Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Rule of Thirds Study

The Rule of thirds is a composition principle that I have been aware of for a long time. I have attempted to use the principle based on my loose understanding of it many times with my own compositions, but feel I have never fully explored and understood the concept. I have decided to take my understanding further with this brief study.

I understand that a rule of thirds grid can be applied to an image, dividing it into 9 segments. From this, one can experiment working in thirds, for example, the subject of an image could exist in roughly six segments to the right of the image, making the composition more visually stimulating than if the subject had been placed in the dead centre. What I wasn't aware of before this study, which now seems key to its correct execution, is the idea of 'power  points'. These are the points where two lines intersect, which can really draw focus onto a subject. I have found some examples to demonstrate this:

As you can see with these images, the backdrop fits the guides, divided in both cases with the ground consuming one third, the sky the other two thirds. The subjects then slightly break out of the grid, hit by  the power points.

I tried to find a less obvious example to improve my understanding and unlock more possibilities for my own work while using the composition:

This image isn't immediately as obvious. Perhaps it's because I believe there is a slightly diagonal composition occurring. You see with the rock foreground which the tiger rests on, it seems to consume the bottom left corner segment, and then the one segment directly above that, as well as the one segment directly to the right, forming more of an 'L' shaped third. The tiger itself seems to be covered by three power points: The one on its left front paw, The one at the top of its head, and finally the animal stretches across the top guide until its tail is intersected by the final power point. This is most likely the reason that the tiger is so dominant in the image. Also notice the tiger breaks out of the grid and is covered mostly by the guides as oppose to existing inside the segments. This seems to make it pop from the background.

Based on my new knowledge of this concept, I attempted to produce a simple image to demonstrate my understanding:

With this being my first attempt, I went with more obvious approach. Like the first two examples, The ground in the backdrop sits in the first third, and the sky occupies the other two thirds above, conforming to the grid. As the tree is the focal point, it slightly breaks out of the grid, intersected by two power points. Perhaps the composition could have been improved by positioning the bird resting on the branch to be intersected by a third power point, very much like the tiger image. However, as a first attempt I feel it demonstrates further understanding of the visual principle.

I hope that with my improved knowledge of how the rule of thirds can be applied, there will be a noticeable improvement in the composition of my concept art.

Visual Effects Module: Designing the UFO

After figuring out some alien concepts, I began to consider how the Ship (which will be composited into the film shots) could look. I began simply by sketching some rough silhouettes drawing inspiration from my original moodboard:

These quick sketches spawned some interesting ideas. I found it was difficult to move away from a very organic and literal insect design. I was incorporating rigid edges to try and give to some extent a machine built and synthetic look, however, from a distance the mechanical nature of the some of the designs is hard to see. Particularly the first design at the top left, the rhino beetle design bellow that and finally the very design on the bottom right. The final design however did offer an interesting concept. I have known from the beginning I want to achieve a balance between synthetic and organic materials with my alien race. This particular final design shows a winged rigid craft carrying a very repulsive organic kind of sack. I thought perhaps this could be used to store the collected abductees. On reflection however, the middle design on the bottom row seemed the most realistic approach considering my limited abilities in 3D modelling and animating. I thought this ominous floating ball could appear more as a hive as oppose to a mechanical insect. I don't feel this would take away from the final result with the simple approach, as the looming ball would appear more haunting, slowly emerging from behind the building plate shot footage our group collected. For this concept to have the correct effect, it would need to be large in scale. I am reminded of films such as 'District 9' and 'Independence Day' where enormous crafts consume the sky above cities. My UFO perhaps won't be this large, as I imagine it could require some very detailed and time consuming textures. Still, the craft will be much greater in scale in comparison to my other agile lightweight silhouettes, which would have more likely swooped through the city grabbing victims.

When I am working within the concept art phase of a project, if an idea emerges, however simple and unrefined it may be, I like to jump into Photoshop and capture the idea in the form of a detailed painting. I feel this helps me keep inspired and motivated to continue developing my work. It almost helps inform future ideas. I can then later consider bringing in more reference images to refine and build on my approach.

