Unforgettable San Antonio – Buckhorn Saloon Retouching

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn retouchin

Now that we’ve released our first shot from the Unforgettable San Antonio campaign, we thought it was only appropriate to take a deeper look at how it all came together. With a final file that tops out over 10 gigabytes and 200+ layers, it is hard for us to even describe the complexity of what we’ve created here. So we’re not just going to talk about it – we’re going to show it. Keep reading for a more in-depth, layer by layer look at the Buckhorn and an interview with the digital artist who helped bring this image to life…

In a way, it feels unfair to compress a month of retouching into one minute worth of video, but we couldn’t think of a better way to show the scope of the craziness that it took to build the Buckhorn Saloon. As for what the process actually entailed, I think there’s no better person to lead that discussion than the retoucher who spearheaded the project. I sat down with none other than Taisya Kuzmenko, our in-house digital artist and asked her to share some thoughts about this project (Her words below, my comments in italics):

How did you approach creating this?

Buckhorn was one of the first ads we took a stab at. It seemed to be the most straightforward since the background is a real place, and I thought it will be a piece of cake to do all the cleaning and toning. When I started working on the back plate things got complicated. One of the biggest challenges  faced when working on background was removing the unwanted elements.

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn retouchin(Rough captures pieced together on-set while we were shooting the background plates for the Buckhorn Saloon)

The actual saloon has two large pillars hanging from the ceiling, which were covered with animal heads – they had to go to open up the space and show of the more interesting taxidermy on the back walls. Chris and Robert did a great job planning and shooting the back wall from different angles which gave me many images to draw from to recreate the missing pieces. I also had to place the triceratops head as a part of the taxidermy wall – the challenge here was to create the neck piece, and the mount board. The neck piece was taken from a shot of the triceratops’s hip, and the mount was mostly created from scratch. After all the taxidermy was placed, it was pathed out and worked on individually. Each head got a special light and toning treatment as well as was got painted by hand in order to bring all of the cool details.

Now we finally had our background together.

The next step was placing the main heroes and the lavish table in the foreground. This seems easy, unless you can imagine the main subjects sitting at an empty table with translucent pink water in their glasses. Here almost all the elements of the feast were placed separately: rose in a glass vase, the cheese plate, even the wine glass and silverware. Peach slices and margaritas were shot much later in the studio and were introduced on the table as one of the last elements of the scene. It may be hard to believe that was our process, but the complex nature of the shoot required us to capture everything separately and combine them after the fact.

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn retouchin(An in-progress shot for early on in the retouching – note our main subject’s glasses filled with glasses of pink water, serving as placeholders for the prickly pear margaritas)

With the craziness of the hero table finished, everything else didn’t seem to be as hard. All the remaining characters got placed one after another, the bar stools, the tomahawk, the art and the komodo dragon, all found their places in the space. Here we had to make sure their sizes and shadows looked good. But thats just the regular magic we do in the studio every day.

How does the final ad differ from the original comps?

The comp we were given was a beautiful illustration of the idea. It was helpful as far as inspiration goes. The rest was on our team along with the art director Rob Story, who gave us spectacular feedback and suggestions.

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn retouchin(The original comp art for the Buckhorn Saloon)

Was working on this a linear process (from background to foreground) or did you jump around?

The process of my work was less linear and more so scrambled, due to the complexity and the number of elements the guys had to shoot and deliver to me. Since Chris and Robert were down in Texas on three seperate trips to capture everything for this project, I would receive different selects periodically as they were shot. We had to improvise a lot, add and remove things last minute, rework and improve constantly in order to get the best look possible.

How does it feel to work on one composite for such a length of time?

It is hard! And it was getting harder with each plate. Buckhorn composite took about 4 weeks and since the process was slow, it took quite a bit of time to start feeling the real magic.

Buckhorn_ret_V3(Another early-stage shot of the Buckhorn in progress with a few notes for adjustments)

The first week was mostly spent on pathing and cleaning and thinking and trying different things. There were some failures and some start-overs. Thankfully for this project we had time to experiment and really work to make these images perfect.

What was the most difficult part of this image, what part of the process did you enjoy the most?

Everything that was hard about this image was the most enjoyable at the same time. Every plate is like a large puzzle. We had so many separate pieces to look at in the beginning and just an idea of what it should look like at the end. The more those pieces were coming together and fitting each other, the more satisfaction and pride we felt about this ad.

Questions for Taisya? Comments? let us know your thoughts in the comments below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto!