By Phil Hecken
Some of you fine readers may recall an article I penned back in April of 2009, entitled True Colors – Volume I, which featured the first article on colorization on Uni Watch, and featuring the fantastic work of Larry Bodnovich. Although I’ve done several pieces on colorization since then, I never had a “Volume II.” Until today.
For those of you who have been following the “Colorize This!” segments following the main articles, you’ll be very familiar with the name George Chilvers, who has been quite active in colorizing the photos I’ve displayed on here. In last weekend’s “Colorize This!” segment, I even drew your attention to George’s website, where he also displays many other colorized soccer photos.
Earlier this week, George sent me the colorized version of today’s splash photo. I was simply blown away. George was extremely proud of his efforts (and rightly so), and he sent the following explanation to describe his technique:
Thought I’d take up the bigger challenge. And it was quite a challenge!
First issue was sorting out the colours, and I’m sure someone’s going to tell me they’re wrong — if you know they are let me know and I can alter them. I know Army now wear black, grey and gold, but clearly this picture doesn’t have black jerseys. I found a site that seemed to indicate Marines in cardinal and gold, and knowing about the debates in the past about blue looking quite pale in monochrome pictures I’ve gone for what you see. Army’s pants I just had a hunch weren’t blue (the obvious choice to colourise) so I’ve gone for a tan.
The great thing about doing these pictures is the detail you see that you never notice before when just taking a quick look at the b&w image. Once you get the colour in, what was previously a tangle of grey bodies takes some shape. I know it may sound ridiculous but it was only some way in I realised that the diagonal white line was a side line not a yardage line. The shape of the play then became clearer and started to make sense.
And do you see that the ball-carrier has a moustache!! Until I started doing him I didn’t! Or that number 16 on the ground is losing his pants!!
(even though I’ve just watched my team lose 1-0 – d’oh!!)
Several important tips for those who colorize old photos are contained within those two middle paragraphs. But more importantly, George’s studious techniques bring to light more than just how to colorize a photo, but also, how to even look at old photos. I must confess, I found that on Shorpy, and I simply thought it would be a terrific challenge for the UW colorizers. I never thought about the deep, rich history that even a black and white photograph contains. And, still even more importantly, how that history can be brought to life through the very act of colorization. Great, great stuff.
I’ve had some ongoing conversations with George, but I felt it was really time to get to know him better, and to find out a little more about him, and his talent. George was more than happy to oblige. I first asked him to please explain his colorization technique, because he is obviously extremely skilled at this “art.” Here’s what he said:
SOME THOUGHTS ON COLOURISING/COLORIZING
By George Chilvers
“The techniques of colourising have been outlined before and there are a few different ways of achieving the end result — so I will assume that you already have some idea of how to actually get the colour onto the image. If not, just dig out one of the earlier articles.
“But colourising isn’t just ‘Painting by Numbers.’ It isn’t select and press a button, and hey presto it’s red. It is an art. And you don’t need loads of whizzbang technology either — I use Photoshop 7, which is only slightly more up to date than some of the pictures I use it on.
“The first thing I’d say is figure out what result you’re trying to achieve. Usually I aim to have something that looks like a colour photograph. But you may be doing it to highlight the actual colours worn, so background isn’t important. Or maybe you want something arty, so colours can be vibrant or even a bit weird. Or maybe something else. It doesn’t matter what it is – after all in the end it’s YOUR work. But if you have some idea what you’re doing it for, then you’ll know when you get it right.
“No matter if the photo appears monochrome to begin with, always convert it to greyscale, and then back to RGB (I work in RGB mode). That way any hint of colour remaining in the picture gets cleared away. This is particularly important if the picture has a sepia tone.
“I tend to work at reasonably low saturation levels. I suppose the nearest ‘real-life’ equivalent is hand-tinting photographs. Start subtly, and you can always increase the saturation, contrast and brightness levels at the end. If you’ve spread the colour on thickly with the equivalent of an emulsion brush it’s far harder to tone down later.
“If, like me, you want the end result to look like a photo then look at loads and loads of colour photos. Not necessarily modern ones (although there’s no harm in it) – I would suggest colour photos if available from the 50s and 60s. The reason is that modern cameras are so good that the backgrounds are a lot sharper. Have a look at what you can see in background crowd scenes in older colour photos — usually the background is blurry, with distinct spots of colour. I find that nothing makes a picture look realistic than a few spots of bright colour (yellow, red, green) — crowds don’t all wear the same clothes, and if you look at any crowds you’ll start to notice spots of brightness. Look at the picture and think ‘what makes that a colour photo, rather than a colour image on a monochrome background?’ People will think you’re mad, of course, but you’ll survive.
“Work at high zoom levels but you will often have to zoom back to normal size (or even smaller) to see what is going on in the area you’re working on. At 400% magnification it isn’t always possible to see if the selection you’re creating is still the arm you started on, or the field behind, or someone else’s head.
“And as is always said about computer work — save regularly. The main work is done as a psd file but I even save often as jpegs with slightly differing titles (add a 2 or a 3 to the end) just so if you get in a real tangle you have something to go back to.
“But most of all, have a go. Certainly to improve you need to be a little critical of your own work, but not too much. Enjoy it. Enjoy what you’ve achieved. See what can be improved, but most of all see how you have improved since the last picture you did. See what works – and learn from what doesn’t. There’s no such thing as a piece that’s wrong — just one that can be made better.
“And keep on trying and sending them in.”
Really, really amazing, right? I’ve run out of adjectives to describe George’s assistance and expertise, so I’ll just stop here. But before we close down this chapter, let’s take one more minute to meet the man behind the talent.
Uni Watch: Tell us a little about yourself, George.
George Chilvers: Well, as you have probably guessed I’m a Brit. I was born in Liverpool many many years ago. Just to prove this isn’t just a young guy’s thing, let me just say that when I was born the Queen wasn’t the Queen!! I now live in Wigan. Married, two kids who are both teachers of arty subjects, although I don’t work in that sphere at all.
UW: So what sport and team do you follow?
GC: My main sport is football (I know you call it soccer, but you’ll learn). I grew up supporting Liverpool, but we moved out to Wigan (only about 15 miles away) soon after we got married and when my son wanted to go to football games I took him to our local team, Wigan Athletic. At the time they were just a small team, but over the years they have moved steadily up until now they are in the Premier League. I gradually changed allegiance, and now don’t miss a home game and go to a few away games. I even worked for them for a few years in charge of the tunnel area.
UW: There’s no connections with American sport then?
GC: Funnily enough there is. When I was a youngster I used to listen (on my “transistor radio”) to broadcasts on AFN to the US troops in Germany of Sunday night football games. For some reason I really liked the Packers. But even then I was interested in what colours teams wore, and would wait for the one little snippet like “Giants in their blue jerseys…” Later on TV in the UK broadcast live NFL action for a few years which my son and I watched avidly. By now we had become Redskins fans — mainly because he had a Redskins jersey that came down to his knees!
UW: So what’s your interest in Uni Watch?
GC: Two nations separated by a single language (Oscar Wilde) lol. To us uniforms are “kits”, and ever since I have been so high I have loved knowing what colour kit football teams wear. I used to fill notebooks with drawings of them — now it would be diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive whatever — but then it was just fun.
In the pre-internet days, as I said above, you had to grasp whatever snippets you could of what colours a team wore, but over time you began to learn how to tell from black and white images what was the likely bet, and even if you knew that one team wore red, the the other team in “grey” was probably wearing blue.
UW: And the colorizing?
GC: The colourising you mean lol? I have always loved looking at old photos and wondering what they looked like coloured in. I recently found some football books from when I was a kid, and found that I had in fact coloured in some of the pictures with pencils. Obviously then the advent of PCs, and particularly Photoshop, changed my horizons forever. And Google helped me find your site which was brilliant for me as I realised that I wasn’t the only obsessive one! UW has opened up a new vista for me, as I’d never really tought before about colourising baseball photos. To me they were white or grey — just shows how wrong you can be!
UW: So is it just sports pictures?
GC: No. I’m also interested in family history, and have my own site for that too. On this page, half-way down there’s a picture of Wesley Chilvers — coloured by me! I did the one of George too, but I think Wesley is much better.
UW: And your aim in life?
GC: To live to a hundred and be shot by a jealous husband :)
Thanks George. And because I always like to put a face with a name, I asked George to send along a photo of himself. So here he is, in his glory at the Hampden pitch in 2008, dutifully dressed in a scarf and awating the beginning of a
soccer football match.
The first round of Wild Card games begin today with two games this afternoon and evening. In the early game, we have the Saints, defending Super Bowl Who Dats, traveling to the home of the 12th man, Seattle, to take on the NFC West Division Champion Seahawks. If you haven’t been following the NFL recently, then you might be interested to know that the Seahawks own the dubious distinction of being the first team to advance to the current playoff format with a losing record, finishing at 7-9.
In the late game, the J-E-T-S Jets-Jets-Jets travel back to Indy for a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game, taking on Peyton and the Colts. Gang Green is full of confidence and their coach is full of himself and his wife has, *ahem* pretty feet. The Colts are not the team they once were, beset by injuries and needing like 4 straight victories just to make the playoffs. Sexy Rexy has made it personal, hoping to avenge last year’s loss in Indy and to back up all the dirty words he used on HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer.
Like last year, I’ll be picking my choices by uniform again — I did much better in the NFL playoff’s last year than I did in the NCAA football pool this year — and unlike the NCAA pool, I’ll be using spreads to determine the record, not straight picks like the college stuff. So, in the league where they play for pay…here’s the predictions for today’s games:
New Orleans Saints (-10) at Seattle Seahawks (over/under 44.5): The Seahawks are home, so they’ll have the benefit of the 12th man, which is no small advantage. They will almost assuredly be wearing their suicide blue monochrome mess, and in fact, they wore that combination in every home game this year. It’s not a good look.
