Behind the Scenes: Island Of Morel
The Sirens Morel stay young by collecting souls of the youth. They come in the night and steal you away. The only thing they are afraid of are kids who eat their veggies. Hear that kids, eat those veggies.
The shoot was a huge success and everyone involved did an amazing job. In total we had about 15 people in the studio for the duration of the shoot, which lasted about 6 hours.
Lighting tests were done before the day of the shoot, so we could have a good idea of what everything would look like, and spend time on other things during the shoot. The most important part of all of it is to make sure the models are comfortable and give the emotion needed for the image. It can be easy to focus on the wrong details when doing something like this.
Our model Jenna went through 3 different subtle changes of hair and makeup. Doing this made the final image a bit more dynamic and less like a cut and paste job.
Basically we brief everyone on the shoot, get them into character and let them go! Trying to pose people usually results in something that looks forced and static, but allowing people to interact with their environment and other actors makes everyone’s job easier.
If there is one big thing we have learned from working with models it is this: give them something to interact with. It can be another actor, an animal, a set, a prop, themselves. It really doen’t matter what you decide on. Doing this will allow people to act instead of model.
Building The Set
Our main goal with this set was to get the most out of something that wouldn’t be too expensive to build. We actually designed the lighting around that. You can get away with a lot more when you light an image well. As you can see from the images of the set without the studio lights, it really didn’t look that great in person.
Knowing what you can get away with is a big learning process. Generally if you back light something, you won’t have to make the scene as detailed.
We started out by building a wall the same way in which you would do if you were building a house. It is framed with 2x4s and covered with drywall. We framed a window with 2x4s and cut the drywall to fit. From there we added old lumber to the front of the drywall and into the interior of the window. Doing this gave a much more finished and three-dimensional look to the set, as opposed to just a hole in drywall.
The table we used is just a standard table, and we covered it with the same wood from the background to give it an older feel. As you can see, the entire left wall doesn’t exist. Instead, we used a large piece of black cloth. Knowing it was going to be very dark, and not the focus of the image meant we could cut some corners.
To prop it up we build large triangles, and leaned the entire wall inwards. More old boards were added to the triangle to hide it and add some dimension. Rope was hung from various places adding more detail, as well as giving our models something to interact with.
Having a set that is too frail, will limit what a model can do with it. I prefer to really build things, that way if we need someone to put their weight in the window, as you can see in the final image, we don’t have to worry about everything coming crashing down.
Lighting this image was a real challenge, especially knowing that it would look really bad if not done correctly. We knew we wanted to have 2 main light sources, one of them being the window, and the other being the soul.
For the soul we had to design a light source that would be small enough to be un-intrusive, but bright enough to light the models at a decent aperture. At first we started with a White Lightning X800 and a super snoot that was build from steel pipe. That method caused a loss of much of the light produced by the strobe, and we found that it wasn’t going to give us the exposure we wanted.
We decided to scrap the snoot, and build a smaller source, this time using a speedlight. A cone was made out of cardboard, taped to the front of a Canon 580EXii, and a ping pong ball glued to the end to produce a round light source. We also inserted a blue gel over the flash head to give us the color we needed.
The light outside is coming from a giant softbox, and a White Lightning X1600. This light is gelled with a 1/2 CTO to add some warmth. We also have a gridded strip light camera left coming from above the models to accent their hair.
Fill was 2 more White Lightnings with 7″ reflectors gelled full CTO hitting the ceiling on either side of the camera. These added a bit more warmth and made sure that the shadows were not going to complete black. They are about 1.5 stops below the main lights.
The dress we decided on weighs about 50lbs and is made from vintage fabrics. Getting this detail right was really important, as it would help to set the scene, and give a time to the image. Imagine the girl wearing a t-shirt and jeans.
In casting children for a shoot, it is important to think about what a child will actually do well. If you need something very specific from your models, doing a casting call is necessary. In this case, we catered what he needed to be doing to the fact that he is 11 years old and has never done this before. Tyler did an amazing job, and we couldn’t be happier with his performance.
Hair and makeup references were chosen weeks before the shoot so we could piece everything together, and find talented people who could create the look we needed for the shoot.
The image is actually pretty close to straight out of camera.
The original concept called for the same model to be duplicated over and over. When shooting, it was important to keep a reference of where everyone was going to be, so they would light each other correctly, and overlap well.
Putting them all in required a lot of masking, and some painting fog to blend seams.
The soul was modeled in Cinema 4d and rendered in Vray. Getting it to look like it was glowing, and had a lot of depth was important. When taking the soul into Photoshop, more glow was added, and final details were painted in.