Saturday, 30 April 2011

Looking at Re-invented IPs

The medium that recieves the most re-inventions is clearly that of film but it's not exclusive.

Last year a re-make of Clash of the Titans was released, taking the basic plot of the 1981 version the remake adds and takes away details from the original such as taking away the "cheesy chessboard manipulation of characters" by the gods.

The overall design and feel of the film is much more updated to appeal to a younger generation, the production cast has cited as wanting to create a darker and more realistic tone, essentially updating an 1981 blockbuster into a 2010 blockbuster with the main differences being a re-imagination of the details and general aesthetic.

The Marvel Super Hero Squad original started of as a toyline based off Marvel's characters for ages 3+. The first immediate difference you can see is the cartoony style and general softening of characters and generally more child friendly aesthetic.

This re-imagining branched into a whole franchise including tv shows and video games that expanded the characters giving them much friendlier personalities and personifications with more of an emphasis on comedy aswell as adventure; for example Wolverine originally a tough as nails, quick to anger and violent character is presented in very much a watered down pastiche of himself.

This shows a radical change from an original IP and how it can be successful given the right circumstances.

The Legend of Zelda is a video game series in which the same basic story of a chosen hero in green is given the task of rescuing a princess from the hands of an evil wizard.

In total there are 14 Zelda games which tell this story in different ways such as changing details about the characters, in one game the hero is an orphaned forest child, in another he is the son of a farmer, but the result is always the same; good rises and evil is vanquished.

Along with details changing in each game so do the aesthetics, with each new technological advance the graphic style changes in the Zelda games, sometimes radically or sometimes subtlely.

The important thing to know is that each game is the same and different from the last making this series one of the most re-invented franchise in videos games, potentially in general entertainment.

When it comes to reinventions there have been numerous adapations of stories to suit other audiences, one such instance was the 2006 film The Departed. Based off the Hong Kong film "Infernal Affairs", the Americanised version keeps the same theme and general plot simply replacing them with American characters and settings. It's not the only time that a film from another country has been "Americanised", there has been other such as "Let Me In", adapted from "Let The Right One In", "The Ring", adapted from "Ringu". The list goes on but the point being that a re-imagination of an existing IP can merely change the locality.

One last re-invention to look at is the ancient tale of Journey to the West, telling the tale of the Monkey King. It's been adapted many times to different languages and different mediums, from tv to Stage to Music to even video games, each time taking on similar and different qualities. Most recently the story has been adapted for a video game that gives on a steam punk/futuristic aesthetic.

It's important to keep in mind that re-invention of an IP is not an uncommon thing and theres no limit to how you can change an already existing concept, you can change the target audience, the aesthetic, the details, the locality but people will still be able to see influences and origins of the original. It's important to be aware of the changes you're making whilst remembering the original.

The Art of The Storyboard

I recently picked up the book "The Art of The Storyboard" by John Hart after reading several chapters I've learned more about the process of drawing storyboards. The first paragraph already enlgithened me about one aspect of storyboarding.

"Steven Spielberg's Storyboard sketches for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom are little more than than chicken scratches, but since his concepts for the action sequences were at least indicated, even primitively, he was able top visually convey his ideas to a professional storyboard artist, who, in turn, rendered them in, shall we say, a more realistic manner."

what should be brought away from this is the fact that a storyboard doesn't need to be particularly detailed, the key to a good storyboard indicating the sequence as clearly as possibly and in essence a storyboarder's job is "Conveying visualisations of a written scene."

Often a storyboard is used only when needed to keep and interpret continuity of a sceenplay in a scene, usually an action scene. When drawing a scene John Hart cites that it's important to keep certain factors in mind such as;

What is the Story about?
Who are the characters?
What do they do and say, if dialogue is indicated?
Which characters are in the foreground, middle ground and background?
With whom are they in conflict?
Where does the conflict take place?
How many lights and light stands are needed to illuminate the locales?
What intensity is demanded?
What should ne the main light sources, for both indoor and outdoor shooting?
Where should the key light be positioned?
When are long, medium and close-up shots necessary?
What kind of reflectors, filters, gels, gobos and cookies are called for to create the right mood?
What colours dominate each scene?
What types of sets, costumes and makeup is required?

It should also be noted that when designing a storyboard thought about interesting camera angles should be applied as to make the sequence look as interesting as possible.

Other tips that Hart suggests is to generally practise the art of drawing such as proportion of anatomy and depth. Often black and white tones are used as it's simpler and easier to make out. Arrows are used to define movement, white arrows for movement of characters and black arrows for movement of the camera.

The key facts to take away are: careful consideration of what I'll be drawing, think about camera angles and make the action/sequence as clear as possible to follow.

Overall understanding how to create storyboard doesn't really seem that difficult and that it's generally learning how to tell a story/sequence through a series of images in the most visually interesting way possible. With this said I'm still going to try analyse at least one storyboard sequence.

Friday, 29 April 2011

The Characters of "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly"

Since deciding on how I'll be re-imagining "TG,TB&TU" I thought it might be wise to look at the characters again to refamiliarise myself with their traits and personalities so that when I'm designing I can try visualise these traits into the concept pieces. In "TG,TB&TU" there are three main characters; The Man with No Name, Tuco and Angel Eyes.

The Man With No Name

Portrayed by Clint Eastwood, The Man with No Name (refered to as "Blondie" by Tuco) represents The Good. He is a sharp shot bounty hunter who is often quiet and reserved but also very cunning. "Blondie" is hard boiled but not above emotion, his trademark squint helps define this rugged look, beyond these details the history of the character and general air about him should feel mysterious and the audience do not learn much of his past as the film progresses. His colour pallet consites of light to medium dark browns with a light blue, apart of his trademark look is wearing a type of poncho. His weapons of choice are revolvers and a rilfe (where needed).


Portrayed by Eli Wallach, Tuco Represents The Ugly of The film. A bandit with an unquenchable thirst for Greed, he's a character that can appear both bumbling (but not unskillful) and vengeful. He is a man with little honour who will rob from the dead given the chance. Tuco dresses very much in the similar attaire to a stereotypical bandit, large sombreo, black handle bar mustache etc. His colour palletes swing from medium to dark browns with gray, Tuco's weapon of choice is a custom revolver made from different parts of other revolvers.

Angel Eyes

Portrayed by Lee Van Cleef, Angel Eyes represents The Bad. A ruthless mercinary who always gets the job done but it should be noted he's not an uncivilised man and it's this cold look and smooth, calm demeanor that really makes Angel Eyes scary. His outfit consists of a Black hat and a dusty trench coat, like "Blondie" he is slender and this adds to his presence. Angels Ey's Colour pallet is in the dark spectrum from dark browns into black but his brilliant blue eyes should be noted, his prefered weapon is a revolver along with what ever weapon is needed to get the job done (shotguns, rifles).

On top of this re-familiarisation of the characters I feel that before I start to do any conceptual work I should sit down and watch the film once more and make note of design details, character traits and over all tone, but this is a good start as I'm already beginning to think of concepts in my mind.

Searching for a Third Party

As part of my brief I set myself the task of completing a storyboard for a third party (or if I could not find one a sequence made by myself). Recently there was a post on the college forum about a Video competition being hosted by Vimeo, so I quickly replied "If anyone is entering this, hit me up as I can do storyboards for your video." But the deadline for the competition is 9th May so I don't know how motivated people will be to try and enter.

Regardless this is my first attempt to actively seek a third party to do work for. Luckily If it turns out I don't have a third party to work for I have a back up plan.

Deciding on the Details

Whilst doing research I've been trying to decide how I'll re-invent/imagine/make the classic Sergio Leone film, "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". To help me come to this decision I drew out this little brainstorm, I thought about various genres I should try change the storyline to and what audience (age and sex) it should appeal to, then I was to decide which medium it should appear in.

Ultimately my choices led to me to change "TG,TB&TU" into a sci-fi film for ages 15+. In short this is what one of my dream opportunities would be and since I'm in complete control of this brief I want to create something that I would watch. I decided to go with a Sci-fi setting as westerns can translate easily into the genre, StarWars is just a western in space when you boil down the details. I choose the audience for 15+ as I feel that the content in the original film would be suitable for this age group and I really don't want to deviant from the original's feeling of grit or dilute it's content (that would be required for younger viewers). It's also partly out of this respect for the original work that I want to keep the medium as a film.

I did consider changing the medium to a video game but there's already so many world roaming adventure games out there; "Red Dead Redemption", "Mass Effect", even the "Final Fantasy" games so I don't think it'd feel that special as a project, doubly so since my previous project included making artwork for a game.

Ultimately it's also an excuse for me to really let my imagination loose, I love sci-fi movies and a love westerns so it's going to be a fun process to try juxtapose the two into something really stunning. With that sorted I've decided to make "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: In SPAAAAAACE".

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Art of Mass Effect

As part of my research into concept art I return to the book "The Art of Mass Effect" ( A book that collects the art work behind Bioware's scfi adventure game "Mass Effect") as it's an extremely good source of the amount of concept art and thought that goes into the design process of a piece of media. The book is a great souce as it outlines all major points of conceptual design such as character, costumes, vechiles, props and settings.

The artists use a range of techniques and predominately focus on digital tools rather than traditional ones (but they are still used in some places). In this blog post I'll be outlining some of the techniques used by the artists and commenting on the process of the overall design process.

It seems the process for creating a video game is very much like that of creating a film with the elabourate process of designing until everything feels just right. The first parts that are conceptualised it seems are the main characters, most likely as you'll be controlling one and interacting with them through the game, it also makes sense to build a character first as you can then build a world around that group and go back and adjust them further if need be.

Here lead concept artist Matt Rhodes draws a conceptual scene of Mass Effect's villian, an alien by the name of Saren. Completed digitally the styles drawn here is vastly different to the more realistic look of the game's version of Saren. This piece is important as it shows that concept art for a character can take place in a scene, this shows the qualities of the character better than a plain character-on-white design. The technique used by Rhodes is a line drawing coloured in with photoshop using a mix of burshes including those with textures.

It's good to keep in mind that a scene with a character can really help shape the qualities the director may want from the character and to highten the emotion the viewer will feel whilst watching.

Here we seen more of Rhode's designs, this time trying to establish a look for the alien Asari race that appears in the game. Most of the work is done in pencils and there is a large number of variations on the designs. Most likely Rhodes pumped these out as maybe slightly larger than thumbnail sketches until he found a design he was happy enough with the develop further.

It's important to note how many designs he did until Rhodes found one that he was confident with, on the left you can see the final design and it's vastly different from some of the preliminary sketches that were drawn. It'd be wise to bear in mind to not get to hung up on one idea and keep designing until you, as an artist have a good range to decide which to develop further.

With the main character's established it seems the artists went on to focusing on clothing designs for what human's and the other races may wear. Again this is complete using digital tools. It should be noted that a clear theme arises from which is generally a use of black with a secondary bold colour to even the design out.

It's imporatnat to note the continuity that the artists are creating here, slowly creating a breathing world that meshes well together, everything is designed to look asthough it belongs in that world and it's this level of keeping continuity in check that I will have to do when it comes to my own work.

Here we see one of Doug Chiang's rules being put into use. As part of the design process to create an insect like alien for the game Bioware artists are clearly doodling down various shapes and elabourating up on them. As Chiang states it's a good way to get some interesting looking designs and here the Bioware artists clearly use this method as a way of pumping out a collection of designs to the choose to elabourate on further.

With the characters and creatures of the Mass Effect universe created the designers then focused on vechiles. In comparison to the other pieces of the book these pieces are predominately completed with traditional methods rather than the other way around.

Again you can see definite themes with the large wheels and use of paneling. The designs are much stricter than those of the characters of creatures and have a much more "designed-as-a-product" look rather than something to appear in a film or game. Comparing these to the works of Doug Chiang it's clear to see that theres been a much more mechanical process put into these designs. They still illustrate their fucntions though as Chiang outlined these designs fall under the 3 second rule as you could easily imagine these vechile's functions by looking at them.

Again here we seen a range of possibilities for the final look for some of the games weapons. Starting out as a range of pencil drawings until one is chosen to be developed upon, notice though how unlike the vechiles these props are drawn from the side on making it much easier to see the detail, something that should be kept in mind when I come to designing some props.

From there the more developed designs recieve a dose of digital colour. The book contains more designs for props such as tables, chairs, walls etc and these are drawn from a view point rather than just face one so this could just be limited to the weapons. What's important to bring away from this is just the subtle changes added to a design before it reaches the final version.

With everything else designed, the only thing left for the Bioware artists to do is develop the worlds of Mass Effect. Each piece seems to be completed using Digital tools and techniques but as I've stated in a previous project some of the pieces exist only to help define the feeling and atmosphere of an enviroment.

With in these scenes action takes place to show how characters of the game may interact with the space given to them which helps bring the realisation of the final version closer and closer. As these concepts are developed more secure designs are put in placing combining 3d models with digital paintings to outline the layout of a level. It's interesting to see a technique as such used but it's also a logical step in creating the final version, slowly replacing the painting componenets with the secure finalised CG counterpart.

From this anaylsis I feel I've learned even more including the re-enforcement of techniques used by Doug Chiang are also used by other industry professionals, solidfying their worth as rules to adhear to when designing. It's also relieving to see that theres a distinct difference is visual aesthetics from the concept art to the final product as it means I don't have to worry about trying to be untral realistic should I choose to complete my designs for a film or game where realism is a key part of the product.

This anaylsis has also re-enforced a sense of completing numerous designs before choosing to develop any and that there are many considerations to think about when designing a whole world from characters to the environments they inhabit.

With each extra bit of research I feel more relaxed about the practical aspect of my project.

Ken Recommends: Thor

Release: 27/4/11
Running Time: 114 mins.
Studio: Paramount & Marvel Studios
Genre: Fantasy/Comedy
Rating: 12A
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Ashley Miller (Screen play) & J. Michael Straczynski (Story)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins & Natalie Portman

The Summer blockbusters were kicked off this month with Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch and that was met with mixed responses but it wasn't until the arrival of Thor did it really feel like the blockbusters were coming. This summer Super Heroes will rule the box office, with Captain America and Green Lantern still to be released it's hard to tell who will be the hero of 2011, fortunately Thor's got a head start but will that be the decidng factor?

After being exiled from Asgard and stripped of his Powers Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the God of Thunder has been banished to Earth where in his entrance cause more than ripples in the water. Whilst on earth Thor's entrance attracts the attention of a group of local Physicists but also a large shady organisation, in his absence Thor's brother Loki, the trickster God (played by Tom Hiddleston) takes the throne of Asgard after Odin (Hopkins) is taken into the Odinsleep. Loki plans to change Asgard for his own selfish means, can Thor regain his powers a return to Asgard to stop him?

This movie is a blockbuster there will be no award winning scripts here but what Thor is, is fun. It really feels like a comic book movie, if you've watched Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk theres definetly a sense that these movies are connected (and just not by the upcoming Avengers movie in 2012) but in tone, if you've enjoyed movies from Marvel Studios so far theres a good chance you're going to enjoy Thor.

The cast is great and theres some real subtlty to some of the scenes, especially with Loki and Odin, where acting falls short though is during the Earth scenes where Thor interacts with physicist Jane Foster (Portman) and friends. These character's arn't interesting and feel one dimensional, seemingly to only have two thoughts on their minds after the first third of the film is over. Overall the acting from the gods is compelling and draws you in for fun and excitement where as the humans are dull and feel tacked on just to give Thor any sort of connection to Earth, where as it might have been a better pay off to see him survive without Locals to guide him.

The visuals seem ropey at the start of the film until you see that first panning shot of Asgard. You could really believe that this is a city of Gods and the design for costumes is really unique, think Conan meets Star Wars and you begin to get an idea of what it's like. Again it's the scenes in Asgard that are really memorable. The editing and pacing of the film is overall well put together as it should be from Branagh, but there were a few instances where in an extra three seconds to convey an action would have just made it a little smoother in places.

Like all super hero movies it's down to that final showdown between good and evil and it really does pay off with stunning visual, the best scene is seeing brother Loki and Thor duke it out.

With some good twists you may not expect from your standard super hero movie Thor is worth spending money on (I recommend 2D as I couldn't see anything 3D could add to the experience). Although Let down by Hemsworth and Portman's scenes in what feels a little like a forced romance between the two, the movie still stands up with many qualities that out shines that blemish. Thor is a great start to the summer movie season and enjoyable for both fans and movie goers.

And as always there's a scene at the end of credits to wet your mouths for upcoming Marvel Studio Projects.

Electroshock Blues Plus Free EPs

This morning as I was playing around on my guitar looking up songs to learn etc. When I came across a write up of various Eel Songs. One of my favourite albums by Eels is "Electro-Shock Blues" so I started seeing what was there to learn and after a while I ended up recording a short cover of the title track from the album in only 2 hours, which I feel is an achievement..I think...

Along with this I've created music in the past that I posted up on myspace but I've decided to up the ante and release the first EP in all it's imperfection and a Sampler (or Single if you want to rate me so highly) of the new album I'm working on titled "Tight Dope" which includes the title track, "Dr Jesus Removed my Appendix [feat. Buzz Crandel]" and the cover of Eel's "Electro-Shock Blues".

This whole making music hobby thing has been a learning process as I go along, some songs may sound better than others as I'll have learned something new about the instruments and programs that I use, it's kind of what's made this so much fun to do, learning as I make progress.

Whilst the First EP, with it's wonderfully pretentious name "20//13:12//2,000+10" may be a little more technical is musical terms, I feel that with the upcoming "Tight Dope" I'm stepping into a pair of shoes that was meant to fit me. Anyway to download either of the EPs click the links below, or check out the links to the side.


Please, if you've downloaded any of these files leave me a comment. It'd be cool to get some feed back!

[Edit, I've removed tight dope for the time being as I've realised that it's not quite at the level of quality I want, so until then...]

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Doug Chiang's Keys to Good Design

In his book, Mechanika, Doug Chiang outlines 6 tips that he believes makes a good and lasting concept design;

1. A Strong Silhouette

Design for iconic shapes. Always think in terms of strong silhouettes before focusing on the fine details. Squinting your eyes occansionally will help you concentrate on this. Remember, details embelish the overal design but don't determine it.

2. The Three-Second Rule

With Iconic shapes in mind, create designs that can be understood in three seconds or less. The three-second rule evolved out of my film experience. Often audiences have less than three seconds to understand what they are viewing before the shot changes, so it is essential to keep the design clear. For example, if it's a vehicle, the viewer must be able to determine quickly where the pilot sits, in which direction the vechile is going, it's purpose, etc. These things may sound simple, but they are often neglected. Always strive to keep the overall form easy to understand.

3. Personality

Ask yourself: Is this design powerful? Weak? Menacing? Are those the traits reflected in the design? When Personality is infused into your designs, the end result is more effective.

4. Functionality

Would the design work? You must have an idea how your design would function. Confirm functionality before moving onto the next question.

5. Believability

Is it plausable? Does it look as if it can perform the function that you designed it to? This is the believability test. This doesn't mean that every joint and hinge needs to be figured out in great detail, but a basic appearance of practical function is essential.

6. Cool Factor

This one is very subjective and a bonus if it can be achieved. This is the emotional difference between a sports car and a commutuer car. Both vehicles are made for transport and both have the same basic configuration, but one addresses it's purpose with much greater flair. Do the same in your designs.

These are some pretty good guide lines to keep in mind when it comes to designing and I feel that Mechanika has been a huse help in understanding the methods and techniques that a professional can use. Next I'll be moving on from Mechanika and starting to look at work from various "art of" books.

Projects on the Side

Whilst I've got this main project of negotiated study to do I've (Foolishly) added some personal projects into the mix, but the good thing is I've not really set a deadline any time soon for these so they're not going to get in the way of my uni projects.

The first is an extremely long on going project that I'm determined to get complete by the end of July with is my home effort of a comic that features the adventures of a small ninja called Fu. I originally started this back in late 2009 in my last year of college and have ever now and then gone back to add to it. Now the comic it self is only 8 pages long and I only got round to finishing the pencils for it oh, just last APRIL! That's right April 2010, over a year ago! So far there are 2 and a half pages inked, I plan to get completed and published by the end of July/start of August then, hopefully a completely new story featuring Fu of at least 8 pages out will by November 2011(Thought Bubble anyone?).

Another Ancient Relic that hangs around my room are two Qee keyrings that I bought some Eons ago. I recently took it upon myself to finally paint them (as white is a terribly boring colour). I'm using citidel paints that I'm sure many of you remember painting your warhammer models with as they're pretty good once you water them down abit. I know this as I had previously tried to paint a Munny but it went disastourously wrong.

A good tip before starting painting is I drew up some designs before doing anything else and another key element to painting these things is patience and a steady hand.

Every once in a while if I make progress with these projects I'll post whats going on with them, Peace out!

The Doug Chiang Process

Previously I looked at a range of tools and techniques from Professional Conceptual Designer Doug Chiang, in this post I'll be looking more indepth at the process he under takes when designing, from concept to final version. I'll be looking at his Comm Robot from Mechanika as it includes uses of both traditional and non-traditional tools.

Chiang first decides on traits he'd like to put in his design, "I wanted to create a communications robot that was friendly, functional and a dependable worker. The tutrle became my inspiration." He next starts out with his marker sketching technique using a Cool Grey 30% marker. He keeps the shapes soft and round "The large ball on the Robot's back releftcs the turtle-shell influence."

Next come the further shape refinements. Chiang continues using the Cool Grey 30% marker until "Interesting minor shapes emerge". He adds a large ring on the back to act as a satellite to draw attention to the fact that the robot's purpose is for communication. This also gives the design a very unique and recognisable silhouette.

Foundation lines come next. Using his pens and ellipse tool to fill in the larger round shapes and his trinagle to add the perspective and action lines. Here Chiang notes "The diagonal action line through the upper arm shows that the arm is being raised up and back, away from the vertical orientation of the legs."

Chiang also cites that he uses a triangle instead of a ruler as the shape of the triangle is easier to grip and maneuver around the paper, the inking edge also prevents bleed and smearing of the ink.

Moving on Chiang begins to define and refine the details of his design. He first begins with the ellipses and main areas of the design such as the head, he works downwards "Pulling out mechanical shapes" as he goes along and adding detail. Continuing with the pen work Chiang moves around the drawing adding in the detail. He states that "Sometimes coming back later to an arm or a leg allows you to see forms that weren't evident earlier".

As the line work nears completion, Chiang will look over the drawing to make sure the line work and form is balanced, he suggestes when it comes to your own work complement shapes in your design by "juxtaposing large areas with smaller detailed areas", Once you reach the right amount of detail, large shapes and detail will be well balanced giving the drawing a unified look.

This stage seems to be very critical to Chiang's work as he starts off with nothing but basic shapes and adds the detail as he goes along, this technique seems very beneficial and not to difficult to learn but I have a feeling it's fairly hard to master.

