Saturday, November 2, 2013

Interview with Callidus, Part 2

Here's the conclusion to my interview with photomanipulation master Callidus. He and I have been having a lot of discussions lately, and not just about this interview! Yes, that is a hint - and here's another: he's a lot of fun to work with. };-)

Anyway, back to the interview. In this section, he tells you more about his techniques, his artistic influences, and advice for other would-be photomanipulators. Enjoy!

12. What software do you use for your manipulations?

Primarily Adobe Photoshop and After Effects. Animations have traditionally involved a little use of Flash, though these days I’m transitioning to doing everything in native HTML with the help of a tool called Hype. Video editing and sound work happen in Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack Pro respectively.

The little bit of 3D work that I’ve done has happened in Lightwave and Sketchup 3D.

13. I've been using the freeware Photoscape ( easy to learn) for a while now and have recently started learning Gimp (a bitch to learn). How familiar are you with these programs, and what do you think about them? Would you recommend either of them, or any other freeware, by name?

I’m not familiar with Photoscape but I did try out GIMP years ago. I remember it being a bit clunky at the time, though I imagine its improved since then. I’ve recently read something about GIMPshop, its a facelift for GIMP that is supposed to make the software more accessible to Photoshop users so…perhaps it will ease the learning curve.
If you happen to be on Mac, there’s a really impressive piece of software called Pixelmator that costs something like $30. It isn’t a total replacement for Photoshop but its incredibly powerful for the price. I think the new version will be adding Layer Styles which is the secret weapon Photoshop has that most other apps don’t. I’ve used it and I can heartily recommend it. 

Probably the most impressive free alternative to Photoshop that I’ve seen is Its a free photo editor that runs in your web browser and the feature list is pretty amazing. It has the five most crucial Layer Styles that I use in Photoshop, and almost all the tools I utilize on a regular basis. I’m right at home in the interface as its very similar to what I’m accustomed to and they have a community of users providing tips and answers to questions. I recommend it without hesitation.

14. You do everything from single, static images to Flash animations to elaborate videos, and I know your projects take different amounts of time. But how much time do you spend on a typical piece of each type?

I used to measure project-length in days, but years of practice have shortened that time a bit. A single, static image usually takes a few hours, and an animation might take a full day or several depending on the complexity or if it’s a series. Video projects run much, much longer. Orientation was about three months of work, Decisive Results was over a year.

In all cases, writing usually eats up a third to half of the total project time.

15. I had no idea you spent so much time writing your scripts. Do you enjoy that part of a project as much as you do the manipping, or is it more of a chore for you? Would you ever consider doing a piece that had no script at all?

I do enjoy writing, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a chore at times. When I feel inspired, when I have an idea I want to execute, the writing is very enjoyable. When I don’t feel inspired or have an idea…its drudgery. Thief is an interesting case study here because, with that piece, I started with nothing and worked through a couple hours of said drudgery before breaking through and finding a story that I really liked. It was an instructive moment in persistence.
I have done a few images that didn’t feature any sort of text caption, but it feels like cheating. I’d love to play it off as though I felt the image was soooo good that I couldn’t write anything to make it better, but the truth is sometimes I just run dry. 

16. Who are your favorite professional erotic artists, and what do you like about their work?

Hajime Sorayama is a god among mortals. In addition to his astonishing skill as an illustrator (I’ve done some illustration so I can appreciate how good he is) I am in awe of his fearlessness as an artist. There are fantasies I have that I’m not brave enough to explore in my work. I’d like to think that one day I might be as bold as he is. The diversity of his work and the seemingly endless number of fetishes he’s rendered are also quite amazing.

I’m also quite fond of Boris Vallejo. His work is endlessly inventive and has that sense of drama and narrative that I mentioned earlier. I also find his use of color really fascinating. He finds ways to make primary/secondary colors work together where I’d never even think to attempt the same combination.    

On the photography side, I’m a very big fan of Frederic Fontenoy at the moment. I love black & white photo work and his sensibilities and unique style are perfectly suited for that format. I think his work is very exemplary of the maxim that great photographs are created, not captured. His work eschews any sense of direct cinema in favor of an obviously-produced and highly-stylized aesthetic.

I should go count how many of the pictures in my gallery have been shot by Suze Randall. She’s an extremely prolific photographer and has a way of capturing erotic heat that I don’t find equaled very often. I’m also watching her daughter Holly’s work with great interest. 

17. Who are your favorite amateur erotic artists, and what do you like about their work?

The name that has to be at the top of this list is trilby else. More than anyone else, he’s been the biggest influence on me. I’ve always been impressed by his ability to inhabit the mind of a character moment by moment as the hypnotist is gaining control. It’s something I struggle to convey, even now, and he makes it seem effortless. There’s also the fact that there are EMC tropes that he basically invented. I think most of us, directly or otherwise, owe a debt to his brilliance. I have stolen from him so often I couldn’t begin to count.

One of the things I am most gratified by is that, before he left the community, he and I exchanged a few emails and he paid me a very kind compliment on my work. I got the chance to tell him that I wouldn’t have done any work if not for him.

