Showing posts with label Bumblebee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bumblebee. Show all posts

Friday, 9 January 2015

Spotlight: Ascension

Transformers Classics Bumblebee action figure toy Autobot Deluxe car The MEC

I never 'got' Bumblebee. Not as cool as Jazz, not as useful as Inferno, not as chaotically fun as Grimlock... And yet here we are in 2015 with the little yellow guy that could leading the Autobots in a new animated series, after starring in four hugely successful movies and becoming arguably the second most famous Cybertronian ever.

Yep, even replacing that cassette guy.

Transformers Classics Bumblebee action figure toy Autobot Deluxe car The MEC

Perhaps if he'd had an action figure as fun as this Classics version in the 80's I would have been more into him; after all the easy, satisfying transformation, articulated robot body and sporty alt-mode make this a solid toy, and one of my best purchases of 2014.

I think it's safe to say there's still time to warm to Bumblebee as a character. Quite possibly unlike his namesake, I think this Autobot is going to be around for a little while yet...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Welcome to The MEC!

So, have you noticed the rebranding?

When I first started the Mos Espa Collection, it was a simple hobby page for posting photos of my Star Wars figures as I got back into the collecting game. Whilst my interests have splintered over the years it was always my love of Star Wars that formed both the spine of this site and my collecting habits; at least up until the last year, anyway. Since then I've found myself moving away from Star Wars as a toy line. It was a good run, but - you gotta follow the river.
And so with the blog as with my collecting habits, I've determined to regroup, refocus, and pursue the robotic drift of my interests – and start reflecting a toy shelf that has been taking on an increasingly Cybertronian slant. I did consider starting a new site, but I'm proud of the history of this blog and I don't want to take a singular approach to collecting when my interests flex as much as they do. Let's just consider this the first major evolution for the site, and go from there...

I’m no expert on Transformers, but that’s kind of the point - and I'm looking forward to discovering a lot more about the Robots in Disguise as I chart a course through the toys, cartoons, comics and games from the last 30 years, in the many varied iterations. It's fair to say that I've missed out on a lot.

Don't let the URL confuse you. Welcome to The MEC!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Habit

CHUG Autobots Jazz Bumblebee Transformers

I’ve been fighting the urge again today.

Time and again I’ll get that uncontrollable desire to put down some money for some fine plastic crack, whatever line I’m into at the time, and much like Decepticons dogging an Autobot shuttle (which sounds kinda weird when typed out like that), the need doesn’t abate until I’m ripping plastic from cardback and welcoming a new soldier to the collection. That’s how so many of the figures I own have come into my possession, and quite tidily explains how I always veer so wildly off of any kind of focus.

It’s all good fun, don’t get me wrong – new toys can be exciting photography subjects, or companions on adventures around the house, but after a while the thrill wears off and in most cases the figures end up in a box waiting for the day they no longer fit the trim of my collection, gathering dust whilst destined for eBay. What’s more, impulse purchases never feel as good as ticking something off of ‘the list’ – finding Battle in Space Rodimus second-hand for £6 has been one of my best finds since starting collecting because a) he’s one of my favourite characters, and b) it scratched that G1 Movie itch. Beast Hunters Deluxe Smokescreen, currently on sale for £6.50 at the supermarket down the road doesn’t have the same pros going for it, however much I liked the character in the show. But still, despite these rationalisations, the temptation is there to nip out and buy it anyway. It could be in my hands in ten minutes.

CHUG Decepticons Galvatron Nightstick Cyclonus Transformers

Further propagating the insatiable urge has been the recent launch of the AOE toys, which I scouted out just this morning at another supermarket slightly further down the road. My willpower took an easy victory there though as those toys (the one-step changers and battlers) look terrible, completely and utterly devoid of the skill and invention that continues to make Transformers an evergreen line. Hasbro’s continued cheapening out will come home to roost (if it’s not already), but that’s a subject for another post…

So then, a thought suggests, maybe I should just go and buy the substantially better (and cheaper) Beast Hunters figures whilst I still can?

