I’ve been following Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York project for a while now but I had not made an Artists & Inspiration post on it yet. Instead of talking about Humans of New York and writing out a big block of text I have found an equally interesting Chase Jarvis Live video interview you can check out.

Chase Jarvis does occasional CJLive broadcasts featuring other creatives and he had Brandon on for an interview not too long ago.

I’ll leave you with the video available for viewing here:

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The lovely people at diyphotography.net posted an article about photographer Andreas Levers who has started compositing CGI elements into his landscape photographs. Levers’ work falls right in line with the theme of the last few posts which focus on combining multiple mediums to create a piece of artwork.

Monolith

3x3x3

Spheres

I love how minimal Levers’ landscapes are even with the added CGI elements. I suppose you could argue that work like Levers’ isn’t photography anymore because it has CGI in it but really, who cares? As long as you can make what you want to make I don’t think it matters how you got from A to B.

You can check out more of Andreas Levers’ work here on Flickr or here on his website.

Fall of Gods

Back in February I found the work of Rasmus Berggreen, a great concept artist who has worked on games like Hitman: Absolution. In September of 2014 Rasmus and his company MOOD launched a Kickstarter campaign for a book called Fall of Gods. The book is almost a cross between a graphic novel and an illustrated children’s book. It is filled with pages and pages of epic digital paintings by Rasmus which tell a grand story based off of Norse mythological tales of old.

What drew me to this book Fall of Gods was not only the epic story but also the concept art style of illustration. Rasmus combines drawing, painting, and photographs in photoshop to create entirely new images with a high level of detail and realism. This sort of technique, called “Digital Matte Painting” or just “Matte Painting” before the digital age, is often used in the film industry to replace skies and extend landscapes. If you’re a fan of Peter Jackson’s movie The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy you’ve probably seen a lot of Matte Painting on screen without realizing it.

While there is no shortage of concept art on the web there is a smaller amount of concept art that is also combined with photographs and yet an even smaller amount of books that are illustrated in this fashion. I would even venture to say that Fall of Gods is one of a few, if not one of a kind, in terms of the book’s overall illustration style, layout, and storyline. It’s nice to see that concept art feel pushed to the forefront of a viewing medium like this book when so often the concept art itself does not make it through to the final presentation in a video game or feature film.

I’m very glad that Rasmus has a chance to shine in the spotlight a little bit with this book and also reveal a bit more of what a concept artist can really do. I think that professional titles get muddied during the credits of a game or movie and it’s sometimes hard to tell what one department really does that sets them apart from one another. This book really defines the concept artist department for me and makes things a little less murky. I feel like I could better describe what a concept artist does now that I’ve read this book which may be a good selling point for you if you’re thinking about picking up a copy.

And if that’s not enough, Eon Sounds, a “Music scoring, production and licensing company for TV, Films, Trailers and Games” contacted me on Twitter the other day and said that they had made an OST for Fall of Gods. This book has its own original soundtrack. That’s awesome!

 

To add even more awesomeness, 20th Century Fox is picking up Fall of Gods for a movie.

I think that is just the coolest thing that someone could:

  1. Come up with an idea for a book
  2. Write and Illustrate that book
  3. Gain support for their book on Kickstarter and get their book published
  4. Get an original soundtrack made for their book
  5. Have a major TV/Film production company want to make their book into a movie.

I’m so psyched for the movie and also the sequel to this book if and when there is one. I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything else.

 

-Alex

I recently stumbled upon Scott Robertson’s work. Scott is the Former Chair of Entertainment Design at the Art Center College of Design- Designer / Author / Educator / Co-Producer. What sparked my interest in particular was this lecture he gave on creating sources of inspiration. I want to share this lecture with you because I really enjoyed seeing his creative process.

Scott’s work is somewhat similar to what I’m starting to work on now. I haven’t spoken much about what I’m doing at the moment here on the blog but I’m definitely branching out from using just photography to create the images I want.

Scott combines his drawings with 3D models and other photographs and his lecture gave me a glimpse of the type of work you can do when you combine multiple mediums together. I’m not usually a big lecture fan but I bookmarked this one immediately after watching. Anyway, I’ll leave you with the video.

Hi Again,

I learned about a sneaky tick box in my Wacom Tablet preferences this week that may interest you. This tick box is called the “Force Proportions” tick box. I’ve seen this tick box before but have never paid much attention to it.

