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Dev Blog | Photography

Hello again folks – NINE days to go until launch now and you might just be able to tell we’re getting a little excited!

Before we dive into the blog today, we’d encourage fans to check out a small update we posted in the forums on some news that we dropped at the end of last week, hopefully it will answer any pressing questions you may have!

We’ve got a bit of a double feature for you today, in the form of the fourth episode of Martha Uncovered, AND an accompanying blog written by Luca Dalcò on photography in the game (the subject of that 4th uncovered video!

We’ll drop the new episode for you right here – then read on for more words direct from the pen of Luca himself!


It was the very beginning of the development of Martha is Dead.
It was one of the first ideas not strictly related to the story itself.

Photography on film.
Photography with cameras from the 1940s!

The whole team immediately liked the idea.
We have quite a few antique cameras in the studio and we immediately started playing around with them and fantasizing.

Photography was totally different from today.
The result was to capture an image, then only on paper, but it was still an image!
If the result was the same, the same cannot be said for the method.
Nowadays there is no time frame from shooting to viewing.
As soon as the picture is taken, we see the result or, at most, we have to tap our finger on the screen of a smartphone.


There was a time when days or even weeks could pass between taking the picture and viewing it.
We shot carefully. Every single shot cost money, and not cheaply.
The roll of film contained enough film for several shots (in more recent times 12, 24 or 36). So before developing and printing, the film had to be finished first. Taking 36 photos was not something that could be done in 10 minutes like today, it could take days.

Then the film was developed, a tedious operation that had to be set up in pitch black and then emptied and filled a small tank with developer acid, distillate water, fixative and more distilled water.
The film was taken out of the tank, dried thoroughly and then carefully cut.
Now you could print.

Each shot had to be placed in the enlarger and on the paper, find the right level of magnification, focus with a special tool and make exposure samples at increasing times, print (i.e. pass the paper through three development baths, rinse and fix), establish the right exposure time and print the whole photo which also passed through three baths plus a final rinse before being hung up to dry.
To print 36 photos at home would take you a whole day if you were not a novice.


Mamma mia what hard work!

But what incredible magic when you saw the image slowly appear on the paper!
There was really something magical about it that has been lost with digital.
To tell the truth, the first digital photographs I took seemed more like a miracle than magic… but comfort is accepted and metabolised quickly and the poetry that was there and that was linked to the wait, to the fear of making a mistake, to the small number of tests you could do has disappeared forever.

But let’s get back to the game.
We set out to make a sort of simulator of THAT photograph.
There was no exposure meter in the camera, what you saw on the glass (and you saw it badly) only responded with the to the focus.
For the rest you had to use an external meter, have a lot of experience or hope for the best.
This is the first aspect that turned our noses up.
We imagined the player having to take the picture, go to the darkroom to see that the picture is black or burnt, go back, try again… no, too frustrating.

So we started a process of simplifying the process.
The first liberty we took was to make the camera’s screen so that it would respond to the exposure and let us know immediately whether the photo would come out or not.
We thought it was basically like knowing how to use a light meter, but more rewarding.
However, we didn’t alter the need to adjust exposure time and aperture because, through these settings, you can achieve particular effects on the photo, such as increasing or reducing the depth of field.

Basically we tried to cut out the things that didn’t offer any excitement, like rocking a small tank for 15 minutes every two minutes, and instead kept the things that have feedback and affect the photographic composition itself, like being able to decide how much to enlarge the photo when we print it.

Rather than droning on about chemical processes and repetitive operations with no appeal, we thought it was better to work on accessories.
At the time, little or nothing was done in post-production, and you had to construct the photo when you took it.
So coloured filters to alter the contrast, the sensitivity of the film to be used, additional lenses to reduce or increase the magnification were fundamental accessories to obtain good results and you will find them all in the game! As well as additional skins to make the camera body more personal.

Photography will drive some parts of the gameplay to advance the story and also to explore some aspects of the game, but my hope is that a lot of people will try to take personal shots, to get impactful, particular, surprising images.

We’ll probably run some contests, but it’s too early to say,
let’s get the game being released first.
We are holding our breath, the programmers are working 16 hours a day 7/7, the others a little less.
We risk seeing compromised the psychophysical balance of our beloved technical director, who on one hand has to fix problems together with the other programmer (that is luckly younger) and on the other hand has to stop those of the team who, even now, would like to add something new … but that’s how it is and it must be, when you are driven by passion you NEVER want to stop developing, the world of Martha lends itself to so many of those insights and adventures that we could go on forever.
But who knows, maybe later some additional content … everything will depend on you players of course, as always is!


Alright, that should just about do it for today! If you’ve made it this far then thank you!
As we said at the top we are bearing down on launch day FAST – so keep an eye on our socials below as we share more things from behind the scenes, competitions (you know we’re giving away a Steam deck… right?) and more along the way!

And as always, wishlists are worth their weight in gold!

Have a great week!

Learn more about Martha Uncovered and the rest of #WiredLive content 

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