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Create an Earth Shattering Disaster Scene in Photoshop

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If you saw the movie "2012" you may remember that scene where the California coast begins to break apart and fall into the sea. In this tutorial, we will show you how to re-create that scene using a selection of stock photographs. Let's get started!


Speed Art Video

Watch this whole tutorial completed in 6 minutes.


Tutorial Assets


1. Image Setup and Base Images

Step 1

Let's start by setting up our document as shown below; if your computer permits. If not don't worry and make it smaller.

Step 2

Let's bring in this two images that will be the base of our work; copy and paste each in a new layer.

Step 3

Let's now save the document, any name will be fine.

Step 4

Now on the first image, with the lasso tool make a selection that includes all the area shown below.

Step 5

Copy and paste that selection on a new layer and hide the other two.

Step 6

Now create a layer mask for this section and grab your paint brush tool with the tip shown below.

Step 7

Now let's simply mask off what we don't need as shown here.

Step 8

Access the rotate command and rotate the section as shown below.

Step 9

Let's repeat the step for this other section shown here, so grab the lasso tool and select the area as shown.

Step 10

Then place it and rotate it as indicated here.

Step 11

And once again create a mask and mask off the edge as shown here.

Step 12

Let's grab a third big section in between both, copy and paste it on to a new layer and rotate it as shown below.

Step 13

Mask the section as shown here and rotate it a bit more.

Step 14

Let's go now to the top layer, and make yet another selection of a big piece as indicated below. Then rotate it as shown.

Step 15

OK now we will go to the bottom image layer and make a quick selection of the bottom half, and then mask it off so we have only the top left visible.

Step 16

Great!, now we will go all the way down to the background layer and fill it with the blue color shown here; working on a white back is both distracting and tiring for the eyes.

Step 17

We need another big piece from the bottom section so let's make another selection and copy and paste it on to a new layer.

Step 18

OK good, now rotate it as shown here, and then make a selection of the top as shown and then cut and paste it on to a new layer so we have two sections.

Step 19

Now rotate and position this section as shown here.

Step 20

Let's now go back to the bottom layer and flip it horizontally as shown here. And then position the image as shown below.

Step 21

Let's pick a big soft brush and just mask the top as shown here for now.

Step 22

Now its time to refine the layers edges a bit so let's start with this one here and grab the paintbrush with black to continue masking off.

Step 23

Grab the 23px chalk brush tip with it and detail the edge as shown here.

Step 24

Continue all around the section as shown here

Step 25

This section right here will need some rebuilding, so be sure you plan ahead of what you mask off to bring the sections of the buildings back. So in the previous steps we masked off irregularly but in this one sharp angles will serve much better.

Step 26

OK this is what we need right now, let's grab the clone tool and make a new layer as shown. Then clone the sections that we need from the buildings as shown below.

Step 27

Do the same for the other building as shown here.

Step 28

For the top sections be sure to clean up all the edge of the buildings, so we have a clean sharp edge.

Step 29

Continue with the rest of the image, working on the mask adding or removing as needed.

Step 30

So at the end of this section we should have all these pieces in different angles ready to start building on top of them.


2. Broken Cliffs

Step 1

OK now its time to start figuring out how the volume of our pieces will be against each other and how the cliffs created by these huge fractures of the land will appear. So create a new layer as shown here

Step 2

Then grab this brush and a color such as this below.

Step 3

OK now paint downwards creating volume fro the pieces of land planning out the different cliffs that support the pieces in the direction they are setup. Then vary the color to a darker shade to suggest shading and paint accordingly.

Step 4

Now let's open this image here and select the portion indicated below; then copy and paste it on to a new layer.

Step 5

And we will do the same for these other images, so we have several materials to work with.

Step 6

Perfect, now we have 4 layers of different cliff texture to work with, so now let's change the perspective in the layer shown below by applying some skew to it as shown.

Step 7

Then simply in a new layer with the clone tool we start covering the basic painting we did with cliff texture as shown here.

Step 8

Continue cloning from all the different sections until you have covered all of the pieces with corresponding texture and variation in cliff texture.

Step 9

Once we are done let's group all of our materials in a folder and hide it so we can still use them at a later time.

Step 10

Now we will modify the shading of the texture we applied a bit by creating a levels layer clipped to it, and adjusting as shown.

