So… I’ve gone and done my usual no-update for months at a time trick. Sorry about that. I’ve been a tad distracted by keeping the lights on elsewhere… elsewhere being my Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/LensboxZaNet and a Facebook Group, called Project MUSE (a little endevour that I am keeping closely guarded for now).
I have been uploading photos to the page for public sharing. I had thought to post them here too but honestly, the effort involved for the number of photos outweighed any benefits I think I might gain from the additional exposure.
As you may recall from my last post, I’ve met and subsequently gotten quite involved with the local cosplay community. Great bunch of people. Honestly have fun at the various gatherings of geeks.
I’m trying to help out where I can, either by taking photos, offering what little advice I can (considering how little I know about their craft) or simply supporting from the sidelines.
Last night, however, I had one of my usual insomnia inspired epiphanies… and ended up posting this tonight after putting thoughts down and trying to structure them a bit:
So I was thinking last night while trying to fall asleep (a regular early hours of the morning occurrence)…
Would you folks be interested in doing online character planning discussions with input from other cosplayers that may have played the same or similar characters and then get input from the photographers and videographers amongst us about how you might pose, etc.?
It might work something along the lines of this (please excuse the 3rd person perspective referencing for the sake of the example):
Margeaux says she’s working on Orianna, for example, and wants help with poses.
Tim offers to do a little research and get back to her with ideas (which I did, out of band).
Tim does some research and stumbles onto the background info for Orianna on the LoL Wikia (http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Orianna/Background) which talks about her, her dreams/ambitions, etc. and her demise and subsequent resurrection by her father as a clockwork construct, etc. More specifically he reads the bit about her being seen as a soulless and empty killing machine, etc. while her father still sees her as the perfect daughter. A deadly marionette.
Tim mentions this to Margeaux who likes the idea of “soulless eyes”, etc.
Considering that effective posing is more than just technical positioning, requiring emotion to help convey a story to the audience, we want to consider the following when planning some shots:
1) Poses will be largely drawn from Margeaux’s dancing background and she will provide most of the technical accuracy herself (it’s not like I have the training, nor the frame, let alone the required flexibility to have her mirror me during a posing session!). Ballet dancers, by nature have “legs like steel, bodies like silk”, meaning, if I were to hazard a guess, that their legwork has to be the foundation of everything they do, providing the strength, support and dynamics of the pose, while the rest of the body has to be far more fluid and elegant.
So we have the basis of the dance poses down and now we can tweak the character portrayal…
A clockwork construct, by its nature, is unnatural. It doesn’t move or behave 100% like the thing it’s meant to emulate, no matter how skilled the craftsman. There will always be a rigidity to some of the movements; ratcheting of internal workings, as gears move and stop, etc.
We’ve seen it in many portrayals from various robotic characters in Doctor Who, Robocop, Terminator, Star Wars, etc. A movement started is often ended in a visible termination of motion as internal workings attempt to arrest inertial forces. There is very little ‘flow’ to the movement and the jerkiness of movement is often exaggerate depending on the size and weight of the part being moved. To show Orianna’s clockwork construction, we need to depict it with more than just the outfit and makeup/special effects, etc.
Now, for motion capture (video) that is perhaps easier to do. You exaggerate movements and then forcefully stop them through muscle clenching/tensing, etc. You would also overact subtle movements. Like motion tracking, for example. Rather than moving eyes to track a moving target, you may turn your head and upper body, etc. continuously orientating on your prey.
To photograph this is perhaps more difficult because you don’t necessarily want to show muscle tension. But, you can remove some of the natural fluidity of a pose by ‘straightening’ certain parts of the body that we may normally curl instinctively. Hands, specifically fingers, unless they’re holding onto something. Feet. Think of an artist’s mannequin and pose that as you would the dancer and you’ll see what I mean. There is only so much twist and bend to ball and hinge joints before something doesn’t give. We don’t realise how soft and flexible we are until you try and act like something that isn’t.
2) The next aspect is facial expression. Now normally, for portraiture, you don’t want to stare down the lens as it creates an unnerving effect for the audience. In this case, however, we want that. Imagine a soulless marionette gazing, perfectly expressionless or perhaps with a serene porcelain smile (just the way her father remembers her), directly into the lens. The thought certainly gives me the chills (yes, dolls creep me out!).
3) For finishing touches, other than the outfit which needs to accommodate the pose requirements and of course any props required (such as The Ball), add some lenses, a picture perfect styled wig (no loose strands, etc) and smooth pale makeup to add to the doll illusion and you’ve got a pretty damn convincing portrayal…
So how do we photograph this?
There are multiple elements waiting to be captured here.
Firstly, the character herself; from the outfit, to the makeup, there is a lot of detail that we can capture to show the technical aspects of the cosplay construction. And for this, all we really need is good light and maybe an appropriate bit of background to shoot against. The character doesn’t necessarily lend itself to ‘cute’ pictures so lower angle shots to create a statuesque feel may work best to capture the essence of the champion.
Then we have the dynamic poses. Action shots, be it combat or dance. Victory or defeat shots with other LoL characters. Resting shots; perhaps she gets curious about something and stops to inspect it further. Or something that shows a bit about her past before she becomes a champion and was still human.
These become a little more challenging because you need to frame both the action and the character in a manner that doesn’t detract from both. For combat poses, this may require focus stacking or shooting with smaller apertures to keep everything in focus, which in turn means that you may need to hold a pose for a bit longer than a second at a time. Angles will also come into play here. Looking at some iconic action shots, a lot of them have the model turned 3/4 to the camera, and shot with slightly lower angle shots (think of some of the classic Bruce Lee shots).
For dance shots, if you want to highlight the dance pose itself, you could do any number of shots (e.g. backlit silhouette, side-lit low-key or omni-lit high-key full body shots) and all of them should work but they will highlight the pose instead of the character so you need to decide if that is your intention or not.
Now this entire interaction has been between two people and based purely on a brief bit of research that did not include gameplay or source video footage which may add additional inspiration or negate all my theories about the posing.
Now add in, for example, Allan, who is my resident strobing guru. He may shoot down all my lighting theory or he may expand on it and help me capture some truly unique dance motion of the character through some subtle changes of lighting setup. Then along comes Lelanie, with advice on which contact lenses (and surrounding eye-makeup) to use for the intended effect. She might also suggest some attack-stance behaviour of characters with certain stylized contacts (i.e. vertically slit irises tends toward ambush-type predators where as round-irises tends toward predators that run/chase their prey down). Anneke then adds some input regarding special effects make up (maybe showing some exposed clockwork workings, etc). And so on…
Get where I am going? It forms the basis for discussion… And it might not all come together in one evening, let alone one week, etc. But I hope that as people take part and start adding to the conversation, options open up for the cosplayer that originally posted requesting advice.
Now, as with all things, there may be some criticism (preferably constructive) amongst the advice and feedback, but hopefully everyone that chooses to participate can remain civil and be helpful to eachother 🙂
Let me know what you think. And apologies for the TL:DR wall of text. See, Justin, I told you I was verbose…
I’ve gotten some interesting reactions. Most of them about the length of the aforementioned rambling wall ‘o text. But also some interest in the idea.
Let’s see if the seed germinates or not.