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Figure Photography: FuRyu's Caster GilgameshFigure Photography: FuRyu's Caster GilgameshTutorial

EXkuroganeEXkurogane5 months ago
Hello everyone! It has been a while since i last posted something here on mfc. Today we’ll be looking at the behind-the-scenes work on the photography of a prize figure of caster-class Gilgamesh from Fate Grand Order Babylonia.

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This article is in reference to this photo: PICTURE #2417755

Currently, where I live, we are under partial lockdown - specifically, movement control order (MCO) from our government in order to contain the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. We could still leave out homes but only for food and grocery shopping, while most other businesses are shut down, with many people losing their wages - a necessary sacrifice to prevent things from getting worse. International postal services are mostly suspended with only a select few exceptions so new figure purchases as well as material supplies to my photography projects are affected. This Gilgamesh project has been in work progress for over a month so this one wasn’t affected much. More time for practicing figure photography at home, but restricted material supplies to build dioramas.

For anyone who’s interested in watching the video version, here it is:




Prop Making and Color Composition Considerations

Moving on with our topic today, Gilgamesh’s setup is mostly a recreation of the scene we saw in the FGO Babylonia anime - his throne and altar in the Ziggurat of the Mesopotamia civilization. 80% to 90% of the setup are completely 3D printed for three reasons - my workload is a lot lesser when machines are the ones doing the harder work, dimensional accuracy is guaranteed (especially with the height of the stairs and the altar) reducing material wastage, and the fact that 3D printing materials can still be acquired easily online in our local online stores, unlike handcrafting materials like plywood and PVC foam boards.

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The stairs and the slanting platforms on both sides are 3D printed, hollow in the middle to save material. Only the altar is built from PVC foamboard with supporting structures below being printed parts - because doing this guarantees dimensional accuracy with margins of errors that are less than 0.5mm. A platform that rocks around due to the supporting structures being slightly different in length - none of that will happen.

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Im no 3D artist or designer - my career is completely unrelated to art or design, but for something like Gilgamesh’s throne, it was an easy designing work even for me because it is completely geometrical with no curves. It could be done in basic beginner software like Microsoft 3D builder or the online service Tinkercad.

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I designed the throne using screenshots from the anime, as well as product photos of Aniplex’s very own figure of this Gilgamesh (not yet released) as a guide. Taking into account the height of the figure, I scaled everything to 1 / 8 scale. Aniplex’s version is 340mm tall, but I thought it was really unnecessary and trimmed 20mm off. My version of the throne is 320mm tall overall. An excessively tall throne could break the final photo’s composition. This height still requires a larger-than-usual printer to manufacture it in one piece. The throne is split into several modular parts to make the painting process later easier. Parts with different colors are separated so that they can be spray painted separately before assembly and gluing, eliminating the need for masking tapes and reducing risks of paint bleeding.

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As for painting, I had several shades of gold paint to work with, from a dull antique faded shade to blindingly shiny, chrome-like appearance. I started with this tone which is too metallic and obviously isn’t suitable for a civilization of clay and stones. I then slowly toned it down with matte coating and mixing with other shades. I reserved this shiny gold only for the holy grail.

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Those small rectangle boxes with royal blue paint had to be hand painted because of their small size.

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And then there’s the marble texture on the brown and blue stripes in the middle of the throne - which Aniplex’s version of Gilgamesh didnt even have but I wanted to add them to increase the amount of detail in the scene, so i went for this marble texture paint. It may not be 100% similar to the anime, but what i wanted was to add additional detail to the scene. This one does the job amazingly well for that purpose alone so I also sprayed it all over the altar. It’s those small additional details I add at my own discretion to create additional textural detail of a scene for photography purposes.

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And then there are the huge pedestals/vases that contain lots of plants on both sides of the throne - also 3D printed, spray painted, and then artificial plants and flowers are shoved in. I made only two of them because it’s unnecessary to make too many of them when most of them will not be visible in the final photo.

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Just like in the anime, there are stacks of clay tablets on the side, though mine are broken down as if they are artifacts dug out in the future. I personally like them that way because it looks more detailed.

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Among a few things which I did not follow the anime - the floral tiles on both sides of the stairs are just decorative tile stickers I bought from a local store in advance before the lockdown began. This does mean a lot of planning was required in advance - i had to design my props’ dimensionw to match the sticker. There was no need to follow the anime exactly because these tiles are barely visible in the final photo, and I personally thought the blue color will contrast the mostly gold/yellow surroundings well.

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There are also certain things which i chose to omit - such as the curtains on both sides of the throne in the back. With the angle I intended to photograph this figure, only one side of the curtain will be visible in the background. A white sheet of cloth hanging down in the middle of the background is potentially detrimental to the composition of the final photo, interfering with the color balance mix of blue and yellow/gold, so i decided to omit it.

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The color balance I’m referring to here, is the warm vs cold color theory which i have described before in my past posts. With the scene being mostly golden yellow in color (warm color), I needed a vast amount of cold colors to balance the scene - lots of blue or greens or both. This is why I didn't want ia white curtain interfering, and also why I chose to photograph this in a night time instead of daytime setting.

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The warm vs cold color balance is a very common color combination in my past photography works.

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Besides the color balance, the second reason why I chose to do a night setting is because it allows me to add a gimmick - the holy grail coming out of the gate of babylon - also a direct reference to the anime. It is difficult to make an object glow enough to stand out and yet appear natural during daytime, but that’s an easy task for a night time setting. Also, we are looking at creating a floating / levitation effect practically, without using photoshop to insert something digitally.

