Movie Unit Promotional Stills Photography

The Making of a Poster

So the team behind Tech Hunt have finally released the main poster for the film! (click for the full-size image)

Tech Hunt Movie Poster

Unsurprisingly, this is a poster that contains photos I’ve taken! More surprisingly, is that I created the whole image! One is not normally tasked with creating posters, they tend to be crafted by professional graphic designers. However this time the director Chris Cronin was clear that he wanted a single photo to be the key focus for poster, rather than a graphic heavy collection of different images that is frequently the case.

Believe or not, the final result looks almost nothing like the original photograph! So, for the sake of shameless self-promotion, lets go on a journey of discovery and learn about how this poster came to be! Find out how we went from nothing but an idea – to this:

Originalwebby

Then from that image* how I created the final poster!

Before The Shoot

“Marc. You’re going to take a photo of a rough cowboy lookin’ type leaning against a shot up wooden wall. Red light shafts will be running through the bullet holes. I don’t care how. You have an afternoon in a farm to make it happen.”

The whole shoot was also highly experimental, we had no idea how it was going to turn out! Mostly because we were all primarily concerned with the filming of 30+ horses and the stunts they were performing, planning for the photoshoot was low in the priority list. We had no choice but to figure everything out on the day and then decide how to tackle any problems in post-production.

No matter how busy I am, there'll always be time to take vain self-portraits.

No matter how busy I am, there’ll always be time to take vain self-portraits.

Performing The Shoot

It was a cold time of year. Very. Cold. The air was filled with flurries of snow and icy drizzle. Me and my crew were also exhausted from several days of filming horses causing all types of mayhem from the back of a pick-up truck. However the job needed to be done, otherwise a lot of money was going to be wasted.

Having spent the past few days shooting in this farm, I had a rough Idea of the kind of props and locales that were around for us to borrow. There were numerous barns, sheds and buildings about the place, however the owners were not going to be particularly happy if they found us drilling bullet holes through their favourite horses stable, so we had to think quickly and creatively!

Terrible weather aside, I needed to have total control over the lighting, so an external location was not the answer. We also needed lots of space and zero daylight.

Luckily, we had the perfect location for my needs. There was a large stable with a dirt floor!

See how it's pitch black in that stable? That's how I knew that light pollution won't be a problem in there.

See how it’s pitch black in that stable in the background? That’s how I knew that light pollution won’t be a problem in there.

All we needed now is some kind of wall to lean our actor against. This is where we were really lucky, the farm had a few disused buildings and the owners were generous enough to let us have a dive through their old junk where we found an old wooden barn door! Short of permanent structural damage to their property, this was the best we were going to find.

I'll admit, it's not quite a wall, but the barn door did an excellent job of playing the role, great acting.

I’ll admit, it’s not quite a wall, but the barn door did an excellent job of playing the role, great acting.

So the basics were starting to take place. We had a location, some lights and a dressed actor, from here on, it was all down to making sure everything looked good and was suitable for later editing. My plan was to create a series of locked-off photos where we blast out some smoke and move the lights behind the barn door around so that I could merge rays of light together in photoshop later.

Glamorous.

Glamorous.

Reflectors are a great way of producing soft lighting when lights are limited.

Reflectors are a great way of producing soft lighting when lights are limited.

Post Production
So we’ve taken the pictures and got the assets we need to make the poster, now we just gotta piece the puzzle together. First of all, to prove that the idea doesn’t look hideous no matter how much work I put into it, I threw together a proof of concept. I created a normal coloured photo and a pink/red version and blended the light rays.

Production still from the set of Tech Hunt. All rights reserved.

It’s pretty rough, but it proves that the red rays of light could be created without looking like utter trash when more care is taken. Obviously we quickly decided that it would look better to have the whole scene looking red rather then just the shafts of light.

Feeling confident that hacking everything together would be worth my time, it was now a case of collecting a number of photos where the rays of light played nicely and extend the wall using various wood textures I had previously taken pictures of at the farm.

Boy, what a task that was!

This is my workspace, there are many like it, but this one is mine!

This is my workspace, there are many like it, but this one is mine!

The final .TIFF file is a whopping 350mb large and consists of well over 100+ layers. I’m sure there are graphic designers laughing at these pithy little numbers, however considering the most I do to photos is cover up blotches and liberally splatter colours about, this is a huge job!

I’ll spare you the boring gory details about the edit, there are plenty of sterile tutorials online that you can fall asleep to if you want, however I will give you a glimpse into the magic that took place. Rather than using words, let me show you a graphic of the various stages the poster went through. It reads left to right, from top to bottom. Hopefully this wont ruin the magic and show me up as the terrible photochopper that I am.

You really do need to click it.

CLICK TO EMBIGGEN!

One of the biggest jobs there is actually really hard to witness in that image, late on in the process we decided that we should shift the actor about 6 inches to the left, forcing me to create details that were never there before!

So there you go, another glimmer of faint light in the dark and dangerous world of working as a stills photographer. If you have any questions, (or even want to hire me) feel free to email me at marc@marchankins.co.uk.

*This photo has actually been manipulated pretty heavily already, but it’s the first coherent and recognisable photo compared to the final poster.

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