The purpose of our society is to promote the hobby of scale model building, a hobby of individual achievement and significant artistic content. We take great pleasure in displaying our models to fellow modelers and to anyone else who might appreciate our work. We meet to do that in each other's homes, at displays arranged in schools, malls, and shops and at local, regional, and national meetings and conventions. A natural outgrowth of such displays is competition.
This handbook is designed for the use of all modelers, competitors and non-competitors alike. For competitors, it outlines the basic principles that guide IPMS/USA model contests. For all modelers, it is a good reference on how to look at models objectively, to know what to look for, to know what others are looking for, and to learn how to set personal standards of satisfaction and accomplishment.
We encourage modelers to enter our competitions because when properly conducted, they are one of the best ways to improve one's modeling skills. In addition, participating as a judge allows a modeler to look at models in a new and objective fashion and has been declared almost unanimously to be the single best way to become a better modeler. Whether or not you judge or even enter contests, this handbook can help you recognize some basic, objective truths about models and modeling.
An IPMS contest, at any level, should be guided by the proposition that every entry is a modeler's creative work of art. Not quite the same as a great painting or famous musical composition, but art nonetheless. Pieces are assembled, painted, and finished, producing a result in which the builder takes pride. In a contest, each piece needs to be evaluated. The question of how to evaluate art has been around for centuries. As all judging is done within the framework of the biases, opinions and preferences of the human mind and since that framework varies from person to person, all judging, by definition, is subjective.
For that reason we do not use a system of numbers to measure quality. Numbers are often used to create the appearance of objectivity, but the assignment of a 4 or 7 to an entry by a judge is essentially subjective as it is that judge's opinion. What we do is look at the whole model and try to determine how well the modeler did in bringing his project to completion. In addition, there is also no "National Standard" against which all models are compared. The best model in a category on any given day is just that, no more, no less. There may be other models somewhere that are better, but that does not matter. Only what is present on the contest table can be judged. The final result of the judging says only that, of the models entered in this particular category on this particular day, this one is better than that one.
IPMS/USA does this ranking by using odd numbered person teams to avoid ties in instances when the team's decisions are not unanimous. We try to have each team made up of judges from different sections of the country to avoid even the appearance of impropriety such as two pals from one chapter giving a friend an award or to avoid any category being skewed by a locally favored technique. In one area, for example, it may have become quite the rage to heavily weather or shadow-paint a model. In another area, the current fashion might be sparkling new finishes. While neither of these is "right" or "wrong", we don't want the contest results skewed by these kinds of constantly changing fashions. Another reason we judge in teams is so that the preferences/biases of one judge are balanced out by those of the other two. When evaluating a model, a judge may think that "X" is a more important on an entry than is "Y" on another. However, the other judges on the team may have different opinions and through the ensuing discussion a consensus is sought to pick the better entry.
Throughout the judging process, the first and most important things the judges consider are the basics. The judges first identify models that exhibit flaws in basic construction and finishing and then through a series of "cuts", eliminate entries with flaws. They continue narrowing the field until the winners have been decided. Only when the basics don't allow for a clear-cut ranking do the judges begin to look deeper.
As a modeler works on his model, he should keep in mind that the level of workmanship should be consistent throughout the model. In other words, the modeler who adheres to the basics throughout his model will be judged more favorably than one who does not. It's not ok to detail the cockpit but not blank off the engine intakes because that's "not as important". With the basics, it is all important.
Which leads to the question: what are the criteria used for judging models? For specific classes of models, such as ships, automotive, etc, these are outlined in sections later in this document. However, there are some criteria that apply across classes. These are listed in the section entitled "Modeling Basics" and apply to every class of model.
An IPMS Contest brings many different kinds of models and modelers together in a single competition. Since it's not just for aircraft, or cars, or any other single kind of modeling, we've tried to evolve a set of rules and standards that enable us to have a contest that's consistent across this broad range of classes, skills, and interests. That's not always easy to do, but we will continue to strive to maintain the broadest and most integrated modeling society in the world.
To be a certified judge at the IPMS/USA National Contest held in conjunction with the annual IPMS/USA National Convention, a person must:
If at all possible, those wishing to become National judges should have first gained judging experience at lower-level IPMS events such as Regional Conventions, local shows, etc.
There is one overriding requirement for IPMS/USA National judges, INTEGRITY. The National Contest Committee has a zero-tolerance policy toward those who violate that requirement. Judges have been, and will be, removed from the National judging ranks for proven breaches of integrity. The following are some examples of how the integrity of the contest is protected:
The foregoing are only examples and are not an all-inclusive list of what constitutes judging integrity. While the standard is strict, judges can meet it easily by using basic common sense and by continuously applying the judges' Golden Rule: Judge the work of others in exactly the same way you would want others to judge your own work.
Regional and Local shows may not have the body of trained, experienced judges the National has. They are hostage to whoever volunteers to judge. If the Contest Chairman is at all worth his salt, he will brief his judges effectively, but frankly, once those volunteers start judging there are no guarantees. Most will have some judging experience, but others will have none. We do not say these things to discourage you from entering contests at this level, but rather so you can be prepared for any unusual situations, should they occur. Your best bet is to know what the rules and categories for that particular contest are in advance. If there is something unique or different about your model that you feel may cause a problem under the rules and/or categories the contest is operating under, it's best to speak with the Head Judge BEFORE judging. This can avoid confusion and problems during judging as after judging it may be impossible to get anything changed. However, if despite doing all this you do not agree with something, approach the contest chairman in a respectful, polite manner and voice your concern. They will usually work with you to resolve the situation, but be prepared to accept what has happened and move on.
At the National Contest level, the Official IPMS/USA National Contest Rules are used. These rules are set by the National Contest Committee which consists of the Chief Judge, the eight Class Head Judges and in ex-officio capacities, the IPMS/USA 2nd Vice President and as a recorder, the IPMS/USA Secretary. To accommodate changes in the modeling community and industry, the rules are updated from time to time by that committee. Look at the IPMS/USA web site to find the most recent rules update to be used at the next National Model Contest. These same rules are also published in a pre-convention issue of the IPMS/USA Journal, the official publication or the organization.
However, while all IPMS/USA chapters and Regional sponsored contests are encouraged to employ the IPMS/USA National Contest Rules, they are not required to do so. If the Forlorn Hope, Arizona chapter hosts a contest, they set the rules for that show. The same holds true for Regional sponsored contests. Make sure you know the rules before you enter. Check any Regional Contest's entry form and/or web site to see what rules they are using.
It would be difficult to compare a ship model to a figure, or a car to a diorama to determine which is "better", so in an effort to compare "apples to apples", IPMS/USA uses a system of classes and categories. Classes group the major divisions of types of models such as civilian vehicles or figures or ships. Within these Classes, models are entered into categories that group like subjects and scales, such as 1/72 scale single engine aircraft, together so an entry can be judged more fairly against other like models. These categories are set by the National Contest Committee annually and are published before each National Convention. Again, however, these categories are not required at local or regional contests. Indeed, they may not even be possible. The National Model Contest may have dozens of entries in a given category that may draw only two or three at the local level, so local sponsors sometimes combine categories to make their contest more manageable. Check local or regional contests' web sites and/or entry forms to see what categories that particular contest is using.
These basic construction/finishing criteria are held in common by ALL CLASSES OF MODELS. Note, however, that each class also has additional basics criteria specific to that class. These are listed under each class's individual section further below.
These are specific to this category and are In addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.
These are specific to this category and are In addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.
These are specific to this category and are In addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.
The underlying premise of a miniature (that is a figure) is that it should look like a small version of a real person. The closer the figure comes to that goal, the better the figure will appear to the judges.
Note: Additional equipment such as a desk, bar, etc. will not be judged unless such equipment is included with the original figure casting/kit.
Space and Science Fiction models depict a wide variety of subjects, from real vehicles to complete flights of fancy. In so doing, they run the gamut from sleek "rocket ships" to boxy satellites, from robots to alien armored vehicles. The incredible range of science fiction subjects, however, would seem at first glance to defy any attempt at systematic judging. Models of actual spacecraft are typically judged much like aircraft or vehicle models and even a model that represents a builder's total flight of fancy can still be judged on the basis of basic scale modeling skills.
