Thursday, June 29, 2006


How I do what I do*

I get a few emails asking me about how I make the things I make. One came in yesterday and I thought I'd put my response here...

1: Where did you get those eyes and afros and glasses and legs you post onto your characters? Did you make them? Do you take the pictures you use yourself?

I use a lot of my own photos. I take a camera everywhere and am exceedingly snap-happy with it taking anything that might be of use. My current database of source photos is sitting at around 15,000.

Taking photos for editing is different to taking photos for their own sake. You need to think in terms of component parts, as that's how you'll be using them. Make sure the subject is unobscured and that you don't chop bits off.

This current blog page contains numerous pieces from my photos. My eyes and a cork from a bottle of fizz I drank feature down the way. Jeremy (the wee purple guy on the swing) is swinging by the shore in South Queensferry. The sneezing tap comes from my bathroom. The strange horse is trotting past the Tate from a recent trip to London. And I really did meet that caterpillar.

I take a lot of photos.

The car you can see above belongs to a friend who was kind enough to take a whole batch of photos from different angles for me. It will be appearing in a Flash animation sometime soon - it lives in the same world as the hover chair man a couple of posts down.

There are also a few good, free stock photography sites about; Stock Exchange is a particular favourite of mine for when my own collection fails me. I use Morguefile too.

All my characters are patched together from a selection of photos and occasional drawn bits if I can't find them elsewhere. It is very rare that you'll find perfectly matching elements so the key is to find a hint of what you're looking for (such as some nice curly hair) and then edit it to fit your character (feathered cloning is your friend for an afro, for example).

2: What programs do you use?

I use Corel PhotoPaint to create my photobased characters, with occasional dips into The Gimp. All the animation takes place in Macromedia Flash, with optimisation in Fireworks if I'm creating gifs rather than a full animation.

2: Did you get a degree in this?

Heh, no. In a previous life I was a psychologist. I abandoned all that and have been working in the field of online silliness for a few years now though. From the emails I get I think I do more good now than I did then, so that's good.

* Of course, a more intriguing topic is possibly why I do what I do. But don't worry, I have no intention of trying to explain that anytime soon.


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