Concrete Genie Wall Art
Welcome to the first edition of "Behind the Screens" - a new feature on the blog that will offer an insight into how or why some of my shots were captured by taking a behind the scenes look at the processes involved. Much like in real life photography, certain shots require pre-planning or the creative use of light sources while others may be more about timing or choice of location, either way, and as any virtual photographer will tell you, there is often a lot more to getting the right shot than simply pressing a button to capture the screen. Much more than just a screenshot, each virtual photograph can have a hidden story, method or inspiration that makes it a unique piece of artwork, so let's go Behind the Screens and find out more.
certain shots require pre-planning or the creative use of light sources
To kick things off then, I'd like to take a quick look at the process behind a pair of "before and after" shots I recently took in Pixelopus' delightful Concrete Genie, partly because this was a premeditated pairing intended to convey a certain aspect of the game, but also because the innovative Replay feature in the Concrete Genie photo mode gives a neat look at how the final, painted version of the scene was created (spoiler - it's really easy).
Given the important message of free expression that is told by the game, I really wanted to represent the notion that every wall is a canvas by using a simple visual comparison of an area before and after painting. The first job then, was simply to scout a suitably large wall in an open space and some of the best examples of this are undoubtedly the masterpiece walls that form the culmination of each area in the abandoned town of Denska. This particular wall can be found towards the end of the underground Waterways section where the wide spanning tiled space is dank and depressing upon your arrival, perfect for impending rejuvenation with life and colour.
the first job was simply to scout a suitably large wall in an open space.
Once settled on a location and subject, one of the most important aspects of any before and after shot is ensuring that you can recreate the composition of the frame, enabling the pair of images to match as closely as possible. Time spent up front taking note of fixed points of reference, such as horizontal and vertical structures, static objects and identifiable frame boundaries, is invaluable here and I was simply able to use the tiles of the wall and floor in my chosen area as a handy alignment grid. Whatever, your reference points though, systematically recreating a field of view is much easier when using a deliberately composed image as a starting point. The same rule applies to photo mode options, with consistent and known camera settings being ideal. Unfortunately, Concrete Genie's photo mode offers no numerical indication of the level of zoom / angle of view so you will need to balance the camera position and zoom length to achieve the same area within the frame. I could certainly have done more to standardise one of these variables in my shots but the result was close enough for the desired purpose.
For the "before" image, I didn't want to use just a plain wall and chose to include one of the Genies as he hung around offering his own design ideas on how to improve things. Far from a difficult task, brightening up the place for the "after" shot is made incredibly easy thanks to the intuitive painting tools and it doesn't take long to fill the scene with colour, it is still nice to have a buddy joining in though. I started with no real plan for my painting other than being sure to fill the frame, and mainly aimed for a nice balance across the wall using the designs available at the time. Admittedly though, I was also sure to meet the requests of my Genies to keep them happy, remember, a happy Genie is an interactive Genie. While painting, it is worth taking note of how certain elements are layered, tall trees will always form a backdrop while flowers and vines will overlay them for example, but otherwise, the best approach to is often to simply experiment, have fun and let unique creations happen.
brightening up the place is made incredibly easy thanks to the intuitive painting tools
I should mention that the Replay ability, which resets and repeats your painting actions, could be used to generate perfectly overlaid before and after shots without even leaving the photo mode, let alone repositioning the character and camera, but there are a couple of reasons why I didn't use this. Firstly, this clever feature is the exception rather than the rule in current photo modes so I more instinctively took the shots separately but also, wiping the painting hides the Genies as well and that first Genie was just something that I really wanted to keep in there.
Although my main focus has been on reproducing composition, the edit mode settings certainly have a key to play. While maintaining the feel of a consistent world / environment, it was important to help the transformation stand out and carry the message to the viewer. With that in mind, the second shot benefits from subtly increased colour saturation and bloom to compliment the paint, while the first is deliberately more subdued. Of course, this could have been done to a much greater extent to give a more dramatic effect but that is perhaps an idea for another time.
So there you have it, a quick look at how and why I captured these two Concrete genie shots. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this first look Behind the Screens and feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below; it has certainly given me plenty of ideas on what to do differently next time.