB at the heart, holding and carrying out execution of the instructions that have been encoded onto it at the factory, with no worries about losing everything when you turn off the power.  It has two ribbon-cables plugged into sockets on the main board, and the smaller of the two ribbons has two smaller custom PCBs carrying three SMD LEDs each, which are used to create light sources for the tiny fibre-guide lights.  There is also a Ziploc bag full of a generous quantity of fibre-guide for you to trim to length and install to make your model sparkle, plus two resin parts that should be glued over the smaller boards to provide the fibre-guides with a concentrated light source.  The final parts are a pair of clear-cast resin light guides that are used to transfer the light from smaller LEDs down a narrow engine nacelle to the business end.

 

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The instructions show you how to assemble the LEDs and their light tubes that will be filled with bundles of fibre-guide that have their other ends inserted in holes drilled out in the superstructure to give a nice scale-effect to the external lights.  The traditional LEDs that are wired into the larger socket are shown in a scrap diagram with letters allocated to them so you can better understand where they are destined for within the hull.  Two smaller lights are inserted into the twin bridges, with another two in the sloping superstructure that supports them.  The resin guides are inserted into the narrow auxiliary engines with the LEDs fitting into the larger cupped ends, then it is time for the largest LEDs to be used to light the main engines.  A number of holes should be drilled through the rear bulkhead to permit insertion of the lights, with the correct diameter for each hole called out along the way.  As you’d imagine, the large blue LEDs are for the four largest engines, with four smaller ones for the smaller secondary engines.  The location of the holes for the tiny glittering lights and their fibre-guides in amongst the greeblies is left up to you, but a small length of the side is shown with examples of where you could place them.  Checking your references to see where they appear would be wise, although 100% accuracy would take more effort than most of us could muster in a lifetime!

 

The only item you will need to acquire in addition is a 2A MicroUSB Power Supply Unit (PSU), which are cheap and easy to find anywhere from in your drawers to eBay or Amazon.  It would be expensive and difficult to supply a unit with the kit, as there are far too many mains plug styles for a small company to keep up with, and you’ll only need one style unless your Star Destroyer is going travelling with you.  For my purposes I grabbed a MicroUSB cable from my drawer and plugged it into a USB socket in a nearby double wall plug, which did the job just perfectly as it can supply 3.1A if necessary.  It’s a lighting kit right? so you turn it on and the lights are there.  Right?  Nope.  This set has a programmed start-up sequence coded into the little computer, which removes the unrealistic and toy-like initial 0-100% blaze of lights, and substitutes a lengthy start-up sequence that builds to a crescendo and incorporates elements of flicker into the main engine lights, as well as sequenced lighting of the fibre-guide LEDs, so if you’re clever with locating them, they should shimmer into life as each LED comes online.  The drive flicker doesn’t show up as well in the video below, but it looks really cool in the flesh so will bring your model to life in a major way.

 

One other thing you might need to pick up is an extension cable for the MicroUSB socket to allow you to plug your PSU into a convenient port in a base or beneath the model somewhere out of the way.  Those are pretty cheap to pick up too, and if you wanted to convert from MicroUSB to USB-C, which is the current de rigeur connector, that’s your opportunity. You could always bury a USB battery pack in your base to free yourself from the tyranny of a wired connection.  Hyperbole’s the best thing EVER!!!!!

 

With lighting any model you will need to consider light leaks, and also take precautions such as spraying the interior of the model with a light defeating black or some other coloured paint.  Hot glue can also be your friend when it comes to securing wires or fibre-guide around the inside of your model, as can be tape, zip-ties and many other tools I’ve not thought of.  I recorded some video with my DSLR in “daylight” as well as with the lights off, which should give a reasonable representation of the effects and start-up sequence of the set.  It’s a first for me (almost), so please excuse the un-fancy presentation.

 

 

 

Conclusion

If you don’t have the time, the inclination or the skill to create your own complex and programmed lighting set for this impressively large kit, this is the perfect short-cut.  It is designed with this exact kit in mind, and uses high quality fixtures and fittings to create a comprehensive package.  Imagine having to do all of this work yourself.  Where to start?

 

Very highly recommended.

 

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