The following article is a guest post from our photographer Eric WK Ng via his blog …
Sometime back I was presented with the opportunity to work on a cover for Revolution magazine with a concept of presenting a timepiece in a sculptural context. It’s been a labour of love for the whole team that was involved in the various stages of production and now that it’s finally been published, I thought it would be great to share the thoughts, challenges and processes involved in the creation of the cover.
Unlike most of the commercial projects we’ve worked on before, we didn’t start off with a locked-on visual and most of the brain storming was done verbally, emphasizing on the concept and technical execution. Normally taking on a job of this nature with a loose brief and tight deadline would be risky but the team figured that the concept was too interesting to pass on and we simply can’t resist a good challenge, can we? A confidence booster was that the Revolution editorial team, led by their Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Wong, with Senior Fashion Stylist Marie Lee and Photographer Sidney Teo, was very clear in their vision and provided us with quite a few references in terms of poses and textures. Internally the team also put together more references and did more research to make sure that all of us were on the same page.
To further expand on the initial concept by the magazine of having 3 figures surrounding a central timepiece, I suggested to incorporate the imagery of the 4 goddesses of time and the seasons, known as the Horae or Horai from Greek Mythology with Baroque styling, drawing inspiration from Gian Lorenzo Bernini for his sense of movement and energy. Having 4 figures representing the seasons further strengthens the concept of time and makes for a more balanced layout as well.
It was also determined earlier that we would be using 3D rendering to create the image and that we would be deploying our 360° 80 DSLR camera capture rig to shoot a real life model. Having such a capture system not only helps with the realism but also saves time so that our 3D artists don’t have to sculpt from scratch. However, an inherent problem is that every pose captured presents you with a whopping 80 images! Because of that it was important to lock down a pose for the model before we moved on to 3D capture. To solve that problem we decided the best way was to start off with a normal still shoot so we could explore poses and work on finalizing the layout. I rigged up a table as a rough positioning for the ‘watch’ so that it was easier for both the model and the team to visualize. It was important at that time to remember that eventually we would be working in 3D, so we had to think about the poses in a spatial sense. The poses we explored and decided to shoot at that point in time would not be final but it would be good if we could get about 70-80% close to what we think would work.
Shots for poses and composition
Once we were satisfied with the poses, it was time to move on to the 3D capture. We had just set up our custom built 80 camera rig with a custom capture software and were keen to explore and push the possibilities in image creation with this project. One thing to note on why we’ve chosen to go with the more costly multiple camera capture system is that there are more restrictions with the cheaper handheld scanning alternative in terms of practicality and imaging quality. With our solution, the subject only needs to hold the pose for a moment as it’s essentially a one shot process with all 80 cameras firing off simultaneously.
360° 80 DSLR Camera 3D Capture Rig
The actual 3D capturing was quite a straightforward process at that point, as we already had established the positions and poses in the previous shoot. Bearing in mind that we were only working with one model, the team decided that we could differentiate the four figures with variations in hair styles and outfits.
80 images per one time capture
After completing the capture, the images were handed over to our 3D artists for rendering & sculpting. This is where the bulk of the time would be spent, in cleaning up & refining our captured figures, as well as adding in other embellishments such as fabric & background textures. The final watch image was provided by the magazine, shot by their in-house photographer Sydney Teo, and we added in additional textures for the composition. Several revisions were made along the way for composition and the final finishing was done by our DI artist for colour, contrast and additional textures.
Composition with rendered figures
Rough visual references for additional elements of background and fabric
Final 3D composition
3D wire mesh
At the end of the day, the team was very happy with the final result, despite the tight schedule. This project could not have been done without the collaborative effort of everyone involved, including the editorial team who were very trusting and appreciative. As a photographer, it is a very rewarding experience to explore new methods and technologies in image making and be able to help execute this project from concept to technical approach as well as creative direction with the 3D & DI artists.