Thursday, 16 October 2008

Business Brain: Part 2

Last month, I posted the introduction to an assignment I was asked to undertake recently. The premise was to illustrate 'the business brain', with an emphasis on telephonic communication. If you missed the intro (Part 1), you can check it out here. As for Part 2... keep reading to find out how our initial thoughts developed into the resulting image.

OK, so having finalised the envisaged look of the picture, the next thing to do was make sure all the props were in place. As I said in Part 1, the 'brain' itself came courtesy of Ebay, but the question was - would it look right? How to decide.... hmm....? Obviously, we met up in a neutral place - in the car park of a local hotel on this occasion - to find out. Picture the scene then, as two cars roll up (under the watchful gaze of the hotel's surveillance cameras, no doubt)... Man 1 gets out of his car, greets Man 2 and partner, before producing brain out of a nondescript carrier bag and plonking it (technical term) on the rear of Man 2's car. Oh, how we would love to see the fuzzy grey camera footage from those few minutes - fame at last, eh John?!

Back at base, the only 'physical' things left to sort were the background and the spiral cabling which would be fixed directly onto the brain. The picture on the left here shows some early contenders - but none of them were quite right, and it was agreed that only a true 'spiral' cable (such as that found on telephones) would do. Sounds kinda obvious, but you have to try these things. As it happens, we actually decided to use the lead from an electric guitar, as this was nice and chunky (another technical term!) - an important factor to make sure it stood out in the picture.

With props sorted, then, it was time to think about the background. In order to create an infinity curve (a background with no 'horizon'), we went with a simple piece of A1 (24"x30" approx.) blue card which would offer a nice range of tones - from 'highlight' to shadow - dictated by the lighting. I already had this card to hand, and it turned out to be the perfect shade for our purposes. (I always keep a stock of backgrounds for small table-top arrangements such as these).

Now we're getting to the 'fun' bit - how to go about attaching the cable to the brain. In this picture, you can see the brain, cable, background card, wire cutters and... hair clips! Ironically, I have no other use for such items as hair clips (as colleagues testify all too regularly!), but these little pieces of metal did a great job of holding the cable in position. The process involved cutting off the rounded tips and pushing the clips into the foam-filled brain.

Here's a little 3-minute time-lapse video (shot on the G9, naturally) showing the somewhat labourious task:

Well done if you watched that all the way through - it really was that exciting in real life, too! But it's the result that counts so... you know...

Having put everything together, here is what the finished object looked like. Again, the G9 was used to take this quick snap to send off for approval (the picture also acted as a reference during the main shoot itself). Of course, the hair clips are clearly visible here; we got around this, ultimately, by using contrasty lighting and good old Photoshop to remove them at the post-production stage.

You'll also notice that the plugs are not shown in the picture. Nothing as drastic as cutting them off - they were simply cropped out of frame.

As for the lighting, we kept this really simple too. Ridiculously so, in fact - just one Nikon SB-800 mounted directly above the set-up on a Super Clamp, firing through a 2ft Bowens soft box (for a more diffused effect) and angled forward slightly. This gave a pleasing shadow underneath the brain, as well as a nicely graded fall-off effect on the background. Oh, and the flash was triggered wirelessly using a couple of Pocket Wizards. And yes, in answer to all you Strobist techies out there, I could just as easily have used the SU-4 function for this purpose.

Here's another time-lapse (somewhat more visually interesting, I hope!), showing how it all looked. Again, note the really simple arrangement - why complicate things?!

And the final result? Well, you've just seen the image itself (supplied in both colour and black & white), at the end of the video. As for the brochure - with text and bordering put in place, and a couple of final tweaks at the design studio, the final cover looked like this. Again, very simple, allowing the image and text to convey the message.

There is often a great misconception that 'studio' shots require grand set-ups, excessive lighting and high production costs. While this may be the case with larger projects, it does not have to be the case a lot of the time. Sure, on this outing the shoot location may not be the most glamorous - but so what? It is, after all, the resulting images that count. You'd be amazed how many 'high profile' assignments for large companies and corporates are actually shot in less-than-thrilling surroundings - but again, who's to know? And working on-site with our clients, using improvised studios, is a great way to get to know the way their businesses work, too.

If you have any thoughts or questions relating to this post, the shoot, technicalities or the way we work in various 'studio' arrangements, please feel free to air them in the comments section by clicking on the link below. Remember, it's all about sharing information and spreading the word - so it'd be great to get some discussion going!

Oh, and for more behind-the-scenes GBP videos, check out us out on YouTube.


zang said...

Nice Post
article rewrite

Giles said...

Many thanks, Zang - I'm glad you enjoyed it.