Stu Maschwitz has some serious special effects chops. After four years at ILM, he helped to start The Orphanage, an acclaimed effects house. He's also the author of The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap, a great little handbook that encourages low-budget filmmakers to think big.
One area he addresses is using miniatures to add production value to low-budget films. As an example, he uses a 1/48 scale model helicopter to demonstrate how easy it is to get decent results.
As you can see, 1/48 scale is pretty tiny, yet it's easy to fool the camera. Larger scales would give more detail and be easier to shoot. This shot is entirely done in-camera with no post-processing and gives great results.
He uses the same model in a later sequence, combining the model with post-processed masks to produce realistic shadows in the real-life scene.
The book gives some great tips for beginners with a discussion of nodal points, overcranking, scale tricks and more. There's even an Excel spreadsheet on the included DVD that will calculate proper frame rates for your chosen scale when overcranking. All in all, an excellent reference for your book shelf and if your interests go toward action films, you'll find even more amazing content to consider. This is a great book and highly recommended.
The DV Rebel's Guide