Most new computer displays are a widescreen 16:9 ratio that works wonderfully for viewing HD content. However, depending on your Wacom tablet’s surface area, you may get some distortion on your stylus inputs when they show up on a screen that is wider than your Wacom tablet. You may not notice this issue if you use just one monitor but you will definitely see some distortion if you use two monitors for double-wide display. When your display area is much wider than your tablet your tablet will squish and stretch your display area in order to fit it within the mapped area of your Wacom tablet causing this distortion.

To tell if your tablet is distorting your display to fit within your tablet area just draw a circle on your tablet. If your circle comes out as an oval every single time on your display in Photoshop then you know you have this problem. I’ve made a rough sketch to illustrate this distortion.

Tablet-Distortion-Example

 

When I noticed this problem I was confused for a few minutes because I don’t normally edit on a double-wide display but the easy fix is to check the “Force Proportions” tick box in your Wacom preferences. What this tick box does is it makes your mapped tablet area match the same aspect ratio of your display. With this box checked you should get no distortion on your inputs. The tradeoff is that the force proportions tick box may change the Wacom’s mapped area to something other than what you’re used to because it now locked to the ratio of your display but I think it’s a small price to pay in order to have your stylus inputs accurately represented on screen.

Tablet-Display-Proportional

This is a tricky problem that you might not notice right away but if you do any detailed Photoshop work like digital painting you should keep the “Force Proportions” tick box in mind when you sit down at a new workstation or if you are thinking about using two or more monitors.

-Alex

Hello again, I’m back to blow the dust off the blog and get things moving again. I’ve been very busy and very sick the past few months, it’s quite the long story but I’m happy to say I’m feeling like myself again. Let’s look at 10 things I accomplished in 2015.

Finished On-Campus Schoolwork at College

I’m officially off campus for good. I am on course to graduate from school in May 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications Media with a double concentration in Photography and Professional Communication. This last semester I had to assemble a printed portfolio of my work for the required Comm-Media internship this spring. Your professors review your work and try to place you at an internship site to help you hit the ground running. I didn’t have too much trouble with any of that stuff but I’m just a Nervous Nellie. I’ll be starting my internship soon and I am very excited. Senioritis was starting to set in this semester, I’m definitely sick of sitting in a classroom learning as fast as the slowest person in the room. The classroom setting has its place, but I find I can learn a lot faster on my own my own. Everyone is different.

Shot over 8,000 Images for the Theater Program

I was the company photographer for my college theater program this past semester. I shot over 8,000 images across a 6-week production period for our play Noises Off. The stage manager and I also organized a weekend of headshot sessions with the entire cast of the play of over a dozen members. It was a ton of photographing and looking back it was more than I probably should have done given the circumstances so this is a big accomplishment. I added some of the new headshots to my headshot gallery on my website.

Mastered the Print Room

In 2015, I had my work-study position with the photo department moved from the photo lab to the print room. The print room at school is regarded by many as a mysterious and frustrating space because there isn’t a class you can take that includes a good introduction to the print room and all its digital machines. So, unless you have a photo you need to print for an exhibition or a portfolio, you may never actually need to set foot in the print room to learn how to use it. Unfortunately, for most students, the print room is intimidating and difficult to use when it shouldn’t be. That’s where I come in.

The work-study student is supposed to maintain the print room and help students print. I learned, by necessity and because I’m a perfectionist, how to maintain and operate all the printers in the print room. It doesn’t actually sound like I did a lot but you would be surprised how many students don’t have a clue where to begin. I’m glad I could be there to alleviate some of the stress that comes with walking into a room you know nothing about. I learned a lot about digital printing this semester and I found Jeff Schewe’s book The Digital Print to be of some use as well.

Survived My Ulcerative Colitis Flare

I’ve had Ulcerative Colitis since 2014 and this past semester I had the worst flare-up I’ve ever had. I lost 35lbs in just a couple of months, landed myself in the hospital and had to finish school from home. I’ve been back and forth to the doctor’s a lot the past few months and I’m now almost completely back to normal. I can’t overstate how ridiculously insane and slow the process has been but I’m just happy that I feel fine now. I made a new blog just for talking about Ulcerative Colitis where I’m going to retell my saga if you’d like to sign up for that.

Had My First Kidney Stone

I had my first kidney stone the other day on 12/30/15. Yikes. I wanted to put this on the list of accomplishments because I had just gotten over the whole thing with UC. It would be just my luck to get slammed by a kidney stone. Really? Come on. Glad that’s over.