Step 11

This darkens the whole layer a bit so we will mask off where needed to bring back a bit of light. So with black and the soft brush let's mask off as indicated below.

Step 12

Let's add a second adjustment layer, this time a curves layer and adjust it as shown here.

Step 13

This has the opposite effect lifting the blacks overall quite a bit so let's once again grab or soft brush and mask off where we don't want this layer to affect as shown below.

Step 14

OK great!, now we will readjust the curves layer a bit as shown separately for the green and red channels as shown here and also the levels layer for the blue channel

Step 15

So at this point this is what we have pretty much correctly shaded and ready for the next step.

Step 16

Now its time to enable the background layer and at this point we will mask off to suggest the huge crack extending to the horizon as shown below. And we have successfully positioned most of the pieces for the puzzle and we are on our way with a clear plan on our new image.


3. Ocean Base

Step 1

We will now establish the basis for the ocean that covers the rest of the image, so go ahead and open this image and paste it on to a new layer.

Step 2

Let's distort the perspective of it as shown here and also mask off what we don't need right away.

Step 3

At this point I decided to replace the back layer so enable the top layer we used at the beginning and drag it all the way down as shown.

Step 4

Then just scale it a bit as shown here.

Step 5

Since we have replaced the former horizon layer let's mask off the crack section again.

Step 6

Make a new layer as shown here and grab the clone tool.

Step 7

We will start fixing the ocean layer roughly cloning where needed as shown here.

Step 8

All areas where there is no ocean need a bit of quick creative cloning so we can cover with ocean all of what's needed.

Step 9

Now grab both ocean layers and drag them to the top as shown here.

Step 10

Let's mask off all the leftovers from the original image.

Step 11

Do a little bit more cloning where needed to clean up roughly the ocean surface, don't worry we will be refining and improving it along the way.

Step 12

Create a levels layer for our ocean and adjust it as shown below.

Step 13

And again we will mask off what we don't need from this levels layer, so grab your big soft brush again with black as color; and mask off as shown below.

Step 14

We are trying to pair up the color and shading between the ocean and the back so let's create a hue saturation layer just above the horizon layer.

Step 15

Then go back to the ocean layer, add a color balance and adjust it as indicated.

Step 16

In this case we want the layer to affect only a small part so we will invert the process by filling the mask with black, and then using the paintbrush with white just to let the layer effect through where we need it as shown below.

Step 17

OK now we need another layer clipped to the ocean so we can start a bit of clone cleaning as shown.

Step 18

And while we do this we will start also detailing the edge of the cliff where it meets the ocean by editing the mask on it.

Step 19

Let's drag the painting layer for the ocean on top of the adjustment layers so its not influenced by it and continue fixing with the clone tool the sections needed all around such as this one below.

Step 20

And by the end of this section we should have a cleaner ocean without any missing sections.


4. Earth Fracture

Step 1

Time to add detail to the earth fracture on the background, so first of all let's detail the mask that creates it as shown.

Step 2

Then as we have done before we will quickly paint in the plan we have for these cliffs revealed by the crack, so grab the brush and the tip shown here, plus the base color for it.

Step 3

Create a new layer on top the back layer and start painting in what will be the cliffs for this section.

Step 4

We will vary the color as we go along suggesting shaded areas and also taking into consideration the depth in Z space that makes the objects further away to have lighter blacks as shown below.

Step 5

We also need to do some fixing to missing parts of the other previously done cliffs so go to the material group and copy the layer shown here, and then drag it out below the group.

Step 6

Move that section where you can see it and grab the clone tool.

Step 7

Then simply clone in the aforementioned missing section as shown here.

Step 8

Now let's grab another layer from the materials folder and copy and drag it out below the back section as shown here.

Step 9

Drag the section over to the crack area and place it as shown here so it covers the length of it.

Step 10

Then distort it a little bit so it matches the perspective.

Step 11

Then once again grab the clone tool and fix the section shown here to make the cliff extend all the way down.

Step 12

Let's grab one more section from the material folder and also drag it below the back section as shown.

Step 13

Place it as shown here and then just erase what we don't need.

Step 14

Duplicate this last layer and drag it as shown here, and then also erase as needed.

Step 15

Duplicate this last one and also move and erase as shown.

