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<   No. 1123   2006-02-22   >

Comic #1123

1 Spanners: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And so we commit Paris' mortal remains to the stars from whence they came. {pushes a button and the torpedo is launched into space}
2 Paris: That was touching guys.
2 Iki Piki: {turning in surprise} Paris! What?! How?!
3 Paris: I'm a ghost, you morons, now that I'm dead for good.
4 Serron: Oooh... Do you get cool Force powers?
4 Paris: Have you got lightning hitting your head?

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I first wrote this without Paris' final line. When putting the strip together, I felt it needed a bit more punch, and I'm really glad I thought about adding an extra line.

Oh, and to make this strip (and the last one where Paris appeared as a ghost) required three separate images for each panel:

  1. A shot of Spanners, Iki Piki, and Serron and the ship around them.
  2. A shot of Paris against a blue screen, so I could cut out her background and paste her in as a partially transparent layer.
  3. A starfield to paste into the bluescreened window cutouts.
Several people wrote to tell me there was an easier way to do ghost images. Namely, take a shot with Paris in the frame, then remove her and take another shot with everything else set up identically. Then I could just average the two frames digitally and hey presto, Paris would be semi-transparent, and even have her shadow in the right place.

While this sounds good, it's actually harder and requires more effort than what I did, for several reasons:

  1. This method requires that the camera not move between shots. Easy enough if you have it set up on a tripod and have a remote shutter release so that you don't accidentally bump the camera when taking a shot. I don't have a remote shutter release and, although I do have a tripod, I don't use it for miniature photos. There simply isn't room for a tripod in the space where I take these shots.
  2. It also requires that nothing in the set moves between shots (except for Paris). I am notoriously clumsy, and would almost certainly bump Iki Piki, or Spanners, or accidentally destroy half the space ship bridge if I had to be careful like that.
  3. It requires two shots for every panel. The way I do it, I need just one shot of Paris and can re-use it over and over. You'll notice Paris is in the same pose in panels 1, 2, and 3, and only different in panel 4. So to make this strip with my method took only 6 photos, rather than 8. And now that I have photos of Paris already taken and bluescreened, any more strips I make probably won't require any additional photography at all.
  4. Who says ghosts cast shadows, anyway? :-)

2015-06-08 Rerun commentary: Little did I know when I began this whole "Paris is a ghost" thing that I'd be having to make strips with her as a semitransparent layer for the next three years.

Fortunately, I streamlined it by shooting a stock of several photos of Paris at various angles against a blank background, and cutting them out, then saving the files for use later in multiple strips as required.

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