How to Make Explosion and Flamethrower Effects for 1:6 scale Battlefield Dioramas

This astounding 140-sq. ft. “Battle of Hoth” diorama utilizes utlra-realistic-looking smoke and explosion effects created by Zipidi Doodah and invented by Roberto Williams. (Photo: Zipidi Doodah)

If you’ve ever tried to build an indoor 1:6 scale battlefield diorama for your GIjOEs, then you know how difficult it can be to create realistic flame, smoke or explosion effects. It’s a truly vexing visual problem, one that’s long stumped even the most creative GIjOE fans.

Where there's fire, there's SMOKE. And this stunningly realistic smoke effect looks perfect for any battlefield diorama. (Photo: Zipidi Doodah)

Where there’s fire, there’s also SMOKE. And this stunningly realistic smoke effect would look perfect in any 1:6 scale battlefield diorama. (Photo: Zipidi Doodah)

Some of us have made flame “plumes” out of sticky, spray foam insulation (a fairly good solution). Others have plumped up wrinkled paper mache´ or cotton balls painted with assorted colors (a so-so solution). And still others have tried to mix blinking colored Christmas tree lights with painted or photographic backgrounds (expensive and unconvincing). But thanks to a couple of talented Star Wars fans, there’s now an easy, vastly superior and highly realistic solution to this problem—and you can do it!

You’ll need little to NO artistic talent, and the material costs required are minimal. According to Zipidi Doodah, who also goes by the name, “Barry,” the original credit for this concept should go to its creator, Roberto Williams (Thank you both, Roberto and Barry!).

If you decide to utilize any of these great effects in your next GIjOE diorama, please send some photos of your work to us here at The Joe Report, so we can add them to this article and share them with the world. Here’s Barry’s instructional video. Enjoy, and FLAME-ON!

Update No. 1: Barry recently provided some additional intel on how to create those amazing smoke effects. Perhaps if we ask him nicely, he’ll make a video about that too! Here’s his procedure:

“The smoke columns are made from using a material called Polyester Fiberfill (loose and in sheet form). I cut a long piece of the sheet and connect it to a fishing line that runs from the vehicle to the ceiling. Then, I attach the loose material to the sheet, with lots of glue, and lightly paint black, and attach a clamp to the screw in the ceiling.”

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5 thoughts on “How to Make Explosion and Flamethrower Effects for 1:6 scale Battlefield Dioramas

  1. Wow. Can you imagine a German bunker with this explosion stuff all lit up and shooting out of the window slits? Or a flamethrower Marine burning out an underground Viet Kong pit? WHOOSH! The only problem I heard in the video was that the puffy stuff can actually catch fire(!) if the bulb gets too hot. So some Joehead needs to test a variety of COOL-burning lightbulbs and let us know if there’s a non-flammable light solution. But like he said, if you just use them to show off or take pictures for a short while, then turn ‘em off again, it should be no problem. We just don’t want REAL flames in our dioramas!

  2. kneonknight says:

    Very cool idea! Fortunately, I just happen to have a solution for the heating problem associated with the incandescent or flourescent lights – LED bulbs are bright and do not produce appreciable heat, making them perfect for this application. They are a bit pricey, but they last for a very, very long time and are extremely energy efficient. You can find them at most hardware stores, or at http://eartheasy.com/live_energyeff_lighting.htm

  3. Barry Riddle says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words. Here’s a tutorial I did for making smoke, as seen in my Hoth diorama.

    http://forums.fighting118th.com/showthread.php?t=4527

    Thanks again,
    Barry

  4. tyler says:

    Wow! Really useful and cool. Looks like it would work well for a firefighting diorama.

  5. Hal Fowler...Not the guy that wrote the Hand-book says:

    I can’t show you the pictures, but I’ve made two really good explosions and put them on film. I do 1/6th scale photo shoots. My goal is a GIJoe scrapbook. The era I do is Vietnam. My guy throwing a grenade into a bunker was really done well. I took vacuum-cleaner waste and put it where I wanted the explosion. My neighbor came around as I was setting up the blast and I had him light a fire-cracker as I sat and shot the photo. I put my guys in the explosion in reaction mode as I shot the picture. It really turned out great! The mortar round I shot was really good as well. I tried a RPG rocket blast! That was to wipe out one of my Kill Teams. The Blast was a big hit, but I didn’t get it on flim. But I did arrange the casualties as to the blast’s effect. So it was not a total loss. I also had two of the casualties in mid-air explosion mode, but the shot just didn’t go!

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