Warranty Void – Exploded Views of Real-world Things

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Warranty Void – Exploded Views of Real-world Things

Inspired by the exploded-view technical drawings used to show how a component is assembled. ‘Warranty Void’ is an ongoing personal project using real-world objects broken down into it basic components. Exploded views are typically made using an illustration or a 3D render whereas this series uses the real world object, broken down piece by piece. These pieces are photographed one piece at a time, in situ and range from 50 to over 120 separate components.

I’ve had a number of people ask me how these images were made so I thought I’d give a basic outline of my process. What I’ve written tends to jump around a bit from image to image so I wouldn’t call it a tutorial, but it will hopefully give some insight to those interested in the steps involved. The process is quite intensive, requiring some 12-48 hours work from start to finishing depending on the complexity and the steps needed to prepare each object.

Plastic blocks, friction arms and clamps were used to support each pieces. As I'm masking everything in post I'm not concerned about them being visible.

The overly simplified explanation.

What I shot:
All of the subjects were chosen based on complexity and recognition; they had to have a large number of components but still be recognisable to some extent once broken down. The mechanical pocket watch for example is (hopefully) recognisable by the watch face and the case, has a reasonable number of components and best of all; can be found very cheaply online. Same goes for the models except they come already in pieces but require painting and are more difficult given the number of components. Having a basic knowledge of how the subject works certainly helps to keep track and identify all the pieces along with their placement in the overall composition.

Plane bits, about to be painted.

Plane bits, about to be painted.

How I shot it:
Each piece is photographed separately or in small groups, this method is much faster and offers a more flexible composition than attempting to do the whole images in a single exposure. The pieces are all photographed in situ, meaning roughly placing each piece where it will be located in the final composition to ensure there’s a consistent perspective (parallax) and give a greater appearance of depth. I used a paper background allowing me to make light pencil marks to mark where key pieces were located thus giving me a reference for the remaining pieces. Typically I also had a technical drawing printed out for further reference and marking heights and angles.

Height and position measurements used as a guide

Height and position measurements used as a guide

I used a combination of blocks and a friction arm + clamp to position and hold each piece in its relative position. This gave me some fine control over the location, height and angles of each piece. As each piece is going to be masked in Photoshop I’m not concerned with blocks/clamps being visible in the individual shots.

Post Production:
It’s worth noting that I usually only shoot about five or so pieces to start and do a rough mock-up to check the angles and compositions before committing to anywhere from 6-12 hours of shooting followed by about 12+ hours of retouching. There’s also usually some reshooting to correct any pieces that might have been shot on the wrong angle or location.

This series was especially complex in terms of post production. I start with a key piece of the objects that I can use as a foundation ‘base image’ to build from (example – the B-17’s starting pieces were the two main halves of the body). Using the pen tool in Photoshop CS6 each piece is masked and dropped on top of the base image. I used the refine mask tool to fine tune the layer masks and give them a somewhat less ‘cut-out’ appearance. Then repeat 70-120 times depending on the given image. After this there’s a bit of clean-up and adjusting for each piece, a new background is dropped in and the final global adjustments are made. And thats about all there is to it, simple really.

UPDATE
– Here’s a video I threw together using all of the photos that went into making one final image in the series: