Over the Layout Finish Ideas?

Guys, I'd like to hear your thoughts on finishing the area over layout. How did you hide your lighting from direct view?
Here is my situation. The layout is under construction in a 12 x18 room and varies in width from 14" to 30" around the walls with a large kidney shaped peninsula more or less in the center. The peninsula is divided by a full height backdrop except for about 1 1/2 feet at end where the trains will go around the bend. All of the corners, end and the backdrop are curved and so is the valance that is actually a framed up and finished furdown. I had planned to paint the back of the 12" furdown and ceiling over the layout the same blue as the backdrop. I've been installing some fluorescent lights right to test out lighting and want them up for backdrop painting. The furdown hides the lighting from direct sight fairly well but when standing at the end of the peninsula looking down either side you can plainly see the lights and fixtures all down either side. The view is a little distracting but at least the wiring is run through the inside of the furdown and is not very noticeable. I got thinking that if I installed rippled clear panels as a drop down ceiling at a level just below the bottom of the lights the whole thing might look better. I got a couple of clear diffuser panel pieces, drop ceiling L shape edge and a some T shapes for where the panels meet and put it up to see if I like it. I think it will really improve the finished appearance and the amount of light seems to be fine. The problem is going around the corners and ends as I have only a few truly straight edges on the whole layout....everything curves and bends even a long section of 14' on one wall has gentle bends in it. Its easy enough to cut the panels to fit has I already had to do this with the two test panels but getting around the more sharply curved areas, curved corners and ends with the L shaped metal strip is not going to work Does anyone know how to do drop ceiling trim around curves, have any suggestions or have a completely different better way to hide the lighting fixtures. Thanks, Bruce
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Bruce, have you thot about mixing some incandescant lighting with your floures. light s to get a "warmer" light? I like your idea as you have stated it.
John

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

John, Each fixture has two fluorescent tubes. The back one is bright white and the forward tube is a warm one. This seems to work well for me and warms things up some and I have the same lighting over the work bench. The entire layout will of course be lit from above but every area also gets some indirect light from across the isle. So far this seems to help lighten and soften up the shadows from a viewers angle very well. If needed I can run some track lights down the isles to warm up or brighten the front side. I've got a lot of over head work yet and only two adjacent sections have the finished front side of the furdown in place. Once I've got all the fluorescent lights in I'll have a much better idea if I need additional lighting. It would be nice to have incandescent lights on a dimmer but its not a major thing on my list at the moment. I ran additional wire in the furdown. The front side of the furdown is stained wood mounted with screws that are hidden by trim and molding. I can just pop off the trim and unscrew the wood panels to get at the wires so even after everything is finished out it would not be to big of a deal to add lights on the back side of the furdown or on the ceiling over the layout. I'm building this layout so that features can be added in the future without too much trouble and that absolutely everything is easy to get at. I've built several smaller layouts in the past and learned practically everything the hard way. Rather spend the time and trouble up front these days. Right now the head scratcher is how I'm going to get those clear drop ceiling panels in around all the curves. I need something to support them that will give a finished look on the edges. I just took a piece of the L trim and cut numerous slots in it with a cut off wheel in the miter saw and can get it to go around some of the curves. I guess I could cover the gaps on outside curves using strips of plastic and touch up inside curves with drywall mud or putty of some kind but what a pain in the butt that whole process will be. The biggest problem will be the tight 1' radius of the backdrop at the peninsula end. I'm going to stop back by Lowes and look around at the vinyl siding stuff and see if there might be some kind of flexible trim piece I can use that won't require so many cuts. Maybe there is some kind of vinyl or plastic quarter round that would work. Or maybe I can soak wood quarter round in water and bend it. At least any cuts in quarter round would be easer to patch and hide. All this so I can play with my little toy trains better......I must be insane or still a child who has big ideas and got hold of a few tools. Bruce
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
For the gentler curves you can just pound the one side of the L and that will cuase it to curve. With the 1' radius (rather sharp radius!) I'd go with steamed quarter round which will make all of the edging in the quarter round to make things look good. I'll also note that the lower the valence is, the easier the hiding of lighting is.
-- Why isn't there an Ozone Hole at the NORTH Pole?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks Bob. Yes that 1' Radius is tight. I used 1/8" masonite around plywood formers. It was a little tricky and a few extra hands would have helped but I got it to go around. I think I my use quarter round through out except for the T shaped cross member pieces. Bruce

