lunes, 27 de mayo de 2013

Making of "Check your six !! the image

I am going to explain the process I followed to create the "check your six !!" image. The process is very similar for all the images I make composed by several pictures.

The first step is to define the general look of the image. Usually I search between my pictures looking for inspiration. Sometimes I have a great background, like the "Stormy approach" image and I look for subjects to fit in it or would be the opposite, like in this case.

I had a dog fight combat scene in mind.

I had been at the Spanish Air Force museum in Madrid and I took a lot of pictures of fighters.

Among the pictures I chose this of the McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom.

I love very close looks because they put the viewer into the action.

With the main character chosen I started to look for the background. I have a lot of pictures of clouds because I work as pilot and I always take the camera with me.

With the F4 in mind this background seemed  appropriated.

Sometimes the pictures match perfectly in my mind but later, when I place them together, the result is not so good, so, to avoid useless work I place both together and create layer mask to get a rough view of the final mix.

Then adjust the position and size.

If it looks fine I cut the F4 from its original backgroud.

I usually cut the aircraft from the original picture at full size and the change the size and position.

I am using the pen tool to do it because it is the most precise method I know. Specially with congested backgrounds. I create a path and then make a selection from it with feather radius of 1px. Then apply a layer mask.

With this mask is easy to recover or delete parts from the original picture.

Sometimes I have used the quick selection tool, when the background is clean, like in a clear blue sky.

You can use whatever tool is best for you, the objective is the same, remove the original background.

I also removed the landing gear. It does not make sense to fight at the speed of sound with the landing gear down.

With this two pictures the result looks fine, but to create a dog fight scene I need a second fighter.

I searched among the pictures and found the right opponent, a MIG-17 Fresco. This aircraft is contemporary of the F4 and both maintained real combats during the Vietnam war.

I did the same process I followed with the F4 and created a layer mask to check the suitability of this picture before  doing the hard work of removing the background.

I had to flip horizontally the picture to place the F4 at MIG's six.

With the main elements of  the composition chosen and placed in the scene I start to work in the final look .

Beginning with the background I remove the  lower right windshield with the "Content aware fill"

I have applied Nik Color effect 4 "Detail extractor" and "Bleach bypass"

I had to work on the upper left cloud because it was to flat and had no detail. So I cloned some cloud texture on that area.

I applied the same effects to the F4 and the MIG 17 to get the same look that the background.

In this case, the colors matched almost perfectly without any special adjustment. The aircrafts pictures were taken at midday, under bright sun, which is the case of the background.

The shadows on the aircrafts look real for this background.

The light and shadows are important subjects to consider when choosing the pictures for the composition. It does not look real to have strong shadows on a cloudy day.

Now I pay attention to details.

The aircrafts must have pilots. So I looked for pictures of aircrafts with pilots in the cockpit.

For the F4, I chose an F14 tomcat. It is a two seat aircraft, like the F4, and the position of the F14 matched my F4.

I created a layer mask to hide everything but the pilots and the seats.  Then I applied the layer mask to remove the unwanted parts.

 After that I placed them over the F4.

With the pen tool created a path of the F4 canopy.  Converted the path to selection and created a layer mask so the pilots seem to be behind the canopy.

Unlink the layer mask to the layer so you can move the pilot to adjust their position.

Change the blend mode to "soft light" and the pilots will look like they are inside the aircraft.

The rearview mirror and its reflection was also created with a portion of sky and the pilot's helmet that probably would be seen from viewer point of view.

This reflection is created following the same steps I used for the pilot and changing blend modes and transparency to find the most appropriated.

The MIG pilot has the same process.

Another detail is the F4 afterburner.

The F4 is on pursuit of the MIG so the engine should be at max power. I searched for an afterburner picture and adjusted its position to the F4 nozzle.

I had to clone some flames to make them larger. Place the  flames over the F4 and create a layer mask to hide the unwanted parts. In this case I did it by selecting the nozzle and applying a white mask. 

Sometimes, the selections make a sharp transition between the ubjet and the backgroud looking  pasted and unreal.

To get a more realistic look I refine the layer mask and feather it to approximately 5 px. This amount can change depending on the pictures.

I had to blur the MIG a little bit to take it out of focus. I used the Gaussian blur.

The focus of the image is on the F4 and a sharp MIG makes the scene look unreal with everything in focus.

 With everything set, I created a merged layer, Shift Ctrl Alt E, I am a PC user.

Changed the blend mode to Multiply and applied a white layer mask. it makes the image darker and increase contrast.

I painted with black over the F4 with a soft brush to make the F4 brighter and brig the attention to it.

An this is the final result.

I highly recommend the following books

Photoshop Compositing Secrets

Photoshop Down and Dirty Tricks for Designers
by Corey Barker

The Adobe Photoshop CS6 Book for Digital Photographers
by Scott Kelby

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