Fall To The Darkside

This has been the most ambitious personal project I’ve taken on to date. It combines some of the art techniques that I’ve dabbled in over the years and though I’m satisfied with the results, I guess it’s up to the critics to determine whether it’s up to scratch.

Firstly, the photography, specifically cosplay photography. I wanted to keep this under wraps for as long as possible so I guess asking others to model for me didn’t really cross my mind. So the two figures in this picture are both of me.

I’ve pretty much treated this project as a prototype and although the subject of the picture itself is required, it is not really important in terms of accuracy. This means the Jedi “costume” I’ve worn was just thrown together from clothes I already had (yukata, hoodie, etc). I aimed from the start to mask a lot of it under shadow so that it will be a passable enough Jedi look. The slumped figure in the back again was me wearing equally mundane clothes as I figured that part would be out of focus anyway. The lightsabre itself is an authentic Force FX lightsabre but I still had to enhance it a bit in Photoshop.

I took rough guess of the angle and distances that I was viewing the scene from when I was setting up the camera. The accurate way of doing this would have been to match the camera angle and focal range from the 3D scene shot into the real world and properly measure the distances between camera and subjects but again, the aim of seeing what was possible took precedent over exactness. Lights were set up to ensure more rim lighting than key lighting to get more shadows.

One detail that I had to consider was the differing strength of each of the rim lights. In the final scene, I had in mind showing something blowing up outside the windows of the throne room. The light from that ought to have an effect inside, so the placing was key to ensure believability.

The 3D throne room was perhaps the most daunting part of this all. I’ve worked on 3D animations in the past using the open source editor Blender 3D. It’s been years since I’ve last made anything in 3D and Blender has since moved on to later versions. It was tricky at first trying to remember the controls but eventually I did get back to the swing of things and I remembered just how enjoyable it was.

Constructing a 3D scene isn’t all too complex. What is problematic however is making it look realistic. This involved trying to figure out materials and textures that reflect light correctly. Ambient lighting also has also a major hurdle specifically as I had to make sure the shadows and reflections would match with the real world cosplay shoot I was doing.

Something else that I hadn’t done (besides experimenting with it) had been employing ray tracing. Basically it’s a technique that simulates how light behaves in real world in the program. It means objects in the scene can reflect the light on their own, shadows are blurred at the trailing edges due to scattered photons interfering and other nifty things that we just don’t think about in our daily lives. The glass windows were particularly challenging but they were well worth the effect with the result I achieved in the end.

When combined together, the greatest challenge is in choosing which degree of realism to take. I could work a tonne more to develop the textures in the 3D environment to look more life-like or I could photoshop my visage to look more like a video game character. It’s the balance that’s essential to pulling this off. At the end of the day, what’s more important is that I’ve learnt quite a lot with this experiment and I’m hoping to put this to good use in other upcoming projects!


(a) Screen capture of the throne room and (b) the first test render.


(c) Employing the textures and lighting. (d) Costume shot; plastic floor was for reflection.


(e) Shot of the Milky Way that was used for background. (f) Composite final image.

Quick background story; this shows a Jedi who has just begun his fall into the Darkside. His blade is not yet the familiar red as this is his first evil act which is killing the authority figure in the background.

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