BTS – The Diner

I will probably say this again and again but I am feeling more comfortable with Gimp with each of these ‘exercises’ that I do. Using layer masks was initially somewhat daunting but now that is becoming second nature and greatly simplifying the task at hand by minimizing the ‘glow’ that I was struggling with image. That ‘glow’ was a side effect of using a mask to cut out pieces and replacing them with bits that were cut from another image. That was not the case this time.

The first photo is the base that everything else was added to. Christi plays both the customer and the waitress but there is only one of her…

 

Part 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 2

The second image is identical to the first except Christi is now playing the customer.

While examining photo 2 to determine where the customer would be snatched and added to the first photo I noticed that her long mesh skirt didn’t behave so nicely when she was sitting. I considered how to best address then and settled on taking another photo that was identical except she is wearing the short version of the skirt to which I copied bits from the previous photo and applied them where they should have actually been then manually touched up some areas to make it all fit.

Part 3
Part 3
Part 4
Part 4

To create a more realistic scene outside the diner where the light would be much brighter, everything inside the diner was de-rendered and windlight was tweaked to brighten it up.

After applying a gausing blur to the previous image, a layer mask was used to replace the areas that were being viewed through the windows. Another layer mask was used to create shadows were they were missing.  It is when I went to fix the shadows under the table that I realized the windlight settings I used washed out the marble texture in the floor so it took a bit of work to repair that.

Final Image

BTS – El Sombrero

As simple as the story line around this photo was, creating the image was no small deal for me.  I would guess that I easily spent 12 hours preparing for and creating this image. While processing I completely started over once, corrected an issue I saw as much as possible and repeated the steps I knew well by then.

Anypose and Lumipro were both used though in the end, the only thing Lumipro was used for was to animate both avatars through the Lumipro sitball. Anypose is proving to be a godsend because in most cases I would never find an pre-made pose that would fill my need and I would have come to this conclusion after many hours of shopping.  Additionally, I have the option of adding any that might have a wider appeal to my marketplace.  (which I do anticipate doing)

In the beginning.  For “El Sombrero” I required a store to sell the subject hat. I could find nothing suitable in Havana and even traveled to several similarly themed sims but found nothing.  So, I started building a store. It didn’t take long to figure out that I don’t have the building skills to build anything  as realistic as I am demanding. I do now have some not-bad Havana style prim columns…that will probably never be used 😀

With that settled, I returned to Havana and found this building that I felt I could make in to my store if I could rez. Joining the Havana group in world for L250 gave me rez rights. With so many ideas for pics on this vacation, I could have made the previous images easier had I joined the group earlier.

The initial image was photographed with my video settings set to Ultra and the windlight setting as indicated – Nam’s Beach Scene is the initial preset. The only adjustments made was in the time of day and angle.  I was looking for something shortly after noon so the sun is nearly straight overhead.

Original Capture - El Sombrero
Windlight settings - El Sombrero

Havana is a very colorful build.  In most of my pics so far, I’ve felt it necessary to tone down the colors. This would be no different.  Additionally, to make the image more realistic, I needed different lights inside and something to fill the bare walls.  It because quickly obvious that I would need four layers to work with

  1. Aedan
  2. Store Front
  3. Display (w/Christi)
  4. Inside Walls
Attempt to create a mask in world

Using the trick I learned from Natsumi, I rezzed a prim inside the building, pulled it up close to the windows to block out Christi and the display that was already in place. I realized at the time that by pulling it so close to the wall, I lost the windows in the doors.

This wasn’t the only thing wrong with this mask – I failed to notice that the prim wasn’t tall enough to reach to the top of the windows. Though I went back in world for a second chance I wasn’t able to get the camera, viewing angle and Aedan all positioned in the exact same spots again. In the end, I had to piece together several pieces to create a functional mask.

Display Mask - El Sombrero
Aedan's Mask - El Sombrero

And so the journey continued…level adjustments, saturation tweaking, fixing missing shadows and wardrobe issues.  When the inside walls were darkened several issues came to light around the masking. Basically, I had to start over and redo some things to get back to the same point.

