When Perth photographer, co-writer, and long time friend Luke Martin and I decided we should do a composite photo a little outside of the box, we never anticipated such a memorable image would be the result.
After initially posting this photo, I received a lot of questions about how it was done, so I thought I would do a quick blog post for all the HDSLR and still photography nuts out there.
Luke and I have been co-writing a spec T.v series called The Pictures which takes a leaf out of The Office (UK) and the creative geniuses that are Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. We can’t say too much about the project, but it’s a comedy set in and around a movie theatre, so what better location to do a little promotional photography for the project! Using to our advantage the large key-chain which Luke was endowed with, being the Manager and projectionist at Hoyts Cinemas, the hardest part was getting up early enough to shoot before the steady flow of eager moviegoer patrons (usually slow moving, quiet, elderly patrons supported by walking frames and electric wheelchairs watch movies this early in the morning, but for the purpose of generating urgency I used the verbs ‘Steady Flow’ and ‘Eager’) began to arrive. So, at 7am we slipped into the cold, dark cinema armed with only a flash kit and a Canon 5Dmkii, and thanks to my early morning procrastination (it was cold), we knew we only had about 20 minutes to do the shot before we were bombarded with elderly Clash of the Titans fans.
Note: The awesome limited edition Clash of the Titans popcorn cups in the photo. Needless to say, our photo has provided more entertainment longevity for the public than Clash of the Titans did.
We quickly threw the flash kit together and placed one to the front left of camera as the key light and the second was mounted high in the rear which not only acted as a rim light, but also doubled as the ‘projector light’ in the theatre. Now it was time to snap and get creative. We shot this amazing photo composite in under 10 minutes. The composite is made up from over 60 individual photos, and because we had no time, the process was very simple; Jump from one seat to another and sport some alternate character expressions. Rinse and repeat every 10 seconds… 67 times. The trick was remembering what I was doing in the surrounding seats and trying to ‘interact’ with the previous shots to make the photo more dynamic and interactive.
All of the character expressions are based on the more memorable moments I can remember going to the movie theatres as a kid. I think just about every expression reared it’s ugly (and pretty) face, from frustration and anxiety at morons talking or disrupting the movie, to spilling that pot of gold.. namely the grossly overpriced, unfordable yet necessary freshly made popcorn all over the patron next to me.
Despite our early morning fun, the post editing process which Luke endured in solitude, was where the real magic happened. Aside from a few small color correction tweaks, 16 of the 17 hours of the Photoshop editing came from meticulously stitching multiple photos together in order to graft a single shot. A few small additions we added included the spilling popcorn which was anticipated during the photos, but no popcorn was present during the photos.
I have this image printed on a 1 metre canvas and the detail is incredible. Luke shot the original images at a huge resolution and the canvas really does the photo justice, far more than the Internet.
For all the DSLR nuts out there who want more info, I probed Luke (in a metaphorical sense) for the following details:
Location: Hoyts Millennium Cinemas, Cinema 3. Perth, Western Australia
Camera: Canon 5D Mkii
Lens: Canon 24-105mm F4L
Accessories: Two Wireless Camera Canon 580EXII flashes, 1 with 50x50cm softbox as main light source in front, 1 with diffuser at back to replicate the projector light, Manfrotto tripod, Wireless trigger.
Nitty Gritty: 24mm @ ISO 1600 @ f8, 1/40s, Large Raw
Total images used in composite: 67
Total time: 16-17 hours
A total of 67 individual layers were imported at 16Bit 300dpi into Photoshop CS4 and were subject to only minor adjustments in contrast, brightness and saturation directly to the Raw files.
I started with a back plate of the empty cinema. I then cut out each one of A.J’s characters from the back to the front and from left to right. I began the composite starting from left to right because the main light source at the front was to my left and cast a slight shadow to the right. The natural shadows cast proved VERY useful in compiling each A.J as I could use the shadow to add realism and depth to the character next in line, as if they were actually all there at once.
With each character I had to painstakingly cut out each AJ at 200-400% zoomed in to ensure I had each outline perfect. To finish the shot I added in Popcorn to the buckets and did another minor tweak to contrast, saturation, sharpness and noise. A very cool and memorable image is the result of 10 minutes of fooling around in a cinema. – Luke
Here’s some Wheres Wally moments..(Where’s Waldo for the American readers)
– Wally sliding 3D glasses on and off.. amazed at new technology
– Wally waking another Wally up
– 14 shoes
– High 5 Wally
– Wally with popcorn bucket on head
Thanks to Hoyts Cinemas (better ask forgiveness than permission), and Luke for putting together such a memorable photo. Luke was also responsible for the much talked about image composite on the Ronan’s Escape movie poster. You can find out more about Luke and his amazing work at www.digitaljellyfish.tv
Writer / Director