With my current floating orb idea, I began trying to visually represent the image I had in my mind:

I felt I began working quite efficiently, using layer masks to refine the edges of layers and save time when making adjustments (painting details, adding shadows/highlights). One mistake I did make was painting the green edge lights on the same layer as the buildings in the foreground. This meant that if I wanted to tweak the levels of the buildings to bring out the UFO in the backdrop (which I frequently did) The intensity of the highlights would also be effected. I did add a separate layer and redo the highlights, applying the same layer mask as the buildings layer below. This did slow down the process, where speed and efficiency is an area I am constantly trying to build on. 

At this stage, I felt the image was looking bare, so I added a new foreground layer to add more depth. I also added a soft light creeping through a gap in the buildings to try and tie everything together nicely and add some realism. This soft light made the new foreground layer pop further:

Despite adding these improvements, I still felt something with the image wasn't quite right. I concluded that the composition and perspective of the buildings was off. I decided to keep the UFO, but bring in a completely new foreground and change the composition of the image. I went into the video files our group had collected, and found the building plate shots. I felt that one with a flatter angle would work, as oppose to one looking up. This is because I don't want focus to be on the underside of the UFO. Using the building from the footage as reference, I painted in a new foreground, this time keeping the green edge light on a separate layer:

Although I was more satisfied with this result, I still am still not completely thrilled with this particular piece of concept art. Never the less, to some extend it captured my very loose idea and I felt it was time to move on.

I felt the best way to expand on my floating orb concept would be to revisit the silhouette approach. I wanted to move away from a basic spherical shape, and draw more inspiration from insect hives and mounds, so I put together a new moodboard:

This raised some new and interesting concepts, for example, the pink mound image is actually thousands of tiny spiders forming what looks like a solid object. This made me think of nanorobot swarms, made up of tiny microscopic machines depicted in Michael Crichton's novel 'Prey'. A key concept I found was the very structured tessellated nature of the bee hives. I felt in some way I wanted to incorporate this in my designs:

With these designs, I tried to capture the wild, chaotic forms of the wasp's nests and termite mounds in my moodboard, combined with very ordered and structure light patterns, reflecting with order of the bee's nests. You can see with the final image at the bottom of the designs, I have considered the craft consisting of tiny machines, Trailing off at the rear of the designs. This also reflects an insect swarm, fitting with the theme of my project. I found I liked the very first design. It reflects the hanging finger-like wasp's nest images I collected, and can also be likened to the termite mound image which reflects this organic un-ordered exterior I now wish to achieve. 
Taking this image, I ran some colour tests, focusing on the lights. The main body of the ship will be a very dark earthy colour, drawing focus to the intense lights. I feel this will be more fitting to the Sci-fi genre, emphasising the synthetic elements of the craft:

I tried a wide array of colours. Greens inspired by my initial vision (possibly influenced by my last project). Mass Effect 'Husk' inspired blues from my initial moodboard. Sinister reds and intense volcanic oranges, and combined colour experiments. I actually liked the blue and purple approach. I associate this combination with the night, which leads me to think they will work well in my dark mysterious interior. I also find purple very regal yet sinister. It is often assumed to be a very luxurious colour, yet with it's shady night-time connotations, it sits very uneasily with me, making it a great choice for my sinister alien race. If I wanted to portray these insect creatures as brutish and ruthlessly violent, a loud red would have been the choice. I feel the refined and more subtle nature of the colour purple portrays my aliens as clever and cynical, showing no remorse or empathy towards humans while conducting their experiments.