When I ‘thought’ I was finally done, it became apparent that all of the masking made the glass in the windows hardly visible….and on such a bright day, wouldn’t there be reflections?  I had an idea in my mind about what would be in the reflections but once I got back in world and moved inside the building, it became obvious that Aedan’s reflection would not be in the window beside him.  In hind sight, it probably wouldn’t be where it ended up at either because the column between him and the door would keep that from happening.

 

View from the pugh - El Sombrero
Reflections - El Sombrero

In the end…I’m basically happy with this image. The windows are too clean – that is bugging me a bit but not enough to change the image since it has been posted to flickr.

Like everyone of these, I feel I’ve learned a lot that will make future edits move more smoothly.  Above all else though, this was fun.  Can’t ask for much more than that.  Now, on with the next adventure!

Bienvenido

Checking in
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Aedan stood in near silence at the door, only the distant rumbling of waves breaking on the shore and squeals of gulls broke the silence yet didn’t break the calm.  He knocked at the door again but with a bit more effort this time.

“Ya voy, ya voy!” came a feminine voice from behind the door even as the door cracked open to the extent that the attached chain would permit it. Brown eyes at chest height to him peered out the door at Aedan.

“Yo soy Aedan Charron” he almost got out before the door closed again.  There was the fiddling of metal on metal then the door opened wide.

“Of course you are!”  The woman, Aedan guessed to be in her mid 50s blurted out as she stepped out the door, looked both ways up and down the street then ushered Aedan in. She reattached the lock after he and his suitcase were inside.

“We didn’t think you were ever going to make it.” she went on in perfect english with only a subtle Spanish accent. “You must be beat. Would you like some coffee?  I just put the warter on the stove.”

“No…no thank you. I’d really like to get unpacked and cleaned up first.”

Aedan hadn’t known what to expect from his sponsors. The entire arrangement was made through the travel agency.  That her english was so good was a plus. Aedan hadn’t practiced Spanish since high school though he tried to refresh a bit when it became clear that he would spend is vacation in Cuba.

“Of course.” She said  “Take your time, I’ll make more if you wish, later.  Your room is at the top of the stairs“ She looked back over her shoulder and called “Juan! Ven aca!”

“This is my son, he will take your bag for you.” A boy of about twelve years of age came from the other room and she went on in rapid Spanish that Aedan wasn’t able to keep up with but as the boy reached for his bag.

“That’s ok, I can take my own bag.” He smiled at the boy with his most sincere “gracias” but didn’t let go of the handle.

Juan looked at his mom for guidance which she gave. He ran off, seemingly pleased that he wasn’t needed.

“Aqui, this way, then.”  She started up the stairs giving Aedan no choice but to follow.

The staircase was narrow and winding. On more than one occasion, Aedan struggled to turn the corner without his suitcase hitting the wall.  On the third floor, the woman opened the lone door at the top of the stairs, entered the room and after a quick glance around invited Aedan in.

“I hope you find everything to your liking. After you get settled in, come on down for some delicious Cuban coffee and tell me about your plans. There is a lot to see here and I can help you find it all.”

Aedan set the suitcase down in the first empty corner he saw in the small room then thanked and assured her he would be down after bit.  When she left the room and closed the door behind her, Aedan breathed a sigh of relief, truly alone for the first time in over 24 hours.

The room wasn’t large but it was comfortable. The bathroom reminded him of the classic cars on the street. A little worn but well tended to and clean. The main room was simple but clean with a double bed, night stands on either side, a small table and chair in the corner with two more chairs and table on the opposite side. Through french doors at the far end, Aedan could see the balcony outside.

Pulling the french doors wide open was like removing the entire wall from the room and outside that wall was a perfect view of the beach across the street. He was happy to see a chair and table set out here as he expected to find himself there many times.

Closing the french doors behind him, Aedan put his suitcase on the bed, opened it and began unpacking. He found a small closet adjacent to the bathroom and hung the few things he brought needing to be hung – including the jacket he was still wearing.  He finished unpacking then stripped down to nothing as he opened the water valve to take a shower.

