Well, it took a while…

… but not because it took this long. What I mean is, I kept setting it aside for a ‘good time to do it’ and finally got around to it the other evening, but when I did start it, it only took a little over an hour.

Am I talking about that online course in Communicating Effectively? How To Stop Procrastinating? Finding Compelling Winter Subjects? No, don’t be ridiculous – why would I need any of those? No, I mean I finally sat down and filled in that missing bit of photographic plate. Back in January I spoke of restoring an old, broken glass photographic negative, at least in digital form, and got it to where I was satisfied – except for the large blank space where the piece of glass plate was entirely missing. This was the restored version:

restored 4x5 glass plate negative
I knew that continuing the wall and ceiling would be trivial, but the corner of the painting on the wall would take a little effort to make look right. I hadn’t the faintest idea what the original actually was, but the point was simply to make the background complete, without this strange void in there. So I snagged an image online of an old, basic painting (I have no idea why such boring things are ubiquitous) and inserted it into the image, like so:

restored 4x5 glass plate negative with missing piece digitally rebuilt
The challenge was twofold: first, to alter the perspective of the original straight-on framed painting to appear as if we were seeing it at a proper angle; and then, to change the contrast and highlights to seem to fit the light conditions and film characteristics. Then add in some defocus blur, a touch of motion blur (that’s only visible at high magnification, but present in the original plate,) and some appropriate film grain. I’m pleased with this, especially considering that it’s only a background detail and typically won’t undergo close scrutiny – the point, largely, is that it’s subtle enough not to draw scrutiny. I think I could have done a better job on the near edge, giving it a little more thickness and changing the shadow gradient more, and may still revisit it. I had some 8x10s done of the finished file, but the lab fucked up the color register and so I’ll send them off to be redone at a place with quality control, and may tweak the file before I do so.

[Brief explanation: I used Snapfish, because it was cheap, and went for their option where I can pick them up locally – it just means they forward the digital file to the local pharmacy lab which prints them there. Except the local lab didn’t have their enlarger in spec, and while it was a greyscale image, the print came up greenish. Switching to real monochrome paper is something few, if any, digital labs do, so even greyscale images are printed on color paper through a color enlarger. But if the color channels have not been properly balanced, you’ll end up with a color cast in an ostensibly B&W image. The attendant 4x6s that I ordered of the same images were fine – it was just their large print machine that was whack. Still inexcusable – if you offer the service, put in the effort.]

Still not sure who these people are – the goal is to get a decent print to The Girlfriend’s Mother and see if she recognizes them; the girl might actually be the Mother herself. Though you can see here that the quality of the image wasn’t too high to begin with, and enlarging to 8×10 doesn’t do it any favors – this is not something that I would attempt to correct or even could, because it would involve practically hand-painting in the details that weren’t captured in the original, while I admit I did some very constrained sharpening around the girl’s eyes. But hey – I finally tackled it, and the ‘complete’ image looks world’s better.

[Another note, technical details for those into that kind of thing. The original plate is a decent illustration of one-point perspective, though technically it’s two-point. This means, if you continue the lines of the ceiling edge, top of door frame, tabletop, molding, etc., they will all meet at one point, someplace far off to the right – the opposite wall does the same thing, but for a point far to the left, thus the two-point bit. The fake painting had to match this to look right, and so getting the corners in the right positions takes a little playing around. But that’s not quite enough; since the painting is supposed to be seen from an angle, a little horizontal compression was in order, moving all corners towards each other (left-right only) to ‘narrow’ the painting for that oblique-angle appearance. Not hard in any way, but necessary to make it blend in well, and easy to get off by enough to make someone believe it was dubbed in. I could simply have removed the painting entirely and left a large blank wall, but that would have looked odd and, in truth, there was something there. Plus I liked the challenge.

Further, obviously the wall was reconstructed by copying/cloning/rubberstamping (depending on what program you use, but they’re all the same thing) from intact portions of the wall, to continue that hue and pattern. But this has two pitfalls: if you can only copy small sections, repeating patterns tend to keep appearing, as well as the lighting in the room may mean that the wall over there was actually darker than the wall over here, so copying into the wrong place becomes obvious. I managed to avoid the shading issue, but this narrowed my source areas and the stippled repeated pattern became visible at first. The trick there is to pick a couple other sections of wall, even stuff that you already copied, to go over the repeated pattern in small patches and eradicate it – this usually doesn’t require much at all.]

« [previous]
[next] »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *