Friday, March 20, 2015

Making out of with: Erika Thorkveld and The Invisible Woman

Hello and welcome to what it could become a regular feature of the blog, if it's something that you might find interesting. I could have titled it 'Kat sticks her nose in your behind, the scenes', but I kept it more to the point.

The general idea about it is: Don't you want sometimes to share something about photos or movies you created? Talking with people and having partecipated to projects myself for a while now, I realize that most of the time, there's often a story behind a photo. And I do believe it's often something that, in a community like ours, it can be nice to share it. I am sure it happens to you as well: sometimes, you just want to learn more about a picture, or a set. Let it be the set you made, the location you used, a technique you used in post-production, a funny anecdote during shooting, making-of material, raw snapshots. I may speak just for myself -we often do, even when we think about 'being famous' :p -, but I am interested in what you do !
Woah, big fonts scare me.Never again.

So, for this one: looking at a series of photos by Erika Thorkveld last week, I found myself intrigued by some of the choices she made. Erika also happens to be particularly good at sharing details about her work: on her blog she regularly speaks about what she does, so she was to me a natural choice to try and do this. 

The Invisible Woman!

So, as you wrote in the blog, that set was a long way in the making. You were supposed to do a superhero photoshoot as a group project, but you couldn't do it at the time, right? Now, what made you consider doing it again? What inspired you ?

I joined the group while the project was already running, so I started a bit late. I didn't have my horrible noob-looking alt at the time so I needed a guy to pose as Mr Fantastic, and someone I knew would have been perfect for the role. Except we had a hard time being both online at the same time, so things started to last a bit longer than expected. Also, at some point, one of the places I wanted to shoot in just poofed, as it happens too often in SL. So it finally turned out I needed just too much time to get it done, and the project was already dying in the group, so I just gave up…
I’m not too sure what made me want to resuscitate it though. Maybe another place I wanted to shoot in - and finally didn’t use - where I keep going once in a while and that kept reminding me about it. Maybe also a quite recent photo I’ve seen on Flickr featuring the Invisible Woman and Mr Fantastic, by Meryll Panthar

Which one of the photos in the set did you start working on first?

I think it was the 'When I can't get in' one, the one with the elastic cock. This was the only one I had already worked on for the original project, mostly because I'm alone in it. I had a finished photo, but it didn't look too good:

This one had been shot 'on location' so I didn't decide on where the window was. So the cock is way too long and looks a bit weird. The whole photo is too blurry too, and the 'cartoon' effect is too strong. So I wanted to redo it and started with this one. The cock was not so easy to build with my poor SL building skills: it's all prims, not even sculpties, so everything had to be adjusted to look OK.

Where did you shoot the various photos? 

At my usual shooting place: the Velvet Rose Productions Resort. But I hardly used anything at all there, I've built most of the sets myself. The only part of the resort I used is the bedroom for the last photo, which is in the production's mansion.

Walk us through anything you feel like sharing about the aspect of organizing the shoot (you made your own photos? the set? )

I did almost everything myself: almost all the sets, the specific props, most of the poses, the lighting and projectors, and of course the photos themselves.
The 'lab' set for the first photos is a sci-fi style freebie skybox I got a long time ago. I added a metal plate floor and the computers and cubes props. I had to hide the screen of the computer consoles because they were some kind of advertisement. I just created a couple of images that looked 'techy' enough and placed them on prims above the original screen. Here is how it looks from far away:

And another view from above in a less dark lighting:

As you can see, I was shooting by the seaside. Nice, uh? *chuckles* And yeah, that's my horrible noob-looking alt near me, with the outfit used for the 3rd photo, the one where he gropes me with its elastic arms. The arms weren't elastic at all of course: they were just blue shiny prims attached to its lower arms, and it was wearing a custom alpha making the rest of its body invisible except for the hands. The wooden thingies are the projectors. I decided to shoot in a dark lighting with projectors, hoping it would make things better when 'cartoonified'. Not sure it worked so well though, it didn't change a lot compared to 'natural' lighting. Maybe it's a bit easier to get a consistent lighting throughout the photos this way.

Another funny set is the one I used for the 'When I can't get in' photo:

Surprising, uh? Yeah, I just needed two walls, so I just made two walls. Always nice to make them big to avoid getting weird shadows across the set when you're shooting. Here is another view, showing what this 'elastic cock' is really about:

Yeah, the horrible truth: there's no one on the other side of the cock.

And about the postproduction: you obviously had to add a few 'effects' !

Well, the main effect was a built-in one: I'm using GIMP, and it has this 'Cartoon' effect that works quite well. I just had to adjust the settings so that it looked OK on all the photos, since the lighting is different in some of them.

The other 'effect' is for the invisibility of course, but I'm actually preparing that in SL beforehand: on a photo where I must be invisible, I shoot it twice: once with me, and once without me. After that, I just put the 2 photos on 2 layers with the one where I am on top. And I make the top layer partially invisible, and voilà.
So of course, you have to make sure your cam doesn't move by a single pixel between the two snaps, so I'm locking my cam for that. Firestorm is supposed to be able to store your cam position and then set it back, but I found out it's quite unreliable: if the scene changes, the cam sometimes moves anyway. So I'm using a tool called Camera Assistant HUD, from Eve n Better. It's only L$10, and it helps a lot for this kind of shoot! It even allows you to pose twice on the same photo if you want. *smirks*

Apart from that, it was the usual corrections of the SL weirdness, so same old liquifying (called iWarping in GIMP), smudging, cloning, blurring and alpha blending as usual. I didn't have to do a lot of that though, thanks to the WowMeh mesh body. One of the things I had to do was erasing the obvious gap between the elastic arm and my alt's 'real' arm:

That was just blurring and blending with a bit of smudging if I remember well, and the 'cartoon' effect finalised it.

Well, cherie, thank you so much for pretending to sit down with me and have this chat (I actually sent her just a NC and she made the whole post for me. Darn she is good...). Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

It actually surprises me how things went easier for this shoot than what I originally had in mind. I have a lot of tools now that help tremenduously for photos like that: I already mentioned the camera assistant HUD; there's the AnyPose HUD too, of course, with which I made most of the poses. My alt is quite a handy tool too, since I can do couple poses whenever I want, without having to do them roughly and spend precious time adjusting them during the actual shooting. I also have a lot of props and textures I didn't have at the time. Having a big choice of these is very important, because it opens up possibilities a lot. I'm also amazed at the quality of free or very cheap stuff that you can find nowadays: I was very surprised to be able to get the super-computer that is in the lab for free on the marketplace! I wanted something like it, but the quality of the one I found is incredible, much better than what I expected.

So if I had any advice to give to people starting doing photos, I guess it would be this: keep your eyes open, grab nice stuff when you can, on the MP, during hunts, or whatever. And also experiment: try things out, mess up with the lighting, try to build stuff, imagine ways of doing what you have in mind, and try them out. You won't break anything, and who knows? you might end up with something nice and original.

Follow Erika on her blog: you will always find a lot of interesting material - I'd personally have a lot more questions and she'd have stories, for instance about her photos for Aroused magazine that she is covering now...- and don't forget : I want you too! For this post! Darn, I should have a cheesy Uncle Sam montage for this. 

Share something about your own creations: I know you want to talk about what you did, and believe me, there are people out there who would love to listen !

- Kat

No comments:

Post a Comment