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 Interview with El Burritoh of Tied The Leader

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PostSubject: Interview with El Burritoh of Tied The Leader   Sun Feb 15, 2009 12:07 pm

Most of you remember when Luke posted an announcement with links to El Burritoh's panoramas?

Well, I was given the opportunity to interview El Burritoh from Tied The Leader.

-- AmX15

What got you started with creating panoramas?

I had done panoramas the same way with photography. One day when I couldn't fit all the H3 action I wanted in one frame, I decided there wasn't any reason why I couldn't just take multiple shots and merge them. The H3 camera is free from the trouble of real-world cameras, so it's pretty easy.

What do you look for when creating panoramas?

This is entirely subjective, like anything creative. Personally, I look for an action situation that is interesting. Most of the time, this involves multiple players duking it out where the outcome is undetermined. That seems to create the greatest emotional weight, when you've got players shooting at each other and you don't know who's going to win. Will the shotty win? Will they escape with the flag? Etc. But the composition has to work. There could be a really great action going on, but simply no way to capture it in an interesting way. If that's the case, I leave it and move on.

What do you do to make your panoramas more sophisticated?

Not sure what you mean by "sophisticated," but I'll explain my main process. Once the image is merged and cropped, I'm ready to consider filters or color adjustments. I invariably adjust the dynamic range by messing with Levels, Shadows & Highlights. You want good detail in the shadows, and wherever your main action is taking place. It's no good having an image with something cool going on if you can't see it because it's too dark or too bright. Other effects I might add are Depth of Field effects using CS3's Lens Blur and a mask. But that is pretty tricky depending on the image. Sometimes I'll add a slight gradient Adjustment Layer over the entire image, change it's blending mode, and adjust it's color to slightly colorize part of the image. I keep that subtle though.

Are there certain effects that you add to your panoramas to give them a more realistic appearance?

Sometimes I add the Depth of Field effect mentioned above. You can use the Lens Blur in CS3, along with a mask, to really make this work. The mask is indispensable, but can be tricky to create.

Are there certain things that panoramas should have (action, color, etc.)?

This totally depends on why you're making the image and what your goal is. If you're wanting to make an action shot, you'll need an interesting piece of action in it, obviously. If you're doing a scenic panorama, your goal will be a little different.

Are there any specific techniques that you use when working with Photoshop?

I often duplicate the base layer, desaturate it, and set it's blending mode to Soft Light. This has the effect of instantly adding interesting contrast to your image. Then I use the Shadows and Highlights tool on the Soft Light version to balance out the dark areas so the image isn't too dark. The desaturation is optional here. It just keeps the colors from being too extreme. Also, if I can, I will frequently tweak the colors of armors in the image to make them stand out a little more. I usually just use the Replace Color command for this. Another technique I like to use in moderation is adding a slight vignette to the image. This effect makes the periphery of the image a little darker and helps dar attention to the main scene.

What gave you the idea to create your first panoramic shot from Halo?

I was taking a screenshot of a cool action scene and couldn't see all of the action in one shot. That made me think I could simply take multiple shots and stitch them together, like I do with my photography at times.

How long have you been working with Adobe Photoshop CS3?

Since it came out a few months ago. But I've used Photoshop for years now.

Can you outline some of the specific steps you take in editing a panorama in CS3?

I think I may have answered this in the section above. Let me know if you need something more specific, or if there's something you'd like more info on.

What tips would you give to a beginner Halo panorama creator?

Take your time to find a good composition! Composition makes or breaks an image. This is true of any framed piece, whether a photo or a painting for example. If you're doing an action shot, look for scenes that create an emotional pull. This isn't an absolute of course, but it helps strengthen the impact of the image. The best way to create that kind of pull in Halo is to show a scene that has an indeterminate outcome. Alternately, you can go for a simple "cool factor." For example, let's say you just hammered some guy on Sandtrap and he's flying away. A shot of the hammer-guy as he's just finished his swing, like a batter at a baseball game, and the poor victim flying away, could be a cool shot. The outcome is determined, but it still looks cool, right?

What was it like playing against Bungie?

It was good. They know how to slay! The CTF game wasn't much of a challenge because they don't practice team plays as much as we do. But the slayer games were a lot tighter. We've been able to catch a few more games with them since, but on the same team, giving them the benefit of a TTL-Gunslinger escort for team games. They're great guys!
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