Saturday, 2 March 2013

Star Wars Episode 3: Within a Minute

We were recently shown a video documenting the production team and the hard work required behind a single minute of one of the most recent Star Wars movies. The focus was on the final duel scene between the fallen hero Anakin and his Jedi Master Obi Wan:

Where I felt the video really informed my area of practice, was with the concept art segment. Interestingly, the artists had lots of face time speaking directly with George Lucas, sketching possible ideas and contributing massively to the visual outcome of the sequence. There seemed to be a level of creative freedom. The artists knew Lucas was trying to create an industrial mining planet, and that this was the location of the dramatic final duel of the film. This is where visually the fiery lava really added to the drama. Another thing about concept art that interests me, is how it is introduced at one of the earliest stages of production, and informs the beautiful VFX work to come. The polished outcome can then be compared to the initial digital paintings, and you can then marvel at how a two dimensional flat painting has been developed into a stunning moving visual sequence. The practice of digital painting can also sometimes contribute to what we actually see on screen in the finished product. One digital artists produced an enormous matte painting, which was included as the backdrop image for the sequence.

With our course very much focusing on digital media, a strong example being video game assets, it seems almost instinctual to take a full 3D approach. Although we later see that 3D elements are utilised for the more extravagant scenes such as a large bridge collapsing into a stream of lava, we also see a large use of impressive and detailed sets. This again links back to the inclusion of matte paintings. I feel it is a matter of efficiency. Instead of modelling, unwrapping and UV texturing a massive detailed back drop, an artist can work independently on a large paining, while the 3D modelling team focuses on the crucial assets. I also imagine that by building physical sets, time will be saved in post production, instead of trying to composite an artificial set to blend in seamlessly with live actors. Perhaps the intention of a physical painted set it also to get a better performance from the live actors, as oppose to having them only perform surrounded by flat green uninspiring colours. We also see the inclusion of fake lava poured through a mountain set. Again, I imagine this is much less time consuming than trying to render out digitally simulated lava.

The key message here, is to be creative with resources. Perhaps I could have tried to integrate my preferred area of practice into this module, through the inclusion of Matte Paintings. Although I have already created a 3D digital set (as I feel that the level of detail at which I paint would not fit the realistic approach of my final sequence) hopefully the textures that I produce will utilise my digital painting abilities. The main advantage of workng in Maya I feel, is the ability to drop in lights and experiment with the Raytrace options. It means that shadows and reflections can be achieved easily and accurately. Also I find that experimenting with bump mapping and various other texture mapping elements can help reach a level of realism with less effort than trying to produce a hyper realistic matte painting. However, perhaps I could have integrated physical props with digital ones to tie the live actor in better with the digital set. These are all areas of practice that I am now aware of and that I could perhaps experiment with in the future.

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