Nick Lavin22/06/2021

Let me take you back to 2011. A magical time when the last Harry Potter film was released, the Twilight saga was still dragging on and Game of Thrones hit our screens for the first time. It was also the year I joined the team at Revolution Viewing as a Photographer, travelling around the UK’s many universities and Homebuilder developments. With Will & Kate’s marriage and the resulting four-day bank holiday weekend, it was quite the time for a 24-year-old to be alive, I can tell you!

It’s hard to believe that was 10 years ago now. A lot has changed since then. The RV team has grown and so has my family. I’m now a Senior Multimedia Technician – and I can’t tell you just how many blue skies I’ve retouched or dirty roads I’ve replaced in Photoshop, but it’s definitely more than 10! I still make time for questionable TV shows and films though. Some things never change.

I thought I’d celebrate this 10-year milestone by sharing 10 things with you. First of all, my personal top five tips in 10 years of working in digital media post production. And second, five of my favourite projects I’ve worked on during that time – and why I’ve loved working on them.

My top five tips

I’ve learnt so much over the years – but I’ve never really stopped to think about it that much up until now! As a multimedia technician and retouching specialist, my point-of-reference is quite specific – but I hope there’s things in here that are useful whatever your role. So here goes…

Clients: predictably unpredictable (in a good way)

A lot of things in life are unpredictable (just like that Game of Thrones ending). Working successfully with clients and briefs – with the outcome that everyone is happy – can be a bit of an art! Often, I’ll have a clear picture in my head of what I think the project will be like – but that picture could be slightly different to what the client was envisaging. Clearly defined briefs and communication are key for all involved. After all, we all have different perspectives which affect the way we see things. Projects and briefs can often change halfway through for many reasons – the real skill is being agile and adaptable in pursuit of the right solution and the best outcome.

Be a do-er

Focus your efforts on solving the problems that at first seem too hard to overcome. I’ve done this a lot over the years. Most of the more complex retouching jobs have started with a personal desire to find a solution, improve myself and succeed. It can also be a great confidence booster when you do complete that task. Just make sure that the challenge you set yourself is within reach. A lot of the retouching examples you can see further down started out this way. So challenge yourself! You might be surprised at the outcome.

A logical and honest approach

Everytime I start a project, I try to think of all the steps I will need to take to get it right first time. For example: if I’m working on a series of photos of a new home and the road in front of it is covered in JCB tyre tracks, it’s going to need retouching. To get it looking like clean, fresh tarmac, I will first need to select the right photo, find a replacement surface from a stock image library and then blend the two images – taking into account things like lighting and perspective. It seems obvious, but taking a logical approach helps you to break down a project into more manageable chunks. But you also have to be honest with yourself too. As much as I like a challenge, sometimes there are things that just cannot be done – or at least not to the standard required within the time or budget you’re working with. Setting expectations rather than over-committing is so important and another part of being logical and honest in what you do.

Reference material

I have a whole bookmark folder full of links to Youtube tutorials and blogs that I have found interesting and useful. You can only remember so much. Having somewhere you know you can go to either brush up on your skills – or to reference a particular technique – is vital. There’s countless great Youtube channels around, lots of which I subscribe to. And don’t forget to stay abreast of the types of software you rely on as well – there’s nothing more annoying than that tool you use suddenly vanishing after the latest update.

People

Never underestimate the power of working with great people and how they can have a positive impact on your work and what you do. Whether you’re a specialist with one major client – or work as part of a big team in a busy environment – working more like a team of friends can make everything a lot easier whilst having some fun along the way! Getting a fresh set of eyes and an honest opinion on something is always really valuable too.

My top five projects

Projects have come a long way since I first started at RV. 10 years ago, photography dominated. The 360 photography kit looked like something you’d use to navigate the pacific ocean. How times have changed! Although I’ve worked on more projects than I can shake a tripod at, these ones stand out in my memory.

Lakes by Yoo Virtual Tour

This was one that I went out to capture and the setting was amazing. It was such a warm sunny day and I was surrounded by some beautifully designed lakeside properties that I could only dream of living in! The client was great – and the homes were perfectly set up, which made for a stress-free and fun couple of days. I also worked on the postproduction for this project, which included a lot of HDR’s to really bring out the full potential of spaces. At the time, I hadn’t much experience with using multiple images, so this was a great learning opportunity too.

The one with the floor replacement

We photographed this apartment complex before the flooring had been put in. You’d have had more luck selling chocolate fireguards than using the images as they were. It was either return to site or see if I could add a floor surface over the bare concrete via a bit of retouching magic. Never before had I done anything like this – but I wanted to challenge myself while providing a cost effective solution. So, after a bit of testing to judge how confident I would be with doing this, I gave it a go. The finished result is the fourth image in the set. The client was extremely happy with the end result – as was I!

The 360 rollercoaster one

Not your typical retouching project – but a fun one nonetheless! This project involved working with footage captured on a 360 video rig, consisting of multiple cameras – all safely tethered to a rollercoaster! It was a pretty challenging team project (a rollercoaster you might say), but with a bit of perseverance the end results were totally original – and reaffirmed my dislike of heights.

The 360 Virtual Tour one

Another cool project, this time involving 360 timelapse video as a base for the virtual tour. With constantly moving people and daylight conditions, hiding the kit and the shadows it cast throughout the timelapse was by far the biggest challenge. With this being a more recent project, I also remember this as one of those projects where all your prior experience and knowledge comes together to help deliver something truly unique.

The one with the fake fire

We’d captured a video of a top-of-the-range showhome for one of our clients – but on the day the weather was a typical British affair with more cloud than not. And the fireplaces – which were switched off in the footage – needed switching on in postproduction! I worked with the editor to add blue skies to any exterior shots as well as sourcing, positioning and tracking fire clips into the video to produce the great-looking video you see. Another happy client – and happy Senior Multimedia Technician to boot!

The last word

Well, there you have it! Five tips + five projects = 10 great years at Revolution Viewing. If you ever want to pick my brain about image retouching, our video and photography solutions for Homebuilders, or how awesome life was in 2011 – get in touch. Thanks to all the clients and colleagues I’ve worked with over the years – and here’s to 10 more!