CGI – Tightrope Walker
The bulk of my personal work starts with an image that just pops into my head. I may be having a conversation with someone about a random topic, or see some out of the blue object and “BING!” the finished image immediately appears in my mind. I have many of them cataloged there, awaiting their turn to be materialized. More often than not it is one of three things that prevent me from extracting / exorcising them from my brain; 1. time, 2. budget ( VERY FEW are inexpensive 🙄 ) 3. team availability ( I usually am rather intent on working with specific people to execute each image or series).
Eventually though when the stars (or the three things above) align, I get to stretch out and have some fun creating. Such was the case for this project. Over the course of several months I connected with my go-to wardrobe guru Holly Copeland. We talked about several concepts and how we could efficiently accomplish several of them in a single day of shooting. I always try to get at least 3 or 4 new pieces out of any test day. Holly and I both have a couple of series that we have been wanting to execute together, and we were able to coordinate shooting 4 shots in one day that would serve to forward two different series.
This one is part of a Circus / Carnival series, and is entitled “Practice”. My vision for this, was peering in on a captured moment of a tightrope walker practicing elements of her routine late at night in a secluded corner of the big top. I wanted to place the scene in the late 1800’s with all of the character and mood of that era.
Given several limitations of when we shot this (late 2021), budget and prop accessibility made it a challenge to create the scene practically, on set. So I approached this knowing that the talent would be shot and then the scene in which to place her would be created later.
The day of the shoot, we were at Helms Daylight Studio, and photographed the talent, Anh Dillon – a wonderfully elegant dancer – from slightly below, in a wide variety of poses. Holly had really nailed the wardrobe and Evy Power joined in to bring her Hair & Makeup talents to bear. We lit the scene with my final vision in mind, single spotlight, but with a variety of warmer light sources that would exist below her. We also shot three other scenarios that day that will eventually appear in their own right.
After the shoot I set out to find the right people to produce the type of environment I was looking for. I checked out referrals from other photographers, my producer, my agent, and from industry directories. And then I happened upon a visual (while NOT looking for someone) that I knew was not real but looked realistic and did a little digging and figured out who had done the work. A company in Amsterdam called Luminous Creative Imaging. I reached out to gauge their interest in a collaboration and immediately connected with Fedde, the lead at Luminous. We had a couple of Zoom meetings where I explained my vision both for this and other images I was planning, and it instantly felt like the perfect fit.
We had a couple more conversations about environment, content and composition and then the team at LCI was off and running. The first order of business was a rough line drawing to set the scene and ensure we were on the same page… We were.
Initial Concept Sketch
Simultaneously I was reviewing all of the imagery from the shoot to identify a hero frame. When all was said and done I decided to create a composite of two frames. I was in love with the body language of one image, but was not in love with where Anh was looking in that particular frame. So I opted to pull a head from another frame and marry the two.
I delivered the high resolution assets to LCI as they were developing out the scene based on some subsequent wireframes, and basic composition and lighting tests.
We really did not have that many revisions throughout the process, and those we did have were rather minor tweaks to add depth, realism, and atmosphere. This was a true collaboration as the team at LCI brought some fantastic details to the table and made their case as we refined the final image.
While creating a CGI environment is not the “cheap way out” the argument could be made that there are some economies to be had. AND you are not limited by “what’s out there”. It definitely makes for a more streamlined shoot day and you can take your time in post to finesse to your heart’s (or budget’s) desire.
We’ll be sharing more of these projects down the road and look forward to creating rich visuals like this for our clients. Reach out and let’s have a conversation about how we can create some magic for your next project!