And this is the way it's supposed to be done at IPMS contests.
Here is something I wrote a little while ago, first on the IPMS Roundtable discussion and then as a submission to the IPMS Journal Editor.
A little Realism about Accuracy and IPMS Contests
I've been an IPMS member for quite a while now. I've been to my share of local contests, and regionals, and I've been attending the National Convention every year since 1992, and participating as a judge at the Nationals since 1995 when I did my OJT.
Over the years, I've heard (more than?) my share of complaints about judging in IPMS contests. Some people complain that IPMS contests are judged by "rivet counters" and "color police". Others, who probably have a little more experience in judging themselves, complain that we don't take accuracy into account enough.
How can people come to conclusions which are polar opposites of each other.
I would like to contribute the observation that there is a difference between "realism" and "accuracy".
Accuracy is the adherence to some set of particular "facts" about the subject. This is something which is hard, if not impossible to judge objectively, since a judge can't be expected to know all the facts about every subject. In fact for historical subjects, the facts are often in dispute or subject to conventional wisdom which can be wrong. Most modelers wear a historian hat at least part of the time, and we strive to build models which are "accurate" with respect to what we personally beleive the facts to be.
Realism is a different matter. It's the adherence of a model to an "ideal" of the general knowledge about the general subject. For example we know that among other things:
- Most four wheeled cars have all four wheels on the ground
- Most aircraft have certain symmetries, wings tend to have the same dihedral, the tail tends to be vertical when the plane is on it's landing gear.
- Most subjects, if they have seams, don't have seams which look like plastic pieces glued together with gaps.
- Parts tend to have certain scale relationships to the whole. For example, airplanes and car bodies tend to be made of sheet metal rather than armor plate.
- Although it's not uncommon for real world subjects to have flaws in their finish, those flaws when scaled down to typical modeling scales, don't tend to look like the same flaws when they appear at their real world scale on the model.
All of these aspects of realism fall into the realm of judging basic construction. Judges shouldn't (and typically don't) count rivets, but they do have a general idea of the range of rivet sizes in a particular scale, and if needed to they judge the model on whether or not the rivets look in or out of scale. Judges aren't expected to know where all the panel lines are or are not on every subject, so we don't judge the presence or absence of the "correct" panel lines, instead we judge whether the panel lines we see look like realistic panel lines and not like the modeler botched a seam, or partially sanded away a line on the kit, whether that line was accurate or not.
One of the reasons we judge in teams is to keep each other honest on this. I've been in situations at the Nationals in which I've had to remind another judge on my team that a black rather than a black-green prop on an Me-109 shouldn't be a judging issue, or in another case, that the flaws and inconsistencies in a large scale scratch-built model just couldn't be outweighed by the amount of time and effort that model represented on the part of the builder. I strive to promote the same philosophy when I judge at local events.
Note that realism and accuracy can sometimes be at odds. If a real airplane has an odd geometry, the modeler should either avoid that subject for contests, or provide ample documentation to the judges so that they will know how to adjust the "ideal".
And judges can, should, and do ignore certain items of specific subject knowledge. For example, I've seen lots of Me-109s in contests. Many have no panel lines at all at the top and bottom of the fuselage, others have very noticeable but realistic panel lines there. Now while I know that most (all?) Me-109s actually did have panel lines there, I don't hold this against the model which (inaccurately?) lacks them, because the modeler skillfully filled the kit seams. On the other hand I've also seen lots of Me-109s which had unrealistic looking panel lines there, because the modeler botched either hiding the seam, or keeping it clean, so the line comes and goes.
This lack of distinction between realism and accuracy causes both complaints that we ignore accuracy, when the complainant is really talking about realism, or expecting omniscient objectivity from the judges; and that we are rivet counters when we are really looking at the realism of the rivets rather than their number and exact positions. It's even worse when guys who only judge at the local level apply subjective "knowledge" and lead to the many complaints we hear about IPMS being "rivet counters" and/or "color police." having just a bit of truth.