The Ones to Watch: Behind the Scenes
A few Augusta University professors have learned how to blur the line that normally separates fantasy and reality in their classes. And Senior Photographer Phil Jones and I were tasked with doing the same with this story.
We originally planned one photo shoot for each professor: Drs. Ruth McClelland-Nugent, Brian Armstrong and Craig Albert. So we began our odyssey by visiting the offices of each professor. But as we met with each one, we realized office pictures wouldn’t capture the grand scale of the blockbuster movies they were talking about. We were determined to transform our professors into stars onstage.
Ruth has an amazing collection of Wonder Woman items in her office. But as our plans progressed, we knew she couldn’t just sit or stand near Wonder Woman. We wanted her to be Wonder Woman in front of pillars at Paradise .
We looked around both the Summerville and Health Sciences campuses for suitable architecture. While Phil took pictures of columns at Summerville, he eventually decided to use a picture of the historic Medical College of Georgia.
Tim Johnson, senior video producer, helped us secure metal Wonder Woman accessories from Vintage Ooollee, an Augusta costume shop. Setting Ruth in front of a black cloth background in our photo studio, we dramatically lit her as she struck the bangles into a signature Wonder Woman pose. Phil combined the building and our heroine in Photoshop, adding special effects along the way.
Blade Runner 2049
Initially, we thought about setting smoke bombs off downtown and having our star run down the street. But then we realized we’d have better access (and less chance of causing an incident) if we found an on-campus location.
We bought a few smoke bombs and started checking out rooftop views until we found a perfect site. Unfortunately, our Facilities Department did not agree that using smoke bombs next to air intake vents on the roof was a good idea. And come to think of it, shrouding the top of the research building with smoke while simultaneously blowing fumes into all the hallways might have been a bit much. Director James Grigg and manager Jim Pruitte did, however, lead us to an enclosed campus power plant area where we could run fog machines.
I had a couple of fog machines at home, leftover from past Halloweens. But I realized I was out of fog juice, and apparently it’s hard to find in local stores in January. Never fear though, the internet offers glycerin and water recipes. It’s funny that no one questioned Phil and me brewing a batch in the back of the office.
Once again, Tim knew how to get another movie-style outfit. He found the costume for Decker of Blade Runner from his friends at Wages of Cine.
We were back in business, chasing the perfect 6 p.m. light so that we could capture the darkness starting. We positioned ourselves and started to build up a fog, then we tripped the power to the fog machine. And then we moved it, and tripped it again. Then we decided to try multiple outlets and multiple fog machines, which yes, we tripped again. James and electrician Brenson Alford patiently helped us reset power each time. We finally got everything working and built up a nice cloud of fog, then asked Brian to start running in character. And it was going great, until an exhaust fan immediately above us kicked in and blew away all our fog. James had to turn it off so that we could resume. After a few quick runs down the corridor, Brian became the Decker-style hero. Later, Phil added additional effects, such as sparks and extra color lights, in Photoshop.
World War Z
Phil and I drove around town looking at cemeteries, looking at the gates, trees and tombstones. We were trying to find a way to respectfully have Craig staggering across the top of tombstones when we spotted the perfect location. At Everlasting Granite and Marble Company, owner Gregg Craft allowed us to set up outside after closing time.
Craig was willing to crawl on the ground on top of the sample stones, striking his most zombie-like poses. Afterward, Phil used Photoshop to stain Craig’s suit, discolor Craig’s healthy appearance and “rot” his flesh with samples of peeling paint and other crackling textures.