A diorama is a combination of one or more models in a believable setting that tells a story, sets a mood, or creates a charged atmosphere. In addition to evaluating the diorama's individual elements, the judges will consider the strength of the diorama's story line or mood and the overall presentation of the diorama. These three factors are equally important. A diorama with superbly modeled components but a weak story line and presentation is not as strong as a diorama with well-modeled components and strong story and presentation.
Model Components, Ground Work, Scenery, etc: The individual model components of a diorama will be judged according to the criteria specified in the Modeling Basics and the appropriate individual class. For example, armor pieces will be subject to armor judging criteria while figures will be evaluated according to the figure modeling guidelines. The basics of construction and finishing are of prime importance not only with the model elements, but also with the terrain, roadwork, buildings, and accessories that set the scene of the diorama. These are given equal importance to the primary model components and consistency of workmanship will also be evaluated. Well-done vehicles may not overcome poorly done figures and mediocre groundwork.
Presentation: The diorama base should comprise individual elements that combine to form a realistic and/or plausible setting for the primary model component(s). Each of the elements also should be believable in its own right and consistent with the action or mood being depicted. The degree of imagination and inventiveness used to pose the main elements will factor into the overall presentation evaluation. The base should provide a focal point for the scene and fit or enhance the story line or mood of the diorama. Dioramas with a well-defined focal point highlighting a simple story generally will have a stronger presentation than those attempting to portray an entire battlefield.
Story Line, Mood, Atmosphere: This element is what separates a diorama from models merely set on a base. A simple derelict vehicle rusting away in a field could set a mood as well as a complete recreation of the Battle of Waterloo. The story, mood, or atmosphere created by the diorama should be obvious; the judges shouldn't have to strain to see it. Stories can incorporate historical or even humorous aspects. Imagination and inventiveness in telling a story or setting a mood can lift a diorama above the ordinary.
The Junior Class is unique in two respects. First, as opposed to the other classes where only one kind of model can be entered, any type of model, such as a car, plane or ship, is allowed. Secondly, it is the only class that has a breakdown by age of the modeler. The assumption is that the skill level of the modeler increases with age so we group modelers with similar skill/age levels together.
Since any class of model is eligible, we recommend that the modeler go to the things the judges look for in the Modeling Basics and Class Basics section of the type of model that he/she is building (i.e. aircraft, ship, etc.). Note that in the Junior Class there is much emphasis on the Basics, such as alignment, gluing, filling, painting and decaling. If you build a model that goes beyond the Modeling Basics, the additional things that are listed in the Class Basics section will be considered but remember that a model completed with attention paid the Modeling Basics stands a much better chance of doing well than one with photo etched controls added to a 1/72nd scale cockpit without the Modeling Basics being taken care of.
One comment heard at times in the Contest Room after the awards banquet is, "How could this model not have won? Look at the detailing in the . . ." The simple answer to the question is usually the "basics". An AFV with a super-detailed open turret on a suspension with pigeon-toed tracks is like a mansion built on sand; it's beautiful, but it's sitting on a weak foundation, and that will be its downfall. When modelers casually look at entries on the table, they are usually taken with the extra detail added or the unusual or perfectly executed paint job. When they are walking through the contest room, they are admiring the models in general and they don't look at the model in the same way the judges do. Judges look first to see how well the model is made and they notice flaws the casual observer may overlook.
Judges hear sentiments like this at virtually every National Contest. The answer is simple. The judges are trained to look at and evaluate the models using the criteria set out in this handbook. They spend time evaluating all the entries in a given category and discuss what they see and find. Using their experience and training, they come to a consensus amongst themselves as to the ranking of the winners. It's not always easy and, as a matter of fact, it rarely is. A category might have three to five excellent models that the judges have to rank, or it might have only six entries, all with major flaws. In either case, they use their training and experience to make their decisions.
Absolute accuracy is a noble, but probably unattainable, goal. Despite the fact that no scale model is ever 100% accurate, some people urge that models be judged principally on their accuracy. This is a real minefield. While gross inaccuracy is easy to spot in some instances, the situation quickly becomes murky past obvious things and can lead to unfairness in judging. For example, suppose one of the aircraft judges spent the better part of twenty years as the crew chief of a particular aircraft. That judge will probably be able to find inaccuracies of one sort or another on every model of that type of aircraft entered in a category. But, there's a real risk he will unfairly penalize those who entered those models if he judges solely on the basis of accuracy as he can readily spot their flaws while he may miss inaccuracies in other aircraft types with which he does not have the same level of expertise. Along the same lines, modelers who know the minute aspects of a subject often mistakenly believe judges also have similar detailed knowledge. This may or may not be true. It's simply not possible for all IPMS judges to match the expertise developed by our disparate and incredibly knowledgeable membership. The Chief Judge and Class Head Judges take pains every year to remind the judges to be aware of these problems and to be fair to all on this issue. You can also help yourself by not assuming the judges know all the details you know. Help them and yourself by putting such information on the entry sheet or any other display material you put with your model. Judges are instructed read that stuff and it could make the difference for you.
Lest we get too wrapped up in the accuracy debate, remember that IPMS/USA judges concentrate first on the modeling aspects. A model with every component built absolutely accurately probably still won't win if seams between the components aren't filled properly. Conversely, a superbly built model containing an inaccuracy could win if it is, in all other respects, the best model in the category.
At every National Convention, judges spend time before they begin judging a category checking for misplaced models and moving the ones they find to the proper category. This causes trouble and wasted time if the proper category has already been judged because the judging then has to be done over again. Much of this misplacement could be avoided if entrants would take a few minutes ahead of time to determine the proper category for their models. Remember that the folks working the model registration desk aren't always model builders and even if they are modelers, they may build one type of model and not know a whole lot about other types. If an entrant knows ahead of time, for example, that his twin-engined aircraft doesn't belong in a single engine category because it has two engines, he won't let a registrar put it there. Spend some time at home checking out in what category your model belongs and you may save yourself some hassles, keep your model from being moved more than it absolutely has to be, and earn the gratitude of registrars and judges alike.
Some modelers have accused the judges of negativism and of being nothing but glorified nitpickers. All of the models in any category are on the table to be ranked and that's what we have to do. Modelers have brought their models to be evaluated and to compete for prizes. At the level of most of our contests, the differences in ranking are probably going to be the result of some pretty small issues and as has been emphasized repeatedly, we rank the models principally by a close look at basic modeling techniques. However, when that doesn't result in a final result, we've got to go closer and examine even more critically. It's hard, but there is no other way and, really, it's a compliment to the incredibly high standards that are being set by IPMS modelers.
In some cases, especially in earlier years, the penlights were often needed to even SEE the models in contest rooms that were far less than well lit. Fortunately, that's not the case nearly so often these days, although it does still happen occasionally. Beyond that, however, a good penlight is an invaluable aid in highlighting such things as poorly finished seams, unsanded ridges and poorly finished interior areas. An old judge's technique is to shine the light across a seam area at an angle. Nothing will pop out an incorrectly filled seam more quickly. Serious competitors would be wise to examine their own models with a penlight before coming to the contest. They might be amazed at what they see!
Accidents happen and usually do at the most in-opportune times. If the damage is minor, such as ordnance knocked off a pylon or a hatch snapped off, just note on your entry form that the item was damaged in transit. The judges are instructed not to hold such damage against an entry. However, if the damage is so extensive as to make the model unjudgable, such as the top wing of a biplane being snapped off with attendant damage to struts and rigging, you may want to take the model home to repair it and bring it another day.
Players and fans love the umpires or referees when the calls are in their team's favor and hate them when their calls favor the opposing team. Modelers often have similar reactions to IPMS National judges. Many National judges have been cornered after the Awards banquet by a modeler with fire flashing from his eyes demanding to know why his model didn't win. That's not a good way to begin a dialogue and it almost guarantees that there will be no useful exchange of information.