Next comes the tone markers. Chiang starts off by define the direction of the light source in the scene, then begins to block in the main tones, in this image he starts with the large turle-shelled back and moves forwards. This is because the markers dry quickly and it's easier to get larger sections done in one swoop rather than start with smaller details in the foregorund and work backwards.

The design is nearing completion, using White paint and a brush Chiang adds highlights to the robot. He cautions to "Avoid over working the drawing" and that highlights should be use sparingly. Still at this stage Chiang's adding detail, finally adding hanging cables between the legs to complement the satellite on top.

The tip of not going over board on highlights it a good one as I've personally had projects in which I've added far too many highlights to an image, ultimately ruining it.

Finally Chiang scans the design into Photoshop and adds a colour tint of a green-grey to both the image and the background. On a new layer he adds "abstract colour patterns and textures" mixing them into the drawing by changing the layer qualities to soft light mode. For his final touches he uses the colour dodge tool to enhance the highlights on the robot's belly.

This process is a great example of a professional at work who knows how to streamline his work load in that he can create a final design in just a few steps. Chiang's process is one that I feel I will emulate until I develop my own system to creating cocnept art, there are some truly innotive techniques here such as the use of foundation lines that I previously didn't know about and the several steps to using markers, whilst I had previously used markers before it wasn't until know that I was informed of the way to use them effectively.

I feel that Doug Chiang's Mechanika has already come in great use and is going to be a useful companion long into the practical side of this project.

The Tools and Techniques of Doug Chiang

Doug Chiang is a professional conceptual artist whom has worked for Industrial Light and Magic, working on many projects from "Terminator 2" to "Death Becomes" Her. In '95 Chiang left ILM to become Design Director for "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" which lead to work on the sequal "Attack of the Clones". Recently Chiang released the book "Mechanika: Creating the art of science fiction", which outline many of the techniques that the award winning artist uses including step by step processes on how he creates some of his pieces.

In his book Chiang out lines what tools he uses and why, these include:

Post-it notes (3"x3")
Premium white 28-lb. (105 gsm) colour copier paper, (11"x17")
Prismacolour Markers (black and cool grey: 30&, 50%, 60%, 70%)
8" 45/90 degree plastic triangle with inking edge
12" metal ruler
Airmarker system
Blueline pencil
Adobe Photoshop
Craft Knife
Daler-Rowney Pro Wite Opaque water colour paint
Fine tip black pen
Pointed round kolinsky sable brush 1/15"
Small and large ellipse guides (Sizes 10-80 degrees)
Spray adhesive
White vinyl eraser.

Chiang explains the use of his tools citing that his choices here are purely what he has found that works so brands of paper and marker are interchangable to a person's preference. He does recommend that when using a marker use the broader nib as they get a really sense of dynamics relating to the pressure you put on them, he also suggests paper that doesn't allow the markers to bleed. When using markers Chiang notes that it's best to work from the background to the foreground going from larger to small shapes and round to flat shapes. In Mechanika, Chiang is also an advocate of art tool modification citing "If what's on the market doesn't suit your needs, alter it" revealing that all of his Star Wars production paintings were completed with a ruler that had lego bricks glued to the bottoms to make a cutom "Artist's Bridge".
"An artist's bridge is like a ruler with a wedge underneath each edge so it doesn't lie flat on a piece of paper but stands above it. Resting your wrist or forearm on an artist's bridge steadies your hand. Or you can use the edge to paint or draw a straight line -- even if the paint is wet if the bridge isn't standing on your painting.", 2011
When it comes to starting a design Chiang incorporates either of this two methods as his starting point, the first one (which he cites as his favourite) is by using marker sketches. Using a Cool Grey 30% marker 'as it's dark enough to see, yet light enough not to over power the final pen work' he focuses on the overal shape of a design, reassuringly he says not to be afraid of making mistakes as they could lead to new shapes which could end up being used in the final design.

