Making Of

By Lucia Frascerra

The Making of - Before you go

The reason why I created this image is because a friend of mine asked me to make a poster for a theatre play he produced.
The play is called Fish Eye, written by Lucas Kavner. It is about the love story of Anna and Max - they live together in a small apartment in NYC and the play shows different stages of their relationship. One of the most crucial parts (and this is a spoiler) is when Anna decides to move to LA to study in college, leaving Max behind.
This was a very interesting challenge for me, because for once it was not about the architecture, but I had to give a feeling of the space and the personality of the people who live there, all using a fairly small canvas. You don’t see a lot of the room, but you still have an idea of what it looks like living there.
For the image I took inspiration from the play itself - the scene represents the moment when Anna is about to leave - the flat is messy, a box full of Anna stuff is on the floor. Every detail is studied to tell Anna and Max story, from the guitar to the passport and the dreamcatcher.
The 3d phase, in this case, was pretty straightforward: I used a very simple illumination with an overcast HDRI and nothing else to light the scene because I wanted the lighting to be as diffuse and natural as possible. The trickiest part for this phase was definitely trying to get all the details arranged in a nice composition, without the room looking too "overcrowded" with objects. 
Once I added all the details in place, the scene was pretty much good to render.
The hardest part was definitely getting the people right: when you use people as the main focus for a still image, it’s always a massive risk - you can have a perfect render, but if you add the people in the wrong way, the whole image is completely ruined. 
I wanted my people to be expressive, to tell a story with their body language, and interact with each other - for this reason, it was impossible to use 3D people or stock 2D people. The only option was to photograph them and who better than the two actors of the play to be my models?
Because my friend was producing this play, I asked him to put me in touch with the actors who were going to perform Anna and Max, the two main characters, and they were very happy to help.
The next problem was: where to do the photoshoot? I needed a sofa/bed and a big window for natural light to recreate the same lighting of the render. 
As a matter of fact, I didn't have a lot of space in my small flat where I was living at the time so I went to a friend’s place. The only issue was that the ceiling at her place was super low! the camera was basically touching it because the point of view of the image was very high.
The point of view was also quite unusual, it was not straightforward at all to get the perspective right - it took quite a bit of trial and error, especially because as you can see, I didn't have very advanced tools! I did a lot of tests using myself or a friend as a model, and once I was happy with the perspective, I just had to wait for the two actors to show up. The perspective needed to be absolutely spot on, otherwise the image would have been compromised.
Once the actors arrived the day after, the most interesting part was trying to make them interact in a way that could tell the story I wanted the image to tell: a few days before Anna leaves.
How would you feel if your partner decided to leave for another city very far away without even discussing it with you? well...I would not be very impressed! But that is what was happening to Anna and Max and I tried to put myself in that situation and I imagined different scenarios:
  • Maybe they had a fight so they are sleeping giving the back to each other
  • The same situation but with eyes open wide as if they couldn’t sleep
  • Maybe they wanted to fully enjoy the short time left and they are hugging each other in a very sweet way
  • or maybe she is peacefully asleep like she doesn’t really care, she’s actually quite happy to leave, while Max is awake and sad, thinking about how his life will change when she will be gone.
I decided that the option that better described my intention was the last one and this is the images I picked.
Because perspective and lighting was pretty much the same as the render at this point, I just had to add a little bit of contrast, contact shadows and colour correction to integrate the people in the image. I also decided to keep the bedsheets and the pillow to give an additional level of realism to the whole scene.
Hope you enjoyed this quick making-of! 
What is always good to keep in mind when placing people in interior images is that most of the times the people will become our focal point: our eyes are instinctively drawn towards human figures and because of that, they will realize immediately if there is something off with the way the people look - and this is especially evident in small interior scenes like living rooms/kitchens/bedrooms etc.
For this reason, we need to be particularly careful in getting not only perspective and lighting spot on, but also contact shadows, contrasts and colours need to match the render as close as possible.

A very special thank you to my super talented friend Claudio Salerno, the director of the play who commissioned the image, and to my amazing actors/models Carlotta Bazzu and Dominic Farrow.

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Very nice. Thanks!

The process was quite explanatory. I like how you took time to explore options for the couple. I agree with the picture you chose, it did give a feeling of sadness. Good job Lucia!

nicely done image and great write up!

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About the author

Lucia Frascerra

Senior Visualisation Artist at Secchi Smith

placeLondon, GB