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#26 2007-01-30 13:09:08

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From: Under your bed, waiting...
Registered: 2006-09-20
Posts: 1039

Re: Murder In Gotham - the complete series

I would like to make a post or two to show you some behind the scenes stuff and what went into the making of Murder in Gotham, perhaps inspire one of you to make a photo story.  (I’m hoping I don’t come across as pompous or self-indulgent...I just want to be helpful to anyone who may find this interesting)

First off, let me be honest...I didn’t intend to make a project like this.

Second, Murder in Gotham is brought to you by, really.

My original intent was simple; Make a dynamic backdrop to photograph custom figures in front of, for when I want to present them online.  Make it small and mobile, and don’t clutter it up like my other displays since I won’t want to dismantle a set-up to take new shots later.   So I used a small box which was used to ship some graphic novels.  That's it.  Not a set to a story.  I didn't even have a story in mind when I took the first pictures using it.

The brick work was all I had left of a vinyl sheet purchased at a craft store (intended for doll houses), which I had left over from a larger project, a back alley brawl diorama used to display about 40 DC Direct figures on two bookcase shelves (seen this photo is a bit dated and this set up has been altered somewhat to accomdate even more characters)

The lower half of the back wall of the Murder in Gotham set-up, where the bricks don’t cover, is just a cardboard box flap spray painted with grey fleckstone (a chunky textured spray paint that looks like granite...also bought at the same craft store as the sheet of bricks).

The side wall, with the broken jail cell bars, is made from back drop pieces that came with the first wave of Silent Screamers figures, specifically the Nosforatu and Renfield, by Aztec toys (which later became Mezco).  These too were lightly sprayed (after being masked off) with the fleckstone.  Behind this wall is where most of the source lighting came from, as I positioned a high watt desk lamp there to shine through and make moody shadows.  The Lamp and the surounding area behind the bars were hidden from certain camera angles using black construction paper, other parts of the Nosforatu diorama, or in extreme cases, digitally altered.

Here are a few non-glamorous shots of the Murder in Gotham display...

Details in the display were images found using google, re-scaled and printed.  Most of them are props from the batman films.

Grime is your friend...lots of sloppy splattered runny paint give everything a nice worn dirty look.  The rats are also from the Nosforatu figure...I don’t remember where the boxes are from.

Next, I’ll get into how this became a story and what writing it was like.



#27 2007-01-30 13:24:50

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From: Under your bed, waiting...
Registered: 2006-09-20
Posts: 1039

Re: Murder In Gotham - the complete series

Writing Murder in Gotham

or I should title this How not to start a writing project

As stated before, I created this display with no intention of crafting a story or taking on a serialized project.  The first shots I took were basically just test shots with Batman and Commissioner Gordon standing over a corpse.  Why that particular grouping?  I have no idea other than I had recently unearthed long boxed up McFarlane X-Files figures and they were still handy with a cool looking corpse.

So when looking over those shots on my computer screen, the question of “well, who did it?” just started screaming out to me.  I still didn’t have a story, but now I had a lingering thought of one gnawing at me.  I next shot Two-Face, because on that particular day on one of the forums I visited, someone went on a rant how the Tim Sale Long Halloween Two-Face figure sucks, which I disagree with and happen to think it’s a really nice figure.  So I wanted to post a few shots of ol’ Harvey Dent in my new backdrop looking all cool and moody.  Then that gnawing story thought jumped out...“What about photographing all of Batman’s villains and make a simple, no text needed, ‘Who done it?’ mystery?”

Yeah...about that not needing text or dialogue  roll

At first the individual villain photograph series did not have their own mini story sequences...I started that with the Joker in part 2, which was just a simple sequence:
Pic 1 Joker over corpse
Pic 2 Batlight shines on Joker
Pic 3 Joker looks up
Pic 4 Car headlights approach Joker in alley

It was really more of an order to present the photos opposed to storytelling.

(Later, I went back to the Scarecrow series and added and modified the pics to give it a little bit of a story sequence involving him using his fear gas)

I did not have an ending or even a ‘who did it’ till I shot the Penguin/Killer Croc and Riddler series.  And at that point, it was The Question.  No twists.  The graphitti quote “Who Watches the Watchmen?” in latin was originally just part of the back ground, but since it came out so prominent in all of the photos, I figured I better make it part of the story.  And since the Watchmen’s Rorschach was based off the Question, why not make it all tie together? 

So yeah, the Question did it.  moving along...  tongue

Mentally, I had dialogue for the Penguin with Killer Croc series, but I did not want to use it for two reasons: First, at that point, I didn’t want to use dialogue at all to tell the story.  Second, since these villain sequences were all Batman’s mental hypotheticals, I figured dialogue would confuse the fact, especially since he didn’t do it and the murder didn’t play out that way.

Presented here is the original intended dialogue for the Penguin sequence:

Pic 1: Penguin muttering “Croc better have a good reason to be dragging me to this god forsaken alley in the middle of the night...Gah! Some baffoon defaced my campaign posters!”

Pic 2: Croc - “I took care of him just like you said boss, I figu...what’s that?”

Pic 3: Penguin - “Nothing...Just a passing car, you Nit Wit...”

Pic 4: Penguin - “...Which is exactly why I should not be here nor should I be seen with you OR WITH A CORPSE!!!”

Pic 5: Penguin- “You know I can’t be connected to this!  I’m a legitimate Mayoral Candidate!”

Pic 6: Croc - “But Boss...”
    Penguin- “Don’t ‘But Boss’ me you idiot!  Just get rid of the body and never put me in this kind of situation again! Understand?  I don’t care how, make it go away!”

Pic 7: munch!

ooooo...exciting huh?  No, not really since my pacing was really off.  But it is my first sign that the Mayor race will play into the storyline somehow. Even if at that point I didn’t know how myself.

So as I’m going through about half of the villains, I realize two more things:

1) I need to start eliminating suspects or stating why they are not the murderer.

2) I better come up with a good reason why The Question did it, so maybe I better figure out who the victim actually is.

And then I realize, text and dialogue are going to be a necessity and Part 9 (and a full script) was created.  By this point I knew I could not justify any reason for The Question to be a murderer and still be considered a hero character.  I didn’t want to just write him out and I knew the wall graphitti had to point to him.

At this point the script ran 18 parts total. 

And the ending sucked.   sad

All I had for after part 9 was more hypothetical sequences, with the Question featured in one, and an ending which while pointed to Q, was SURPRISE, he didn’t do it.

Lame.   roll

Oh, and the viewers wouldn’t be able to play armchair detective, or even have a chance to guess before hand.  And to me, thanks to years of watching Scooby Doo, that’s just a lousy way to tell a mystery.  There has to be forshadowing, and the viewers have to be able to participate and possibly solve the case before the hero does.

So I started working the mayor campaign angle more, the Riddler’s involvement, the twist of the Question taking the blame, and having the real murderer be Jason Todd.  I really developed their motives and eveything was falling nicely into place.

At this point dialogue was going to become more prominent and the script was expanded to 21 parts.   I should also mention, that I tried to have my wife be my editor, but she absolutely hates the way I write dialogue and she didn’t want to read the scripts, then re-read the story when the photographic element was crafted. She no longer had advance story knowledge and didn’t read the chapters till they were posted online.  As far as she knew beforehand was that the Question did it, so She was quite surprised when Batman debunked his BS confession. smile

I knew I wanted to craft cliffhangers keeping character’s identities hidden, yet give hints, so then the trench coat conspiracy was brought into play.  I’ll get more into this when we discuss the custom figures, but since I had already ruled out Hush and Jim Gordon from being suspects in part 9, let me keep bringing up Bullock as a red herring and keep throwing hints at the Question.  This way, when we got to the first “let’s reveal who is in the shadows”, guesses would be made for Q, Bullock, and Jason Todd, but no one would be sure and left second guessing.   

I wrote the Question’s character as kind of an amalgamation of the way he was presented on the JLU cartoon, how he appeared in the Question mini series by Rick Veitch and how he was in Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood.  In fact a lot of plot comes from elements in Cry for Blood and Jason’s master plan was lifted from the “War Games” crossover event (which I really disliked and thought was poorly executed, but the “consolidate the bad guys under one boss” plan was solid.)

Part 21 was going to feature way too much information, so it was expanded out into 3 parts.  Murder in Gotham was going to end with after the reveal that it was Jason Todd, Batman shows up and says “This ends Here and now!”  A close up of his face and close up of Jason’s face. The end.  After all, we all know Batman is going to win.  We already found out who the murderer was, anything else would be just extra and I didn’t think I could pull off DC Direct figures fighting one another without looking silly, so no actual fight needed. 

Here is a look at one of my script pages and notice how my hand written notes made a 9 photo sequence expanded to a 12 picture series (the 4 digit numbers are the last four digits my camera assigns the picture it’s taken.  I usually take a lot of photos to be able to have choices when editing...I’ll get much more into this when we discuss the photography aspect of MiG)

Part 23 was going to simply be an epilogue retelling the story straight forward for anyone who missed a twist or plot point.  But I had built the final conflict up too much, and everyone on all of the forums I presented Murder in Gotham on were hyped up to see Batman vs Jason Todd, and I knew I had to deliver something.  So Part 23 expanded and inflated.  And, oh by the way, I’m going to have to create a new set, The Batcave. hmm Sometime I wish I could keep it simple.  I presented the elements of the actual fight as flashbacks, this way it looked cool and artistic, and more importantly, I could get away with not showing it in a complete blow by blow linear fashion.   

