Rob Henden has been airbrushing models since the 1980’s. He is a regular contributor various model magazines internationally, including the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Greece and Korea. Every year Rob demonstrates airbrushing at the Euro-Militaire show in Folkestone.
He is a habitual award winner, with numerous Silver, Bronze and Commended awards at the Euro-Militaire show, several Gold awards at Trucks & Tracks show and countless Golds locally in other events in the South East of England.
One of Rob Henden’s most recent Gold awards in the Figure Class of Trucks & Tracks is the SS Paratrooper WWII (late war), which features in Rob’s instructional DVD, and the subject of this review, entitled “Painting & Finishing Military Figures with Rob Henden”.
What Compendium Films promise
Whether renting a movie, taking a book from the library or buying either of these online or from your local store, the main selling point is usually the write up on the dustcover or the casing or, in this electronic age, on the publisher’ or producer’s website . It is this that creates a certain expectation, a promise if you will, of what is to come.
Let us begin this review by previewing what Compendium Films endeavour to deliver; let us examine what the DVD case, as well as the Compendium Films website, promises to deliver with this DVD.
“Rob Henden, internationally respected modeller, shows how to choose, assemble and paint military figures.
In super close-up detail we learn the skills necessary to achieve the completely realistic results that led to the creation of his Gold Medal winning SS Fallschirmjager figure.
This program takes us from research, kit choice and tools required through cleaning of castings, filling and finishing assembly, to priming, brush and airbrush painting and eventually to appropriate base-work.
He looks in detail at texturing, painting flesh-tones, facial features, clothing, weapons and equipment, wood grain, leather, dry brushing, metals and much more.
A highly detailed menu lists each topic for easy and immediate navigation whilst the DVD pause facility allows you to stop the action at any time to appreciate in close detail each step and the finished incredible model.
Main program approx. 56 minutes
PLUS – these great DVD Extras:
* Profile of Rob Henden
* Model panorama
* Correcting common mistakes
* List of products used or recommended
* Reference and sources
Total running time: approx. 85 minutes”
Having examined what Compendium Films hope to deliver, let us have a look at what is actually delivered, and how successful they are in doing so.
The DVD can basically be split into 2 main features, namely the Main Programme and the DVD Extras, the breakdown of which can be seen below.
- Main Programme
- Choosing Scales and Models
- Kit Construction
- Priming and Preparation
- Painting the Trousers
- Real Camouflage
- Tunic and Camouflage
- Head and Eyes
- DVD Extras
- Making Leather Accessories
- Additional Parts
- Detailed Finishing
- Correcting Common Mistakes
- Rob Henden Profile
- Sources and References
- Model Panorama
- Recommended Products
As seems traditional with so many modelling guides, be it paper based or electronic, the Main Programme starts off with the author briefly discussing the various scales figures are available in (at this point we discover the figure Rob paints during the DVD), heading into the kit assembly before priming and preparing the figure for painting.
For the entry level figure modeller these topics may be of interest, however I was somewhat surprised to find them part of the DVD for, as we see later, the painting technique Rob demonstrates is (in my opinion) not for the entry level figure modeller. A further concern is the fact that at no point during one of these chapters does Rob discuss or demonstrate the safety measures one should take when working with resin figures, particularly when merrily cutting away at casting blocks with his Dremel, dust flying everywhere.
Having prepared the figure for painting, the presenter dives into the real “meat and potatoes” of the DVD: painting the figure. It is only in the “Painting the Trousers” chapter that we first hear about the artist’s preferred paint medium and, more importantly, his method of applying the paint – both topics I would have expected to have fallen within the realm of the introductory chapters.
Rob Henden’s method of painting is rather interesting. While certainly not for the beginner, nor the faint hearted, using a combination of both airbrush and brush Rob applies his preferred paint medium, acrylics, to the model in order to get the most out of model painting.
The four “main” chapters of the Main Programme takes the viewer from painting the monotone trousers, to the more complex Fallschirmjager camouflage, to painting a face using an airbrush. In these chapters Rob demonstrates laying the basecoats, and then applying subsequent layers and shadows. When painting the face you truly realise the art of painting figures using an airbrush. There is also plenty of good advice to be gleaned from these chapters, for example matching paint colours to reference materials, provided the viewer pays attention.
