Strike a Pose – The Finale!

It’s hard to believe that this competition is finally coming to an end.  It’s a little bittersweet for me.  I’ve had such a great experience, but I’ve spent way too much time on it.  I know my husband is glad it’s over!  And this blog will return to its originally intended function: showcasing sims and stories.  Also, it’s wrapping up just in time for the release of the next Sims 3 expansion pack, Ambitions.  I really want to just spend some time enjoying the new expansion when it comes out.

The final challenge for Strike a Pose (Cycle 3) was definitely a tough one.  Judging from the talk on the forum, we all struggled with it to a degree.  I had the hardest time with Part 1, the car ad.  I’m just not that into cars, personally, and had a hard time coming up with anything creative to do.  My first idea, which I scrapped during staging, was to have a scene in Al Simhara, with the pyramids in the background.  Meg would be dressed as an adventurer, posing by a jeep (all I could find was a HumVee though), and at a short distance behind her would be a mummy with his old jalopy stuck in the sand.  The slogan would have been something touting the vehicle’s 4-wheel drive.  Here’s an early shot:

Had I worked more on it, I probably would have gone for a night-time shot, and I would have tried getting the mummy to kick a gnome and then moving him over to the car so that it would look like he was kicking the car.  I liked the humor of the concept, but I rejected it because I thought Meg would look a little too pedestrian, and by then I had some other ideas I thought were stronger.

The other idea I had that I scrapped was to take photos of Meg and a Mercedes-Benz inside the Louvre museum as part of a “car as art” campaign.  I did ultimately use the Louvre and art campaign, but I did an exterior shoot instead of an interior shoot.  Below is a test shot from the interior:

I loved Meg’s outfit for this scenario; she had a bit of a Audrey Hepburn look, I thought, but I was frustrated with how the shots were looking.  Something about the scene just wasn’t working for me.  I kept trying to reconfigure the location of the various art, but no matter what I did, it just wasn’t coming together, so I pulled the plug on it.

I was far more certain of what I was going to do with the runway and associated shots for part 2, but the wardrobe was a big issue for me.  The first outfit I came up with reminded me really strongly of Seth Aaron from Project Runway.  I just loved him as a designer, and I kept him as a reference in my final shots even though I didn’t go with the original outfit.  I think he could have designed any of the outfits I chose though – he had the ability to go from wild to glam, I thought.  Here’s a shot of Meg in the original outfit:

I really did love this outfit, especially the shoes, but I was worried that it wasn’t “formal” enough, as our instructions had been to design a formal outfit, and I also was concerned about all the black and white with the black and white runway background.  I decided to try some other outfits and take more test shots, and when I saw the shots of Meg in the dress I finally selected, I just thought she looked way too gorgeous in it and thus would produce a much stronger picture, so I left this outfit behind.

Here are some additional shots and outtakes from this challenge:

A bit over the top - early make-up idea

I really loved the hair and make-up for the original outfit

Need more coffee!

I just liked this pose, but didn't really care for Meg's face in it

Deer in the headlights!

Update (6/10/10):

Just a quick note to let anyone wondering about the outcome know that I won!  The SAP web site hasn’t been updated, so if you weren’t following the contest on the forums, you’d have no idea.  Anyway, I was very excited and pleased to win, and I already miss participating in the challenges each week.  I can’t wait to see what the contestants will do in the next cycle.  I might play along if I find myself with spare time. 😛


Strike a Pose – Challenge 8

I was a little underwhelmed with the theme for our eighth challenge in the Strike a Pose (Cycle 3) competition: “Barbie Girl.”  It’s not that I don’t like barbies; as a girl, they were my favorite toys.  I remember converting my bookshelf into my own custom barbie house, and my grandmother would make me tons of clothes for them.  However, for a modeling challenge, I wasn’t immediately struck by any inspiration.  I envisioned Barbie and Ken standing by their convertible or playing catch at the beach (volleyball would be better, but I don’t think it would be possible to depict), just nothing all that exciting.

I decided to google Barbie and see if inspiration might strike via reading up on her history and perusing her outfits/themes.  One thing caught my eye:  Barbie’s break-up with Ken after forty-some years of “going steady.”  It struck me as a humorous angle to take with the challenge.  I also really enjoyed the pictures of Barbie’s various dream houses.  I’m no builder really, but the desire struck me to attempt to recreate her dream house and incorporate it in the picture of the break-up.

So, I started working on staging for the idea.  I had nearly completed the house and was working on hair/make-up/clothing when I was struck by another idea.  Wouldn’t it be cool to set up an “Escape from the Dollhouse” scene instead?  I had the image in my head – Barbie’s friends in crazy, mutilated looking poses, and high walls behind the dollhouse decorated to give the illusion of a child’s room.  I didn’t know if it would be possible to make this notion work, but I knew I had to try. 

In the end, I think I did achieve most of the vision I had, although it’s not a perfect final product.  For one thing, finding giant toys to help create the size illusion was virtually impossible.  I could only find the jet fighter statue, which I think is base game.  Also, I wanted to have a pattern on the walls behind the house, but all of the patterns are scaled to a much smaller scale than I needed.  Finally, I had issues with the color of the walls behind the house.  I selected the same color for each story, but due to how the game lights open stories, the walls appear to be different shades.  I tried to work around this with lighting and changing individual wall shades, but it didn’t work.  In the end, I hope it looks a bit like striped wallpaper and not to in-your-face obvious story changes.  I hope the strong focus on my model and the dollhouse will keep the viewer’s eye from being distracted by it, anyway. 

I deliberated about whether to pursue my idea for the second shot or not.  It involves a scenario in which Barbie pays a visit to a child with terminal cancer.  I worried that the judges might have an issue with tackling such a truly sensitive subject in this manner.  However, my father recently passed away from kidney cancer, and I felt like I was doing this in a way, to honor him.  Cancer is truly horrible; it takes an awful toll on its victim and his or her family, but it’s also an experience that can really open your eyes to the beauty of the person you love in ways you might not have seen before.  Anyway, I hope I treated it in such a manner that viewers will not be offended.

I’m pretty lean on outtakes this time, just three:

Cruel and unusual punishment

Thank god we didn't have to submit a headshot - Barbie eyes are creepy!

You're in the wrong room. I hate barbies!

Strike a Pose – Challenge 7

I wasn’t in the best mood going into this challenge.  My father’s memorial service was on Saturday, and I just found it difficult to get into the fairy tale mood, which was the theme for the seventh Strike a Pose (Cycle 3) challenge.  We were each assigned a fairy tale to recreate; mine was Snow White.  I considered going for a dark fairy tale twist as in the wonderful short story by Tanith Lee, “White as Snow.”  In her story, the queen is a good woman trying to protect her people from Snow White, who is actually a vampire.  It would have been fun to do, but ultimately, I decided to be true to the original story and keep things relatively light-hearted.  

I staged two scenes (and tried to stage more but quickly saw that most of the others wouldn’t work well): Snow White and the Huntsman (okay, that scene wasn’t so light-hearted) and Snow White and the Prince.  As usual, it took a great deal of time to hunt down and install all of the custom content that I thought might help me complete the challenge.  I’m probably going about things the wrong way, but I typically go hunting for CC before I start staging my ideas.  It would probably take me less time if I staged first and then figured out what I need, but the CC is part of what inspires me and helps me craft a scene, so I don’t know if the process would work as well if I reversed it.  The other activity that takes up the bulk of my time is going through the animations for each character to identify which will work best.  I know the animations pretty well at this point, but it’s funny how an animation you wouldn’t think would apply can work really well in a given situation, so I always experiment and try several.

One thing I wanted to do early on in the shoot but gave up because I thought it would be too difficult was to use the “magic mirror” in a shot.  I wanted to have a scene reflected in the mirror with the evil queen looking on.  I figured it would be too hard to get everything positioned properly, get the right perspective, lighting, animations, etc.  However, as I was wrapping up my Prince scene, I decided to give it a shot, and lo and behold it worked!  I did have to deal with the discovery that mirrors won’t reflect foliage, only objects.  Fortunately, I had some vines and rose bouquets that were objects, and they made decent background decorations.  It took a lot of luck with timing to get just the right shot, and I went through more mirrors than I care to tell to get one that had the right look, but I’m really proud of how it came out.  It’s a risk though; will the judges like it or think that it clutters up the scene?  Another risk I took was to actually incorporate some “dwarves” in the scene.  I used male children that I customized in CAS.  I think they actually look the part, but I was not able to give them facial hair.  I searched & searched, but it doesn’t appear that anyone has made a mod to add facial hair to children yet.  Still, I think (I hope), the scene worked with them.

Here are my favorite outtakes from this challenge:

This is just too much - I'm going to lapse into a diabetic coma!

Never mind Snow White, I'm killing the bunny!

Uh, hold on a minute...


And one final thing:

ARGH!  I just discovered I sent the wrong prince shot when I saw our pictures posted this morning.  The shot I sent was missing a couple of elements, namely the cute little bunny and birds.  I’ve sent the judges an e-mail asking if there’s anyway they can swap in the photo I intended to send, but I’m guessing it probably won’t be possible.  Ah, well, I’ll go ahead and post it here:

The Shot I Meant To Send

Four New Sims

Today, I bring you four more CAS genetics experiments.  I think they each have a different, unique look.  Just click on the image to download.  Enjoy!

Abigail Carmichael

Abigail's Outfits

Anthony Smith

Anthony's Outfits

Catherine Weyr

Catherine's Outfits

Shane Miller

Shane's Outfits

Friends…Enemies…Sisters – Part 3




Chapter 3

Our story opens with a happy event:  Connor Frio is proposing to Glory Bernard.


Glory is ecstatic and loves her shiny new diamond engagement ring.


She is eager to share her happiness with anyone and everyone she meets while out and about in town, including this fireman on his lunchbreak.


Meanwhile, since she’s become a child, Lucia’s found herself at more of a distance from her dad.  Jared doesn’t even seem to be aware of how much it hurts her feelings that he doesn’t seem interested in talking to her and cuddling with her anymore.


With Jared, old habits die hard.  He’s fallen back into a routine of partying and flirting with random women.


Veronica’s gotten wind of Jared’s roaming ways, and she isn’t too happy about it.


Rather than chastise him, she suggests taking their relationship to the next level.


Before she can get a straight answer, Jared claims he’ll be late to work and takes off.  It seems clear by his expression though, that the idea of a commitment is a turn-off to him.


The next day, she finds him flirting with his ex, Claire Ursine.  She can’t believe it.


Veronica is furious.  When she tracks down Claire at the gym later, she explodes on her.


She tells her to stay away from him.  And then she kicks her in the back.  Ouch!


Later, Lucia goes to visit her mom and tries to discuss the possibility of moving back in with her, but Claire doesn’t really like the idea.  She always was a loner, and she enjoys having her house and her time completely to herself again.  She tells Lucia to give it some time.  And to steer clear of Veronica.


Once again, Jared pretty much ignores Lucia when she gets home.


She decides to do some stargazing on her own, but it looks like she may have seen a UFO!  The poor kid is going to have nightmares tonight.


Thank goodness for Glory.  She has noticed how sad Lucia is lately and does her best to cheer her up, as well as help her with her homework.


Veronica takes her sister aside for a little heart to heart.  It’s hard for her to come to Glory for advice, but she’s really bewildered.


“I really think I love Jared, but it just seems like everything I do or try to do with him goes wrong.  What do you think, Sis?”  Glory’s surprised to hear the L-word from her sister.  She empathizes but really doesn’t have any suggestions; Jared is a mystery to her.


Veronica decides to just lay it all on the line and tell Jared how she feels.


He sees a new softness and vulnerability to her, and he really likes it.  It makes him feel like the strong protector in the relationship.


And this time, they’re both ready to take the next step.


Not long after, it’s time for a spate of birthdays.  Glory and Veronica are about to age into adults.  Veronica’s not thrilled with the prospect.


Glory’s got a few trepidations too, but they both get through it with barely any new noticeable wrinkles.


Now, it’s Lucia’s turn.  Time to enter into those turbulent teenage years.


Oh.  My.  In my experience, teenagers often look a bit odd, but I have never seen results like this!  Well, all I can say is she’s got an uphill road to travel.


And Jared simply sleeps through her birthday, shocking the party guests.


With Jared so much closer to Veronica, the strain between his two girls causes tensions to run high all around.


Lucia realizes that Jared only has eyes for Veronica now.


She’s so depressed, she quietly slips out to the balcony and falls asleep after crying herself out on the bench.


Veronica finds her and launches into a tirade.  “This party is for you!  How can you be such an ungrateful brat to ignore everyone and hide out here?”


“You should do us all a favor and just get out.  Why don’t you go move back in with your mommy?”


She even has the audacity to slap her.  That’s the last straw for Lucia.  She decides to do just as Veronica suggests and get out of what, for her, has often been a hellhole.  This time, Claire is willing to take her in.


I wish I could tell you that Jared feels bad about the situation or guilty for neglecting his daughter after taking such great pains to gain custody of her, but I can’t.  He’s really focused on his career at the moment, and is simply relieved to have her off his hands.  He’s not even really sure why she left.


But Connor can guess what happened, and while he was never Veronica’s biggest fan, he now loathes her.


That’s fine with her.  She’s got Jared eating out of her hand.


Glory’s promotion is bittersweet for her.  She often thinks of how things ended with Lucia and wishes there was something more she could have done for the girl.


Veronica’s not thrilled with her promotion either.  She doesn’t mind the new mask, but cat ears?  Seriously?


Glory is on the campaign trail now.  She’s got to focus almost constantly on raising money if she wants to succeed in politics.  Fortunately, with her charisma, she’s raking in donations hand over fist without having to be pathetic about it.


And Jared’s finally managed to land a promotion too!


He’s ready to celebrate with his favorite lady.


And surprise!  He’s finally ready to commit to her too!


Veronica wasn’t expecting this, but she’s thrilled.  She’d envied her sister and Connor their engagement, but now, it looks like they can have a double wedding!


The happy day arrives, and the two couples are sped to the quaint little wedding chapel via Glory’s limo service.


Glory has pre-wedding jitters.


But Veronica is just ready to rock it.


The two couples begin to exchange their vows in front of a packed audience.


Connor kisses his bride.


And Jared does likewise.


Even Claire looks on fondly.  She’s an elder now and definitely ready to let bygones be bygones.  Lucia’s nowhere in sight – guess it’s going to take her a while to forgive and forget.


Let the celebration begin!  Everyone’s ready to have a good time during the reception.


But Connor can’t resist whipping out his notepad for an interview.


There’s always one wedding guest who misbehaves.  This brazen hussy is coming on to a newly married man.  Connor passes the test with flying colors!


Surprisingly, so does Jared.


Although one can’t help but wonder if he still secretly pines for Glory.


After the party’s over, the two couples are both quite ready to start the honeymoon.


Only a few months later, Glory is surprised and pleased to find she’s expecting.


Never one to be left behind, Veronica gets pregnant as well but is having a tougher time of it.  What will happen now that the two couples are soon to become families with children?  Will they finally go their separate ways?  Will having children strengthen the marriages or cause them to crack under pressure.  Find out in part 4!

Strike a Pose – Challenge 6

Well, SAP has pretty much taken over my blog at this point. 😉  It’s difficult to avoid since it has taken over a big chunk of my life too!  It’s really unbelievable just how many hours I devote to the challenge each week.  The problem is that, like my model, I’m a perfectionist.  I keep going back and going back, trying to get things just right. 

This week’s challenge was in some ways the most difficult so far because it was so open-ended.  Other than the requirement to use a particular color combination (red and silver in my case), there was no other structure to it.  I definitely didn’t go with my first idea this time, which was to stage a car ad.  I’ve been really looking forward to the Ambitions expansion pack that will soon be released, and that wound up being my inspiration for the shoot.   I’m pretty pleased with the final images, although I think I took some risks that may or may not pay off with the judges.

I really only have one outtake this time, but in addition, I will show you some shots I didn’t use and explain why they didn’t make the cut:

I had to try putting Meg in the Servo suit, and I thought it would be fun to let the bots get their revenge.

I really loved the body pose for this shot, but I didn’t use it because the facial expression was completely opposite of what I wanted.  I wish the maker of Chaosmod would enable the mod to allow us to select facial animations and body animations independently.  When I get a chance, I’m going to ask him/her(?) if it’s possible.

I loved this shot.  Something about the shadow on the arm and its position relative to the couch really worked for me.  However, I took it before I had added the arm tattoo and the contacts, and I really wanted them in the final submission.  Also, I kind of wanted to darken the red background, and I’ve had Meg looking up in a recent challenge and didn’t want it to be repetitive.

I almost chose this picture.  It was a tough call.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but something about the one I ultimately chose just spoke to me more.  Now, I compare the two of them, and I might make a different choice.  Go figure. 😛