Monthly Archives: October 2011

More with HDR

I actually wrote the HDR post about a week before I posted it: I’m trying to be better about pacing my posts.  I’ve been antsy about it going up ’cause I think it’s interesting.

That antsy-ness, plus avoidance of the Daemon mess, motivated me to fiddle with stuff some more.

I changed up the lightbox arrangement a bit. First, I swapped out the Pegasus terrain with the prepainted Ruined Chapel piece since it’s got a bit more varied color in it (and the neat stained glass effect).  Then, I worked my way through my images folder to find suitable backdrops and printed out a couple of them on 11×17 paper. Mounted them to foamboard and hit them with some Dullcote to cut down on reflection.  Finally, I replaced the white drop cloth with a black one.

Then, I took some more HDR pictures, matching up a few different HDR apps.  Here are the results:


Deathwing Techmarine: 

(Next time, I’m just going to do row & column headers.  I think that, by this point, we know the second row is post-I’m Feeling Lucky, right?)

Anyway, what do y’all think?

My observations:

  • I’m Feeling Lucky doesn’t actually seem to do the Pro HDR images any favors.  Interesting.
  • Looking at these, I feel like Pro HDR produces images that are too bright.  (Mind you, I’m just talking about the macro photography that I’m doing here.)  
  • I’m waffling between preferring the results from HDR Fusion and the camera in HDR mode.  I think I like the regular camera in HDR mode run through I’m Feeling Lucky the most.
  • The other thing is that this setup works for 40K and other sci-fi minis… it’s not terribly appropriate for Fantasy minis.  If I stick with this, I’ll probably have to pull something together for that.
  • That could be a fun project: building a photo setup for each army.  Hrm.

Adventures with HDR

I feel I need to preface this with a disclaimer: I’m not much of a photographer.  Photography’s not my hobby: taking better pictures is, for the most part, something motivated solely by my desire to better present toy soldiers that I’ve painted.

Also, HDR is a thing that’s been around for 160 years, with software-based approaches being invented while I was still in high school.  So, this is nothing new… but it’s new to me, and that means it merits a post. :)

I’d never heard about it until I saw a post that HDR Fusion was free for a day.  Free’s my kind of price, so I grabbed it and immediately learned that it’s terrible for taking pictures of cats.  (Because they barely sit still long enough for one exposure, nevermind two.)

The short version is that, rather than taking a single picture, you take multiple pictures at varying levels of exposure, then run them through a process that pulls them together into a single image: the dark parts are darker and the light parts are lighter, resulting in a more vibrant, interesting result.

I really love this example from the Wikipedia article linked above:

There are some more gorgeous examples here.

Inspiration seized me to try it out on minis.  Unfortunately, I was at work, so I only had MOTUC figures, and not minis, handy.  Here are the results: the same figures photographed using the normal camera and the HDR function, with both images run through Picasa’s I’m Feeling Lucky.

As I’ve mentioned before: Picasa‘s I’m Feeling Lucky makes everything look so much better; given how negligible an effort’s involved, everyone should be using it.  Really.

Still, this… was not very impressive.  I actually think the Normal + Picasa looks the best out of the four, but Gygor’s undeniably a much more vibrant neon prehistoric Eternian ape warlord in the HDR + Picasa shot.

I figured that this is because they’re just in front of the bland, off-white my office walls are painted.  For HDR to produce interesting results, it probably needs contrasts: more brights to brighten against more darks to darken.

So, after I got the dining room table cleared off (amazing how messy the house can get when everyone but the cats is sick for a month) and the lightbox out to photograph the Ratwyrm, I figured I should grab some terrain and fiddle with HDR some more.  Here are the results. (Make sure to click through to see them at the full resolution.)

Warlock Engineer:


(I’m glad I only did the two: pulling together the comparisons in GIMP isn’t difficult, but it sure ain’t fast.)

I stuck them on some Pegasus terrain; it definitely made a difference.  For better effect, I probably should layer some terrain to obscure the white backdrop (and consider replacing the white with black, but I don’t know if that won’t just change one boring background for another).

As expected, I’m Feeling Lucky made everything better, and I think the HDR results (modified by Picasa or not) look better than the normal photographs.

In both cases, the HDR produced warmer results.  It’s even more pronounced with the Engineer, because I took his “Normal” shots with my the camera I normally photograph minis with (which means it got the setup I normally use for mini photography); all of the Librarian photos were taking with the same cameraphone using the HDR app.

I think that, in both cases, the Normal (unmodified) produced truer colors, but I don’t think any of the other shots distorted them significantly.  Rather than some of the crazy effects that I linked to above, I’ve gotten fairly accurate pictures of my minis, just more striking.

Another thing to consider is that these HDR images were done with HDR Fusion: the phone’s camera natively supports HDR (apparently), and I’ve read that Pro HDR is the go-to HDR app.  Never mind the fact that this is all being done with a freaking cameraphone.  A real camera would be sure to produce even more interesting results.

What do y’all think?  Useful?  Interesting?  Helpful?  I’m curious!  Maybe if there’s enough interest, I’ll put some different HDR apps up against each other.

What’s wrong with the Ratwyrm?

So, like I said the other day, I’m pretty unhappy with it.  There’s just a lot of missteps.

