Hi everyone~ It’s been a while since I last wrote something here in MFC, so today I would like to share the behind the scenes work that has went into my photography of Max Factory’s 1/7 Assassin / Shuten Douji from the Fate franchise.
Article is in reference to this photo: PICTURE #2297337
(Bonus: 4K resolution wallpaper available for everyone for personal use!, download link is in the caption)
I have received requests for videos to be made many times, but when I’m doing everything on my own – solo – it’s difficult. When you are so engrossed in doing something, you will forget to check whether your camera is even recording footage. Even if it did, maybe something would go wrong (such as what I was doing was not visible in the video because the camera is at the wrong angle).
Nonetheless I tried to provide something this time, so I have a video of the photo editing process I do on my photo of Shuten Douji in one of the sections below. It may be just a screen recording, but hopefully it will be of help if you’re interested since the way I tweak my photo’s colors and exposure in Lightroom are shown in the video. As a bonus the second half of the video consists of my focus stacking work
Ideas and Concept
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Shuten Douji is an Oni in a traditional Japanese outfit. Naturally I would go with a Japanese theme. Despite having been in this world of figure photography for years, I rarely did traditional Japanese themes. The last one I remembered was way back in September 2017 – Sakura Saber / Okita Souji by Aquamarine. It was a night scene.
So, I’m going back to the basics, something many figure photographers have done – a traditional Japanese house interior. It’s commonly seen in many nendoroid photos. The difference would be, I’m not going to let it be an ordinary daytime photo (since Shuten is an Oni), and I’m going to play with warm candlelight-like lighting under a night time setup, which is a whole different challenge altogether. I also relied on 3D printing to manufacture a portion of the parts for my diorama, since I now have my own 3D printer.
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My work on Taito’s Rani VIII just weeks ago, also from the Fate series, was my first photography setup to be made heavily with 3D printed parts. That was something experimental – I was testing out my first 3D printer and doing trial errors.
Careful planning, sketches and renders are important for me to predict what the final results of my photos will look like - even before I photograph them. Dimensions will indirectly affect the ratio of each section of the background in a photo. Everything was designed with the use of a lens with 50mm focal length in mind.
With my tests and software settings being slowly optimized over several prints used in my previous work, I was ready to employ it for the props of Shuten Douji.
The sliding door framework, with the doors itself, are completely 3D printed, with a composite material called wood PLA. It looks like wood, feels like wood to the touch, smells like wood, but it’s actually PLA plastic. My prints look like wood straight out of the printer, saving me some painting effort.
The downside of this material is that it’s not structurally very stable. There were signs of mild distortion after I glued the parts together and subject it to minor pressure/load. Doors that fitted snugly became loose over a few days because the framework distorted slightly, but it does not affect photography. Naturally, there are other stronger materials out there I can choose from for future prints.
You could pretty much construct the same thing above with real wood, just that I used a 3D printer to speed up my work process and ensure dimensional accuracy. While I let a printer run, even overnight, I can simultaneously work on hand crafted parts separately.
A round window that’s impossible to craft by hand. I don’t know of any manual ways to cut real wood on my own in a precise circle shape. The one other option besides 3D printing, is the use of a laser cutting / engraving machine.
The second wall consists of a round Shoji-inspired window and shelves. The main walls were constructed by hand with PVC foam boards. It’s just cut and paste, where dimension accuracy is important.
The shelves and cabinets are also 3D printed. I used Tamiya putty, with the help of levelling thinner, to patch up any flaws produced during 3D printing before painting them.
The darker wood panels and the shelves are 3D printed parts. Regular superglue can bond all the parts together easily.
The flooring consists of real tatami mats (actually tea cup coasters, made of real tatami). I bought three sheets of them, fine texture version. Each has a size of 20x60cm, so I can get a 60x60x60cm area coverage – larger than my diorama.
The Japanese lamps are yellow LEDs with wiring to an old school AA battery setup, buried in the Styrofoam flooring beneath the Tatami mats. The wires that protrude out from the mats are simply hidden from view, since they are behind the figure. The wood framework surrounding the LEDs are real wood, made with a laser cutting/engraving machine (Yes, you can produce the same parts with 3D printing too).
Scale model katana with display rack, and miniature traditional sake bottles were purchased online.
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*Texts in image may be too small, you can right click and open the image in a new tab*
This is one of the hardest parts. Setting up regular white light is easy. But playing with colored or very warm colored lights, while getting the right results (together with the editing process) is a whole different game. At the same time I need to balance out the lights to make it look like a night scene, but indoors, while keeping the figure well lit.
Within the diorama there are a pair of Japanese lamps on the floor behind Shuten, giving off yellow light. Meanwhile, in front of the setup there are a pair of small lamps, also LED, covered with 4 layers of tissue as diffuser, firing upwards from a low angle to simulate lighting effect coming from lamps placed on the floor.
Shuten Douji is one of those figures where it can be tricky to set up lighting due to the dish she is holding to drink sake from. Any light placed to the left of the figure will cast shadows on her face due to her hand and the dish she is holding. Angulation and positioning of lights are important to prevent this.
“Fluorescent” White balance profile was used and about 25 frames were taken at an aperture of f/2.8 with focus shift made to each shot, to be focus stacked during editing later.
Post Processing and Editing (VIDEO)
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For the editing process, I do have a screen recording video here.
A lot of color adjustments were made for that golden yellow lighting look to the shot, without affecting her skin tones too much. Shuten Douji originally has pale silvery skin based on her original art, but Max Factory gave her a normal human skin color on her figure. In the interest of creating photos that are aesthetic looking I decided to stick with that, tweaking the colors in the photo carefully.
It is normal for me to plan the layout, design and dimensions of my dioramas carefully to match a figure it’s intended for use, for the best composition possible during photography. The sketch was shown in the Props Building section above. I did not simply draw a few lines over my photo after taking them. Because I have already done the sketch and did all the calculations prior to making my diorama. I already know how my photo will look like even before I photograph it, and they will be often be a near exact match to common composition grids
With this I conclude my article - This photography work of Shuten Douji marks my 6th anniversary as a figure photographer.
Thank you for reading and hoped that you enjoyed it!