Home » 2013 - 14 Academic Year » The “Toy” World of St. Mark’s: Tilt-Shifting Effect

The “Toy” World of St. Mark’s: Tilt-Shifting Effect

by The New Media Class of Mr. Christopher Roche, Computer Science and Physics Faculty

The New Media class (a computer science elective) at St. Mark’s explores digital design and desktop publishing St._Mark's_School%2c_Southborough%2c_MA_-_IMG_0592ideas, using 2D and 3D tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, and CAD software.  The class seeks to show students the myriad possibilities of design in the digital world.  Gabriel Xu, III Form, came to the second class this fall with an amazing image he found that showed the “tilt-shifting” effect (it was his response to a “favorite photo” assignment).  When we saw the image, we were so excited to investigate tilt-shifting so we could learn how it works and practice it ourselves. 

Tilting and shifting are techniques photographers use, but they can be simulated digitally, like we did.  Tilting and shifting together (tilt-shifting) is used to create a “miniature” effect, where the viewer believes he or she is looking at a toy or a model.   This Photoshop effect implements a focus point on a small, specific area of the photo andtilt shift significantly blurs everything else in the picture. The contrast between the small focused area and the larger out-of-focus area makes the picture seem fake or made of plastic.  After the effect is added to the photo, the colors of the original picture can be enhanced to make the objects in the picture seem even more toy-like.  When tilting, a photographer uses a special lens that can be tilted relative to the image plane of the camera, so objects at different distances from the camera can appear in focus at the same time (which seems impossible to do with an ordinary lens).  Photographers use tilt lenses in landscape photography, for example, to keep a wide land expanse all in focus.   When shifting, photographers will use a special lens that can be moved parallel to the camera’s image plane.  A shifting lens will allow a tall building to be photographed so that the building’s sides remain parallel, and thus do not converge, in the final image.  Tilt-shifting is a common effect in Hollywood cinematography as well. One of the more recent films that used this effect to develop a unique world where everything looked like a toy was the film Gulliver’s Travels, starring Jack Black.

Tiltshift-DiningHall-St-MarksOur tilt-shifting was done with Photoshop.  Photoshop CS6 has a “tilt-shift” blur filter, which some students tried.  However, we also found a very good tutorial on the subject at www.tiltshiftphotography.net, where “tilt-shifting” can be simulated using a Photoshop “quick mask,” a “gradient,” and a “lens blur.”  We found that this more-manual technique allowed for greater control of the tilt-shift effect. The assignment highlighted in this article was to make a miniature world out of our St. Mark’s campus through tilt-shifting.

Please check out the work of the WHOLE class and their explanations by clicking HERE.


The New Media Class, Left to Right: Mr. Roche, Griffin Starkey (VI), Ethan Foy (VI), Amanda Christy (III), Laura Sanchez (VI), Camille Banson (V), Ryan Haarstick (V), Hope D’Orsi (VI)…..and Mr. Roche again!

This article collaboratively created by Mr. Christopher Roche and Griffin Starkey, VI Form

St. Mark’s School image:  Griffin Starkey, VI Form

The Center (Forbes) image:  Hope D’Orsi, VI Form

Dining Hall image:  Mr. Christopher Roche

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