Started Eating Healthy

Now that I’m home from school I’ve been able to control exactly what ingredients get put into my food. I can make all-natural everything from scratch. This has been a very necessary change for me in 2015 and it’s not that difficult to do. Although, after being on a clear liquid diet for 8 days through Thanksgiving and after only eating toast and rice for two weeks I can’t say I had a lot of desire to go back to eating fried foods. Get yourself a rice cooker. If mine broke tomorrow I would buy another one, they’re that good.

New Writing Projects

in 2015, I started a new blog called The Film Castle where I review films and stuff like that. I’ll be blowing the dust off of that blog in a few days. I also started my UC blog and I’m brainstorming up some ideas for a book or two.

Drawing

Lately, I’ve been drawing like mad. I recently realized the value of drawing for a person like me who is already into photography. Being able to draw out an image before picking up the camera is going to be worth its weight in gold because it will eliminate so much guesswork. There are a million other reasons why drawing is great but I’ll put them in another post soon.

Cinema 4D

I bought Maxon’s Cinema 4D software this past summer and it has opened up a whole new world of exploring for me. There is so much that goes into the CG work you see in motion pictures today and I spent much of my time last summer learning about that. Learning 3D software also gives me another avenue to a sustainable career outside of photography in some ways. For instance, I made a post a few months ago about IKEA and how their catalog is now 75% CG and that really moved me to start learning 3D software. I don’t think 3D will ever completely replace photography but it certainly has become more efficient and cost-effective in some areas of work.

My First Published Photoshop Tutorial

I wrote my first tutorial for www.PhotoshopTutorials.ws a few weeks ago and it is set to publish on their site on January 7th. I’ve written a lot of explanations and tutorials here on my blog but I thought this would be of significance because it’ll be published on a website other than mine that gets a good amount of traffic. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Thanks for reading.

-Alex

I’m starting to get into all my back to school routines this week, one if which is monitor calibration. At school I edit on my Macbook Pro but at home I usually just use my desktop monitor. So for most of the summer, and most of the time that I’m home, I don’t edit using my laptop’s display. I figured this week would be as good as any to calibrate my laptop screen again since I haven’t used it in a while and I ran into a couple of things which I’ll explain in a minute.

I’d just like to pause here and quickly explain for those of you that are unaware about calibrating your display. A computer monitor fresh out of the box will probably look great to the naked eye (which is why you bought it). The colors may look fine to you but they’re probably not even close to accurate when referenced against targets built into calibration software. Now, you could say, “Well I can just eyeball it right?” No, your eyes are not to be trusted AT ALL for “eyeballing” the color on your display. When you walk into a dark room from outside notice how your eyes adjust so that everything doesn’t look dark anymore? Or if you light a candle in a room, the room doesn’t seem that yellow/red but it is a lot more yellow/red than you realize. Your eyes adjust to whatever environment you’re in so it’s important to use some hardware/software combination to calibrate your monitor for you and ensure you are getting accurate color on screen. Initially it may look wrong or broken to you but that’s just because you’re used to looking at an uncalibrated display and often the first calibration is a big jump in the right direction. Anyway, buy a colorimeter from Datacolor (Spyder Series), or X-Rite (Colormunki/ i1 Display) and thank me later. They all do roughly the same thing so you have some options.

If you do some googling or talk to most any visual artist they’ll tell you that editing on a laptop screen is probably the worst type of display you could do any color critical work on. A lot of this has to do with the laptop display’s ability (or any display’s ability) to represent the full gamut of colors present in different color spaces. Most notably, AdobeRGB and sRGB color spaces. We’re not going to get into color spaces today because I think most people, most displays, and most printed work hasn’t suffered much from not being able to showoff the entire AdobeRGB color gamut.

I’ve never heard anyone print out one of their photos and say something like, “Crap, this picture doesn’t have as many colors from the AdobeRGB color gamut as I wish it had.” Depending on the picture it’s likely that it wouldn’t have a full rainbow of colors in it unless the picture was actually a rainbow or something. If you notice any BIG color discrepancies between your image on screen and your printed image it probably has something to do with using the correct ICC profile for your printer, paper and ink about 9/10 times. Again, this is another topic for a different day but I wanted to mention it because a lot of people will attribute a problem to the wrong thing. I’m saying that creating accurate color on a laptop display is a lot easier and more obvious than all of those things.

