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Rocketboy and Gears: In Train-ing!

December 19, 2018
Can you believe its our 19th McKee Photo Studio Christmas card? See behind the scenes and how we put together these fun little photo composites.

The McKee Photography Studio Holiday Card

Yes, Rocketboy and Gears, those lovable scamps, are back in our 19th McKee Photo Studio Holiday Card.

It’s really hard for me to believe that we have been creating these cards with my kids for 19 years. But, Hunter is now 19, so I guess we have!

We put together a little behind the scenes view of the fun and mayhem that goes into producing one of these images.

I hope you enjoy it and we at the studio are looking forward to a rockin’ 2019!

Be sure to check out more behind the scenes and Christmas Cards from past adventures.

Rocketboy and Gears in In Train-ing!

Check out the card and the Rocketboy and Gears Adventures FAQ below!

The Evergreen Paradox Story Excerpt:

“Dude!” Rocketboy exclaimed. “Did you happen to notice the train?”

“Yeah. Kind of hard to miss,” Gears exclaimed.

“I didn’t know you could drive a motorcycle. It looks like fun.”

“Well, do you want to trade spots now?”

The wind from the speed of the engine was pushing the fog around, making it hard for Gears to see where they were going. He kept the chuffing sound of the engine on his left and watched for pot holes.

“Do you see it yet?”

“You are not going to make another Yeti joke, are you?” Rocketboy sighed loudly.

“No, of course not. We already did that one.* Besides, there it is — on the other side of the tracks!”

“Gun it, Gears! You drive. I’ll catch!”

The big old motor bike roared to life as it hit the embankment and Rocketboy felt himself floating weightless out of his seat.

*See The Coal Case File, an RB Adventure #15.

How We Make The Studio Holiday Cards

Every picture tells a story. But, that story has to come from somewhere, right?

We usually start brainstorming a scene that we think will be visually interesting. Through that process, the story of the book comes out.

Sometimes, it is really dark, too! The Candi Canes story started with Santa’s illegitimate daughter having an addiction to candy canes.

We, ah, dialed that back a bit.

Then, after spending time editing the picture, I start writing as if I was an author. No, I am not an author.

At least, not yet.

But, I do my best and plunk down an action scene, as if it was a page from the middle of the book.

Oh, and one rule is that one of the characters has to make a bad joke at the bottom of the page.

Rocketboy and Gears relaxing on set
Rocketboy and Gears relaxing on set

When Gears, er… Hunter, our oldest, was born, we wanted to create a photo studio holiday card to send to family, friends and clients.

However, I was not a fan, creatively speaking, of the standard generic family portrait. So, my wife and I collaborated to create something a little more interesting. It kind of snowballed into … well… photography, photoshop and general mayhem

And, has continued to snowball for the last 20+ years…

My favorite comment was from my young second cousin. She mentioned how much she loved seeing the cards every year. And, that she really wanted to read the “books”!

 
The Original "Gears" for Rocketboy and Gears. Year 1

Yes. I have heard that before. (Thanks, Aunt Peggy!)

In the beginning, it was just my wife and I spitballing ideas and trying to figure out how to show people how the boys have grown and give me an opportunity to show off my retouching/compositing skills.

Now, however, the planning process for the photo studio holiday card usually starts with pitch meetings in the first quarter, followed by various updates.

Such as: “Wouldn’t it be cool to do it in a library that could be attached to last year’s office? What would that look like?”

Liv and Shay pull the strings for the tie and hat, while Hunter holds on for dear life!
Liv and Shay pull the strings for the tie and hat, while Hunter holds on for dear life!

When my wife and I were growing up, The Hardy Boys Mysteries and Nancy Drew Mysteries were always on our respective reading lists. And, I was always excited when I saw a collection of those books lined up on a bookshelf. To this day, that still gives me a thrill.

When the Rocketboy and Gears concept really gained steam for us, those book covers, which have shown up as excellent memes now, became a touchstone for our creative process.

Reviewing the shot on the laptop
Reviewing the shot on the laptop

When my wife and I were growing up, The Hardy Boys Mysteries and Nancy Drew Mysteries were always on our respective reading lists. And, I was always excited when I saw a collection of those books lined up on a bookshelf. To this day, that still gives me a thrill.

When the Rocketboy and Gears concept really gained steam for us, those book covers, which have shown up as excellent memes now, became a touchstone for our creative process.

Blender 3d Christmas 2018
The Blender file for Christmas 2018

In the beginning, we were shooting film and scanning the image for some retouching. Nothing too serious.

Then, with digital cameras, we got much heavier into compositing.

The last few years, we brought heavy duty cgi, through the magic of Blender, to the party. That is when the sets got a lot more minimal and the worlds got much bigger.

This year, however, I found myself going back to photoshop to drive the concept.

Maddie going for the angle!
Maddie going for the angle!

That is an excellent question! We have out grown the cute little boys battling the giant robot. We are even starting to push past the YA version.

The boys college plans went a little sideways this year, so scheduling the shoot was fairly easy.

But, at some point, I am sure they are going to be out of the house and then it will be much more challenging to organize these.

The short answer, for me, is that I will keep on making these holiday cards as long as my fellow collaborators want to come and play with me!

I can see, someday, in the future a few years, Rocketboy and Gears may pass on their batons to a new generation of crazy McKees…

Post shoot lunch!
Post Christmas card shoot lunch!
The Complete Rocketboy and Gears Adventure Book Series

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Stay Safe and Healthy out there.