The hot water wasn’t.  It was a bit above room temperature but not much.  This made for a shorter shower than Aedan was used to but it still felt good. Once he stepped out and began to dry off, the feeling of relaxation really moved in. The thoughts of laying on the bed if only for an hour were tempting. It had been a tumultuous day with little sleep and now he was well into the next. Maybe he would but first, he had to try to call Cathy again.

As assured by the travel agent, when Aedan looked at his phone, he did have a signal sufficient to make his phone call. It would be a roaming charge but that was better than nothing at all. Hoping to increase the signal a bit, he moved onto the balcony. Cathy picked up on the third ring. She was barely up at 6:15 on a Saturday morning but she had been anticipating his call since she had missed attempt to call her.

“Aedan, he is very nervous and wouldn’t tell me where you should meet him.” She described the conversation with his contact in Havana.

“Well, I’m here now. He knows where I am staying, right?”

“No, he didn’t want to know.  He insisted that I didn’t tell him anything. He has a plan, though.”

Aedan nodded to himself “of course he does…and what is his plan?”

“There is a store in Havana. In the window is a hat that he wants you to buy and wear. He said he’ll find you.”

Aedan didn’t like the idea “A hat? Like a flag for all to see?”

“Yes..but he insisted it must be that hat and nothing else from the store.” She responded then gave him the address.

They talked for a few more moments but Aedan was wary of saying much more in case anyone else was listening.  When the conversation was done, he moved back inside and stretched out on the bed. It was comfortable. Most anything would have felt comfortable right then. He closed his eyes and thought to himself that a quick nap was in order.

The Struggle is Real

What to do?

This is somewhat of an update to my progress toward my goal here. What I’m finding that there is always something to learn, that can sometimes be difficult and the struggle is real. On the other hand, there is some feeling of accomplishment when something new is learned.

In the last few weeks, I solved the problem I was having with my computer ever since adding a video card capable of displaying the graphics available in SL.  It was rebooting at the worst times – like when I’m trying to tweak the windlight setting after finding the pose I want and getting the camera set. Usually, I could tell it was coming because the fan speed on the video card would pick up. Of course, there was some concern that the video card wasn’t wasn’t all it was hyped to be but the fact that the machine was sometimes stubborn to power on and that I had struggled once before to get it to power up long before the new video card convinced me it was something else.  I had visions of purchasing a new, better motherboard…an opportunity but another expense.  In the end, I identified a connector that wasn’t fully seated on the motherboard and since addressing that, everything has gone great on the hardware side.  Now I could get back to focusing on my abilities.

Though my last image was, I think, a technical success in that three images were combined to make the one with little noticeable flaws, I wasn’t happy with the image itself…with the contrast or with the shadows. Most of the short comings are likely my own ability or lack of them while using Gimp. Last week, I stumbled upon a post on Flickr by Natsumi Xenga about a live editing session on youtube which really got my attention. I enjoy watching how others work.

 

I began with the oldest video and have been working my way through. It wasn’t long before I gave into the temptation of taking the Adobe plunge and trading in Gimp for Photoshop.  I have literally spent a full day trying to remove green pixels from the edges of images after trying to use a green screen background. I watched youtube videos that showed how to do this in 5 minutes in photoshop.

After signing up for a 7 day trial of Creative Cloud, I got to one of Natsumi’s videos showing her process in world and how she creates a mask to remove the background with an image from SL and then puts it all back together.  This is exactly what I needed. It is really the biggest shortcoming I’ve found in Gimp so far and here was a way to do it without Gimp or Photoshop. A few videos more of others complaining about Adobe’s monopoly and aggressiveness (which I was already aware of on the corporate side), I removed all the Creative Cloud apps and canceled my subscription before it began.  Back to Gimp 🙂

So, I’m not certain if this is 2 steps forward and one back or just three tiny steps forward but still the progress is forward and the next image of Aedan’s Spring Break is in my head so it’s time to get back to work.

Illusions

Aedan meets himself - several times
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A fog that lasts for a week with no retreat, that seeps under door and down stairways should disrupt the mood of anybody. Yet, today Aedan felt a bit of sadness as the sun pulled back the curtains and fully immersed everyone and everything for the first time since he arrived in this town over a week ago. It was though an old friend had left while he slept without saying good bye.

