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Bear Hunt!

Advanced electronics and modeling in 1/72 scale
Animated diorama by Konstantin Degtyarev, Charles Heyer, and Tory Mucaro
Inspiration and execution: This U.S. Air Force photo (top) of an interception off the American east coast was the template for an animated, multimedia display that won “Popular Best of Show” at the 2008 IPMS/USA national convention in Virginia Beach, Va. Props spin, lights and afterburner flash, and audio crackles with Russian and American radio transmissions while the whole tableau slowly rotates over an intricately wired, motorized display base.
"Bear Hunt," a 1/72 scale composition of modeling, motion, light, and sound was featured in the April 2011 FineScale Modeler magazine. In case you didn't see it, or don't have your magazine handy, you can see the text here.

One thing we couldn't show you in the magazine is a video of this amazing display, in motion and wired for sound.
Video transcript

Tupolev Tu-95MS (NATO reporting name Bear "H")
Tu-95 commander: "Karetny two-fifty three. Permission to start engines."
Chagan Tower: "Two-fifty three Karetny. Permission granted."
Tu-95 commander: "Karetny two-fifty three. Have engines started. Permission to taxi, take off."
Chagan Tower: "Two-fifty three Karetny. Cleared for taxi, takeoff. You may occupy runway, winds 7 at 008. After taking 80 make right on route."
Tu-95 commander: "Roger this. Crew, get ready for takeoff. Props all the way, hold gas, release brakes. Well, let's go..."

Convair F-106 Delta Dart
F-106 pilot: "Pomona Tower, Atari 41 and 42 rolling."
Pomona Tower: "Atari 41 and 42, Pomona Tower. Cleared for takeoff. Runway 15, winds 25 at 270. Contact McGuire Control at 225.1."
AWACS: "Atari 41, Disco 22. Bogey designated Zebra 1 is at 087, 30,000 feet, distance 22 miles."
F-106 pilot: "Roger Disco. I have Zebra 1 on my scope."
F-106 pilot: "Disco 22, Atari 41. We have the bogey at my one o'clock. It's a Russian Bear."
AWACS: "Roger Atari 41. Zebra 1 is now Bear 1. Assume escort position and lead him home. Confirm type and markings."

Tu-95 gunner: "Commander, observe Target One at aft right 40.  Target airborne, distance 60. Got visual: F-106, U.S. Air Force, marked as 33."
Tu-95 commander: "Roger. Continue observation, report all evolutions. Navigator, get position, prepare report for base."

Video credits
Video and sound production: Michael Gonzalez
Russian dialogue written by Konstantin Degtyarev
Russian voices: Sergei Bobarykin and Alexander Karpenko
American dialogue written by Tom Smith
American voices: Ryan Hall, Charles Heyer, Tory Mucaro
Robert Sibilia: machining for base components
Pat Hawkey: Decals, paint, and expertise for the F-106

An interview with Tory Mucaro

The trio who built this display all hail from New Jersey and are specially suited to such a complex undertaking. Charles Heyer, of Cedar Grove, and Tory Mucaro, from Howell, are both professional model makers, while Konstantin Degtyarev, of River Edge, is an electronics engineer. FSM Associate Editor Mark Hembree interviewed Tory to learn a little more about the project:

FSM: I assume Mr. Degtyarev had something to do with the former Soviet Union at some time in the past. Where is he from, and when did he move to the States?

Tory: He is from Belarus. He and his family moved to the United States in late the 1990s.

FSM: How did you three meet?

Tory: We have worked together for the last 10 years. Charles and I have known each other since 1980, and we share an interest in modeling and aircraft. Konstantin served for five years as a MiG-31 avionics engineer in an air defense wing of the Soviet air force near St. Petersburg before coming to the United States, and he shared our interest in aircraft. He began modeling after meeting us, and we've all been friends ever since.

FSM: I immediately got the impression that there was some professional expertise at work in this project, especially in the electronics and mechanics of it. Can you explain how the professional experience of any of the individuals applies to this?

Tory: All the mechanical design and construction was done by Charles, who has more than 30 years of experience in product development and has worked for such companies as Heyer-Schultz, Gabriel Toys, and Stevens Institute of Technology's Davidson Laboratory. The electronic design and construction was by Konstantin, a professional electronic engineer with concentration in designing DSP microcontroller-based applications. He also has expertise in sound editing and hands-on skills with electronic prototyping.

FSM: Can you tell me a little more about the major components of the turntable?

Tory: We decided to use a big pulley and belt drive for two reasons: one, it is quiet; two, we were able to get the speed reduction we needed to have the whole thing revolve once in three minutes. We would have needed several gear passes to accomplish the same thing, which would also have added noise. The turntable is almost silent as it rotates, so we don't distract from the sound effects.

FSM: Obviously, we can't even come close to fully explaining the electronics. But can you tell us whether the components were available from a general electronics supply or from a more-specialized source?

Tory: Konstantin says the microcontrollers that were used are professional grade (not hobby level) from Taiwan-based manufacturers and specifically designed for audio-related applications. Though the manufacturers are widely known in this field, they don't sell their products in retail; they operate mostly with original-equipment manufacturers. The manufacturer names are not a secret. But they have no practical interest for most model makers, even for most electrical engineers who are not directly involved in this business. Proprietary development systems, programming languages, and such are involved. The rest of the components - LEDs, lightbulbs, motors, transistors - are generic and available from online sellers and/or local retailers.

FSM: So, how do you top this?

Tory: The three of us are working on another diorama we hope to unveil at the 2012 IPMS/USA Nationals in Orlando, Fla. Not saying what it is, but for those that enjoyed the Bear Hunt, this one should be highly entertaining!
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