Since 2013 I’ve been sporting a profile picture or avatar that features me wearing an Oculus Rift DK1. It was originally a photograph for my post about my impressions of the headset. It stuck with me for the longest time but now when consumer hardware has actually shipped I felt the need for an update. The full non-cropped version of it is below.
As I recently did a photo project with the consumer Rift, I decided to use the Vive for my profile to kind of balance things out. I had already featured Oculus hardware for several years so it just seems fair, no? I might swap back to Oculus in a few years or perhaps even to a third brand!
For reference you can see my old and new profile picture next to each other to the left.
The concept itself is based on the camera mode that exists in the Vive headset, dubbed Tron-mode because of the traced outlines and blue color. This is basically the Tron-mode but reversed to show what’s inside the headset rather than outside!
I posted the resulting image to Reddit as I thought it was good enough to share and there I was asked to provide details on how I made it. As I have now written it up once already I figured I could just as well post it here too.
- I used my Panasonic Lumix G5 with a 20mm f1.7 lens. This was mounted on a rail with a webcam facing the back of it, this put what was on the camera LCD on my screen through using OBS Studio. The rail itself was mounted to a tripod.
- On the PC I ran Virtual Desktop to see what happened on the camera screen while in VR. I used a wireless keyboard so I could press F4 to reset where my desktop was positioned in space, this so I could see my old profile picture to try and strike a similar pose.
- To trigger exposures I connected my TriggerTrap dongle to the camera and mounted my phone which ran the TriggerTrap app to a video monopod. I set it to do time-lapse with an exposure every 10 seconds, this to give me time between shots to adjust. I also set the camera to three seconds of review to let me see the result.
- I had my flash unit mounted on a separate tripod and I bounced the light off of the white ceiling. The flash was triggered via wireless FlashQ trigger units. The flash was set to manual mode and the second highest gain level.
- On the camera I manually set the white balance, aperture, shutter speed and ISO but used single shot auto focus. With the focus area around my nose and eyes and at the same time the front of the headset I could get both shots I needed to be sharp. Manual settings were used to get as close to identical exposures as possible as the result is going to be a composite image.
- When I thought I had gotten a good shot with the headset on I would try to stay as still as possible while quickly removing it so I had the same face and pose in the next shot. This was a process I had to repeat a number of times until I was happy with what I got, I actually swapped lenses a few times too. It’s easy to get a mismatch in head angle between the two exposures.
- I lifted the shadows in the two selected RAW files and then put them in layers with the no-HMD one on top, setting its blending mode to Difference and matching position on my top row of teeth as they are fixed to my skull.
- Then I made a smart object of the top layer which again is only my face. I applied Surface Blur, Find Edges and Invert. Then put the layer in a group, set blending mode of the group to Screen and applied a layer mask to remove everything that was outside the headset profile.
- Finally put a new layer above the face layer in the same group and fill it with your tron-mode color of choice, set layer blending mode to Color.
- The thumb graphic is just painted, blurred and with blending mode set to Overlay.
Virtual photo shoot
- I had to get a background as I did the shoot against a boring dark roller blind. My tripod was still in the same position and angle so I mounted the Vive headset onto the rail to get the same angle of the virtual camera as the physical one I had used.
- I booted up The Lab and after some experimentation (and a ton of crashes) I ended up taking a screenshot from the Valve demo room #1. I chose this room as it had similar lighting conditions to my actual room. There are yellow tinted reflected light on me as the photo was shot in a room with yellow walls and the demo room naturally had yellow tinted light.
- I scaled up the screenshot and put it in the background, applied blur and brightened it up to match my photo. I extracted myself from my original background with a layer mask so the new background became visible then walked over the edges with a soft eraser to clean it up.
- Levels adjustment layer just below the tron-mode group, adjusted all three handles to my liking, it’s basically a more versatile contrast adjustment.
- Cropped it to use as a profile picture. Export. Done.
Additionally to the right, as a reference if anyone wants to recreate this, are all the Photoshop layers I ended up .
Phew, well, it took way longer than I expected both to do this and to write it up! I did all in all four different versions of this profile picture before reaching something I was enough satisfied with to use :P Not sure how many hours went into it but more than I want to think about ;)