Ransom & Mitchell is a still and motion creative team based in San Francisco featuring the combined talents of director/photographer Jason Mitchell and set designer/digital artist Stacey Ransom. The results of this collaboration are highly detailed and visually lush photographic-based digital art scenarios and portraits for the editorial, advertising and fine-art worlds.
In this Q&A preview, the photographers talk about their Bee Amazing project.
Mitchell: Sometimes we shoot on sets Stacey has created, and other times I’ll photograph the subject in a studio on a simple backdrop, then completely composite it into a background that we created separately in CG. Often the concept and budget will steer us one way or another.
Ransom: For Bee Amazing, a recent self-promotion project, our goal was to create an agency-targeted piece that was celebrating girls being creative and empowering them to be scientists, engineers and so on. Jason created the sets in Autodesk Maya, a program we use to make a lot of our backgrounds, virtual sets and environments. There’s so much more we can do building a set in Maya in relation to the scale of the scene. Additionally, I work in ZBrush to create props and other decor details.
Mitchell: Maya is a 3D application by Autodesk that was originally designed for doing animation work, but now the systems have evolved to where it’s become very realistic and you can do a lot of particle dynamics with it.
Ransom: Particle dynamics being, “How does the light look?” “How do the shadows look?” Volumetric light like when light is beaming through dust.
Mitchell: Mimicking real-world physics both in light and gravity flow has been very unique and inspiring. It mimics everything from hair, cloth and fluid dynamics for water and clouds. The great thing is that you can break those physics whenever you want.
Ransom: Our tag line is “Gravity and common sense are for suckers.”
Mitchell: For the Bee project, prior to the shoot I created the scenes in Maya to match our concept sketches. These included a grass field and a room with a window for light motivation. Using the volumetric effects of the Arnold renderer in Maya, I created an additional light bloom as if the sun was streaming in and bouncing off of particulate in the air. In the studio, I shaped Profoto strobes with an octobox, flats, flags and nets to match the scene. I also used a Magnum reflector in an 8x book light to give a wide soft fill.
Ransom: We handle our own post-production as an integral part of our look. As we’re capturing the different scenarios, I often do a quick rough composite in Photoshop to make sure everything is matching. It confirms as well that the concept is on target, or if we need to make adjustments to the physical or 3D elements to tweak it into place.
Look for the full article by Mark Edward Harris when the issue goes on newsstands October 31, 2017. Visit the Ransom & Mitchell website at ransommitchell.com and fakebelieve.net, and follow them on Instagram @ransom_mitchell