September 2012 Modified Tuner Shootout: COVER IMAGE BUILD

Hey everyone, I feel bad for lagging so long on this one… I had a lot of requests for an image build after the September 2012 “Tuner Shootout” issue of Modified hit stands about a month ago, so here it is!

This cover features a rig shot, but it’s not the typical kind of thing you might expect when you hear that term. This is more like an “interior” rig shot, which sounds a bit weird, but hear me out. I first came up with the idea for this cover a long time ago, but I can’t take credit for the concept entirely. I had seen a similar image on a Japanese Rev Speed Magazine cover sometime in 2010, but to be totally honest the execution of that cover was not really like how I wanted to do it. The Rev Speed Mag was my inspiration, but instead of simply taking an interior shot with a driver and adding zoom blur, I wanted to have real PROPER motion to everything. Japanese magazine designs are very different than they are in North America, so it’s not “bad” to do things there that would be considered sloppy and never fly here. Anyhow, I sat on the idea for a long time, and the perfect opportunity to bust it out finally presented itself when the annual Modified Tuner Shootout came back around once more, this time featuring all street friendly cars (as opposed to fully built race cars.) Since I had about one hour on track at Firebird Raceway’s West Loop, I would have to work fast in order to get the results I wanted.

Important note: The camera was held in place by 2 Manfrotto Magic arms, which were attached to the fiberglass backing of the bucket seat in the “camera car” as well as the open sunroof frame area. Ideally I would have used my tripod on the floor, but there simply was not adequate space or time to do this. Anyhow, this is what I started with.

I placed the camera car as close to the racing line as I could and had the chase car line up in a similar way. I first shot ambient light brackets for the chase car and then refocused for the interior of the camera car. Then I shot a few variations of the driver’s hand motions as well as the tachometer motion, these are my final selections for the motion elements.

Then we moved the chase car out of frame and I put my former boss Peter Tarach to work by pushing the camera car along the racing line (or as close as we could manage given the circumstances) for the motion blur on the ground. Kyle Pope also helped out on this shoot by providing shade errrr I mean smoothing out the interior lighting of the car.

So that was pretty much it on the shooting end. Back at home and out of the scorching Arizona desert, I got to work on the composite work. The interior of the car came together very easily, everything was done with natural light and long exposures. Here’s my rough interior composition.

Now I did some spot clean up, changed the speedometer, and did basic color correction. I also removed the headliner of the car, because I needed room at the top of the image for the magazine logo and cover blurbs. Plus the headliner is ugly.

Next I dropped in the moving ground…

…and did color and basic contrast correction.

While I was sitting inside a roughly 130 degree Honda Civic interior, I had made the executive decision that it would be best to create the far off background after the fact. Plus, there was nothing but nasty buildings by the track at the corner I wanted to shoot at, so this choice was an easy one. Here I drop in some mountains from a shoot I did in January 2012 at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway (June 2012 Modified cover story, “86 Revival.”)

Now I blend the mountains and add a more mellow sky (again so the cover blurbs and logo can be read easily, if this were a stand alone image I would have gone with a more exciting sky) using several curves, hue/saturation and soft light blending layers.

Adjust the overall contrast slightly…

And there ya go! This is my finished background, now all I need to do is drop in the chase car. Using a still frame as a refference point, I draw the shadow of the chase car using a couple of soft light and overlay layers set at various opacities.

At this point I ran into a problem. I had not shot anything for the motion of the wheel faces of the chase car, because the Skyline GTR is an all-wheel drive platform and in order to get the wheels to spin freely, I would have had to raise the car onto 4 jackstands and then spin the wheels by hand. There was simply not enough time for that, so I accepted that I would have to fake the funk! That’s okay, I don’t feel bad about “cheating” with Photoshop, so I scratched my head for a while trying to think of the best way to blur the wheel faces. Because of the extreme angle of view, you can’t simply do a radial blur on the static wheel faces, it won’t look right. I messed around with a few other options, and even enlisted the help of a few friends, but what I ended up doing was actually delightfully simple. Since the chase car has bronze wheels, and I had an already existing rig shot of a car with bronze wheels (November 2010 Modified “Project Car Issue” cover), I simply grabbed those wheels and warped/transformed them into shape for this shot. Bazinga! I guarantee you would have never know these were different wheels if I hadn’t said anything. ;-) Here we have the lower portion of the car with the rotating wheels in place.

Then I add in the body of the chase car, and give it a little bit of lean to the outside of the corner. Although the motion is not exactly 100% correct, the lean helps, and overall it works pretty well. Only the die hard BECAUSE RACECAR folks out there will see the real errors in the line.

Final color correction…

And the final image in context:

All things considered, I’m very pleased with this cover. I learned a lot about what works, and what to avoid next time. As it turned out, this was my final cover while working as Associate Editor for Modified, and I couldn’t be happier with that fact. I shot over a dozen covers for Modified and this one is my favorite!

Special thanks to Peter Tarach for being the coolest boss of all time and a genuine all around badass. And thanks to Kyle Pope for putting up with my lame jokes all day. Thanks for reading and remember to SUPPORT PRINT!!


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2 Responses to “September 2012 Modified Tuner Shootout: COVER IMAGE BUILD”

  1. Awesome, Nate! Your attention to detail and pre-visualization skills are really impressive. It looks like a “real time” photo.

  2. Very cool. Love the detail explanation you went into on this.

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