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 Post subject: To filter or not to filter? Are CGI and photography really art?
PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:04 pm 
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To filter or not to filter? Are CGI and photography really art?

The splinter under my finger nail. The bloated testicle in my cereal bowl. Photoshop filters. People hate them on site. Almost as much as lens flares. It seems instinctual.

So a bit of background. I’ve been working on a Photo/CGI comic book.

http://crossovercomic.com/

Essentially it’s a movie storyboard with speech bubbles. People seems to like the writing for the most part, and I’ve gotten a lot of praise for the imagery and the use of CGI, but nearly [i]everyone[i/] complains about the filters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I really like it- but those filters look terrible.”

A quick breakdown of what I’m doing here:

Quote:
I start with digital photographs. Over the past four years I've amased more than ten thousand.
I use the photographs for three things.
First: My Characters are all shot in costume against blue screen. Thus far I only have one CG character (one of my other character's pets.) I have nine costumes now, the elf costume being the latest and far and above the most ambitions. It was made with tree bark, porcupine quills, modeling clay, sharks teeth, taxidermy eyes, and half a gallon (literally) of liquid latex.
Second: Textures. I try to use photos for all my textures. It helps blend the GC with the photo elements.
Third: Backdrops and sometimes foreground elements, depending on how many camera angles I'll need of the same area. When I shoot a location I try to get a few hundred angles so I'll have anything I might need.
I use photos wherever possible and only resort to computer graphics when I cannot logistically photograph the subject- such as a spaceship or a dragon. I've considered making scale models, but the ability to adjust lighting on the fly with CG proved more important the the greater realism offered by physical models.
I model in Rhino CAD and export to Maya for texturing and rendering. I also make both a high quality and low quality digital double for each of my actors in case I need a pose I didn't get during the shoot, or for shot involving dismemberment or death, or for things like creating an army.
Weapons and buildings are also created with CG, but always textured and referenced with real objects and buildings. Swords and guns are hard to match with the live action characters, but look much better than the props I originally tried to use. Now I have my actors pose with green wooden dowels that I just paint out in post.
The last step is Photoshop. Here everything is composited and matched for color and clarity. Grain is removed, blurred areas are sharpened, and sharp areas are smart blurred. I add blood, precipitation, shadows, frosty breath, glows and reflections.
For any close up shot of a character I paint in shadows based on a CG head I use for reference rendered in a separate pass with the CG lighting.
After everything is properly composited I use a complex combination of layering and filters to give the image a painted look. I've worked longer and harder on perfecting that effect than possibly any other aspect of the comic. No one filter does the trick so it took a lot of experimenting to get it right. The secret recipe is:
Quote:
Three identical layers.
Top layer- Find edges filter. De saturate. Set to color burn. Adjust Brightness +75, Contrast +25 Manually paint out certain areas (stars for instance always end up black)
Middle layer- Remove from original document. Increase size to 3200 x Height. Smart Blur at radius of 10 and a threshold of 25. Run water color filter. Add back to original document.
Bottom layer- Unchanged from original. Adjust the opacity of the other two layers to the desired level.

The last step is to add the text bubbles. Which I always compress at a separate, higher level to maintain quality. The script for the first book is 144 pages and is translating to about two pages of comic for every one page of text. The script took me seven months to write, twenty two drafts, and more than eight hundred pages of notes. I'm still stuck on the last fifteen pages, but I'll finish them eventually.


Those this is obviously A LOT of work. And if I want to finish within my lifetime, I need to find ways to speed up the process.

The filters cut my production time in half. HALF! They hide all my seams. Without them the compositing would be painfully obvious. Like a pop-up book. Worse than the cover of the National Enquirer. I don’t use them because I prefer them but because I need them. The only alternative is to spend hours and hours in photoshop painstakingly masking each seam by hand.

I even get people accusing me of “cheating” -trying to pass my work off as hand drawn when it isn’t. WTF?

Unless someone has a better idea. And so far I’ve gotten a lot of criticism but no suggestions. It’s killing me. I need a third option. Anyone?


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:38 pm 
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You could try not caring.

Personally, I value a sense of volume rather than seamless integration for a fumetti comic like yours. knock it off with the filters, and at least your humans will look more realistic.
Have you looked at my buddy Kieth's work? He gets around it by desaturating everything and adjusting the contrast.
http://www.crateronthemoon.com

Honestly, though, if you've established that it's as good as it's going to get, and you're doing thye comic for artistic fufillment in the first place, just stop caring and ask for input on only the story/pacing/plot stuff explicitly.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 8:57 am 
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First of all, fuzzy, the effort of what you're doing is definitely not diminished because you are not drawing or fully generating your images in one medium. This is definitely more than simple collages cut from magazines.

The fact that you are going out on photo shoots to get some of your backgrounds and even your actors really impresses me. Current professional comics are using paintovers of photographs, and i don't think the medium suffers because of it.

I understand why you're using the filters, but the honest truth is, they are killing your whites. A lot of the lovely detail and contrast in the photographic work is being eaten up by those black lines.

The solution is likely going to be more complicated unfortunately. The desaturation option that spools pointed out would simplfy some of the problems with edges, but part of the attaraction of your comic is the colours. You could recolour after desaturation, of course, but once again this is going to increase the time it takes.

To be honest, If the unfiltered pages are the step before the filtered pages you showed in <a href="http://forums.kyhm.com/viewtopic.php?p=314586#314586">that other thread</a>, i really like the pages pre-filter. While the detail on a few shots may be a little lower (or the lack of detail a little less hidden by all that black) They are much richer in light value, and somewhat more comprehensible to view. Instead of trying to hide the fact that you're using composite imagery, show off the effort you're going to constructing each of these frames. The final product does not suffer for it, at least not in my opinion.

In the end, if the only complaints you are getting is from the art nerds in this forum, and your normal readers enjoy your comic, then the use or modification of the filter process lies ultimately in your hands. How do you want your comic to look?

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 Post subject: Re: To filter or not to filter? Are CGI and photography really art?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 10:06 am 
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Fuzzy Modem wrote:

The filters cut my production time in half. HALF! They hide all my seams. Without them the compositing would be painfully obvious. Like a pop-up book. Worse than the cover of the National Enquirer. I don’t use them because I prefer them but because I need them. The only alternative is to spend hours and hours in photoshop painstakingly masking each seam by hand.



Well, that's what you'll have to do, really. There's no feature anywhere along the lines of "pres butan seamlessly integrate CGI and photographic imagery". Nobocy ever said making comics was easy! As it is, though, all of the time you put into what you've got already is sort of being wasted, as everyone will look and go, "yick, photoshop filters", instead of noticing all the nice modelling and design-work you have got.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 2:01 pm 
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You're not going to please all of the people all of the time.

And right now all of those people are posting in this thread.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 5:12 pm 
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OmnipotentEntity wrote:
You're not going to please all of the people all of the time.

And right now all of those people are posting in this thread.
As a poster, you have to start the thread strong and end the thread strong. You can't be like pancakes. All exciting at first, but by the end you're fucking sick of em.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:01 am 
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speaking of filters, http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic


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 Post subject: Kids...
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 5:24 am 
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Wow, a thread that de-railed on the first post.

You're not arguing the ideas of art, you're arguing your process.

Really you're justifying the fact you don't want to put in all the effort of cleaning up an image and have found a cheap and effectual way of presenting your work that seems different.

Which is fine, as said you can't please everyone so don't bother. Just do what you got/want to do.


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