Space Baby / by James Whitaker

So, last week I finally finished my series of images Space Baby, and they are now selling through Getty Images. I've been chipping away at them between commissions and they've been great fun to create, so I thought you might enjoy a little break down of what went into making them.

Each shot was sketched out before hand. Sometimes this was a quick pencil sketch and sometimes a very dodgy bit of photoshop, as below. As these were never intended for public consumption I didn't worry about spending too much time on them, they were really just for blocking out the principals of the shot - the camera angle, lighting etc.

We did all of the photography work at the brilliant Cloud & Horse studios in north London, and with a rough idea of the shot that we were after we could set up the studio to give us the right lighting conditions. However, unlike when I was shooting Jennifer for the Tokyo penthouse we couldn't be that precise - a toddler just doesn't stand still that long. We had to be far more fluid and adaptable.

Back at the computer I was able to make my selects from the shoot and begin the hard work.

The first step was to place the photograph of Jack behind the model in 3DS Max. I could then move the virtual camera into the right position so that model and photo would align. With the camera setup and locked in position I could then work on the 3D model, adding detail where it would be seen without wasting time on stuff that would be out of shot.

With all the shot modelled up I then went back to Photoshop to mask out the background in the photograph of Jack. In the instance of this photo I had to use 2 or 3 photographs and composite them together to remove any trace of gravity and me holding Jack.

There was then a little back and forth to double check the camera angle and lighting in the model before rendering out the final image of the spaceship. This was then taken into Photoshop where it could be combined with the photograph of Jack.

I render out my computer images as 32-bit images in multiple passes so that I can adjust each element (reflections, refractions, lighting, etc.) in Photoshop. This is particularly important on images like this to bed Jack into the image and adjust the little details that make him look like he's actually there rather than just pasted on top. 

Every detail was carefully embellished to give the series a comfortable real world feel. For instance the magnetic letters were modelled from scratch and then textured with a Vray SSS2 material. This material allowed me to give the plastic that slightly translucent feel that you get on some children's toys, which then glows a little when it's back lit.

Jack's spacesuit brought some unique challenges, particularly for someone who specialises in architectural imagery (which is normally hard and rectilinear). In the end I took a model of a small boy and tweaked it to give him the proportions of a toddler. I then rigged the model with a skeleton in 3DS Max and exported that to Marvellous Designer. In Marvellous Designer I could then use the toddler model like a mannequin and slowly craft the spacesuit over him. With the fabric parts of the spacesuit finished in Marvellous Designer I then animated the mannequin back in 3DS Max to move from standing to the pose for each shot. I then took that animated mannequin back to Marvellous Designer and animated it while it wore the spacesuit. The spacesuit was then finally taken back to 3DS Max for texturing, to add the hard elements, and then finally adding it to the rest of the scene.

If you have any questions feel free to ask them below and I'll do my best to answer them for you.