At this stage I wanted to consider the interior of the ship. I was actually very pleased with the 'money shot' sketch I produced very early on. It had a natural cave-like feel, with the organic eggs in the foreground. Countering this there were rigid pieces of metal and pipes hanging from the ceiling, making for a very interesting composition. I wanted to refine this idea as a detailed environment painting to really capture the final and perhaps most important shot. I really tried to consider value control to add depth to the image: faded greys towards the back and dark more contrasted images in the foreground. I also made the abductee and aliens darker that the surface they were standing, which helped make them the focal point of the image. To finalise the image I brought in some adjustment layers, effecting the levels to add higher contrast, and a purple hue. This is a new non-destructive element I have discovered in Photoshop and other similar adobe software:

As we have recently been experimenting with Photoshop compositions in After Effects within our induction sessions, I thought I would produce a simple motion graphic to better communicate the feel of the scene. I was inspired by this Halo 4 concept art reel that I shared in my last module:

I added to slow zoom, which I feel adds suspense to the composition. It's as if something sinister is slowly closing in on the encased photographer, and as the viewer, we feel we are dwelling deeper into this uncomfortable environment. The foreground scales faster than the layer bellow, and this is true with each layer moving towards the background. This almost creates a sense of disorientation, and the sensation that we are being pulled in. I also added some eerie cave sounds I collected from free sound sites, along with subtle insect sounds to add to the ambience:

It was interesting to consider one of my paintings in a cinematic sense. It meant that I was really able to begin considering how the finished shot will look, feel and sound in the early development stage. I also feel it is a good method of showing my work in an interesting visual manner which could possibly be presented in a showreel.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Howard Shore: Film Score Composer

Having recently watched the 2002 movie 'Gangs of New York', I was captivated by one of the scores composed by Howard Shore titled 'Brooklyn Heights':

To give some background on the context and plot of the movie so that we can understand Shore's choices with the composition, 'Gangs of New York' is set during the Mid 19th Century. This was a very significant political era with the Civil War regarding slavery. It was also during this era that an influx of Irish immigrants moved to America. The main protagonist 'Amsterdam Vallon' is of Irish routes, most likely resulting in the celtic influenced section of the score beginning around the one minute mark. We can hear stringed instruments and flutes which to me communicate a theme of Irish tradition. We also hear a tradition hyme-like vocal performance, obviously Catholicism tying in very strongly with Irish culture. As the score begins, there is a very minor feel, again with the choir-like vocals. It seems to communicate loss and grieving, like something that might be sang at a funeral gathering. This perhaps is to signify the death of Amsterdam's father, 'Priest Vallon' and it's effect on the protagonist. I am personally captivated by the motif which is introduced around the 3:10 mark in the video. This melody is re-introduced at various points throughout the film, usually when see the protagonist making significant moves towards his ultimate goal, which is to avenge the death of his father. It seems to enforce motivation and drive which fits with the theme of vengeance which runs through the movie.

As music and sound design is another interest of mine, I was interested by how Shore incorporates a sense of narrative and storytelling in his compositions. I found this video:

In this video, Shore talks about how when working on this particular score for 'The Hobbit', he began by reading the book. Whilst reading, we see him 'sketch' on a music sheet the notes he hears in his mind as he reads the piece of literature. It is interesting to imagine how the moods and emotions he feels while reading the tale translate into music. This is likely what makes Shore's compositions fit in so seamlessly with the images on screen and immerse the audience.

It is interesting to consider the important role that music plays within storytelling, as piece of narrative cannot be fully effective with visuals alone. Shore's compositions are dynamic and convey the moods and themes within the stories they correspond with perfectly. So much so perhaps, that some may not even consciously distinguish the visual elements from the audio elements. This is likely Shore's intention, just like it is the editor's intention for the cuts between shots to be un-noticable to the audience.

Power to the Pixels Exhibition

Recently we hosted our first group exhibition at the MAP Gallery in Leeds. This was an oppertunity to showcase the work produced in our 'Game Art and Machinima' module, as well as network with potential clients or employers.

Preparation for the exhibition really kicked in to gear roughly a week before the show. This is meant that we perhaps weren't able to advertise as extensively as we could have with more time. However, in spite of this, I felt classmates pulled together and really branded the event well. The characters we had produced within the module became mascots, appearing in the main poster/flyers as well as a large banner which hung in the entrance to the gallery. This seemed to give our exhibition a sense of character and identity. On top of this, The alien model we were all required to complete for the module, appeared in stings which were shown before each finished cutscene was projected on the night of the show. Again, this branding really helped really bring all of the various contents of the exhibition together.

