Sunday, August 12, 2018

Building The Millennium Falcon: Outer Hull

Historical photos of the Millennium Falcon, original designation YT-1300 492727ZED has been unearthed from the Corellian Ship Yard archives.  This series covers all of them.

The outer hull of the Falcon is very rugged.  Over the course of many decades of adventures it has withstood a beating time and time again, but only came away with some carbon scoring.

Many of the hull panels were assembled off-site, transported to the construction site, and installed onto the main frame of the Falcon.  In this shot the top left mandible panels are being hoisted into place.

A workman cuts a bar of Durasteel to length.  Research has shown this panel is on the aft left side of the ship. right above the Dejarik board.

A small crew of workers install the louvers over the main engine vents on the right aft quarter of the ship. This painstaking process is hard to get right, but the attention to detail in installation is critical for the Falcon completing the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.

Research into the history of the Falcon construction is still ongoing.  Stay tuned for more images as they are discovered.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Behind-The-Scenes: Hulkbuster in Smoke

A few weeks ago I got the chance to review the LEGO Hulkbuster: Ultron Edition set over on the Toy Photographers blog.  To support the review I created several shots with the Hulkbuster.

Here is a peak behind the curtain of how I processed one of the shots from that review in Photoshop. Its not super detailed as that would take way too long (there are 21 layers to this shot), but should give a bit of an insight into the process of taking a photo from in-camera to a finished shot in my world.

Hopefully by the end experienced Photoshopers will know how I did it, and newer folks will have a starting place to start looking up tutorials online on how to accomplish each step.

So, lets jump in.

To start off, let me set the scene.  I was in Ontario at my in-laws farm.  My father-in-law was thinning out some trees, and burning the branches in his fire pit.  The smoke from the smoldering fresh leafs created some epic smoke.  So first chance I got I set up the Hulkbuster model down-wind from the fire pit.  I used natural light - no strobes or reflectors used. This led to this out-of-camera shot:
The next step was to clean up the image by using the healing brush to clean up dust spots.

I then selectively sharpened the head and chest of the Hulkbuster with a high-pass filter on its own layer with the overlay blend mode, and a layer mask.
Then I added some more smoke to the image.  Using a white soft brush with low opacity and flow, and some creative blur filters on two layers.  One to add smoke to the background, and another layer for the foreground.  It gives Hulkbuster more of a sense of place.
Next comes the first of the special effects, which was to add the blue glow of the repulsor in the left hand.  I used a really soft brush on low opacity to slowly build up the lights.  It took 3 layers.  One for the while light, one for a general blue glow, and one for the light rays.  Putting them on their own separate layers allows me to adjust east part of the light without affecting the others, a real time saver.

The rays were created using the radial blur filter.  This is the trickiest technique and the hardest to explain in text, so If anyone is really interested I can do a separate tutorial on just that process.
The chest glow was done on their own separate techniques, but using the same basic techniques as the hand repulsor.
The eyes were done in a similar manner, except more basic - just a layer for the blue, then a layer for the white.  I painted the white in using a harder  brush at 100% opacity, the used a slight Gaussian blur to let it fade from white to blue.

I also added really basic glow to the knee repulsors with a simple soft blue brush with a transparent opacity.
Now that the basic structure of the image is there, time to dodge and burn.  My dodge and burn technique is to create a new layer set to overlay blend mode, then use soft white or black brushes with low opacity and flow.  I slowly brushed over things, building up the burns until I got the look I wanted.   This process helps selectively lighten and darken areas, and increases saturation.
Finally I used a couple brightness/contrast layers with some layer masks to brighten up the center and darkening the outside.  Basically a vignette around the edges, and brightening the center to make the lights pop.
So thats how it's done.  Pretty simple over all.  The secret is in knowing some basic image theory, and slowly building up using layers, brushes, and blend modes to make the image pop.

If you want more information, pop the question into the comments below and I'll do my best to answer.  If you want me to do this with any other images, let me know that as well!

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Thoughts on Depression: Just Build Something

Insights about dealing with my depression comes from weird places.  For example, this exchange from Iron Man 3 gave me some insights.

