Collaborative storytelling: Take me to the moon

Posted: December 13, 2021 by Luigi Priori, Fabio Broggi, Daniele Sala, and Andrea Serra

Here we are again with a collaborative storytelling! We’ve reached out to a group of talented LEGO photographers in our community to weave for us a visual narrative around one set.

This time, we invited four Italian photographers @priovit70, @ilcarota, @brick_point_of_view, and @zen_bricks to pick a set from the LEGO store, with some constraints, and they chose the 60228: Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control.

The group spent some weeks pre-planning while their sets arrived, and more weeks shooting. Here’s what they came up with.

The Story

Some dreams grow slowly like a plant in a pot, some others spark like a rocket through a window! Since they were children, Sara and Paolo had a clear idea about their dream: space travel!

Their story started with a toy rocket with a message received by Sara when she was playing with her favorite space LEGO set. “A rocket?! That’s an unusual way to send a message!” – she thought. But…

by @zen_bricks

Once she had read the message, she had no doubt about the sender! Down the street, in front of her house, there was Paolo, her best friend. The handwritten message was “TAKE ME TO THE MOON”. Someone could keep this as a simple declaration of love, but Sara understood it was for real!

by @zen_bricks

Years later…both Paolo and Sara are admitted to the “Back on the Moon” space program. With their hearts full of joy, they packed their things and now they are riding Paolo’s scooter full speed to the space center.

by @priovit70

Life at the space center is exciting but also exhausting. Days and nights, nights and days making preparations for the mission. Sometimes it is even hard to stay awake after hours of meetings and briefings. Sara proves out once again to be stronger, while Paolo is already sleeping.

by @priovit70

Finally, it’s time to get on the shuttle leading to the rocket. Sara is very focused on the mission and doesn’t see what Paolo is doing in the back seat. Distracted by the photographer, he is almost thrown out of the vehicle. Luckily, by holding on to the handle, he manages to reach his destination.

by @brick_point_of_view

There is little time left for the start. The maintenance guy is doing the latest repairs. They say he is very good at his job, even if the sparks and the noise he causes make Paolo jump inside the rocket, while Sara bursts into a big laugh.

by @brick_point_of_view

The countdown has begun, the smoke is slowly rising from the ground and finally the mission begins.

The capsule has finally reached orbit. Everyone at the space center is enthusiastic. The reporters can’t wait to interview the two astronauts live from space. Paolo is not at his best. Sara watches him and thinks “Don’t you dare to throw up right now!”

by @priovit70

The journey is long and Italian mothers are easily worried, so Paolo has to stop and make a phone call using the first satellite he found.

“Yes mom! No mom! No, I’m not flying too fast… there is no speed limit in space! And yes, I’m wearing my thermal vest, don’t you worry…”

by @priovit70

After this long trip, Sara and Paolo finally manage to get back to the moon, a new adventure begins 50 years after the Apollo program!  The landing is perfectly successful, but it seems that our space heroes are not alone.

by @ilcarota

After many years, Paolo finds the right words: “Sara, will you marry me?”. Here comes the first lunar wedding!

by @ilcarota

The journey is not over, they have thousands of worlds to explore out there.

by @ilcarota

Behind the scenes

ZEN_BRICKS

I took the first two shots of the story: as an introduction, they represent a flashback in the characters’ childhood. 

During the first brainstorming of the collaborative project, we decided the sequence of shots. I immediately understood that the first shots perfectly fit with my style.

As usual, I used to make some preliminary sketches in order to study the composition of the shots. 

For the first scene, I used an open-walls apartment to create Sara’s room. As she is a space fan, her blue room walls are covered with a lot of glow-in-the-dark stars and some colored planets here and there.

Since the reference LEGO set of the collaborative project is the LEGO City 60228, I created a tiny miniature of the space station as Sara’s favorite toy! I tried to keep the same shape and colors of the original one. The box of her LEGO set is present as well!

For the second scene, I chose an eagle-eye perspective to create Sara’s point of view, as she was looking down the window. A rocket construction scheme, some wrenches and a blue teddy bear complete Paolo’s equipment.

Here, there is a shot behind the scenes:

PRIOVIT70

In the scene with the press conference, as in the one with Paolo sleeping, I replaced the big space center display with my smartphone, recreating the whole graphic with Photoshop.

I decided to go the hard way because the original display has nice features, like the working countdown, but has some transparent parts and some non-transparent ones. Backlighting the display would have caused a weird effect.

I took a first photo with the capsule and the two astronauts, then applied a light glitch effect and put on my smartphone with the display graphic.

I added some minifigures and a LED light above.

The orbit photo was the hardest to shoot, because it was definitely out of my comfort zone. After some different approaches, I decided to use my TV as a background with a photo of Earth from space (you can also recognize the Italian peninsula) and light the whole scene from above to recreate the same lighting of the background.

In this case I took three photos: the first one with all the objects, a second one with the light inside the capsule, and the last one with the background only.

With Photoshop I erased all the pieces I used to support the capsule, the minifigure and the satellite and I added a mask for the interior of the capsule, because its upper piece is semi-transparent and with the inner light it looked weird and I didn’t like it at all.

For three of the four photos I worked with a f/16 aperture, that is very unusual for me. I generally use the other end of the diaphragm, since I like to have out of focus backgrounds, like most of you probably know. 

BRICK_POINT_OF_VIEW

First of all I would like to thank Brickcentral for being chosen to be part of the team for the realization of this project.
In all honesty at first I was a bit skeptical about putting together a story with 4 different people and with different ways of dealing with Lego photography.
Instead after the first call I completely changed my mind and I have to thank my travel companions for the tips and advice that have helped me a lot (working in a team has taught me not to stop at the first idea but take as much time as possible to realize it, I will definitely need it in the future).

Let’s move on to the description of the shots.

The first “Rocket Descent”

As already captured in the previous photos, the astronaut is a bit out of rules, and even during the descent risks, with his clumsiness, to be catapulted out of the train that is taking him to take off. The shot, being at night, and with an illumination of the launch pad, is a play of light and shadows.
I used 2 illuminations: the first to highlight the control tower and the second behind the rocket to make it look blurred in the background.

The second “Last checks before departure”

Obviously, to accentuate it, I put the sparks that frightened the astronaut who hid behind his partner (I think he’s very scared for takeoff).
I used part of the rocket scaffolding to make a crane, where the worker is doing maintenance.
I took 2 shots, the first with focus and correct lighting for the astronauts inside the cockpit, the second with focus on the maintenance worker, then joined together in post-production, with the addition of sparks of course.

The third shot “Take-off”

This was the hardest to accomplish, as it comes a bit out of my comfort zone, as I am not at all used to shooting sets of this size.

After several tests, I opted for a cut of this kind to give a little more dynamism to the scene. The entire photo was based on the success of the departure smoke cloud.

I put a LED light with a red colored filter covered with simple cotton. To give a little more emphasis I added smoke in post-production and the usual LED lamp on the right of the rocket to create the illumination of the Moon.

ILCAROTA

I made the last pictures of this story, taken on the moon’s surface. I wanted to recreate shots similar to those made by the Apollo crew in the 1969 landing.

I used a piece of plywood and some cardboards to make hills, then I primed all with white and black spray paint. The result was quite satisfying, so I used it for all my shots just adding a black background to simulate the inner space.

I used a hard light from the left to obtain black shadows,then  I had to add some details in photoshop. On original NASA photographs shot on the moon there were crosshair reticles.

Those were obtained by using a Hasselblad camera with an A Réseau plate (a transparent sheet of glass engraved with this grid).

I wanted to add them on my shots to recreate a similar look.


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