I know next time I do one of these, it’s getting scripted right from the start, and I’m not going to present it till it’s solid.

When I originally posted this, I next said "I should probably mention that I think I have a Question tale starting to gnaw on that same spot that spawned Murder in we’ll see what happens with that."...well, we here know that a Question tale is indeed coming soon wink

Next up, I’ll talk about photographing Murder in Gotham.



#28 2007-01-30 13:35:01

Custom Made Moderator
From: Under your bed, waiting...
Registered: 2006-09-20
Posts: 1039

Re: Murder In Gotham - the complete series

Blogging about the Photography of Murder in Gotham...

First off, I use an Olympus Camedia digital camera with 3.2 Megapixel and a 3X optical Zoom…the camera is a few years old and a bit bulky and underpowered by today’s standards, but I’m very comfortable with it and know what it can and can’t do.  Software used is pretty basic and affordable…the Camedia software that came with the camera is very simple and easy to use for cropping, cut/paste, contrast, brightness, and such.  For the artistic stuff, I use Microsoft digital image suite 2006, which my wife bought because Martha Stewart recommended it….no really.  I was hesitant at first, but it turns out to be pretty darn good while being easy to learn, and got even better as I got more used to it as Murder in Gotham progressed.

Anyway, I’m sure Photoshop is way better, but I haven’t learned how to use it all that well.

I try to do most of my photo crafting “in camera”, meaning without the aid of such photo editing software other than cropping and such…so a lot of lighting effects we done naturally, including using filters over the camera’s flash to dim it, shape it, or redirect it.

For example, the red Batsignal/light (which is used several times over the course of the series)…that is a real flashlight projecting the image in the scene.  It’s actually part of a push lollipop which lights up and shines the logo.

It was quite a challenge to hold and project the bat symbol where I wanted while also holding and using the somewhat bulky camera all while also holding whatever filter I was using over the flash of the camera.  Even without the logo projector it can be a challenge…Here’s where I present a Murder in Gotham blooper, where the shot and the lighting came out ok (a little flat), but I lost my grip on the filter and ended up with my hand in frame…

The lighting for Murder in Gotham is very important, and it was achieved with a combination of a desk lamp off the side of the diorama and manipulating the flash and shutter speed of the camera.  Here are three shots to give you an idea of the set up:

First we have a shot with too much flash (and not enough redirected either), and you can see the desk lamp on the side.

Now here is a second similar shot, with the flash adjusted (achieved by holding black construction paper over it so some light gets through, but not a lot)…

Now taking that second shot, cropping it and slightly adjusting the contrast one or two points, we have a decent shot of the question coming out of the shadows…

Since we’re using the Question, let me show you a series of shots taken to get that first picture of   part 21.  This again was all achieved in camera without photo manipulation software…a smoky candle was placed in front of the figure and I hoped for some cool imagery.  When the smoke naturally formed a question mark over his head, it was definitely the money shot.

When doing shots that involve more than two characters, lighting gets tricky.  Sometimes You get a great looking shot, but then realize that the figures have to be repositioned because their eyelines are just….off.  ;D yikes :-/

For scenes such as the Riddler’s interrogation, Black Mask’s victim, and the reveal of the true villain, I used a larger cardboard box on it’s side, painted black on the inside and a hole cut in the top so the same desk lamp can shine a focused beam of light straight down.  It gives a lot of depth to the murky blackness as well as some great shadows of subjects directly in the beam of light.




Shots done in this box are among my favorites, but my absolute favorite series of shots has to be Mr. Freeze.

It was my wife’s idea to use a Tupperware container to freeze the victim in, and placing that block of ice right up to the source light just gave off really fantastic imagery…

This is as far as I originally got when presenting these behind the scenes there anything you guys would like me to cover or any other questions you may have?

The script for Question Sanity is coming along.  I hit a snag around christmas time which is slowly working it's way out.  It will be ready to start in late Feb/early march to launch with Erics plans for handling Fan Fic.

Thanks again for stopping by 8)



#29 2007-01-30 15:40:12

Site Administrator
From: Capital Region, NY
Registered: 2006-05-07
Posts: 1787

Re: Murder In Gotham - the complete series

The first time I read this, I was reeeeeeaally worried that the Question did it. But you have a great ending because things all work out logically. I'd like to see Batman send Jason Todd to Richard Dragon. It would be interesting.




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