Saturday, February 09, 2008

maybe I am a workaholic, after all

What sort of crazy fool pulls all-nighters during vacation?

All eyes me-ward.

Starting Friday evening, I was at the office until well past sunrise, working on a new poster for the department I'll soon be leaving. I had meant to do this months ago, but had for various reasons been unable to get to it. Since this vacation hasn't exactly been packed with Smoo-related activities, I thought I might as well include this poster as one of my personal projects (another of which is: buy one of those 24-packs of toilet paper tonight!).

My oeuvre took the entire night and a chunk of the following morning. The poster (which I can't show here until I get permission from my Korean coworker, who is featured rather prominently on it) shows a lady, Na-young, wearing a loose white button-down shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a chic girlie necktie that has an image of the Eiffel Tower along its length. Na-young's making muscles, her arms bent at about 90 degrees. Sitting on her right arm (viewer's left) with a cheerful smirk on his face is my buddy Tom; on the left arm is yours truly. Tom's smirking across Na-young's head at me; I'm staring out at the viewer, as is Na-young herself (rather hypnotically, I must say).

Back in late summer, we had done a few shots (photos, not whisky) outside our building with Na-young striking some musclegirl poses, and Tom and I doing various postures in which we appear either to be perched on a surface or hanging from it. I chose three of the best shots and composited them for the ad poster. The most time-consuming part of the process was chipping away all the extraneous background, which took hours, as I was trying to do as precise a job as possible. I also had to make some other alterations:

1. I lengthened Na-young's upper arms by about 20-30% to accommodate Tom's and my asses. This involved cutting the arms about midway through the humerus, shifting the cut-away portions, then using the "free transform" tool to stretch the shoulder-to-cut portions to fill in the gaps. I was amazed at how smoothly the process went.

2. I chopped away a chunk of the fat on my face (in the final product, my face still looks fat, alas) and gave myself a bit of a neck, something not usually visible. Na-young's arm-lengthening didn't take long, but this part of the process, the neck generation, consumed an hour or so, and necessitated a switchover from color to black-and-white because I couldn't get the replacement neck to match my own flesh tone. I had started out by finding a neck online (a woman's neck! oh, the humanity) and had thought I would simply patch the neck over the empty space in much the same way I had grafted that second tongue onto Gene Simmons, but this proved unworkable. So I ended up building a neck from nothing. To get skin-like texture, I used a combination of the "add noise" and "blur" tools. I also used the "burn" tool to add some tracheal and jawline shading. By the time I was done, the neck still didn't look totally natural, which is why I made the aforementioned switch to B&W. Oh, yeah-- during this part of the process, I CGI'ed part of my tee shirt as well.

3. On the photo I chose of myself, my lower shins and feet were cut off, so I had to "stitch" them on from another photo. This required a good bit of "free transform." At first, I had hoped to snap the lower legs on as a pair, but this proved impossible, so I did the legs one by one instead.

4. The tip of one of Tom's shoes was cut off, so I had to generate half of Tom's foot from scratch-- quite possibly my first-ever true CGI work (I'm not proud of the job I did on the Kevin-neck, so that doesn't count). If/when I do finally show you the poster itself, see if you can spot which of Tom's feet was CGI'ed.

5. I had to erase Na-young's teeth. Please understand: Na-young's got fantastic, almost scarily perfect teeth in real life, but for whatever reason, they rendered horribly in the photo of her. In that picture, her lips are slightly parted, so the teeth are in shadow. Digicams aren't exactly famous for their low-light capabilities, and this photo was no exception: Na-young's teeth ended up looking freakishly decayed. So I erased them, replacing them with a subtle gray and blurring the area a bit.

6. Everyone's hair got a touchup.

7. Kevin's face had several prominent blemishes removed.

8. Na-young's body was stretched vertically 7%.

9. Tom's nose caused some trouble; I had to shave off some of the digital grit that surrounded its profile without altering the shape of the nose itself. Yikes.

Hours and hours, all of the above. Then it was time for the main event:

1. Na-young, whose legs I had cut off when I cropped her image, was placed at the bottom of the poster, stage center.

2. Tom's and my images were placed on her biceps.

3. I did traces of Tom's and my legs, copied the images, washed the copies out by setting "contrast" to zero, darkened them a bit, then did a Gaussian blur to turn the legs into shadows. I slipped the shadows under the Tom and Kevin images, and voilĂ -- our legs were now casting shadows on Na-young's arms! It's a tiny detail, but it makes the image a bit more natural-looking.

4. The three layers were flattened into each other, but kept separate from the background.

5. I duplicated the layer, washed the contrast down to zero, then did a Gaussian blur to create a shadow of all three of us. Worked perfectly-- I slipped the shadow behind the "people" layer, and it made everything look more dimensional.

6. All three of us were in black-and-white, but I switched the poster's mode to RGB color to allow some color in the background.

7. I did blue and yellow paint streaks on a separate layer to add some artsy-fartsy flair. I stuck this layer behind the "people" layer.

8. I added text. This took time as I did my usual fidgeting with fonts, styles, sizes, positions, and other taffy-pulling transformations. The text was simple: "Strong. Balanced. Lingua Express. Learn a language." (We have no actual slogan, as far as I know.)

9. I flattened the image, then introduced an off-kilter red strip at the bottom of the page. I chose red to continue with the "primary color" theme established by the blue and yellow paint streaks.

10. I added a bit more text: "Interested? Sign up!" (more fooling around with font, size, positioning, etc.) I also slapped on some specifics about how to contact our department (font, size positioning, etc.).

11. I flattened the text onto the red field. I once again regretted not having a hi-res file of the Smoo snowflake logo to slap on the poster and add some legitimacy.

And that's all she wrote.

Part of what took so long was the trial-and-error nature of the process. Some of this was unavoidable, but some of it was a result of inexperience: I was attempting things I hadn't attempted before.

I'm eager to show the poster to you, but that'll have to wait until the coming week.

Now I have to work on a promised coin image for Nathan's new blog on numismatics and museums. You can see an example of my coin work by looking at my sidebar, where you'll see coins for both Naked Villainy (with the French motto "Que les nains souffrent"-- may the dwarves suffer) and Nathan's main blog (if "main" is the proper term), Port Coquitlam Odysseus.

UPDATE: There was one other major step I left out of the above narrative. After locking together the three "people" layers (Tom, Na-young, and Kevin), I realized to my chagrin that I hadn't settled my image correctly on Na-young's arm: my ass was floating slightly above it, allowing a little wind to blow between my crotch and her biceps. Having fused the layers-- and having performed several dozen tiny things after the fusion, thereby preventing me from using the "undo" function to free my image up-- I had no choice but to fill the area under my crotch with Na-young's shirt. This required a bit of painting, blurring, and stretching, but in the end, I don't think the result looks too unnatural. You'll see for yourself soon.


1 comment:

melancholy donut said...

if she doesnt consent, darken her face as id still love to see all the work you put into it. the most ive tried with photoshop is manually getting rid of red eye. and that took me an hour. of course i didnt know what i was doing, but man, that was so hard...