Welcome to the Virtual Photography Archives, where I invite in-game photographers to revisit their back-catalogue of photo mode captures to rediscover past inspirations, find flaws, and appreciate their progress with a little self-critique and reflection.
This time, it's a real pleasure to chat with SkallEdit and strap in people, this is a fascinating and emotional journey into some of the positive and negative aspects of working in the game capture industry. Take it away Skall...
First up, tell us a bit more about yourself and how you are involved in virtual photography
I'm Guillaume Peronnin, but people call me Skall online, and I'm from France. My involvement in virtual photography revolves around my work as a game capture & screenshot artist for publishers & studios where I capture games for marketing cinematics, gameplay sequences & screenshots using with free / debug cameras.
Virtual Photography is somehow what helps me to achieve this dream but, in reality, I have a background in games editing and creating cinematics in Call of Duty that goes back over 11 years. That's where everything started mostly, and it means I have a general preference for action shots.
- ATOMIC HEART // BY SKALLEDIT -
#1: More Than 5 Years Old
- >5 YEARS OLD // BY SKALLEDIT -
Game: Dark Souls 3 | Platform: PC | Date: 2nd March 2018
This is basically where my career started. At that time, I didn't know all of this could be a job, I didn't know what a screenshot artist or games capture artist was supposed to do, nor the abyssal difference between them, but because I had already years of personal experience making sniping montages and cinematic clips for Call of Duty teams, it was easier to adapt to than expected.
If you think about it, a screenshot is a single frame of a cinematic sequence, so it made things far easier for me – even if at beginning I was truly bad haha!
It was a time when I had restarted high school at 19 years old to get out of drugs & other bad situations. My dad helped for that even if it wasn't easy everyday. 4 years later and after a first time failing my final exam, I was really scared of failing a second time and I started to do screenshots of games instead of just doing Call of Duty cinematics, and so decided to get on Dark Souls 3.
After 2 weeks, I was contacted by Bandai Namco Europe to pass some test missions to become a freelancer for them. My final mission was on Dark Souls Remastered where it would settle my future and so decided to literally tell my school "You won't see me for a month", the month just before the final exam. In the end, I managed to get the job and pass the exam.
It was a bad time full of questions and being lost that turned into a magical and dreamy moment where I have achieved to not only make it as a living job in a country where no one was doing this, but also on such games like Dark Souls, Little Nightmares & TEKKEN to name a few.
After that, I've discovered the virtual photography community, full of nice people who gave me great time but also inspirations and being able to improve a lot on my skills & art.
#2: Like To See in Print
- IN PRINT // BY SKALLEDIT -
Game: Mad Max | Platform: PC | Date: 9th October 2020
"Desert of Tears" is not my best shot, but definitely the most important one I've made as it says a lot about myself. After learning from one if not the best reverse engineer, free camera creator, programmer, Frans Bouma – someone I consider as a really good friend & I trust 100% – but also from another really good friend in Ghostinthecamera who helped me several times, I started to hack games myself and hacked Mad Max to the bone.
At that time, it was a few months after my grandpa had passed away from a pancreatic cancer and I was falling deeply in a bad & depressed mood, you might say I did not have a good personality. I quickly realised that Mad Max could be particular for me, not only in terms of hacking as it's my biggest cheat engine table made, but also from a sentimental point of view.
This shot defines who I was at that time, someone broken, lost and not knowing where to go. I had a dream job, but I was alone constantly, and by constantly, I mean not seeing a single human beside a UberEats deliverer.
Like Max in this shot, I was alone with everything around. Standing there with no actual idea of where to go but still looking for the bright direction because my grandpa and dad always told me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter what you go through, you must go for it. Now I can tell myself that my grandpa is probably in a good place now and looking at me full of pride.
#3: Got the Composition Wrong
- WRONG COMPOSITION // BY SKALLEDIT -
Game: Splinter Cell: Blacklist | Platform: PC | Date: 19th October 2019
There are so many shots I've taken that are genuinely BAD in terms of lighting or character placement, animation choice or colours, but this one, oof! The idea is there, but now I look at it I wish I could have hacked the light on the right to move it slightly and give more lighting on Sam (the character in the dark) because at this moment it's just way to dark.
The shadow in the background has the huge problem and just looks weird to me now. It would have been better with some space between the character's head & the tip of the AK-47 to make a good separation but still saving the main idea.
The shot also doesn't contain any DoF which is again not good as it would have been interesting to get some defocussed blur on the dead body in the foreground & on the wall in the background to make it more "dangerous" & intriguing.
