Stacy goes Sci-Fi

Week 4 of the TGIF Weekly Workshop Challenge and “Sci-Fi” was our prompt. I’m very much into science fact, but have always enjoyed a bit of science fiction. But when I read this week’s prompt on the Discord channel my mind was a total blank. If I didn’t come up with something, sure, I could just pull out some Star Wars stuff and do that. But I didn’t want to do the obvious. It’s called the “Weekly Workshop Challenge” after all, it’s supposed to be taking us out of our comfort zones! 

Waiting for inspiration…

All week I was waiting for inspiration to strike…and nothing…until Friday evening. I was settling down for bed watching one of my favourite shows with the sleep timer on my TV. The show finishes and the channel rolls on to a film. “Westworld is up next”. Westworld? Isn’t that the TV programme about robot cowboys?! Nah, not my thing, never watched it…Wait, I didn’t know it was a film, when did that come out?” 1973, Wikipedia reliably informed me. Written and directed by Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame. And pretty quickly I could see the resemblance between the two franchises. Westworld is also about an interactive theme park where the technology quickly begins to cause a problem. With early quotes of “Nothing can go wrong” and “You can’t get hurt here”, a sense of impending doom quickly descends on the viewer.

The Gunslinger

Before I could scroll down much further, I saw the original film poster depicting Yul Brynner as “The Gunslinger”, one of the most villainous characters in all of film. His shirt and ‘skin’ is torn in various places, revealing his underlying robotic wiring, and his distinctive cowboy stance surrounded in a bright orange halo. The poster is really striking and definitely caught my attention. This was my moment of inspiration. I was going to recreate this film poster.

Westworld Theatrical release poster by Neal Adams

Breaking it down

Studying the poster I realised that this was going to be a good Photoshop exercise in using masks and effects, and while I am far from an expert I was pretty confident I had the skills to pull it off. I had a couple of cowboy minifigures, and I had various robots. I also had scientists and retro-looking characters that I could use for the panel and overlay images. The key part of this setup however was being able to accurately overlay the cowboy and the robot images, so that I could seamlessly mask out body parts between the two. And I had the perfect tool to do it.

A very simple scene to depict the main characters (John Blane and Peter Martin) on their way to the Delos resort. This is the circular image that appears on the Gunslinger’s chest.

A couple years ago I got into stop motion photography, and as my skills have improved so has my software. A great way to control how much movement you are making between each frame in stop-motion is by using “onion-skinning”, where the software makes a transparent overlay of your previous image on top of your live view. I do this using a programme called Dragonframe, and that’s exactly how I shot my figures for this image.

A gif showing the live view and onion-skinning feature of the Dragonframe software.

I shot my Cowboy first, spending lots of time fine-tuning his body position to how I wanted it. I then passed the cowboy hat and gun over to the robot and lined him up with the overlayed Cowboy. And I managed to get a pretty darn good match! 

Putting it all togehter

After that, it was time to move to Photoshop where I went through a very iterative process of selecting and masking various parts of the minifigures, and then with the circular overlay image and the image mask in the legs. I had a copy of the original poster as a template to use, but there was no way to make an exact replica (nor did I want to do that) as it would’ve hidden details in the minifigures. All the main elements are there though, with the logo and the lower part of the poster being directly copied onto my image. The time I would’ve had to put into recreating all that from scratch would just not have been worth the effort!

A series of screenshots showing the basics of how I shot, masked and built the film poster.

I stayed up on Friday and watched Westworld in its entirety. I absolutely loved it. Yul Brynner was incredible and terrifying. If you haven’t seen it, I would definitely recommend it (for UK folks it is currently on iPlayer!). And I am happy that I have created my own little homage to a classic of the sci-fi genre.

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2 years ago

Awesome behind the scene, Stacy. The Onion skinning approach is something I will have to try one of the days.

2 years ago

Thank you for sharing your behind the scenes, Stacy, it’s great to see it! :)

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