Step 16

Now we have sections for the whole length of the fracture on both shaded and non shaded sections.

Step 17

Now we will adjust the hue saturation on all of our landscape layers applying a clipped layer to each; so let's start with this one and adjust the saturation as shown below.

Step 18

Apply the same to all the layers that make up the landscape as shown here.

Step 19

And now let's apply a hue saturation on top everything and adjust it as shown.

Step 20

And let's follow with a curves layer and adjust it as shown below.

Step 21

Let's continue with grabbing all of the layers we did for the fracture and merge them into one.

Step 22

Then make a levels layer clipped to it and adjust as shown.

Step 23

Let's follow with a curves layer and adjust as shown here.

Step 24

Let's mask off everything from this curves layer by filling in with black and then pick up the brush tool with a nice soft tip and the color white to mask in just where its needed.

Step 25

And mask in on the layer closer to the horizon as shown here.

Step 26

And finally let's now increase the size of the brush and change it to black so we can now mask off on the levels layer as shown below. And we have one more section completed.


5. Sunken Buildings

Step 1

We will now add some buildings below the water level, so select this layer shown here plus the lasso tool.

Step 2

Then make a selection of this building here and copy and paste it on to a new layer on top.

Step 3

Then drag it into position and mask of the edge as shown.

Step 4

Grab a couple of more buildings and do exactly the same.

Step 5

And finally let's do one more building as shown here.

Step 6

Grab all of the newly created building layers and merge them into one.

Step 7

Let's duplicate one of the hue saturation layers we did for the landscape, drag and clip it to the building layer; and that is it for now on the buildings.


6. Ocean Detailing Part 1

Step 1

Now its time to start the process of detailing increasingly the ocean, so grab the brush tool and create a new layer on top.

Step 2

Select this brush tip and enable transfer and pen pressure on the brush palette.

Step 3

Decrease or increase the diameter as needed and sample a light color from the close by ocean foam; then start painting in detail as shown below. This being a heavy painting step it is strongly recommended to follow the action on the video so you get a good idea of what is being done.

Step 4

We will be combining all the time painting with creative cloning as shown here to obtain a good result on the ocean surface.

Step 5

You have to go all over the image fixing and detailing the quick cloning we did before as shown here; yet its only another level in detail, we will be increasingly adding more as we go.

Step 6

Also find sections that need splashing or foam detail and paint/clone as needed.

Step 7

Finally don't forget the buildings we did previously they need to be fully integrated on to the water surface. And again follow the video since all this painted detail can be better understood by watching the action.


7. Cliff Detail Part 2

Step 1

OK let's now jump to the cliffs and add a bit more detail on those; for that we will use the image shown here. So make a selection as shown and copy and paste it on to a new layer, plus flip it horizontally right away.

Step 2

Now access the distort command and change the perspective a bit as shown here.

Step 3

We will also use a bit of warp to further change the perspective of the image.

Step 4

And then go back to the distort command to adjust a little bit more as shown here.

Step 5

Then quickly erase the sky by quickly making a selection of it and deleting it. Then proceed with changing the layer mode to soft light.

Step 6

Then move the cliff as further up as you can so we have space to clone and then start cloning on top of the cliffs we already have to increase the detail on them as shown here.

Step 7

Continue cloning on all the cliff sections as shown here, carefully changing your clone source to pick the sections that look better in the different areas. Then drag the layer way down just above the original cliff layers and make a duplicate of our new cliff detail; then follow by selecting all of the original cliff layers shown in red and merge them together.

Step 8

Next just clip the layer to the resulting merged layer.

Step 9

Now enable the duplicate of cliff detail and make a selection of it with the lasso tool as shown below.

Step 10

Next access the rotate command and rotate the section as shown here.

Step 11

We did these because of the different angle this section has which is angled the opposite direction.

Step 12

Now let's name the top layer where we started to do some sea painting plus create a new one on top named broken paint.

Step 13

Now let's select all of these layers and merge them together.

Step 14

Before continuing let's grab the clone tool and in the section shown here let's clone a bit to fix the edge as shown.

Step 15

Now we go back to the layer shown here where we will do heavy detailing on the cliffs all over the image, so select the layer and grab the brush tool.