Another name that cannot go without being mentioned is Tabico. Her talent is great, her imagination is without bounds, and, having worked with her several times, I can verify that she is every bit as brilliant as you think she is. I’m extremely fond of the subtlety in her work. I will re-read her stories and find bits of dialog or exposition that I hadn’t noticed before; little hints of what’s going on behind the scenes that she leaves to the reader to suss out.

The fact that she and I have become good friends and that I’ve been able to collaborate with her as much as I have leaves me pinching myself. Examining her craft has really inspired me to better myself as a writer.

emilymoss is one of my favorite manip artists. She’s developed such a unique style and I love the visual flair she imparts to her work. She also has a penchant for brainwashing and kaa-hypnosis which are both right up my alley.

Sleepy Maid is an illustrator that has been on my radar for a number of years now. Her singular illustrative style and love of squick and brainwashing always makes her gallery a fun place to poke around.

4F’s digital art was a profound early inspiration of mine. His dedication to quality and the technical achievement of his work is quite remarkable.

Back on the writers’ side, I’ve also been very taken with the writings of cat_slave, Arclight, Aerosol Kid, Zorkmeister, and Sara H. 

18. You’ve collaborated with other MC fetishists, including writers and voice artists. What has that been like, and how do you divide the labor? Do you stick to image manipulation and let the other person handle the story?

I love collaboration provided that you and the other party each bring something unique to the table while also having enough in common to avoid friction over the most fundamental choices. There’s nothing worse than having a project break down because the collaborators can’t agree over whether the character turns left or right. Those are painful experiences.

As for division of labor, it varies project-to-project. In the case of The Witch Queen, my first collaboration, with Tabico and Iago, I had found the images and put together a draft sequence with an outline of what I thought the story might be. Then I concentrated on the imagery and let Tabico work on the writing with input from Iago.

With Decisive Results, I did most of the actual writing and all the video work, but that was after several months of Tabico and I brainstorming ideas and figuring out the story together. So, while I did type up the script, the narrative was something that had been developed in close collaboration.

19. Which of your pieces are you most proud of, and why?

I am so self-critical that it’s difficult for me to enjoy my work as a viewer; mostly I just see mistakes and misspellings. I find it’s easier to enjoy my own stuff the more time has passed since completing it.

Nurse was the first time I really tried to pull off something technically challenging with the puddle underneath the model. It took many hours of trial and error, but in the end, I succeeded in what I’d hoped to accomplish. That filled me with confidence and drove me to push harder in future projects.

Chamber is a piece I’m fond of because I found writing it so satisfying. I had to keep trimming down my story to physically fit in the manip but I was very happy with what I’d developed and it bolstered my confidence as a writer moving forward.

I’m very proud of Alpha for the technical savvy it took to pull off. The complex geometric pattern that had to be animated, the virtual 3D set I built to form the brainwashing chamber, the 3D models of computer equipment that I added to the control room... every part of that series required some different discipline to execute and, I think, the story ended up being pretty hot too.

Nickelodeon might be my favorite bit of work from my own catalog. I had long wanted to do a manip set in the Victorian era, and that picture set was simply perfect. The process of writing and manipulating the imagery was sheer joy. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun working on something.

I’m quite proud of both of the video manips I’ve released. They both involved a lot of work and pushed me to innovate in terms of how to tell a complete story. They were demanding but very rewarding.

20. If you had all the time and resources you wanted, what would your dream project look like?

Wow, what a fun question to ponder. I’d like to write and direct a series of erotic mind-control films. Bring to life some of the characters and stories from my manips. Maybe adapt a piece of EMC fiction from one of my favorite authors.

I think, stylistically, I would be aiming for something akin the late Zalman King’s erotic series like Red Shoe Diaries and Kamikaze Love. I’ve also been very fond of some of Andrew Blake’s more narrative-focused films. Recently, I’m very impressed with Graham Travis’ Wasteland in terms of both production and acting quality. I also look at Kink’s satellite site Cruel Romance and see how I could adapt some of their methods to a mind-control-specific tale.

I’ve made films in vanilla life, so combining both of my hobbies is a very compelling idea for me. Perhaps one day someone will trust me with a budget and turn me loose. Or I’ll put together a crowd-funding project to bankroll the production. Either way, the idea of bringing my strain of mind control erotica to life is something I think about often.

21. What advice would you give an MC fetish who wants to get into image manipulation?

My personal maxim is “good manips start with good source material.” Find images that speak to you, that inspire a story in your imagination, and then work on bringing that to life for your audience. Technique is important, but always put creativity first. Don’t stop yourself from doing something because you can’t afford Photoshop or don’t know how to do anything other than add text to a picture.

High-quality and lower-cost photo editors are slowly gaining ground and offering really powerful tools to more people. You can subscribe to Adobe Photoshop now for a fraction of what buying it used to cost. There are free alternatives that are limited, but still offer a way to get into manip creation.

Most of all, listen to your own inspiration. Create something that YOU love. Your passion will be evident in your work and, in my opinion, that’s what will attract others to your art.


Anonymous said...

Very informative interview!

Great to read the inspirations and behind the scenes workings of a creator in this genre.

Myndblender said...

Great interview! I had to go to Callidus' page to revisit his favs, along with some of mine. Keep up the great work both of you.