quarter
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I don't have any curves in my layout -- the corners are 45 or 22.5 degree angles. This is a basement room, and the ceiling was unfinished 2x12's. I built a drop ceiling over the layout, overlapping it about three inches. The ceiling is regular white fiber tiles, and I installed a recessed light [R30 spots] about every three feet. The rest of the room is still unfinished, with two 4-foot florescent fixtures down the center. My present plan is to frame a drop ceiling around the florescent fixtures with plexiglass diffusing panels instead of the fiber tiles to cover them. Then I plan to rip 1-inch strips of wood and paint them the same sky blue as my background and fasten them across the 2x12 beams on 4-inch centers. That will serve to give me the look of a ceiling but still allow access to wiring and plumbing. The florescents are good room light, but the R30 spots [on a dimmer] allow me greater control of the layout lighting and warm up the room.
Bruce Favinger wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I have to stick my $0.02 in here... dump the fluorescents! They have a spikey spectrum, they flicker, and their large source is, for layout lighting, only consistent with an overcast day.
Have you ever noticed that the most realistic scenes in the model magazines are on dioramas that have been taken outside and photographed in the sunlight? The sun is a point source with a consistent spectrum. The more you can replicate that in the layout room, the better the lighting will be.
MR 16s are the easiest and most flexible way to achieve this. It is not cheap or easy to use them, but the results are worth it. You spend mucho bucks and time on the models, you should not stint on the lighting that presents them to the viewer.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
video guy wrote:
> I have to stick my $0.02 in here... dump the fluorescents! They have a > spikey spectrum, they flicker, and their large source is, for layout > lighting, only consistent with an overcast day.
I don't necessarily see that as a disadvantage, as replicating the appearance of an overcast day solves the problem of multiple shadows that incandescent lights can create. I've seen a number of layouts where the backdrop was painted to represent overcast or stormy weather, and the effect was very dramatic. But there's no doubt that fluoros alone don't convincingly replicate sunlight, if that's what you're striving for.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
mark_newton wrote:

Actually, you're more likely to get a convincing sunlight effect if you deliberately warm and brighten up your paint colours. Seems to me that the palette you choose for your layout has as much effect as the lighting. That's why I suggested studying a stage-lighting text - the lighting and the costume and set colours are designed together, not independently. (If you're shooting a movie, you also have to take into account the colour sensitivities of the film or video equipment you're using.) Colour _is_ light, so one can't really discuss lighting without discussing all aspects, including paint.
Note, too, that if room light is lower than layout lighting, the layout will seem more brightly lit, and that, too will help create an illusion of sunshine. Maybe we should paint the non-layouts parts of the room black - ceiling, floor, benchwork, everything that isn't layout. That would really make the layout stand out! :-)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Painting it black is an excellent idea.
Fluorescent lamps are available which will give good color rendition. A combination of triphosphor lamps with high-frequency electronic ballasts can give excellent color, but the initial cost will most likely be higher than incandescent (although the operating costs will be only about 10% of incandescent lighting).
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I bought some "daylight" florescent tubes for room light. Bright! But too white. I got a headache working under them. Note that it was a bare fixture -- these bulbs work fine in our kitchen where they are under diffused glass. Anyway, I changed them out for Chromo 50 full spectrum tubes [$8.50 each] and the effect was much better. A bonus was that my Kato Union Pacific passenger train cars had shown two different colors of armour yellow; under the Chromo 50's it is difficult to tell any difference. When I turn up the R30's over the layout [spaced three feet apart], the combination is really pleasant.
video guy wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I tried the 1-inch strips on 4-inch centers, but didn't like the effect. I changed to 3-inch centers and am much happier with the results. I can see through the strips to work on wiring or plumbing, but otherwise I see the sky blue strips as a ceiling and do not focus on what is above them. I saw this done in a restaurant that had an old, high ceiling. They painted the old ceiling flat black and the lattice a light color. I'm sure that painting my ceiling joists black would have helped, and I may do it someday. I used sheetrock screws on the strips, so they can be removed.
harrym wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Bruce Favinger wrote:

The standard method is to use valance about 12-18" deep, suspended from the ceiling, and more or less following the edge of the layout. Paint the insides of the valance white or aluminum, and mount the lights in or on the ceiling behind it. Make sure there is adequate ventilation, especially if you use incandescent lights. A well lit, room size layout can easily consume 1000 watts or more in incandescent lighting, which is why you are advised to use fluorescents instead. But there's more to good looking lighting than the way you mount the lights, so read on.
The real problem is getting sufficient light where you want it (with no or carefully controlled) dark areas. Tony Koester (IIRC) had an article in MR recently, in which he showed that standard 36/40watt 4ft long fluorescents had to be pretty well continuous to provide an even light with no hot spots. This was with lamps mounted only 2ft above the layout.
Once you have even lighting, you can mount incandescent spots to highlight areas, and to create shadows that give the illusion of sunshine.
The backdrop should be painted in muted colours lightened with white (and given a slightly blue cast to add to the illusion of distance.) This lightens the scene and makes it seem brighter. The most effective backdrops I've were much lighter than real life, and so brightened up the scene considerably by reflecting light onto the foreground. They also had fuzzy, generic details, so they didn't draw the eyes away from the trains in the foreground.
Iain Rice advocates separating the layout physically with view blocks into scenes about 6-10ft long, creating the effect of a series of light boxes. Each scene is individually lighted with lights above and to the side, hidden behind the frame of the scene. Trains tunnel through the view blocks, perhaps disappearing below an overpass or into a cut or behind buildings, etc before doing so.
IOW, Koester, Rice and others suggest you think of the layout as a stage, and set up the lights to create the effect you want. Lighting is just another technique to create the illusions we want, and has to work with the other techniques to be effective. A good technique is one that works without drawing attention to itself. I suspect study of a text on stage lighting would help, too. :-)
BTW, layout photos as published in the magazines are made with photo floods, reflectors, multiple flash, and so on. They almost never use room lighting, so they do not represent the actual appearance of the layout as lit by the builder.
HTH&GL.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.