Before jumping a judge like that, take a moment to consider who these National judges are. They're modelers. Collectively, they exhibit a wide range of modeling interests, skills, background, experience, temperament, and personality, and they're also imperfect human beings. In short, they're just like any other member of IPMS, but with one major distinction: they volunteer to spend a significant chunk of their convention time working hard well into the wee hours to make it possible for the National Model Contest to exist. The vast majority of judges is also more than willing to share their expertise, discuss your model with you, and give you some tips on things to do and not do to give your next model a leg up on its competition. All you have to do is ask, but please do so in the same way you'd want to be asked if you were in the judge's shoes.
And, if you really want to learn what separates the winning models from the rest of the entries in a category, next time you're at a one-day show or a Regional Convention, volunteer to judge. Get yourself assigned to work on a team with experienced judges. Tell them you haven't judged before but want to learn how, and they'll take you under their wing. The vast majority of folks who've done so have found that they've learned more about judging--and model building--in one afternoon than they could have in a whole month of Sundays.
The Hypothetical category was established both to provide a competition slot for models that don't fit into the standard categories, and to take some of the pressure off the Miscellaneous category, previously the only place such models could compete. Think of Hypothetical as something akin to the "Science-Fiction Vehicles" part of the "Space and Science-Fiction Vehicles" category. It's a place to enter models of aircraft, cars, ships, etc. that never made it off the drawing board (e.g. Luftwaffe 1946, futuristic auto designs), or models in markings that the actual vehicle never wore (e.g. a Royal Navy F7U Cutlass, Go/Ho 229 flying wing in squadron markings), and for vehicles that have never existed except in the mind of the modeler (e.g. an Indy Car with a body fashioned from a MiG-29 fuselage). What about a full-size, 3-D mock-up of a prospective vehicle? Well, if the builder produces a model of that mock-up, the modeler has made a model of a real thing and the model should go in the appropriate standard category. However, if he paints and finishes that mock-up as it might have looked if the prototype had reached production, then it is a hypothetical vehicle. In other words, if the model is a true, scale representation of something that actually existed in three dimensions, it belongs in a standard category. If it doesn't fit that description, and it isn't a space or science fiction subject, it belongs in Hypothetical.
Weathering is inherently neither good nor bad. When comparing a model with a weathered finish to a model with a pristine finish, the judges will concern themselves with the degree of success achieved by each builder in depicting the intended finish. An exception to this could be, say, in the diorama class. A World War I tank with a pristine finish set in the middle of the mud of the Western Front would be inappropriate.
The short answer is "yes" and for two main reasons. First, since models are three-dimensional representations of full size three-dimensional subjects, models need to be judged in three dimensions so judges may have to handle models to evaluate all sides of an entry in a consistent manner. Secondly, as the number of entries at any given model show cannot be predicted in advance, it may be necessary to move models to make appropriate space available on the tables. In both instances, the judges are thoroughly cautioned to use the greatest care. However, accidents do happen. If a model is damaged during judging or while being moved, the judges will note that on the entry form and any damage will not be held against the entry during judging.
There is both a practical and esthetic reason to do so. Esthetically, in the Diorama classes judges do consider the base an entry is on, but only in this class. As a matter of fact, if you make your base too elaborate, your entry may be moved to a Diorama category. Check the rules of any given contest to see what is allowed on a base in any given class of model to avoid a problem.
On the practical side, however, one thing to keep in mind is that if your model is on a base, it may be easier to move if the need arises. Just make sure you note on your entry form whether the model is actually affixed to the base or only just sitting on it. That can avoid it slipping off and crashing to the floor as a judge moves it from one table to another to make room in a category.
Basically, this is a model that is built using only those parts supplied by the manufacturer in the box the model comes in or any extra parts that may be called for in the instructions, such as a stretched spru antenna. There are also limits as to what you can do with these parts. In some classes you can drill out gun barrels, in others you can add rigging, but you may not be able to thin a part or open a vent. These limits are established as representing more or less what the "average" modeler would do to a model. To make sure your model qualifies as Out of the Box, make sure you check the rules for the specific contest you are entering. Also take note of the fact that the instructions for your model must accompany it. At some contests they need to be on the table under the model, at others they just need to be "available". Whatever the case, make sure you bring them along. As no judge can know every model, he may need to refer to them to make sure that what they are looking at is, indeed, out of the box.