To set the scene, Tony Stark just pulled over to the side of the road, suffering an anxiety attack due to PTSD from his previous super-hero-ing. He was talking to a boy, who was helping him out, on his cell.

Harley Keener: "You're a mechanic right?"

Tony Stark: "right."

Harley Keener: "Why don't you just... build something?"

That caught my attention.  "Just build something."

It got me thinking about what I build.  The answer of course is, well, not much.  However I do create a lot.  Every toy image I make is me building my own world in pixels.

That led to thinking how my photography efforts are a form of therapy.  I mean I always considered that way to get away from my issues.  However it may also be part of my recovery as well.  i.e. it is not just something I really enjoy doing, but an actual benefit.

This means, of course, that I should try to do as much as I can, ya know, within reason.

Speaking of reason, some things have been bothering me lately, so I might as well bring it up here.  Lately it feels like I have an obsession with my toy collection.  Over the past month or so I have bought a lot of action figures, and a smallish amount of LEGO.  Normally I have a shot planned when I buy such figures.  However a lot of the recent purchases are just so I have the figures.

It makes me worry I am obsessing over my collection to paper over my depression.  It concerns me.

I mean, it's not like I am risking the family finances over it, or anything.  My kids are not at risk of going hungry over this.  In fact I have a budget set aside for my hobbies, which covers most of my purchases. 

So you may wonder why I even bother to care?

It's cause I worry.... which is part of my depression, I think.  I feel unsure of myself, so when I see a change in behaviour, I worry a bit about future implications.  Is this a sign things are going further off the rails, or a way for me to cope, or just because I am a geek, and this is what geeks do - collect things.

I should probably just learn to not worry about it.

Part of my desire to acquire action figures is the way the market for such things work.  There is a window of several months when the figures are normal shelf prices.  However after that they become collectors items, and the price sky rockets.  A figure that costs $15 in Walmart now, may cost $50 in a year.  So getting the characters I am interested in now can, arguably, be considered an investment in the future.

However if building things is part of my recovery, then I can justify things further by realizing that the creation process requires having the tools to create with, which in my case is action figures and LEGO sets.

Anyway, it is something I worry about.  If I end up buying a few extra toys but come out saner, it seems like a reasonable price to pay.  Time will tell.

Until then, I am going to try to create as much as I can.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Building The Millennium Falcon: Dejarik

Historical photos of the Millennium Falcon, original designation YT-1300 492727ZED has been unearthed from the Corellian Ship Yard archives.  This series covers all of them.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the famous Dejarik game was installed early in the construction phase of the Falcon. The reason for this is lost to the mists of time, but the prevailing theory is that the foreman's kids needed a place to hang out after school.

The main Dejarik module is built off-site, and installed into the frame of the spacecraft.

Once the game system was installed, high paid tech workers swooped in and programmed it.  It takes a long time to properly tune the game, as each creature in the game is trained like a Tamagotchi, making each game unique*.
It is due to the unique way this game is programmed that I don't think the game is installed early because the foreman needed a place for his kids to play after school.  However I do think it is likely that the real truth is that the foreman had a teenage nephew that he described thusly. "That boy is really good with those comp-u-tor thangs.  I can never figure it out me-self, but he knows how to make web pages for his pet tribble**.  He's a lazy mofo, but with comp-u-tors he's like a genius or something, so I did my sister  a favour and gave him a job with the game thinger."

Those of you in IT will also recognize this line of thinking on the part of the foreman as the likely cause for why the game pieces flicker a lot when playing.

I suspect similar stories are behind the high quality of the ships light speed drive.

* This is not an actual fact

** yeah, I know it seems odd for the nephew to have a pet from the Star Trek universe, when he is clearly based in the Star Wars universe, and you are likely all feeling smugly superior that you recognized that fact.  Good for you!  However I would point out that there is a lot of evidence that Star Wars is based in our universe, and you can, right now if you wish, visit the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk, USS Enterprise, making it also our universe, so it doesn't seem like that much of a stretch now does it, you smugly superior sum-bitch.