Briggs Bathtubs - Inspecular Gadget.

Say you're a professional artist (Don't worry... it's only pretend.) and you have to paint a bathtub, but it has to look like the star of the show. Glorify it. Make it look impossibly shiny and clean. Despite the fact that it will share the page with your painting of a mother and child, the viewer's eye must be drawn to the tub. What do you do?
Well, the first thing you do is put the tub in the middle of the picture, nudging the humans off to the side. But more important than that is your rendering of the tub. You put lots of time and effort into the specular highlights of the porcelain. The whaaa highlights? Specular highlights.

"Specular" (unmultiplied Scrabble value: 12 points) is a term used to describe a particular type of light reflection, best described by describing it's opposite: diffused reflection.

"Diffuse" reflection is light bouncing off an object in all directions. Simply put, diffuse reflections are what really show you the shape of things, and whether a plane is facing the light source or whether it's in shadow. If for some reason your eyes were polarized and you could only see diffuse reflections, you'd get by just fine. In fact, you may not even notice most of the time. Decent sunglasses are polarized against specular light, which helps fishermen see into the water, instead of being dazzled by sparkly things on the surface, like sunlight. Matte finish surfaces are perceived only by their diffuse reflections.

Specular reflection is light bouncing off an object and shooting into your eye in a straight line, or pretty much the same as when they hit the object. Shiny things do this. They're more complicated to paint because they retain most of their information about the light source, as opposed to diffuse reflections which have been scattered and confused by the reflecting object. But, if you need to glorify an otherwise mundane object in order to get your paycheck, specular is your friend. Just like the bathtub in this ad. You may guess that the sunlight bouncing off the water, blinding fishermen a few sentences ago is all specular reflection. If you guessed that, you're right.

Here are a couple of examples from my long illustrious career as The Guy Who Is Pretty Good At Shiny Things, wherever it is that I work. This is the hood of a bulbous 50's car. Please ignore the chrome. We're only talking about the paint. I painted it in layers which not only makes changes easier, but now helps me show what the hell I'm talking about. At the top is the base layer, or diffuse lighting. This shows the shape of the object. In the middle are the specular reflections alone. These show the gloss of the object.  On the bottom are the combined diffuse and specular lighting. See how it kind of makes you want to lick the car? The artist for the Briggs bathtub ad needed to understand diffuse and specular lighting to make the tub lickably shiny.

Sometimes you need to make something not at all nice seem appealing and nice, like a pipe wrench. "Wrenches! Whee!" some of you may say. Most people don't get sweaty over tools, so in order to bring lusty excitement to the wrench, I paid special attention to the shinyness of the handle, the rim of the knurled adjuster barrel and the brand new, unmarred metal of the business end of the wrench. This coasted through approval without changes, which is good because I wouldn't know any more tricks to make the wrench look desirable, apart from re-rendering the wrench to look as if it were cast from gold. Gold wrenches are the most expensive, useless wrenches you can buy because of gold's horrible tensile strength and fatigue life. Fortunately, gold wrenches are almost impossible to buy. Your money is better spent on a nice new bathtub anyway.


Post a Comment