In any other circumstance he would have been overjoyed to see the sun. His vacation had been delayed and he was stuck in a town in which he didn’t know anybody before arriving. And frankly, Aedan had always preferred the sunny tropics to the cold north. However, things had worked out well. He warmed up to the locals who were nearly always bending over backwards to make him feel at home.

When he learned that one of the cases he was trying had been rescheduled and that his physical appearance was no longer necessary, he made arrangements to work remotely until the fog lifted and he could make his flight.  His associate Cathy was quite capable and Aedan imagined she probably relished the idea of ‘being in charge’. Without the typical interruptions of the office to deal with, Aedan re-evaluated all of the cases in his office and when prudent, communicated his concerns back to Cathy. He felt way ahead of the game and physically, was also feeling better than he had in years. He was ready for a well deserved vacation.

It wasn’t long before he had all of his bags packed and after verifying with the airport, the time of his departure, Aedan set off for a final walk along the waterway. He had seen it many times now but none with the sun shining.

Approximately halfway between his hotel and the cathedral housing the tall statue that caught his attention on his first day out,  there was a small sitting area in an open garden that had become a favorite spot for him. It was secluded and he had never once seen anybody there. Best of all for him, it was surrounded by a small, block faced garden wall which he found very convenient for leaning against while sitting in meditation.

On the floor of this small patio was etched roman numerals indicating the hours of a clock along with smaller divides between each hour.  It seemed an odd place to paint a clock face but it was a perfect place for meditating and with three hours to kill he thought a perfect place to spend the rest of the morning also.

It was no surprise that he found the patio empty other than the table and chairs that sat in the center. With the sun shininig it was a brighter white than he had imagined and all around, in the heavy trees that surrounded the area, birds sang in celebration of the sun.  It seemed that not everyone here preffered the fog.

After the relaxing walk, Aedan wasted no time in finding an open spot on the outside of the wall and sitting with his legs crossed, he leaned back against the wall and turned his palms up as his eyes closed. Not only did he prefer to have some support for his back while meditating, he had given up long ago in trying to sit in a lotus position. He simply hadn’t started this practice at an early enough age he told himself. Normally he would set a timer on his watch for 45 minutes but since he had plenty of time, he didn’t bother.

After years of meditating almost daily, Aedan still dealt with the ‘monkey brain’. Often he felt that he was just doing something wrong. Occasionally dozing off and finding his head nearly in his lap was another struggle he dealt with. At least he wouldn’t fall backwards with the wall behind him. Occasionally he would hear conversations in his head or see things but he was never quite sure if they were day dreams or important…still he persisted if only because he always completed a meditation session feeling rested.

When he began hearing voices today he was sure he wasn’t dreaming. He knew exactly where he was and that he had never seen anybody there over the last week. Thinking it was just his monkey brain having fun with him he practiced letting the voices flow into the distant road noise and singing birds.  They were just notes in a beautiful orchestra.  But they persisted.

There were three voices, one a child and the others adult men.  He tried to ignore them but soon came to realize that one of the voices was his. A smile filled his face as he told himself in yet another voice in his head that surely the monkey was having fun today. He sat third party to a conversation that he was participating. It was both amusing and unsettling because he couldn’t feel any of the thoughts in that voice. He played back and tried to change the conversation in his head but it went on and payed no heed to him. Finally he gave in and just listened.

As he listened it became quite apparent that the three of them knew each other very well. As they talked, a curious feeling came over Aedan as the child’s voice became more familiar to him.  Maybe it wasn’t the voice but the questions he asked and his responses…they could have been his own at a young age. At some point Aedan tried to join in on the conversation but nothing he thought changed the course of their discussion. He tried again but only grew anxious when he was ignored. Finally, in frustration he spoke out loud “Oh! Just stop it already!” and decided this meditation was over. The voices stopped but he had opened his eyes and was pulled himself back to his feet.  He brushed the dust off the seat of his jeans and turned around.