#4: Really Nailed the Brief
- NAILED THE BRIEF // BY SKALLEDIT -
Game: Lord of the Fallen | Platform: PC | Date: 20th October 2022
Ah man that shot. I had a hard time to pick what could be a shot where I nailed it on an "ok wow" point.
I wanted to pick this shot because interestingly it's a mix of in-game virtual photography that I used as "sketches" of the idea first, and then after that I worked directly in-engine (Unreal Engine 5) as a screenshot artist while under contract with CI Games & working with the team at HexWorks.
It was a serious challenge because it was the first time I had to work in-engine professionally and so used literally all of my skills into it as placing characters mesh, choosing their animations & weapons, reworking the pose of the animation frame I choose by playing with the rigs of characters, placing environments props like the trees, bells, dead bodies. Doing the entire lighting of the scene. Removing unwanted stuff in the composition, modifying the sky, adding 2D smoke and God ray, and even creating an entirely fake cape movement in After Effects by masking the cape & duplicating it with certain rotations to create this wind-like movement.
I just love this shot and will forever remember this incredible experience working in-engine & proving to myself that I have all capacities to do it after many years of 3D personal stuff.
#5: A Shot That Defines Your Style
- DEFINE YOUR STYLE // BY SKALLEDIT -
Game: Elden Ring | Platform: PC | Date: 10th April 2022
For whatever reason, I've always loved doing action shots from every possible angle and idea. It could be a car crash, "pew pew" gun fight moments, or more medieval style with swords or magic. I think it's because most of my life has been so violent, and that now it's very calm, I've saved all of this violence and transpose it in games to somehow turn pages of my life, it really helps.
That's one of the beautiful things of virtual photography art, it's to be able to tell a story with your shots if you choose to.
For this one, when I discovered the boss Astel from Elden Ring, I was like "I really, really need to do something with this one". At the same time, I wanted some sort of storytelling which I did with Rennala's magical attack that looks like a shield who could protect Ranni in front of her from the meteors of Astel.
I placed 4 version of Astel in total and hacked their positions to move there where I wanted. 3 are visible in the background but the 4th one is on the left doing meteors attack. Not only does it bring meteors into the shot, but also a lot of lighting on the scene which I liked a lot.
To finish it off, I put fake stars in the background and a radial blur on the near with a depth map composition in After Effects – even though you may usually hear about Photoshop being used to retouch images, after a decade+ using After Effects, I personally prefer to keep going with it for images.
Anything else that you’d like to add?
I have really liked this experience; the questions were interesting & more challenging on a personal side than I was expecting. I've been able to open my own personal soul book & give some pages of it to you. It helps me at this exact moment and is an experience I'm proud to share.
A lesson this taught me is, not only it's good to look back at your previous work to do a big introspection of what you could have done better, but also to remind yourself that you are not perfect. The perfect shot **DOES NOT** and never will.
Consider your trash shots not as a regret but as an experience to improve and do something better even years later. Analyse your scene, look at what happens in it, and try different things, but more than that, have fun and do not only focus on social media points as they can be a stressful & pressuring thing that will destroy the passion inside you.
- SKALLEDIT // SIGNATURES -
I would like to add and it's VERY important to me, a huge thanks to Frans Bouma, Ghostinthecamera, StephanieJ, Luna (Rimaeternax), & PVP who are very close friends to me, for the happiness and trust they give me. The Framed community & especially Jim2point0, who's probably the best TW3 shooter I've ever seen, Berduu (Petri LEVÄLAHTI) & Dread (Nemanja) for being such a huge inspiration and two artists I consider to be masters of this art.
I also thank ItsYFP (Pascal Grüner) for being such a fun but also one of the best macro & virtual photographers I know, and OriginalNicodr for being someone I consider as a friend but also someone who made me able to turn pages and learn things like how to speak to people and remain calm in certain situations.
And on a general term every friend I have in the industry who support me (you know who you are), my main client Bandai Namco Europe & all previous ones who gave me the opportunity to "shine" a bit in my career, and yourself Mik, as someone who not only accomplished something huge with The Virtual Photography Awards but also this stunning blog about photo modes. I have a serious amount of respect for you and can't wait to see more in the future.
Simply thanks everyone for your support over the years, for everything.
Thank you, Skall, for such a deep and quite moving trip into your virtual photography archives and how the art of game capture has affected your life. It's great to see that things have moved in such a positive direction for you.
I hope you all enjoyed this look back over the Virtual Photography Archives and if you enjoy Skall's work then please be sure to show your support on Social Media & be sure to check out his website for galleries of work or to get in touch.
As always, if you think that you would like to take part in future editions of the VP Archives, please get in touch as I would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading, until next time...