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For this levitation effect to be possible, a custom supporting structure was designed and 3D printed with transparent material. The structure behind slants backwards at an angle towards the throne at the rear, which is then connected to a vertical rod with an articulated joint. The center of the supporting structure is hollow, allowing for the installation of LED lighting and for the wires to pass through.

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When photographed at certain angles, the supporting structure behind is completely invisible. The gate of Babylon itself conceals the supporting rod behind, while the throne hides the vertical rod.

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That about sums up the prop-making work.



Lighting Setup & Post Processing

With the lighting of a night time setting, I had to study the anime by rewatching it and capturing screenshots. We are dealing with a civilization with no electricity or modern lighting, so the lighting is coming from candles or oil lamps - yellowish lighting, just like what we saw in the anime.

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And then there’s the direction of lighting, which is the most crucial in replicating a similar feel to what you see in the anime. From the screenshots, where lower areas of the altar are bright but darker on the higher areas, I determined that we will be dealing with a bottom-up lighting direction. Because there is no modern lighting, we don't have any lights coming from above. The oil lamps are lit at the bottom of the altar and the glow radiates upwards.

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In this screenshot, the fact that we have shadows on the inferior border of the orbit (eye socket) shows that the lighting direction is from below. Normally, when we photograph people, we avoid throwing light from below because it results in very unflattering lighting - you’ll get stuff like double chin or enlarged nostrils. For the case of this figure, his nose turned out exceptionally bright, but I insist on trying to recreate the same feel from the anime. Also, we are dealing with a prize figure where the skin is more glossy than expensive scale figures.
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With the lighting concept and direction explained, this was how i set up the lights - LEDs firing from lower angle, upwards, in multiple directions.

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The background - the sky, is a custom order - parts of a sky printed on semi-transparent fabric. To make an artificial sky look great in figure photos, the sky needs to be backlit from behind, which is why i will only use fabric print backgrounds for dioramas. Printing a giant poster on non-transparent material, be it a thick sheet of card / photo paper or PVC, then throwing light on it from the surface is not going to create realistic results.

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For the sky, I used a giant 80cm softbox with a huge 200W lamp in it. In short, studio equipment. This results in even lighting across a large surface area. If I just placed a lamp or two behind the fabric, I will get bright spots in the middle while the sides and corners of the background will gradually fall off and darken, similar to vignetting.

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Controlling the brightness of the sky is as simple as adjusting the distance between the softbox and the fabric background. For a night sky where I want to keep the brightness down, I pushed the light further back.

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This is the results - straight out of camera (SOOC), VS the color and exposure corrected one. The amount of editing is rather minimal, and the gate of Babylon looks great. I intentionally underexposed the lighting slightly because I wanted to fine tune the SOOC photo’s lighting manually in Adobe Lightroom. There were actually over two dozen of the same photo taken with the focus shifted, and then focus stacking was done but I won’t be discussing this topic today because I've covered it before in my previous posts.

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After I’m done with Adobe Lightroom and focus stacking, I loaded the photo into Affinity Photo (pretty much the same thing as Photoshop) and made some adjustments to the gate of Babylon by blurring it off slightly and adding a glow around it. The gate of Babylon looks fantastic for something that’s a real object and not photoshopped, but the problem is that it looks like a physical object floating in midair and I’m unhappy about that. It needed to be more abstract. The video I posted above does show how I did this step by step. It’s rather easy.
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Wrapping Things Up

It’s not usual for me to photograph male characters when it comes to figurines, but I have decided to make type moon / nasuverse characters an exception since last year because I wanted to expand my portfolio of photography works on this franchise - due to a possible future plan where I will be working with event organisers and also the original creators/staff of this franchise itself (yes, the ones from Japan, the likes of Aniplex for example) for a Fate Grand Order related event. Something similar to an anime convention but with FGO being the theme. My stuff was to be exhibited there.

Obviously this plan went bust with the covid pandemic going on at the moment where many events are cancelled, but there is still a possibility of it becoming a reality in future. I love this franchise myself, so I don't see a problem continuing with what I’m doing. In fact, I do have future plans for photographing Myethos’ Gilgamesh Archer and the Lancer Cú Chulainn by Orange Rouge.

Hopefully this lengthy post is beneficial for all of you who are interested in figure photography. Something to spend your time reading if you are stuck at home. Thank you very much for reading, and please do stay safe out there!
1,294 hits • 33 likes7 comments

Comments7

Pretty cool. Maybe it will be an alternative way to use TV screen to display the sky? (I actually use this method in my photo, the only problem I come across is the Moire pattern)
1 month ago
This is supercool!! It is also a lot of work.

I also realized that I might be a bit (or a lot lol) artistically challenged because I did not understand some of the concepts you mentioned like the warm-cold colours :(
5 months ago
That’s amazing lots of work .
5 months ago
Your behind the scenes for your photography are always fascinating, especially your attention to details to the anime scene and the RL prop/diorama stage.

Like always, excellent work and I love the effort and passion you put when you make your photos!!!
5 months ago
Amazing work. I had a blast reading that article, and I must say I eagerly wait for your takes on Archer Gilgamesh and Lancer.
5 months ago
Wow!!! Really impressive work!!! You put so much effort into it. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to next project!
5 months ago
Great effort and beautiful outcome. Thanks for sharing!
5 months ago
Bringing the hobby to your door.

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