Step 16

Select this brush tip and start sampling from the close by shadow areas as shown here.

Step 17

We will switch between that brush and this brush as needed to detail and merge the surface with the rocks as shown below. Again another heavy painting section where it's recommended to closely follow the video.

Step 18

Also find any section that is missing or requires a rebuild such as this one here.

Step 19

We have to go all over the image finding detail to add so all the surface blends better with the rocks as shown here, and again heavy painting process so watch the videos.

Step 20

Let's now add a levels layer on top the cliffs and adjust it as shown below.

Step 21

Then fill the mask with black

Step 22

Select the big soft brush and mask in with white as shown below.

Step 23

Let's now go to the surface layers and detail the edges as shown here, just masking on or off as needed with the 23px chalk brush.

Step 24

Go over all sections refining the edge as needed.

Step 25

If you find detail needed to be added where the sea meets the cliffs don't hesitate to change the layer and touch up as needed.

Step 26

Where needed just suggest or quickly paint in as we have done before a base to polish up later. Which brings us to the end of this stage.


8. Ocean Detail Part 2

Step 1

Let's continue right where we left off the previous stage and continue adding detail to what we started suggesting, painting in the water that goes into the sinking coast, using both the paintbrush and the clone tool as needed. We don't do anything but painting in this way on this section so to comprehend you need to watch the video closely and start painting in.

Step 2

We are still painting heavily so be sure to keep an eye on the video for this section. OK now we need a new layer on top where we will paint in debris falling from the pieces of cliff, the surface and even the buildings. So name the layer debris and let's start with the brush shown here, and increase the spacing on the brush tip as shown below.

Step 3

Start painting those little pieces falling as shown here, and adjust both the size and the spacing on the brush tip as needed.

Step 4

You can even add a bit of scattering if required.

Step 5

At the same back we can go to our basic 23 brush and sample color from the buildings, to paint in some cracks and missing sections on them to combine with the debris falling.

Step 6

Do the same for other buildings even if they are not en the edge of the cliff.

Step 7

You can use this other brush for other falling debris, just sampling color from the building itself.

Step 8

Now our debris needs some smoky dust falling alongside, so we will make a separate layer for this and also use this other great brush for it.

Step 9

Let's find the sections where we have already little pieces falling and add the smoky effect as shown here.

Step 10

go again all over the image adding this kind of detail to accompany the falling pieces, just don't overdo it and also keep an eye on the video, yet this brush is brilliant for this kind of stuff and gives you great results right away.

Step 11

Make variations on the size and color and you will also get small pieces as well as smoky pieces, that you can use on the buildings breaking up as shown below. And we reached the end of another section.


9. Smoke and Fire

Step 1

Time to add smoke and fire to our scene so go ahead and create a new layer named smoke or something similar and find the brush shown here.

Step 2

Start with a light gray color and paint in some dusty smoke coming from the cliffs, and then change the gray to something medium dark and add to the lighter smoke as shown below

Step 3

Continue adding until you get quite a good coverage of smoke all over, and then select the eraser with the same brush tip.

Step 4

Then erase sections as shown here so we can see all of our work; to get an idea of what was erased and how exactly again take a look at the action on the video.

Step 5

Next we will open up this image to help us introduce fire on the scene, so go ahead and copy and paste it on a new layer and then scale it down as shown here.

Step 6

Then access the distort command and change the perspective of it a bit as shown.

Step 7

Create a mask for this layer and of course select black to mask off what we don't need; with the same cloudy brush yet just make it smaller at about 170px

Step 8

Mask off as shown here, then reduce the brush size a bit more and mask off the bottom as shown below.

Step 9

Apply the layer mask and make a duplicate of the layer.

Step 10

Scale one of the duplicates further into position as shown here and then sample a dark color from it plus set the size to about 93px

Step 11

Start painting a column of smoke as shown here, then sample a lighter color and add to it as shown below.

Step 12

Select the eraser with the same brush and reduce the size to about 79px to erase a bit of it making it more organic and random.

Step 13

Now let's move the duplicated layer and scale and move it into position as shown here. Plus make another duplicate for yet another fire later.

Step 14

Then grab the clone tool and modify it a bit so it doesn't look the dame

Step 15

Then grab the paintbrush again and repeat the process of adding smoke to the fire as we did previously.

Step 16

Take the last duplicate of the fire and scale it even more and move it further back as shown here. Then clone it a bit as we did before to make it different from the other two.

Step 17

Paint in a smoke column coming out of it as we have done before, and that is it we have completed another tutorial section.


10. Ocean Detail Part 3

Step 1

OK its time to increase the detail on our ocean and finalize it, so go ahead and open up this image to start this process.

Step 2

Then grab the clone tool and the chalk brush, yet make it bigger at about 87px

Step 3

Then just clean up the trees at the bottom as shown here

Step 4

At this point make a duplicate of the layer and hide the top one. Then just cut the top off the one visible as indicated below and set the layer mode to soft light.

Step 5

Then once again grab the clone tool and remove the other trees shown here.

Step 6

Then to the right just keep using the clone tool to fill all the way to the right corner.

Step 7

Great, now just drag the layer below the smokes and let's work on the other layer.

Step 8

Start by cleaning up the rocks shown here

Step 9

Then also drag it below the smoke layers and merge both layers together.

Step 10

we loose the layer mode so set it back to soft light and create a layer mask for it; just to mask off everything that is in top the land.

Step 11

Let's now create a levels layer clipped to it and adjust it as shown below.

Step 12

Then create a color balance layer and adjust it as indicated here.

Step 13

Follow with a hue saturation layer and reduce the saturation as shown.

Step 14

OK great now let's bring this new image in on to a new layer and scale it down as shown.

Step 15

Position it as shown and scale it up a bit more to change the perspective a little; then mask off as shown below.

Step 16

To this little section let's apply some levels and hue saturation directly, to bring its balance closer to the rest of the water.

Step 17

Let's bring in the same image again, scale it down and place it as shown. Then mask off as shown.

Step 18

Also apply levels and hue saturation directly as shown here.

Step 19

Then mask off to reveal the building behind carefully keeping good detail in.

Step 20

Let's bring in yet another image and scale it as shown here.

Step 21

Then set the layer mode to soft light and mask of as shown below.

Step 22

Next up we need a new layer to do more sea painting, so create one and start painting and cloning detail as shown below.

Step 23

Go all over where the sea meets the cliffs adding detail as needed such as here

Step 24

We have to go in and refine the already detailed in several steps ocean, finding sections such as this where the flow behind the buildings could be improved. Its a long process, yet its one thing that makes your work stand out.

Step 25

Those little differences between what we have and one more layer of detail are well worth it.

Step 26

Now the water that goes inland requires us to suggest flow, and we achieve this with painting and cloning in minute detail as shown here. And we have reached the end of the section, yet I recommend again looking at the video for this section that has hours of painting to get a good grasp of how to accomplish the painting.


11. Cliff Final Detailing

Step 1

OK there are some sections of the cliffs that have been bothering me so let's take care of those right now. Open up the image shown here, grab a selection as shown and copy and paste it on to a new layer; then scale it down as shown.

Step 2

We will clone from this image to add detail to the section shown here.

Step 3

Now let's select our image and scale it down a bit more as shown so we can use it in the same way to add detail to this other section shown below.

Step 4

Great now let's add detail to the edge as shown here, just extending the roads a bit and adding some small painting that suggest pieces hanging and overall merging the rock face with the surface.

Step 5

Select the brush once again with the brush tip shown here, and make it about only 2px.

Step 6

Sample from the light foam color and paint in water streaming down the rocks.

Step 7

OK great now let's directly apply some levels to this section and then use the clone tool to add a bit more detail on those deep shadows.

Step 8

In this other section let's adjust the color balance a bit, also directly (no adjustment layers) as shown below.

Step 9

Even though for this section we will need a curves layer clipped to it and adjust it as shown.

Step 10

This makes the whole section brighter plus it lifts the shadow areas, so we need to mask off this a little bit. Grab your soft brush at about 36px and mask of to get some shadow back as shown below.

Step 11

Now where this cliff meets the ocean we need to detail it a bit because of the changes we have done so go ahead and paint/clone as shown below.

Step 12

We need to fix a bit of the rocks here, so go ahead adding a new layer clone a bit as shown so we get the cliff lowered and at a straighter angle.

Step 13

Paint in a smoke column coming out of it as we have done before, and that is it we have completed another tutorial section.


12. Buildings Crumbling and Overall Detailing

Step 1

We are close to the end of our tutorial yet we need to go over the image, look for issues and correct them plus introducing any missing factors that would make it better. To start with let's go to the layer with the fracture detail, and readjust the curves layer a bit as shown.

Step 2

Then let's create a color balance layer and adjust it as shown here, which gives us a cooler color balance consistent with the atmospheric influence.

Step 3

Now let's grab the curves layer below the color balance layer and mask off a bit of it with a small brush where I indicated below.

Step 4

Perfect, now I found this smoke to be a bit too dirty on top of the building so let's erase just a bit.

Step 5

Let's grab the eraser with the big 500px cloud brush and erase a bit as shown here off the smoke.

Step 6

OK now let's mess up a couple of buildings, let's select the layer shown here and grab the lasso tool.

Step 7

Make a selection of the building shown here, copy and paste it on to a new layer and then rotate it a bit as shown.

Step 8

Now grab the eraser with the chalk brush and erase to detail the edge of the building.

Step 9

Now make a new clipped layer as shown here and simply clone as shown below so we get a background for our building falling.

Step 10

Let's go to this layer and grab the brush shown here.

Step 11

Sample a light color from the building itself and start painting in falling pieces as shown. Then add darker pieces and some damage to the structure.

Step 12

Let's do the same with this other building, so repeat the process make a selection copy and paste it on a new layer and then rotate it a bit.

Step 13

Then we clean the back with the clone tool and in this layer shown we paint in the falling pieces and smoke.

Step 14

Now let's go to this layer and adjust the brightness of it directly as shown here.

Step 15

Keep using this brush and add to the smoke debris layer as shown here. Of course don't limit yourself to this section, look at your image and see where you can use more of this.

Step 16

We will now jump to the last sea paint layer and select our 23 brush once again.

Step 17

Let's add some very subtle splashing where the pieces would be falling into the water. And we are finished with this section and almost with the image, yet we have some final stuff to do on the next section.


13. Final Detail and Shading

Step 1

OK here we are finishing up our image, so create a new layer and select the clone tool to start with.

Step 2

We will be adding something here that will suggest both some reflection and some transparency, so setup our newly created layer to soft light and reduce the opacity to 35%

Step 3

And easy enough just clone from the same building as shown here and do a bit for the other buildings too.

Step 4

Use this same layer to add a bit of the same for the cliffs.

Step 5

Now let's go over to the smokes layer and erase a bit of it as shown here.

Step 6

OK now we will be creating the final color adjustments on top of everything and we will start with a curves layer as shown.

Step 7

Of course you guessed it we will be doing some masking with our big soft brush.

Step 8

And mask of the darkening influence of this layer as shown here, pay close attention to the fires, you don't want to darken those.

Step 9

Continue with a hue saturation layer, and reduce the saturation as shown.

Step 10

And of course we will be masking off this one in the same way.

Step 11

Next up we will do a photo filter layer and select a color for it plus we will reduce the opacity to 50% and the density to 84

Step 12

We will be adding even one more curves layer on top and we will adjust it as shown here.

Step 13

Then grab the ellipse selection tool and make a selection as shown here.

Step 14

Right click on the selection and choose feather; and then type in 400 px

Step 15

Then fill in the selection with black so we mask off the whole center off, and get a nice vignette.

Step 16

Yet we will also mask of a bit as shown here.

Step 17

Now we need to mask off a bit more off the initial curves layer so grab a big brush such as this and mask off as shown below.

Step 18

OK we are close, make one more levels layer as shown here.

Step 19

Fill the mask with black and select white for your brush.

Step 20

We did this layer only to shade down this building so go ahead and mask in the darkening influence of this last levels layer to bring it down, as soon as you mask in the shade, let's readjust the levels as shown here.

Step 21

Then clean up the edge of the mask and let in a touch of light at the top as shown here.

Step 22

And that is it we have finalized our tutorial in a very satisfying way, and we have a very nice image to show off.


Conclusion

In this tutorial, we showed you how to combine several stock photos to create a city that is breaking up and falling in to the sea. As you can see, the process involves quite a bit of time, and an eye for detail. With a bit of practice, you should be on your way to producing highly detailed matte paintings like this one.

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