The platform used to plug the event was the social media site 'Facebook'. This meant we were able to share and invite friends. One element we needed to consider, was how we marketed the whole idea of the exhibition to Facebook users with potentially no prior knowledge toward animation, especially within a realtime game engine. Hopefully by opting to use the phrase 'game cinematics', in the event description, we were able to communicate our intentions for the module to the general public.

The Venue itself offered a nice and practical setup. There was a small entrance lobby where guests were greeted with food and drink before entering the main exhibition. Inside, our development work was mounted and hung around the wall at roughly eye level. This invited guests to browse our work. In hindsight, perhaps I personally could have tried to communicate the process better by including more stages of development within my wall displays (grey lambert models showing the green highlighted mesh in maya, unfolded UV texture maps with the finished textures beneath the mesh in photoshop) I did include the turn-around drawings for my ship as well as the finished model which I had added a specular bump map to, incorporated a blue tinted three point lighting rig as well as illuminating the green cockpit, which I had then rendered out in Maya. I felt to some degree, this highlighted the process showing the original drawings next to the finished 3D product.

I have to say I was impressed with the thought put into the set up. In the left centre of the room, interactive Unity turntables of all our characters were projected on the front wall, which could be cycled through by guests. At the right centre, similarly guests were able to explore our virtual game environments in which the cut scenes took place. I imagine that this hands on experience may have helped the public gain an understanding of what exactly it was we were trying to produce. By breaking down the scenes into their separate assets (the game characters and game level), hopefully visitors could  begin to see that we were not working on a refined pre rendered animation, but working within a realtime game environment, although I do still feel this could have been a slightly confusing concept to grasp without it being elaborated clearly. Perhaps some text around the exhibition explaining the concept of what we were producing could have helped, or maybe even simply standing by our work and explaining our intentions. Finally a show reel of our finished products was projected on the far wall to the left of the entrance.

On reflection, I do feel that considering the short time we had to prepare and advertise the event, we can be collectively satisfied as a group with the outcome, and gain some confidence that given more time, we could produce a fantastic showcase of everyones work. Unfortunately, we had a few set backs with the weather and some miscommunications on the location of the gallery itself. Despite this, I still feel that there was a healthy turnout. Perhaps next time, I should utilise the opportunity more to network and discuss my work with others. Still, being our first public exhibition, I believe it offered experience for future shows.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Popular & Celebrity Culture Writing task

With the birth of modern media platforms such as cinema, game and photography, some have noticed a significant change in the function of art dictated by social change. With the technology to reproduce and distribute a piece of media to a mass audience, we could argue there has been a noticeable shift from tradition, and potentially a decay of what is known as the 'aura' surrounding a singular piece of art work.

Elaborating on this idea of aura, It has been argued that media becomes the subject of awe and fascination aided by 'its presence in time and space, it's unique existence at the place where it happens' (Benjamin 1936). Like a celebrity, a traditional painting is viewed as one of a kind; It cannot be truly replicated, it exists as an exclusive physical spectacle. It exists only in one place at any given time, and it is this concept that creates the 'aura'. (Benjamin 1936) Also can be quoted raising the point that a tradition piece of media includes 'changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as the various changes in its ownership'. This all ties with authenticity. When a film is screened, the same product will be being reproduced in various different cinemas, all displaying the exact same product. The original components which have created the feature are forgotten, and this branded piece of media is finalised at that moment. Benjamin, in this same text, discusses that a painting will age and bear traces of its existence over time, whereas a reproduced piece of media will always share the characteristics of many replications: 'The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.' In his fourth text on the subject of tradition art versus the age of mechanical reproduction, Benjamin talks about traditional art revolving around 'ritual'. By this Benjamin could be referring to the role of religious art, with the simple function of inspiring and upholding this sense aura which revolves around faith and spirituality. He goes on to talk of modern media's purpose of reproduction, and that 'instead of being based on ritual' (media) 'begins to be based on another practice - politics'. On reflection, if it is true that this sense of aura is lost with mass produced media, it must not be forgotten that the ability to reproduce media is a significant tool in reaching out to the masses. In this sense, should it deemed as a negative approach that art should digress to a more political standpoint? It is likely that the use of art as a tool to communicating ideas with social relevance, could be assumed more productive than placing tractional works on pedestals to then demand admiration and worship.

Taking an alternative approach, could it be argued that this idea of aura is not lost in mass media? By looking at the iconic multimedia character 'Lara Croft', perhaps we can counter the ideas raised by Benjamin. Cassel and Jenkins are quoted raising the point: 'the untouchable is always the most desirable' (Rehak 2000). In this sense, the dispersible character becomes illusive and unobtainable, a sensation that could be coined as 'aura'. With this same text in which Rehak discusses the iconic media figure, we can re-visit the idea of authenticity that comes with traditional art: 'concieved in 3D software, rendered and animated on high-speed graphics displays - to be copied and permutated into whatever form a given media demands.' Here the point is raised that although some could argue the transmedia product discussed is fragmented and unauthentic, there are still traces of the original computer generated model that ring true wherever Lara appears. This sense of identity perhaps does not differ too far from the characteristic brush strokes of a physical painting. Like a painting, Lara stays removed from reality. Rehak explains: 'Is she were to look photo-realistic, too much like an actual individual woman, what seductiveness she posses would thereby be destroyed'. Again this ties with the sensation of unattainability and illusiveness. Yet interestingly, Lara has been portrayed in photographs by models. This tells us that perhaps it is Lara's signature look, her hair and clothing and the props she possesses that define her character. Perhaps these characteristics are the unique brushstrokes present in a singular painting. Although overtime the character my be portrayed by various different models, or as gaming progresses she may gain more photo-realistic qualities (these changes could possibly be seen as the markings and weathering that tell of a paintings gradual change and ageing overtime), it is the traces of her origin that create this sense of awe we are referring to as aura. Another interesting point Rahak raises is the relevance of new media which helps the transmedia character maintain this loyalty and familiarity established with fans. Rahak refers to the term 'mapping', which he summarises as: 'a more complex, cooperative, circulatory model.' I believe that Rahank could be referring to the fan-based media ( fanart, fanfiction) mentioned earlier in his text. 

Perhaps the reason that Lara Croft has been escalated to such and iconic status is because the developer's intention was for her to transcend the conventions of traditional media. It is this involvement with the consumer, this enablement for the character to adapt and be distributed across various platforms that has allowed the character to achieve such presence. Is aura simply the idea that there is only one product in existence, or is there a more broader sense of familiarity and fascination with a piece of media?


Benjamin, W. (1936), 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', in Harrison, C. and Wood, P. (eds.) (2003), Art in Theory 1900 - 2000, Oxford: Blackwell, pages 520 - 527

Rehank, B. 'Mapping the Bit Girl: Lara Croft and the new media fandom', in Bell, D. and Kennedy, B.M (eds.) (2000) The Cybercultures Reader, London and New York, Routledge, pages 159 - 173

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Gaze in the Media Writing Task

In modern media, it seems there is an ever present voyeuristic gaze. There are many theories and issues that surround this concept, and by studying key texts, we can aim to establish the reason for this male gaze through theories such as fetishism and the male desire for dominance over women.

Sigmund Freud's theories support the idea that there is a constant theme of fetishism and sexualisation that runs through the media of cinema. By being presented with snapshots of the female form, the male audience will be reminded of the absence of the penis and a juvenile fear of castration that is embedded into the male psyche. This means that perhaps the female role in cinema is to present a fetishised object for the viewer. '...she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it' (Mulvey 1975) tells us that perhaps the actress is burdened with a oppressed objectified role dominated by the male protagonist. We can also consider the concept of scopophilia, the idea of the 'pleasure in looking at another person as an object' (Mulvey 1975). The 'peeping tom' as it were,  'can always stay in control' (Coward 2000). This links back to the male desire for dominance, which is often released in cinema with the presence of the gaze. (Coward 2000) raises an interesting point about the male desire to control women's sexuality: 'So when a woman is upheld by society as beautiful, we can be sure she expresses, with her body, the values currently surrounding women's sexual behaviour. The emphasis on women's looks becomes a crucial way in which society exercises control over women's sexuality.' Again it seems there is male sexual desire to be dominant. Even marriage, is said to 'operate to secure women's labour and reproductive capacity to the advantage of men' (Coward 2000) There is likely a male need for ownership of women, which makes the objectifying of women on screen appealing, as the male viewer will feel they can truly gaze at this object of fetishism without the risk of being shunned and belittled.

We have thus far observed the possible part men play in this media gaze, so let us now consider the effect this objectifying of women effects female viewers: 'Women like looking at glamorous and highly sexualised images of other women because these images are meant to function like a mirror' (Coward 2000). Elaborating on this 'mirror' concept, it could be said that the awareness of the male gaze causes the female to try and conform to how society (particularly the male sex) perceives beauty. It almost becomes compulsory for the female to fulfil the fetishised needs that have been presented by the the male dominant media industry.

When considering the relevant media of game, this over-sexualisation of female characters carries over across platforms. I would like to consider the popular transmedia character 'Lara Croft'. It is very clear to see that the character has been over-sexualised to appeal to the predominantly male oriented game industry. However from a feminist stand point, the fact the female is the protagonist of the franchise contradicts the idea that the feminine role in narrative media is often to be seen as a sexual object rather than the progressor of the plot. So in this instance, we are presented with a strong female protagonist who fights male antagonists and emerges victorious. But could there perhaps be a more cynical undertone, that men relish in the ability to control and puppeteer this object of fetishism? This would be supported by the theory that mean demand control over women.

In conclusion, it seems that across the media,  which is seems is primarily dominated by the male sex, men are constantly presented with oppressed female objects of erotica. Simultaneously, women are almost given instruction on how they should hope to be perceived by the rest of society.


Coward, R., 'The Look', in Thomas, J. (ed.) (2000), Reading Images, Basingstoke: Palgrave, pages 33-39

Mulvey, L. (1975), 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', in Badmington, N. and Thomas, J. (eds.) (2008) The Routledge Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, London and New York: Routledge, pages 202-212 

Panopticism Writing Task

Panopticism is the idea of self sustained constant surveillance. The belief that placing placing a person under a constant watchful eye will ultimately cleanse them of their desire to do wrong. 

We can look at this concept from two different perspectives, the first being from the stand-point that social control has a positive effect towards crime prevention. If we look at Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon model, which was intended to act as an institution, we see how the theory of Panopticism can be exercised on a confined group of individuals, often criminals and the mentally unstable. It has been argued quite positively that Betham's structure was 'perfected and differentiated' 'through various sketches' (Kashadt, 2002). In this same text the system was said to have a 'rational order and efficiency'.
Kashadt also shows interest towards how the architectural structure inspired the panoramic view, and communicated the idea of 'visual control over the surroundings'. With this, we get the sense that some have marvelled at the architectural achievement that the building represents. The clever usage of lighting, the ability to look into every cell from the control tower.

Others however, have argued the moral issues that the concept creates. The idea of constant surveillance, which drives the Panopticon, has been compared to the era of the plague, where 'inspection functions ceaselessly' (Focault, 1997). Focault mentions this constant idea of surveillance, creating a very blunt tone speaking very systematically and unsympathetically about 'the sick and the dead' during the plague era. This communicates a sense of relentless monitoring combined with the fear of being found out and punished. In this text, Focault also reminds us of the intention to use the system for school facilities: ' copying,no noise, no chatter, no waste of time...' When we imagine children being exposed to the level of mental oppression the panopticon creates, the concept becomes much more compelling and emotive. The point has also been raised in the text that the Panopticon was used as a 'laboratory' for human experimentation. The panopticon could provide the means to test medicines and punishments to 'seek the most effective ones' (Focault,1997). This idea of using humans as test subjects could breach ethics considering human rights.

In my opinion, although it seems the Panopticon, if executed, would likely fulfil its purpose of monitoring its occupants, I feel the idea of constant surviellance under an ever watchful eye could be seen as a form of psychological torture. I feel that the aim is to terminate free will, and could ultimately be character destroying. As a more general concept, some elements behind the Panopticon are still applied in the industry today. The open plan office (which is sometimes present in the film and games industry) boasts the idea of a communal space where workers can interact with other workers as a team while sat at their desk. This sense of visibility however could also create the feeling of constant surveillance under one's superiors. It could be argued that although the panopticon is certainly the most extreme form of the the concept, surveillance is present everywhere in modern day society. We are constantly filmed, registered and logged as we exist.


Focault, M. 'Panopticism (extract)' in Leach, N. (ed.) (1997) Rethinking Architecture: A reader in cultural theory, London and New York, Routledge, pages 356-367

Kashadt, K. 'Jeremy Bentham - The Penitentiary Panopticon or Inspection House' in Weibel, Levin and Frohne (eds.) (2002) Ctrl [space]: rehetorics of surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, Cambridge Massachusetts, The MIT Press, pages 114-119

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Opus Artz

After undergoing research into the industry, I came across this video which takes a look inside one of the leading conceptual art companies 'Opus Artz' based in London. As an aspiring conceptual artist for games, I found some of the discussions within the clip very informative. Firstly the interviewee, Dr. Wong, speaks of a boom in the demand for pre-visualisation in the form of concept art. This is a result of the trend for immersive tripple-A titles. With games taking a more cinematic atmospheric approach, conceptual artists are repeatedly utilised throughout the entire process of a game's development. You can see this with the apparent large scale of the studio and its employee artists. Obviously this gives a sense of optimism to any budding artist after realising the increase in demand from concept art studios.

Perhaps more importantly, I acquired knowledge of what an employer might look for within this particular industry. Firstly, it seems diversity is key. Admittedly, I have a fascination with Sci-fi art, and I usually sway towards that particular style with university projects and independent work. Perhaps it would be beneficial for me to explore say the fantasy or horror genre. Also, I am assured that although my key interests lie in conceptual art, my exploration in different platforms such as 3D modelling and animation, will be beneficial towards my art. Dr. Wong explains that when recruiting new artists, he likes to see an understanding in the whole pipeline of gave development. An understanding of how assets and characters are modelled as well as rigged and animated, would likely inform a piece of game art with the intention of functionality within a virtual environment.

I was also inspired by lead artist 'Bjorn Hurri's' private 'doodle book.' It was seeing this that inspired me to revisit my sketchbooks and work in the traditional media of pencil and paper. I feel this is an effective way in practising fundamental skills such perspective and anatomy, without the intention of producing high quality images for print or the web. No booting up of a computer or setting up of a document is required, you can simply grab a pencil and let your creativity flow. I feel by working in this media more I will be able to improve my drawing abilities much faster. Hurris also talks about his interests in creating worlds and delving into the genre by reading books and watching movies, as well as collecting tons of reference images to inform his ideas. With this I get a sense of the excitement involved with visualising virtual worlds. Hurris also discusses working with briefs and 'troubleshooting' ideas visually. This is an area I hope to gain experience in, by working for clients and entering brief driven competitions.