No. That way lies madness, and an inevitable financial loss when the toy ends up at a car boot sale one year hence. Furthermore it could also mean the difference between making all my bills this month or not, which means buying the figure would be both a serious lapse of responsibility and indicate a failure to contextualise my dilemma. They’re just toys man, just toys. 

Still got that urge though. What to do?

CHUG Autobots Rodimus Hot Rod Jazz Bumblebee Transformers

Here’s a novel suggestion, amidst the wave of purchase enabling which goes on online - how about appreciating the plastic I’ve already got?

My CHUG collection (Classics/Henkei/Universe/Generations, the standard Transformers lines of recent years) is small but pretty, and contains several of my favourite characters – the aforementioned Rodimus (Hot Rod in all but copyright-concerned name), Jazz, Galvatron, Cyclonus and Bumblebee. All G1, all Movie, all fun… Well, with the unfortunate exception of the small, fiddly and frustrating Galvatron, but I’m not here to focus on the negatives. The glorious weather we’ve had so far this week was a big motivating factor in taking them all out to photograph, and in doing so I remembered why I collect these figures in the first place.

So much of collecting is about the next big thing, the upcoming releases, the new third-party or Masterpiece pre-orders, with the result being that the current releases tend to get forgotten, celebrated wildly upon receipt but then left to stand on a shelf; at least, that’s something I’ve been guilty of anyway. What I think I’d be better off remembering is that I’ve got a great little collection of toy robots already, and in future I should perhaps try to associate my urge with appreciating what I have, rather than with spending what I don’t.

All that said though… One Kapow! sale, and I’m anybody’s…

Staying on target then, does anyone reading have any particular method for avoiding the temptation of sales and keeping focused with their collecting? Or is it just an intrinsic part of the collector mentality to move from one purchase to the next? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Photoshop Prime

TFP Bumblebee
Over at I found a Photoshop tutorial by Cheebs (presumably not his real name) - you can see it for yourself here. Given I had a bit of time to kill today I thought I'd give it a go, and the pic above is the result.

It didn't take ages, I maybe spent an hour and a half in total on the edit, but this level of touching up makes a huge difference to the quality of the finished shot, to the extent that I've been happy to put my name on this one (definitely not my real name). It's also good to think that I'm starting to get decent use from my light box; it's about time I learned how to use it properly...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Blogging and Photoshop

TF: Prime Deluxe Bumblebee
Since starting this blog I've been evolving the way I use my collection - from initially wanting to document each figure as I purchased it (on my way to building a Jabba's Palace display), to then wanting to focus on diorama building; however I've since found that the one constant has been actually photographing the toys, and creating images that attempt to show these characters at their best. The shot of Bumblebee above is my most recent, and I'd like to share some of the techniques I used to create it...

Firstly, the kit - I shoot on a Canon 600D DSLR, usually using the 18-55mm 'kit' lens, but sometimes a 50mm (although this generally only works for larger objects). This is my equipment for my day job as a filmmaker though, and something that I've worked up to. My initial forays into toy photography were on a Canon Powershot, and photographers such as R2witco take a lot of their stuff on camera phones. Basically, as long as you've got a macro function (often displayed as a flower on the camera settings) and can find a way to set the focus where you need it, then your camera is suitable for the job.

One of Many
This shot was an unused take from the session which yielded the final image. Here it shows more clearly the background, which is the old fireplace in my study. Whilst barely recognisable as anything, the important thing for an action figure shot is that it doesn't look like a house. Nothing kills the 'reality' of a Dinobot shot more than Grimlock being out scaled by a potted plant. What the above shot also shows is the lighting setup I was employing - basically, one torch. There was a little bit of light from the window (it was dusk), but that torch was my primary light source. I wouldn't encourage shining the light directly onto your subject like that, but I knew I would be cropping the image anyway (more on that later).

I'm often lazy with lighting, either taking the figures outside or shooting around the office window (nothing beats indirect sunlight as a light source), but taking the time to create a proper lighting setup often works wonders - see my PAK Batman shots here. I think it's to do with cast shadows, which helps to integrate the figure into the environment and in turn create a sense of reality. It's something I'm going to work on, especially as winter descends and daylight becomes scarce.