Realistically, the big downfall of laptop displays and the software that calibrates them is that the brightness (Luminance) is variable. You can always change the brightness of your laptop screen at the push of a button which you probably wouldn’t do nearly as often on a desktop display. Brightness on any display is measured by candela per square metre (cd/m2) which is the International System of Unit’s unit of measurement for Luminance.

As a rule of thumb most monitor calibration devices will recommend a brightness setting of about 120 cd/m2 to start. This is based off the International Standard: ISO 12646:2004 Graphic technology – Displays for colour proofing – Characteristics and viewing conditions which states, “The chromaticity of the display should be set to D50. The luminance level should be as high as practical but shall be at least 80cd/m2 and should be at least 120cd/m2. The black point shall have a luminance that is less than 1% of the maximum luminance.” which I found for reference here instead of purchasing myself a copy. Also you should take into account the lighting conditions of the room you are working in. Editing outside in broad daylight or near a bright window isn’t a good idea. Usually just having a low light setting is good, but again, it depends. If you really want to get picky you could work in a room that’s completely painted floor to ceiling in 18% gray reflectance paint with no windows and only wear black or gray clothes when you’re editing. This is the real world though and you’d probably want to kill yourself before doing any of that.

Ok, so the next big question here is “How do I get my laptop to calibrate specifically to 120 cd/m2?” The answer being, for example with my Datacolor SpyderPRO 3 software, is simply to change the default brightness target from the Laptop preset which is whatever the native laptop brightness is (this is what we don’t want because there’s no way to measure this against a target unit of brightness in the software) and change it to the standard LCD preset which is 120 cd/m2.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 1.08.09 PM

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 12.52.18 PM

So now during your laptop’s calibration sequence (For this example in the SpyderPRO 3 software) it will pause at one point to allow you to change your brightness and match it as closely as possible to 120 cd/m2. If you’ve calibrated a desktop monitor before you’ve run into this step in the process where it makes you change the monitor brightness to match the target. This might be different in other software.

For some reason in the SpyderPRO 3 software it recommends that you use the native laptop brightness when really it should treat your laptop screen just like standard desktop LCD and calibrate to the industry standard brightness. I’m recommending that you do whatever you have to do in your software to make sure that you calibrate to 120 cd/m2 and make sure it stays that way. It’s also a good idea to recalibrate every week or two after your monitors warm up for fifteen minutes.

Just before I did this whole process my laptop brightness was set to half brightness (which was WAY under the 120 cd/m2 target at around 40 cd/m2) and there was a big difference between my laptop screen’s brightness and color VS. my desktop monitor which was already at 120 cd/m2. This hasn’t been a problem for me until now because I have only used my desktop monitor all summer but now that I’ve recalibrated both displays to 120 cd/m2 they are extremely close to each other if I use a picture for reference on both displays.

Now that your laptop is all calibrated and the brightness is set correctly you should probably make sure that you don’t accidentally change the brightness and screw up your calibration. I found that 120cd/m2 was not directly on one of the bubbles on the mac brightness and I had to change it in the System Prefs. Still though you could hit the brightness options on your keyboard, so how do you avoid doing that?

I wanted to find a program or something that would take a sort of screen shot of my laptop screen brightness so that I could come back to it if I ever had to change it, but I didn’t really find much. I did however, find this little program called “Function Flip” what this allows you to do is to instead of disabling all the brightness/volume F-keys like you can in the System Preferences on the Mac, Function Flip allows you to selectively turn some of your F-keys back to just F-keys and not a brightness adjustment. So it should look like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 1.48.56 PM

Now I won’t accidentally change my monitor brightness from bumping the brightness key on my keyboard. You can also set it to start up at Login so you don’t have to try and remember every time.

This is kind of a bush-league way of keeping track of your brightness but I just screen shotted it in the system preferences so that I at least have a picture to reference roughly where my brightness is should I ever actually need to change it and can’t recalibrate that same day.

Anyway, that’s about it. I’m kind of boggled I didn’t pick up on this earlier. Don’t set your laptop brightness to some arbitrary brightness, try and set it to an international standard of 120cd/m2 and watch your room’s lighting conditions and you’ll be fine.

See you next time

-Alex

P.S.

Looks like I’ll be writing about ICC profiles, soft-proofing and color gamuts in a couple future posts because I also ran into some stuff with that recently that you might be interested in reading about.