Thursday, January 24, 2008

chicks dig the car

robin: i want a car, chicks dig the car.
batman: this is why superman works alone.
batman and robin, 1997

i've had my garmin nüvi 350 gps navigator for over a year now and the moment that i learned that i could craft my own custom vehicle icons for it i knew i had to have my very own ...

batmobile

but which one? even with 60 years of different models to choose from, the choice was actually quite simple:

what a beauty!

... if only because i just happen to have a die-cast replica that i bought for $6 on naked impulse at my local rite aid last summer:

corgi batmobile (1950s)

the resource file that the nüvi uses for the vehicle icon is a specialized png file (a format popularized for its support of alpha transparency). the png consists of 36 80x80 pixel perspective and 36 70x70 pixel overhead views of the vehicle on a 2880x150 pixel sheet:

smart car png
detail of smart car png file by mad mike

i cut a turntable from a cardboard box with a compass and marked lightly in pencil 10 degree intervals along its circumference. i then mounted the replica on the turntable with a twist tie around the front axle. the turntable itself was mounted on a box by a flathead nail thru its center:

turntable

and from there it was just a process of shoot ...

turn, shoot

... turn, shoot ...

turn, shoot

... turn, shoot ...

turn, shoot

as you can see, the lack of anything other than 60w home lighting put an unappealing dull brown cast on everything, but dealing with icky raw material like this is one of the reasons photoshop was invented.

all the photos were imported as individual layers into a single file and their backgrounds painted out.

photoshop

the background was widened 3700% (36x), then the layers moved rightward (using a macro to save wear and tear on my arrow keys and my index finger and my brain). the layers were then merged into one. the process was repeated in a second file for the overhead shots. the background of the first file is resized vertically to accomodate the overhead shots, which were pasted in. the two layers were again merged in order to color-correct all the images simultaneously. it would have been nice if all this had taken only as long to do as it does to say ...

photoshop
photoshop

time to shrink the combined file to its final size. a white halo was added to increase visibility. (red background added here to highlight halo.) a png copy is saved.

photoshop

of course no project with this many steps is without its unforseen obstacles. for the present there is only one conversion utility — ezran's web-based png2srf at techmods.net — available for getting the png into the specialized garmin format. unfortunately it has an issue with photoshop-generated pngs, which presents problems with transparency:

nuvi vehicle menu
nuvi map overhead view

at the suggestion of a member of gps enthusiast forum poifactory.com, i downloaded the apparently garmin-friendly 1 open source image editor paint.net, which unfortunately first required installing tinyxp (a stripped-down version of windows xp pro), using virtual pc (i'm on a mac powerbook), then installing ms .net framework, and after sitting through progress bar after progress bar after progress bar, i finally got to drive around in one of those cars that chicks really dig:

nuvi map 3d view
nuvi map overhead view

NOTICE: these custom icons that i make freely available are not for resale!

actual size: (click to download)

nuvi batmobile (1950s)

close-up:

nuvi batmobile (1950s)


... afterthought:

oh, and did i mention that i also have corgi's 1940s-era batmobile ... ?

1940s batmobile
corgi batmobile (1940s)
nuvi vehicle menu
nuvi map 3d view

NOTICE: these custom icons that i make freely available are not for resale!

actual size: (click to download)

nuvi batmobile (1940s)

close-up:

nuvi batmobile (1940s)


update:

all my custom icons are now available in one convenient download.


1 i've since heard (always after the fact) that the mac-native open source image editor seashore is also supposed to be garmin-friendly. UPDATE: forget about seashore — i've since learned that it's not garmin-friendly.

4 comments:

Yasser said...

Awesome post. Thank you!

JW said...

Just bought a nüvi and found your custom cars. Stunning! Must have cost you a lot of time to achieve such an excellent result. Kudos!

hurriKane said...

Great post, I just finshed making my own icon and here are my results:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=130779&id=619373723&l=7255de7a39

Jeremy said...

Very cool! Would Doctor Who's TARDIS be in future releases?