Ralph and His Robot

Your boy JD had a small story in ShortList magazine a couple of weeks ago. That's me, by the way. I'm your boy JD.

Ralph Jones wrote the words and posed for the pictures, in which Ralph telecommutes into the office for the day like he lives in the future. You know, just a normal guy who is here via satellite. That's him on the robot, the segway-looking thing with an iPad for a face. I'm still not entirely sure how they work. You control it from wherever on your phone, and it moves your iPad around on a pair of wheels that, amazingly, don't even fall over that often.

Comedy is difficult. These were supposed to be funny pictures before anything else; what's the most absurd workplace situation you can put a segway into? What's the most pointless use of this amazing future technology? Then it's all: how do you insert this thing into a scene like it's a person and light it like it's just another human being? Visual humour's a real challenge, as it turns out. Who knew?

Compositing isn't so difficult. Photoshop has a 3D workspace now; you just layer an image of Ralph's face vaguely where it should be in 3D space within the main image, make a selection of the iPad screen inside the housing, use that selection as a mask so the image fits inside the screen area, fine-tune the positioning, duplicate the background layer over everything and mask everything but the screen out and then make it a "lighten" layer so you retain the reflections on the screen in a semi-realistic fashion without washing the image out.