Monday, October 9th, 2006
When is a photo not a photo? How about when it is a virtual snapshot from virtual space?
On a whim this summer I picked up a relatively inexpensive 3-D rendering program named Easel. It's by a German software company that also makes a series of higher performance rendering and animation programs used to create a suprising range of images and animations.
I recall when digital photography became commonly available - first as computer software that allowed images to be digitally manipulated, then as digital still cameras that could capture actual images. Digital image alterations are now commonplace - from improving sharpness and boosting color to removing wrinkles, reshaping waistlines, and making McFood look palatable. In the 'old days' (BD = before digital), when you had to rely on film processes, your options were limited to lenses, filters, and exposures on the camera side, dodging and burning in the photo enlarger, and time in the developing bath.
I remember National Geographic admitting a few years ago that they had altered their cover photo by moving the sun closer to the horizon to create a 'more dramatic effect.' Very recently, a photo editor for a major wire services was fired after he (clumsily) added more smoke to photos from the recent fighting in Lebanon - once again to increase the sense of drama (without requiring him to get closer to the actual fighting).
Getting back to the software - you can create arrangements of virtual objects in space - people, plants, mountains, buildings, - and add planes of water, sky, and 'atmosphere'. You can apply a variety of materials, colors and textures to objects, and select camera and sunlight angles. Then you go about finding the best picrture-taking angles - the result is a cross between playing with children's blocks and being a cinematographer setting up a movie scene.
So instead of some photos this week, here are some initial virtual images I have cobbled together. By the way, there is even an online store where you can purchase vitrual plants, buildings, furniture, textures, and yes, even virtual people. Maybe when I retire I can become a virtual carpenter. I might enjoy making virtual furniture. Or perhaps being a virtual gardener. Or a virtual zoologist. --Steve
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