On the other side of the waist high wall were three people sitting at the table not 5 feet away from him. To his right was an older man that resembled his father but directly facing him was a man that could have been his twin! Nearest to him was a young boy who had turned in his chair to face him. Aedan stood their speechless. They all smiled at him.  His mind raced as he looked at each one again. He hadn’t really seen his father the last few years of his life but this is how he imagined him to look before he passed some twenty years prior. The boy was a spitting image of the photos his parents had kept of him in the photo albums that got pulled out every Christmas. His gaze turned back to his twin. He stared and thought “this must be a dream”.

“No, no it’s not. Come sit with us” His twin voiced and motioned to the one empty chair around the table.

Completely overwhelmed and expecting to wake up at any moment, Aedan made his way around the wall to the entrance of the patio. He looked at each of the three of them very closely as he slowly approached the table. As he took a seat in the chair a feeling of joy came over him. It was as if a huge secret was being shared with him. He was barely able to speak as he listened to them one by one.  It’s not that they wouldn’t have given him the chance but they answered all his questions even before he voiced them. As he listened he realized that he already knew the answers, he just hadn’t fully appreciated their implications. He simply sat in awe of what was being revealed to him.

“Mr. Charron! Mr. Charron, wake up!”

Aedan grasped for his breath and opened his eyes to find the young clerk from the hotel shaking at his shoulder.

“Hurry or you’re going to miss your plane!”

Image submitted for the Media SL contest

Media SL Contest – Behind the Scenes

Image submitted for the Media SL contest
This way!

This was the first contest I participated in on flickr.  The prize for fist place, 20000L would make up for a significant chunk of what I spent since going down this path.   …Lumipro, new head, body, skin and the works for Christi. Additionally, after spending so much time trying demos for Christi I had become much more comfortable with tossing unwanted bodies and heads out the window and staring over that when I realized that Christi would be embarrassed to be seen with Aedan, it was necessary to get him a new skin also.  This lead to (in my mind, anyway) a reason to toss Aedan’s current skin which I had so carefully selected only a couple of years ago when trying to choose something that would more accurately fit my RL age. In the end, the desire to have Aedan and Christi working as a team won out.

Anyway, back to the contest!

A dispute about which way to go when the Media SL sign appeared was the concept from the beginning. A desert scene seemed perfect. Placing the sign so that it would be seen in a realistic manner dictated the intersection with a forced turn. Finding the backdrop was relatively easy though it is huge. To make it useable I had to cut it into 6 pieces…or so I thought.  In hind sight, since so little of it was in the shot, I could have made it vertically shorter and shown much more of it in the photo.  It would have made for a much more interesting background. Windlight was used to move the sun to the correct angle to match the shadows in the backdrop  and I attempted to bring the light down a bit though looking at the result, it could have been reduced more.

The fact of the matter is that this was very much a learning experience and every moment was worth it even if I win nothing. When I couldn’t get the shot I wanted in the beginning without exposing the edge of the backdrop, rather than rethink the shot, I decided to use a green screen and add the background in gimp. Four hours later I was still removing green pixels from everything from hair to brush branches. When I began seeing other ‘issues’ that would have to be manually fixed it became evident that I could spend another week on this image and still hope that nobody noticed the technical shortcomings.  That is when I finally decided to start from scratch and created a scene that did not need to go behond the edges of the green screen. There was still some touch up required with the biggest pain being some of the bushes that were set to bright even though they were near white. Those I disabled and set them to colors picked from their vicinity.  After all of that I noticed that Christi’s height wasn’t set correctly because her platform heels weren’t projecting any shadow.

When all was said and done and I had an image that I felt I could work with for the contest submission, I determined to get a shot of the entire set before I boxed it up.  Somewhere in there came the idea to also get a pic of Christi in the car.  Something went wrong there. Before I knew it I had several pics of her and I in the car but none of the entire set. I had just boxed everything up all without a photo of the set.  Too late.

Better luck next time!  ..hopefully that won’t be my motto after this contest ends but hey! that’s fine too!

Since there was no story involved with this post and it really is a ‘behind the scenes’ post, I won’t add the additional page this time. The image was taken on a platform above my lot and the rest you already know…even though Christi wasn’t supposed to be out of the closet yet…

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