In conclusion, based on the advise given by Bioware art director Neil Thompson, I have viewed Hurris's work as a bench mark to asses the stage I am at with my skills and how much I need to improve. I must 'doodle' as much as possible, broaden and adapt my abilities to cover different genres and continue to study and understand the pipeline involved in game development.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Visual Effects Module: Designing The Aliens

I have begun developing the Inhabitants of the spaceship in the short sequence we are to produce. My initial designs were based on elements taken from my moodboard:

The design to the far left reflects the smooth exoskeletal beetles from my moodboard. I feel this particular Alien reflects a smooth metallic 50's science fiction style particularly with the small radio-like antennas. The design central draws influence from the Rhino beetle images I collected. The Horn, jagged edges and spikes connote a more villainous evil being, along with the darkness of the armour and the red lights reflecting a sense of danger. I carried the lights (inspired by the blue present in the Mass Effect husks) over to the more organic design on the left. I had Jeff Goldblum's fleshy mutated character from the movie 'The Fly' in mind, which can also be found on my moodboard. This is where the inspiration for the sinister bulging bug-like eyes came from. You can also see wires weaving in and out of the character's flesh, showcasing this theme of organic meets synthetic.
I also had the idea of inverting the horn from the central design to create an alien that reflects the beak wearing plague doctors of the past. I thought this would also bring over medical connotations, suggesting that the aliens are surgically altering the character:

A criticism with this design would be that the character looks less insect-like. Perhaps if I were to study the anatomy of mosquitoes, the beak could be represented more like a sucker, honing back in on the theme of insects. I also tried to incorporate spikes to suggest an unfriendly alien, whilst keeping the armour more subtle. Also note that I am keeping the anatomy of the alien designs very skeletal and boney. I have kept this in mind based on feedback from the initial critique, where it was brought to light that skeletal insect-like characters would require only rigid joints and little weight painting. Based on my skills in the area of rigging and animating, this should make the process much more manageable.

Moving on from the Plague Doctor design, I wanted to study some possible helmet styles:

The first design elaborates on the Plague Doctor idea with the beak-like extrusion. This design however incorporates straps giving potential to reveal more of the alien's semi-synthetic tissue around the head. The second design in the centre has a similar intention, yet incorporates the large bug-eyes from previous designs, along with a more mosquito inspired sucker beak. I feel this mask makes a transition from bird-like to a design that fits more with the insect theme. With the final helmet I revisited the Rhino-Beetle idea. This design makes for a more complete helmet consuming the whole head. As effective as I feel it is in suggesting an evil being with the harsh jagged silhouette, perhaps it would make the alien look too armoured, more like a soldier than an surgeon. The aliens will be inhabiting their natural comfortable space where their victims have been rendered immobile and threat-less. For this reason I feel the more mask based designs are better suited.

Visual Effects Module: Initial Ideas

After being given the brief for our next module, I began by sketching some initial ideas. I picked up my sketchbook before launching into research as I didn't want to define a particular approach immediately. instead I felt I would warm up and simply get the creative juices flowing. Possibly as a result of my approach in the previous model, the first ship sketch came out looking like some synthetic marine mammal-like vessel:

I immediately steered away from repeating my previous approach, although I was interested by the possibility of merging a very organic looking creature with synthetic mechanical elements. I was reminded of the theme of 'Synthesis' communicated in one of the optional 'Mass Effect 3' endings, which is the idea that the final stage of evolution is the fusion of organic and synthetic life. In a sinister approach, this is reflected in the 'Husks.' and enemy which is the result of humans being mutated into synthetic savages in the Mass Effect series:

My idea involved an insect like ship, sending out a swarm of smaller insects to harvest people before wrapping them in a metallic cocoon, slowly morphing the victim into a Husk-like being:

I was immediately enticed with this particular approach. I thought it could offer an interesting spin with the insect swarm extraction and the cringeworthy transformation of the photographer character in the sequence. With this in mind, I drafted a final frame shot ready to present for our initial class critique:

For the final shot, I am contemplating a wide angle dramatic shot of the character suspended within the ships organic/synthetic interior. The style I am trying to put across with this sketch is a mix of electrical wiring and jagged metallic debris, mixed in with slimy eggs and atmospheric gasses filling the virtual set. Perhaps a slow zoom would add to the suspense, as if the spectator is attempting to catch a better glimpse of the tortured character without being detected by the ships inhabitants. The aliens who inhabit the ship will also be incorporated in the shot, likely just assessing the stage of transformation that the character has reached. After deciding on this idea, I produced a moodboard to collect references and establish the desired theme and style of my direction: