This August the Steel Cage turns 5. Hundreds of contenders have spent countless hours building new worlds from scratch, re-writing the laws of nature, and turning reality inside out 480000 pixels at a time.
To celebrate, we're hooking up with Wacom and NAPP to hold the largest Steel Cage tournament ever. Winning won't be easy — you'll have to endure a marathon and out-duel hundreds of other talented designers. If you have the chops, the vision, and the stamina, you'll join our previous Champions in Steel Cage legend. So turn off your telephone, calibrate your monitor, and get comfortable.
Every iStock member is invited to join the Battle. (Well, almost. See the disclaimer at the bottom.) Follow the link above to our starter lightbox. It contains the raw materials all contenders will start their entries with. You will be able to download files from the lightbox at no cost.
You’ll have 1 week to create a 730 by 548 original design. It must include at least 5 visible elements from the starter file. You can combine these with other iStock images or your own photographs and illustrations.
Please note that clicking this link will take you to away from iStockphoto.com. We are using a third-party site called Strutta.com to host the Qualifying round. You will be asked to register — all this requires is a name and email address.
On Friday, September 10, we’ll post the scores and announce the top 32 Contenders. The Top 32 are then seeded and sent into the Battle Royale cage to duke it out. The 32nd seed will challenge 1st seed, 31rd challenges 2nd, and so on.
There are 5 rounds in total. The winner of the final round is awarded $5000 on November 29.
Over the course of the tournament we will hold 4 different mini-challenges. These will be open to all comers, just like the qualifying round was. Each mini-challenge will have its own special theme and contenders will upload a single image. There will be prizes from our friends at Wacom for the winner of each mini-challenge.
A special, expanded version of the Battle Elder Council will judge each of the entries in the Qualifying Contest, and then in each subsequent round. For the Qualifying Contest, you'll receive an averaged score out of 100 from all three Judges. During the subsequent rounds, you'll get a score out of 10 from each Judge. Your entry will be graded on the following:
Execution: The technical meat & potatoes of your blow: the isolation work, lighting, layering, and use of effects.
Poor: You used the magic wand tool, didn't you?
Needs Work: Edges are jagged or fuzzy where they shouldn't be. Effects aren't uniformly applied and we can see where the layers meet. You need to take more time on the details and work on your Photoshop skills.
Average: There may be inconsistencies in where the light comes from. Isolation and masking work could be better. The use of transparencies and layer effects is a little obvious and could be better integrated. But all in all, not bad.
Very Good: You've attempted some difficult isolation and effects, and for the most part made them work. Any complaints are minor — well done.
Perfect: A photo-realistic, seamless effort. The viewer has no idea how you pulled this off.
Composition: The artistic strength of your blow: your use of space within the confines of the image dimensions, the unity of your colors, lines and shapes, and the immediate visual impact of the blow.
Poor: Sorry, but did you look at this before uploading it?
Needs Work: There's nothing visually exciting or distinctive about this blow. Your layout, your color choices, your tone, all need more time and care.
Average: You've used the canvas well. Things are well laid out but not necessarily striking.
Very Good: This is a good-looking blow. Nice design choices, strong color, and a really clear visual identity.
Perfect: A work of art. Whether it's the intricacy of the elements, or the sheer boldness of the design, it's a thing of beauty.
Use of Elements: How well did you incorporate the existing elements from the previous blow?
Poor: A complete wipe. No effort to use any previous elements.
Needs Work: We can recognize elements from the previous blow, but things might be a bit clumsy, or poorly integrated.
Average: Visible elements are well-integrated, but nothing really stands out in the way you've used them.
Very Good: Not only are the elements there, but you've established some continuity with what happened before: we've got a narrative now between the two.
Perfect: You've not only cleverly manipulated the main elements into a completely new concept, you've created some narrative continuity and found neat ways to work in radical alterations as well as minor details.
Originality & Creativity: Did you re-hash a haggard old cage concept, or are you showing us something we've never seen before?
Poor: You took the original blow and put it in a picture frame. Boo.
Needs Work: You've moved the elements around but without any real sense of why. None of the elements add up to something new or innovative.
Average: Your science-fiction space battle is pretty good, but we get a lot of science-fiction space battles around here.
Very Good: ... We get relatively few science-fiction Prom-dances though. Nice work on the martian spiking the punch.
Perfect: We thought we'd seen it all, then we saw this. Outstanding.
For anyone who has never ventured into the Steel Cage before, we encourage you to take some time and read our new & improved Steel Cage Rules and Beginner's Manual.
Two third place prizes:
200 iStock credits, a 1 year NAPP membership, and all kinds of iStock swag (including a t-shirt)
Four mini-challenge prizes:
1 Wacom Intuos4 Medium Professional Pen , $250 cash, and assorted iStock swag.
Qualifying Contest: Monday, August 30 — Sunday, September 5
Once the qualifying contest ends, there will be 4 days of judging before the top 32 Tournament Contestants are announced and seeded.
Preliminary Round 1: Sunday, September 12 — Sunday, September 19
16 simultaneous matches. Each match consists of 2 rounds with a 2 day time limit for each blow.
Preliminary Round 2: Saturday, September 25 — Saturday, October 2
8 simultaneous matches. Each match consists of 2 rounds with a 2 day time limit for each blow.
Quarter Finals: Saturday, October 8 — Saturday, October 15
4 simultaneous matches. Each match consists of 2 rounds with a 2 day time limit for each blow.
Semi Finals: Thursday, October 21 — Thursday, October 28
2 simultaneous matches. Each match consists of 2 rounds with a 2 day time limit for each blow.
Final: Wednesday, November 3 — Saturday, November 20
Our final match between the top 2 remaining contenders will consist of 3 rounds with a 3 day time limit for each blow.
The Battle Royale is open to *almost* all iStock members. However certain countries, states and provinces have restrictive rules around holding contests that prevent us from allowing residents to participate. The most notable of these are the states of Rhode Island, New York and Florida, the province of Quebec, and the country of France.
Please read the complete rules here.