And Another...
What I consider the most important point of action figure photography is to GET LOADS OF SHOTS. Whenever you have a setup, go trigger happy - I'm gonna presume that you're shooting on digital so the cost of film isn't an issue. I find that it takes me a little while to get 'warmed up' to a subject, and really get an idea of what works. Mess around with your angles, the pose of your figure(s) and experiment with what you want to focus on - and even after you think you've got the shot that you're after, get a couple more. You may surprise yourself. The other thing to remember is that cropping is your friend - you might be gutted that the stand for your figure is just visible in the frame, but with a crop and a re-composition it could still be the perfect photo.

The 'One'.
When I had the shot of 'Bee that I was after, the fun part started. Firstly I opened the image in Photoshop ( is a superb free alternative if you don't have access to this), and then I did a quick Google search and found this rather superb guide to creating eye FX on the TFW2005 forums. Thank you, Process - if that is your real name...

After the eyes were completed I imported the image into Picmonkey, my editing suite of choice. Here I cropped the image to a 1920x1080 resolution (my usual canvas size), and then played around with the exposure, saturation and sharpness settings to get a base image I was happy with. Using these tools really does require trial and error, as well as a degree of personal preference, but it's at this stage that the image really starts to come alive. I should also note that you can use the colour settings on Picmonkey to fix the white balance, which is always useful - simply use the neutral picker and select the part of the image that should be as close to pure white or black as possible, and it will shift the colour tones accordingly. Again this takes practise, but when you get the hang of it it's a valuable tool. 

The Glow!
When I was happy with the core picture I used some of Picmonkey's various filters to complete the image, as seen at the top of this post. Once more this comes down to experimentation and personal preference as to how you want your image to look, but there are some pretty cool filter options on there. Really editing is all about how you want the image to look, and finding ways of making it happen. I've been doing this for a few years now and I still haven't found one particular style that I've made my own (look at Ed Speir IV's work for examples of instantly recognisable photos), but I'm definitely developing my skills, and I think that a style will come with that eventually.

There it is then, a few of the tips that I've picked up when it comes to action figure photography. I hope you find them useful... Now go and take some shots!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Autobots & Backdrops

RTS Special Ops Jazz
This is photography 101 right here - last week I finally got around to spending the 35p needed to buy a sheet of black sugar paper to use as a backdrop for action figure shots, and then today I finally got the time to snap a couple of pictures...

The shots above were naturally lit from the window opposite. I got pretty even lighting but I could have used a reflector to bounce some light on to the backsides of the figures. Following the shoot, I made crops and adjusted the colour in Windows 7 picture manager before exporting the images to my phone, and then used the photo manager app to finish them off. I only recently started doing this kind of dual-processing, and that's mainly with Transformers shots; firstly because they're so colourful and bold that they make great subjects, and secondly because I really am figuring this all out as I go!

I tried a set up this evening after dark and using a couple of lamps, but couldn't get any results I was happy with. Regardless, I found a particular line-up of Autobots I like...

Dark Autobots!
The amount of colour correction required on this image really washes the colour out, but I've yet to find a way to manually adjust the white balance on my camera outside of a couple of presets. For that reason, until I get a better lamp set-up and more lighting skills, I'll be sticking to daylight shots!

Reasonably well-adjusted Autobots!
In general I'm happy with the results though. A neutral background such as this really brings the figures to the fore, and I can see myself going this route for reviews in the future.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

TF: Prime Deluxe Bumblebee Review

When I got a £10 off voucher for TRU, I took a few repeated visits to figure out what to use it on. The Star Wars line is unfortunately peg-warming under the unwanted and ill-thought out Movie Heroes branding, along with a few TVC figures I don't want (however tempted I was by Lucky Farlander), and the Turtles line isn't being stocked yet. Despite my recent posts, I don't really have enough of an affinity with Ben 10 to have warranted using the voucher on that line, and so what else was there?

Well, Transformers: Prime, for one.