The modeller hoping to merely “clone” the author’s techniques will be sorely disappointed as although he mentions the brands used (Vallejo Model Air and LifeColor), Rob does not explicitly tell the viewer which colours he uses for what. This is, however, not necessarily a bad thing though as it ensures that the viewer does their own research before embarking on painting this or similar figures.
The first four chapters of Extras pertain specifically to the painting and finishing of the model, being Making Leather Accessories, Additional Parts, Detailed Finishing and Correcting Common Mistakes.
In Making Leather Accessories Rob demonstrates an interesting and certainly very different approach to that which most of us would follow: he reconstructs the leather helmet strap – from leather!
Additional Parts and Detailed Finishing sees the artist add detail to items such as the egg grenades and discusses topics such as painting the leather items.
Correcting Common Mistakes deals with exactly that: correcting common mistakes, such as paint overflow. By making unintentional mistakes and displaying how to quickly fix them, the author reassures viewers that it is natural to make mistakes when painting, but important to correct them immediately.
The final four Extra chapters include a Rob Henden Profile, Sources and References, a Model Panorama and Recommended Products.
The Rob Henden Profile consists of a Q&A session with Rob wherein he discusses mostly his early modelling experiences. The Model Panorama is an audio-less display of various models by the presenter. The lack of a soundtrack for the panorama is somewhat puzzling.
The Sources and References chapter has the presenter discussing his preferred modelling sources, many of which should be familiar to most modellers, while Recommended Products consists of four pages, or screens, featuring the products used during the DVD.
I found navigating the DVD particularly tiresome. Once entering a particular index or section of the DVD there are no navigation buttons which allow the viewer to go back to a previous index or section – apart from using the navigation tools on your viewing software (provided you are viewing the DVD on a PC).
Another point to note is that the navigation chapter numbers (not to be confused with the Main Programme or Extras chapter titles) do not, in my opinion, follow logically. For example the first few chapter numbers relate to items covered in the Extras, while the Main Programme subjects come only much later.
The delivery style of the DVD is quite informal, with it taking place at a place where Rob is most comfortable: at his workbench. Rob speaks and presents in a casual manner, as if you were sitting next to him at the workbench. This style may not appeal to everybody, but I enjoyed it.
I am not particularly impressed with the editing of the DVD. There are a few key issues that stand out to me with regards to the Main Programme: lighting; noise; and camera focal point.
I found that all too often the lighting at the desk was too harsh, or too bright. This resulted in many of the shots being slightly washed out. I realise that the artist needs that light to work effectively, however I also know that this sort of thing can be corrected post-production.
The second annoying issue is that of the noise generated by the compressor. While the Darth Vader-like breathing of the compressor is perhaps in itself an unavoidable event, it does have the potential to become somewhat annoying when viewing the DVD for the umpteenth time or listening to it using a headset. I do once again feel that the post-production team have let the viewer down by not isolating this noise and either eliminating or reducing it.
The final Main Programme editorial issue, and once again something that should have been resolved post-production, relates to the camera focal point. From time to time, but for me all too often, the focal point of the shots are not centred. From time to time the camera will merely be focused (for too long) on the side of Rob’s face while he narrates instead of the model, which would have been preferable.
What Compendium Films do not deliver
I was disappointed that the DVD does not cover the painting and presentation of this figure end-to-end, which in a way leaves one with a sense of it being incomplete. The promised wood grain, metals (apart from tunic rivets) and groundwork sadly do not transpire.
One of the key points to bear in mind when viewing this DVD is that this is Rob Henden’s way of painting and finishing military figures. It is important to remember that this is not the only way of doing something, and it’s up to the viewer as to how much you benefit from the techniques Mr Henden demonstrates. It’s equally important to remember that which works for one may not work for another, but it’s important to try.
The techniques demonstrated on this DVD may not be all that useful to smaller scales. The techniques are demonstrated on a large scale figure, which is in my opinion more conducive to the airbrush methods demonstrated.
Similarly the entry-level modeller setting out into the frightening world of figure painting may be somewhat overwhelmed by some of the, in my opinion, advanced techniques discussed here.
That said, the techniques are interesting, and can easily (given the right amount of skill and experience) be applied to other large scale figurines, and not only military figures. Personally I cannot wait to try airbrushing flesh tones to a bust.
Perhaps a better title for this DVD would have been “Airbrushing Large Scale Figurines with Rob Henden”.