Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fantastic Voyage

Very deliberately returning to the utterly trivial....

I've been playing around lately with a Photoshop process called the "tilt-shift miniature fake" technique. It's definitely fun and I think the results look pretty cool.

I recall seeing photos a while ago by a photographer named Olivo Barbieri, who shot aerial pictures of famous places using a complex and expensive tilt-shift lens, which allowed him to leave certain parts of the image in focus and others out. One interesting side effect of the process is that it mimicks the narrow depth of field one gets when taking pictures of miniatures. In other words, it makes the real things look like models.

Just a few days ago I came across a tutorial for faking the same effect using Photoshop. I won't go into details--the tutorial covers it pretty well, although I tweaked it some--but here are some of my better results. Remember, these all began as actual photos of full-size objects. Some are more successful than others.

A parking lot by a rail line near Venice, Italy. To the extent this "works" (and this isn't one of my best ones), it's helped by the high point of view that matches the angle at which a person would look at a miniature model. I kept the yellow light pole in focus by masking it from the blurring effect; I think that really helps sell the illusion.

Cacti in Tucson, Arizona. The one on the left is probably 20 to 25 feet tall. Again, I masked the two tallest cacti to keep them sharply focused while gradient-blurring the background and foreground.

Generators at the base of Hoover Dam. One trick that helps sell the miniaturization illusion is cranking up the picture's saturation so everything looks overly bright and plastic. I love the garish yellow, orange and red that resulted in the far background.

My second favorite picture. This is the swimming pool at the Disneyland Hotel. I think this picture has a lot going for it. First, the high angle. Second, the lack of people that would give your eye something to lock onto and provide scale. Third, Disney landscaping is made to look cartoony and fake in the first place; the little pirate ship at center was intended to look like a toy, which greatly reinforces the illusion that it is one.

My favorite result so far. This is a small (but not that small!) ampitheater at the Acropolis in Athens. This one involved a lot of masking to keep the stone wall sharply focused all the way to the top of the frame. Then I had to cut out the little windows to let the blurry background show through.

I'm sure this is a technique I'll continue to play with. If you'd like to see more, there's a whole Flickr group dedicated to other people's fake miniature pictures (again, some better than others). Have fun!


L said...

Aww, everything looks so small! I want to learn to do that! So cool!

R said...

See, that's cool but how cool would it be to actually make actual models of those things?

The Drive-by Blogger said...

Those are amazing...ok, not the most insightful comment you're ever going to get, but it's true.

Royston said...

Just brilliant! The Hoover Dam one looks like some evil villain's lair from the Thunderbirds TV series. Thanks for showing these Brian.

BrianFies said...

Thanks for the comments. The "Thunderbirds" reference is just about perfect, I appreciated that. I'll try some more when I come across photos I think demand the treatment.

Mike Lynch said...

I completely stole this for my blog (with due credit).

Thanks, Brian!