HOW WE DO IT
We will give you a quick explanation on the process used to make an image for a backdrop. It took about 2 years to develop the equipment, software, and procedures that we now use. Our scenes are shot with equipment we designed and modified for use only on the types of images we produce. It is photography, as in not being a computer generated image (cartoon look), but not photography like taking a 35mm slide. It takes us 1/2 to 3 hours to photograph a scene, and in searching for the right location, we are lucky to get 3 shots in a day when on the road. The image is then processed on computers designed for this application, much larger that your home PC, using software that we developed. The final image is .8 to 1.5 gigabytes+ (1,500,000,000 bytes), or more depending on size, about 1000 times larger than a normal scan of a 35 mm slide and 20,000 larger than the expanded image on our web site.
The image definition is greatly enhanced from the original raw image from the field. Many times on location, we can't see what we are shooting. Only after processing can we see what is in the image and sometimes it's "WOW", and sometimes it's "scrap that one". We shoot images 1/2 to 10 miles away to get the flat continuous look. Our images don't have the fish-eye or bowed look that you find in images shot with conventional panoramic cameras plus the resulting panoramic image is much lower resolution than from our process.
Once the image is complete we remove the sky, again using our software, clean up digital artifacts, correct color and brightness resulting from different sun angles over a long scene distance and fix the scene to look real. Our own Eastern or Western gradient sky is used behind the scene and our clouds are placed on the sky. We use real clouds that are processed slightly different from scenes but then clouds are low in detail. It takes 2 to 4 days to produce a scene master. All scenes are then reduced in resolution from the master and copied into 20 variations for print size and scale ready for printing.
Why our process is unique. click here
|Locating the right scene and spot to stand
has been a learning experience. On our trips we drive around
looking for the right view for agricultural, hills, mountains or
commercial. We need to be at least 1/4 mile from what we are
shooting so the image will be flat, not bending away. Locations
that wrap around us are especially good and are hard to find. The
angle of the sun is important, made worse by the scene horizontal
distance, sometimes several miles. We try to avoid bright spots mixed
with shadows. Equal brightness over the entire scene length is
preferred. Another problem is moving clouds and wind. It takes
1/2 to 3 hours to shoot an image and clouds moving across the land make
life difficult. The worst is wind. Wind at our location is
bad enough as it tries to shake our equipment, but wind on trees 2 miles
away is impossible. We can't see what is happening until the image
is processed. Trees that move make for a blurred image as you can
see on a few of our scenes. Some trees are more sharp than others
and some are clearly blowing.
Then there is the heat problem which causes a ripple in the air at long
distances. This adds a blurred look to everything.
Shooting across a river gives us a flat scene as in not up and down, and nothing between us and the target. We need at least 90 degrees of unblocked space, no trees, power lines, buildings, anything. For larger scenes ( 48 ft.) we need close to 180 degrees with a wrap or curvature of the target around us.. This requirement eliminates most locations as a potential. Next time you see a great shot for your layout, see if it has a 100% clear view for 90 degrees. Probably not. Most are 20 to 30 degrees and have something in the near view like a tree or power pole. Also, the bottom has to be flat, not up and down or near and far. We can't bend the print for bumpy landscape. We like scenes that taper down at both ends.
Don't forget scaled objects. What is in the scene has to be scalable for N thru O. Trees or buildings closer or much larger than the primary target can throw off proper scaling. Try shooting very tall buildings located near 4 story buildings, backdrop results won't be good. A target distant of a mile or more helps, but usually you'll find haze and pollution making for a low contrast blue image.
And then there is depth of field. If you are shooting a target 1 mile away and in the foreground is a field with wheat, you can't have the wheat nearly as high as the distant trees and blurred because of a narrow depth of field. Then a greater depth of field means a smaller aperture with longer exposures and more risk of shake and blur. In short it takes experience to pick a location that will work. In 1999 for us only 1 in 10 shots were any good, now 2 in 3 work.