In a way, I’m okay with that.  I did 95% of the conversion work on it two years ago.  I’ve gotten a lot better since then (though I’d definitely got a long way to go).

I’m also relatively pleased with the painting.  Painting large things is definitely a weakness for me; painting large fleshy things even more so.  The wings came out pretty well, all things considered.

Anyway, let the parade of failures begin!

Using the old bell was a terrible idea.  It weighs nearly as much as the rest of the model; It requires a freaking paperclip to support it.  I give myself a pass on this, as I did the conversion quite some time before the new kit had come out… but I still should have considered removing the metal bell and replacing it with the more impressive and easily workable plastic bell.

More importantly: what the hell was I thinking when I rotated the bell that way?  I absolutely should have had the symbol facing forward.  Having it face the sides was a boneheaded move.

The tail is a more recent addition: I slapped it on there a few weeks ago, just before painting.  It’s rough.  I clearly need to work on my greenstuff skills a lot more.  I started at the base of the tail and worked my way towards the end in batches… as I went, it got progressively better, which is heartening, but the overall result is one I’m dissatisfied with.

I ended up using Rat Ogre hands ’cause I’d misplaced the Dragon’s claws.  I like the result a lot, but getting it to work was pretty difficult and, in the process, resulted in a pretty severely mutilated right front paw.  I covered for it by painting the incredibly bad greenstuff as boils.  I think it worked out okay, but it’s going to keep bothering me.

I dug the notion of having rats hanging on the wings… but I don’t think the result worked out very well.  I dunno.

I mean, I can always find stuff wrong with minis I’ve done, but there are just so many goofs with this thing.

Just tripped carrying his Daemons coming up the stairs.  About half of them are broken.  Stuff’s broken off at contact points.  Stuff’s just up and snapped.

I don’t even know how to process this just yet.

Ratwyrm! Finished! Tremble, man-things!

I’ve been working on this guy forever.  Like, for over two years. (No exaggeration!)

I started in on the conversion several moths before the new Skaven book came out.  Originally, it was supposed to be a Screaming Bell.  Then, it sat around six months, waiting for me to crack open a Plague Furnace so I could stick the Grey Seer on it.  And, after that, it sat around another year and a half before I did anything else with it.

From Day One, I’d meant to take the Bell Ringer from the last Screaming Bell and have him, hanging by a chain, swinging from the side of the Dragon.  Then, at the last minute, I decided it’d be too dang much trouble.

(From Stuff of Legends, used w/o permission.)

As I said, he started out as a Screaming Bell.  With the new book, I considered rebasing it onto a wider, Bell / Abomination base (since I can always run him as an Abomination), but it was sure too be too much trouble; that bell’s metal and needs the pin for support (and that thing was an enormous pain.  Besides: I’ve never really run the Bell: I ran him as a dragon in last years’ Dragon Wars; this years’ tournament was the motivator for painting him up.  He’s spent most of his life as a dragon, so on a dragon base he’ll stay.

On with the photodump!  (It’s kind of a hassle that it’s as large as it is: it’s tough to photograph the whole thing.)

What’s awesome is that, as I’m writing this up, I’ve spotted a few things I missed and need to clean up (painting the pin black, washing the wires on the bell).  

Anyway, here’s the finished product.  As it turns out, I’m very unhappy about a number of things about it.  I’m going to throw this up here, fishing for praise, and then on Thursday point out what’s lousy about it and any of that praise is misplaced. :)

Ratwyrm WIP

I keep taking pictures of this thing but being too busy to post them.  Grr.

Anyway, Dragon Wars is next weekend, so I’ve got a week to wrap him up… which is totally doable.  At this point, it’s a few details, metallics and the base.

Painting Progress – 20111009

It looks like I’m finally near the end of whatever the hell it was I caught at Blob’s.  Not only is that objectively fantastic, it means I can actually get back into the swing of things.

I’ve spent the past couple of days prepping Dreadfleet; I’m looking forward to painting that stuff up!

Unfortunately, I’ve still got one (not so) little thing to paint up for Dragon Wars at the end of the month before I can start on it.

The wings are taking forever, but I keep telling myself that that’s okay: it’s 2/3rds wing.

Lopsided Rear Ranks

In pulling together a “things that drive me nuts” post, one of the items in the list was “Lopsided Rear Ranks.”  The above unit’s an example of this: the models in its rear rank aren’t centered across the unit.

When I’d see this, I’d say something like, “Come on, man; you’ve got to center your rear rank.  It matters for supporting attacks, templates, charges.  You’re just supposed to be centered.”

Well, as it turns out I was totally wrong.

Removing Casualties (pg 5)
Some of the models in a unit (probably quite a lot of them) will die as the battle progresses.  When casualties occur, models are removed from the back rank of the unit.  If the unit is reduced to a single rank, casualties must be removed evenly from either end of the line.

You only have to start keeping things centered when you’re down to a single rank; until then you can pull from wherever the heck you’d like.  So, the above formation is just fine.

I imagine that means that if you want to shift guys to the left or right (without being charged in the flank), you probably need to make a Combat Reform test, but still…

Anyway, I just learned something new and I’d been doing something wrong: of course I had to share it.