The Saints, as the road team, will be wearing their white jerseys, with which they have paired the gold pants and the black ballet pants this season. They’ve won in both, but the gold is an infinitely better look, and not just because they don’t look like they’re in tights. After a brief *scare* yesterday that the Saints might break out an all white look for the first time since they opened the Superdome, it is my understanding they’ll wear the black pants.
Ten points is a lot to be giving up, on the road, even if you’re the defending Super Bowl champs, and you won the Super Bowl wearing the gold pants … but the uniform, even with the black trou, is still enough to tip the scales in the Saints’ favor. Take the Who Dat’s and give the points and take the under: Saints 27 – Seahawks 10.
New York Jets (+3) at Indianapolis Colts (o/u 44.5): In a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship, where the Jets gave the Colts a first half scare before ultimately getting their butts whipped, the Colts were the far better team. The gap has closed considerably this year, with the Colts needing a string of wins to make the playoffs. Will they succomb to an Atlanta Braves laissez-faire-type home crowd, who aren’t used to seeing their team in the Wild Card? Are all those injuries enough to finally let the Jets get past the defending AFC champs?
In the uniform battle, it will be simple and beautiful. The Colts will be in blue over white, while the Jets will be in white jerseys. On the road this year, they have worn nothing but white over white, despite having a seldom-used set of green pants. So the chances are almost 100% that we’ll see the all whites today.
Normally, I’d say the Colts home uniform is slightly better the Jets’ roadies, but several of the Colts like to sport the super stretchies, which make both the jerseys and the pants look incredibly stupid on those who wear them. And that is enough to tip the scales in favor of the Jets.
The Jets are getting 3 points, and Peyton is still Peyton, but I’m smelling an upset here. Take the points and Gang Green and hope Sanchez’ knee is ok. Squeeze out the over: Jets 24 – Colts 21.
Now, if you’re betting real money (or even if you’re not), maybe you want to flip those picks to improve your chances. But I finished up the 2010 NFL playoffs at 7-4, so obviously “picking by the better uni” works better in the pros than college. Either that, or I need to change my definition of the “better” uni.
Lots and lots of tweaks keep pouring in, so obviously this is a popular feature. A bunch new to get to today. If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Remember, if possible, try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per tweak. You guys have been great a keeping to that, and it’s much appreciated!
Got a big set of tweaks today…so lets get right into it.
Now, on to today’s tweaks:
Starting off the show is Matt Malinoski, a favorite tweaker, with his take on the A’s, Chisox & Rays:
Here are my latest tweaks.
White Sox: I used white stirrups and put the sock patch on both jerseys. I changed the number typeface to the one they used in the sixties and removed the front numbers. I changed the road uniform to the style used in 1969-70, using black instead of blue, and with an updated “WHITE SOX” in the tail. I also connected the “C” to the “h”.
Rays: I thought I’d take a stab at rebranding the Rays. The logo is a sun with the word “RAYS” in it, with each ray of the sun in the shape of home plate. I used a font, Flatbush Beanery, for all lettering. I used the current stirrups with retro Cardinals/Cubs piping, and a zipper front. I came up with alternate gray and Columbia Blue uniforms. I couldn’t bring myself to come up with a plaid one.
Next up is David Robertson, who has five football tweaks — rendered in MS Paint. Don’t be cruel:
Our last tweaker today is Andrew Seagraves, who has a whole mess of BYU concepts:
These are my first tweaks to submit to you.
I wondered what the “racing stripe” look from the older US soccer kit would look like on a football uniform, So I decided to tweak BYU’s jerseys to see what it would look like, and add in grey to their color scheme. I also changed the helmet to the old school blue with white oval. I have three home combos and three away combos.
My other tweak has to do with the 1940 photos of BYU’s uniforms shown on the blog in mid-December. For the shoulder stripes, numbers and pants I used today’s navy blue. I used BYU’s old Royal Blue.
I hope you enjoy!
That’s it for today. Check back tomorrow for more.
And that’s going to wrap up today’s post, folks. Enjoy the NFL, and of course, there’s still the
sad sack loser bowl BBVA Compass Bowl tonight, featuring powerhouses Pittsburgh and Kentucky. Big, big thanks again to George Chilvers for his tremendous advice and uniquely British humour today.
Last note: Yinzer Watch rained out: Doug Keklak reports that this weekend’s Yinzer Watch gathering has been cancelled. No makeup date has yet been announced.
Dull-colored pants call attention to the most welcome striped frolicking on jerseys and socks. Phil’s colorization feature on weekends provides ample evidence of the ways in which dull pants (and dull helmets, for that matter) showcase the jazzy stuff on shirts and socks. — “Broadway” Connie