I've seen the first series, and I'm a big fan of this iteration. It somehow manages to blend the cartooniness and human characters of TF: Animated with the mythology and brutality of G1, and even somehow makes room to include the less offensive of the Bayformer's visual stylings (Bumblebee being a fine example of the latter). I hadn't paid much attention to the toyline before though, and so with a voucher use-by date approaching, I took the plunge on the Autobot Camero.

The Packaging 

Pretty straightforward blister card for this guy, with Bumblebee displayed in Camero mode. As it was a straight-up choice between Bumblebee and Cliffjumper, I had to go with which vehicle I preferred the look of, and this guy won out!

The box art is nice, obviously show-styled, with the Autobot symbol in the background. The back of the box has pictures of Bumblebee in both modes, with the smallest of character profiles reading: "Bumblebee is a brave Autobot warrior and scout" in several languages, and a picture of the Autobots from the show along the bottom. Nowhere near as exciting as getting the tech-spec with the red see-through reader, but a darn sight better than just plastering a multi-lingual sticker over the back (looking at you, European Vintage Collection!). The toy is tied into the bubble with cardboard string ties, and the guns are held in place by a clear plastic cover. All pretty simple to deal with, and your Bumblebee is away!

Go Go Camero!
The Good

So, yeah. Bumblebee is a pretty exciting toy right out the package. The alt-mode is tight, with very little to indicate it's not a normal toy car - perhaps the robot kibble visible through the windshield and the hole in the engine block are about the only clues to give the Autobot game away. The paint job is great, and befitting of a character called Bumblebee, and the translucent blue used for the windows and headlights works really well to give the car an understated but still cartoony feel. Also, the detailing inside the headlights looks great, and shows the attention to detail on the sculpt (as also evidenced by the door handles, and the little rivets around the body work.

The transformation took me one go following the instructions, and then after that I was away. If you were to look at the different modes you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's a fiddly and potentially toy-breaking exercise, but it feels instinctive, rigid, and just well designed. The limbs and doors all snap into place with no fuss, and on either end of the process you're left with either a tight alt-mode Camero, or a tight Autobot warrior scout robot!

Scoutin' About...
I was particularly impressed with the robot mode. Following the simple transformation he stands tall, with points of articulation at the neck, shoulders, elbows, two points at the thighs, and then the knees and feet. The lower legs are wide enough to accomodate a lot of different stances, and whilst I have to acknowledge I've been out of the Transformers game for a while (save the odd Dinobot or Galvatron), I am really pleasantly surprised by how articulated this figure is, particularly for the price point. I also want to make a point about the light-piping. As anyone with TF: Universe Cyclonus would know (and there is a review planned for him too!), Hasbro has been really excelling at getting the light-piping for their Transformers spot-on, and Bumblebee is no exception. Get his head backlit, and the round, blue eyes really lend life to this figure.

The Bad

It's not all good though. As much as I'm enjoying this toy, there are a few areas where it could've been improved. To start with, I'm not fond of the guns; at the very least not in alt-mode. I get that it's a toy, which is why it's by no means a deal-breaker, but the engine block would look better complete than with the gun shaped hole in it. But then, in robot mode, attached to the wrists, Bumblebee's guns look great, so, there you go. How much of a negative point this is depends more upon your display preferences, I would suppose.

Car Good Plane Bad.
A less debatable negative is the paint apps. Whilst the design is solid, it's literally made of yellow, grey and blue plastic, with a dash of black paint. Again, that's befitting of a toy, but when you see some of the sculpted details up close, you realise how much there is to this toy that isn't highlighted. My final gripe is about one point of articulation that was missed - the wrists. The hands are sculpted open for holding the guns, but then the wrists are also locked in place. Maybe it was so Bumblebee couldn't be pictured making offensive gestures, I don't know; but either way, that knocks a mark off the posability. You could make an argument for a swivel waist as well, but I don't think that would be as necessary, especially when you consider how that could structurally weaken the toy.


So, the negatives are pretty much minor aesthetic points, whilst the positives are a sturdy, articulated, simple, and fun toy. If you own only one TF: Prime figure, well, then you're probably me. If you don't own any and need somewhere to start, you can't go wrong with the Deluxe Bumblebee.

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