Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pilgrim's Bounty and the Portrait Process

Happy Pilgrim's Bounty! Don't forget your world event quests and the meta achievement for your Plump Turkey pet! On the subject of succulent birds, my friend Robert (Kalán - Stormrage) and I were talking pets the other day, and he told me about an idea he had for a combat pet: a Turducken! Awesome. I would love to see that in the game! Pilgrim's Bounty also offers festive attire if you're a clothing collector. Unfortunately, non-transmogrify items.

I've owned so much clothing and armor over the years that I have most of the older sets memorized by now. Sometimes I'll know exactly what set will be paired with a new pet the moment I add it to my collection. Other times it's more of a process. In the past, there wasn't much in the way of resources to search for a specific look. With the advent of transmogrification, several useful resources are now available for hoarders collectors, from mods to websites. I haven't decided yet if that makes it easier or more complicated! While transmogrification has certainly made it much easier to find just the right piece, auction house prices have gone through the roof. Bargains can still be had if you're patient and persistent, however. If I find an interesting piece or prop at a decent price, I'll pop it in the bank for a future shot.

So I've decided to post an example of the process of taking one of my pet screenshots, start to finish. If you get through this entire article, chances are you'll be left wondering why on earth I put so much work into every single portrait. I can assure you I often wonder the same thing.

When I earned the Jade Tentacle, my idea for the screenshot was  to try to recreate the giant squid scene from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A long time ago I earned a quest reward called Buckler of the Seas, which is a shield shaped like a ship's wheel. I've been wanting to use it for a nautical themed shot, so I figured it might work well here. I'd also recently picked up a goblin Promotional Cap as a quest reward, which looks a bit like a navy cap. I shopped around for some non-pirate nautical clothing without success - so I decided to dig my tuxedo out of mothballs and pair it with Astralaan bracers for the captain sleeve "stripes".

Next I needed to find a backdrop. I wanted a submarine deck, so I scouted around. The submarines in Vashj'ir were in a dark cave, so the lighting was poor. I found submarines in Uldum and Gilneas, and settled on the Gilneas sub. In order to get a nice close-up of the pet and outfit, I need to zoom the camera quite far in. I'll then move around the setting inch by inch, pointing the camera from several directions. This may seem tedious, but it allows me to visually frame the shot while zoomed in. I'm trying to find suitable lighting, but more importantly, I'm trying to balance and frame the composition to include relevant objects in the background. This step can take an hour or more. Zoomed in, there isn't much on the submarine deck that says "submarine", with the exception of the wheel lock on the deck door. I choose the door as my backdrop.

Once I've found the spot I like, I need to pose my pet and then myself. This can be fairly easy if my pet is cooperative. I'll feed my pet a biscuit and simply lead/turn him into the right spot, then move into position. Unfortunately, not all pets are cooperative. Some nod off to sleep, wander away, burrow, or fidget (idle animations). These pets typically reset their position based on where I happen to be standing. This used to frustrate me, but I've grown to kind of enjoy the challenge of posing uncooperative pets. The Jade Tentacle posed a different issue. It's a stationary pet, only bursting out of the ground near where I stand. Once it's up, however, it stays there until I move. In this situation, getting it to burst out of the ground in just the right spot was the challenge. Since I wanted the tentacle to appear as if it were climbing up onto the deck and not poking through the hull, I had to get it to burst from the steps leading up to the deck. Another 15-20 minutes tick by.

At last I've got my pet positioned! Now I move back into my pose, re-frame the composition and finally take the shot. Not so fast... now I wait. 

"Wait? What for?", you're probably asking. 

I'm waiting for that perfect moment. I want to capture the pet at the moment it looks best, whether it's blowing bubbles, breathing fire, the upbeat of wings, or in the case of my Jade Tentacle, whipping around me. More than once I've waited what feels like ages to capture an idle animation, only to open the image later and discover I blinked! More waiting. Click. Click. I'll get a few extras, just to be sure, then I'll select my favorite from the bunch. Done!

Except I'm not liking any of the shots.

Sigh. I've now decided I'd like it to be more of an action shot. You know, where it looks like I'm fighting off the tentacle as it attacks the submarine. For this, I need an attack pose. For an attack pose, I need a non-friendly mob to target, and of course there are none in sight. I decide to recruit a friend to help. My friend Michael, who is always happy to help me, flies out to Gilneas and challenges me to a duel on the deck of the submarine. I can now target him on the far end of the deck and put myself in an attack pose. I reposition the shot. Click. Click. Click.

Nearly another hour and more than 60 screenshots later, I think I finally have my shot. Oddly enough, even after all the fuss I'm not completely thrilled with the final Jade Tentacle portrait. I may decide to re-shoot it some day, but for now it's finished. I posted this article as an example of the screenshot process. Believe it or not, this is somewhat typical for every portrait. At just over 200 portraits in my gallery, I only have 250 (and counting) to go! 


  1. You are all inspirational, beautiful, and meaningful.

    Your site is truely outstanding! Priceless!

    I'm a transmog fasion geek and you have just became my new idol. I might visit you sometime on stormrage.

  2. YAY! Glad to see you've returned. I was wondering if you left or went on hiatus or something.

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