I can definetly see the pros of this method as it allows for a quick design to be built upon in a short amount of time and by using the light marker you can just draw your design over it instead of having to get some overlay paper to draw it on to.

Chiang's next method for starting a design is by using post-it notes and the blue pencil. He cites this method as "a great technique to use if you don't have strong inital ideas". Due to the small size the post-it forces the artist to think in major shapes rather than details, chiang also cites that with this method theres less pressure and it allows an artist to create multiple ideas in a short amount of time. This method does come with a con though as the artist will have to re-draw their favourite idea on a larger piece of paper to work with.

I feel this method might be great for coming up with props, veichles and animals that may appear in a narrative rather than characters and it really is a great process for pumping out ideas, it's definetly one that I'll be trying.

It should be noted that both of these methods can be replicated via photoshop which gives me another choice when it comes to preference.

One technique that Chiang uses when designing is the use of foundation lines. These come in 3 types; Perpective, Sontruction and Action Lines, all of these line serve to guide the artist's hand to creating the final image but each have an individual purpose in their own right.
  • Perspective Lines serve to keep the object being drawn in proportion and proper depth. Chiang cites that he doesn't rigidly place these down but more approximates as he feels this keeps the drawing "Organic and alive". He also states that a firm understanding of two and three point perspective is esstial.

  • Construction Lines are similar to perspective lines but serve to help control and delinate the form of the drawing. More often they work as guide lines to tie two or mort componenets in the drawing together.

  • Action Lines guide the action of a stucture giving it thrust, a dynamic composition or just simply a main axis for the form.
Chiang's Mechanika is a treasure trove of information for those looking to seriously get into conceptual design and I feel I'll be using more of this book to draw information from. Just from reading the first few pages I already feel much more confident in my work, although most of Chiang's tips refer to mechanical structures I feel they could be put to organic designs as well. I can't wait to try some of the professional techniques for myself.

Get Doug Chiang's Mechanika from Amazon now!
Mechinka: Creating The Art of Science Fiction

Monday, 25 April 2011

Types of IP Re-Invention

Over the last decade or so it seems that re-inventions of exisiting interlectual properties have emerged as a more common place thing. The whole idea behind the re-invention of an IP is to bring in a new audience, with in the whole concept of re-invention of an IP there is generally two types:
  • Re-Make: Which is generally "A piece of media based primarily on an earlier work of the same medium".

    So in example: The abundance of Horror movie remakes we've seen in recent years, but it's also seen in both Video games and comics. Often these re-makes are an attempt to modernise the original IP and bring in a younger audience.

  • Re-Interpretation: Similar to a Re-Make but often they do not follow the original IP in either characters, setting, or medium.

    This type of Re-invention is to bring in a whole new audience whom may not have liked or were targeted by the original IP. Often The characters will take on radical changes from their originals. A Classic example of this is the Samurai film Yojimbo was Re-Interpreted as a Western film; "A Fistful of Dollars".
In many cases it seems just as much with new IPs that these re-inventions have just as much as a hit or miss ratio. Most often it's seems that it's due to a strong fan base of the original they re-act negatively to the changes. As this project progresses I will be looking at various IPs that have gone under inventions and analyse them (Such as the Marvel Super Hero Squad pictured)

Due to my choice of choosing to Re-invent "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" I feel that meerly just choosing to re-make it would be uninteresting as a project as it'd just be the standard western to the current generation. From here I feel that a re-interpretation would be better, for now it's just trying to decide How I shall re-interpret one of the best westerns ever made?

What makes a good Storyboard?

In previous projects, aswell as using Concept Art I've also used Storyboards, but only in a limited sense. The last time I did create a storyboard was for an opening to a movie, what was notible was a huge jump in quality between previous efforts. So I feel I'm on the way to being fairly competent storyboard artist.

When looking at professional storyboards it seems that the type of thought process that goes into creating a storyboard is similar to that of a comic, lining up a frame of where camera angles will be. Ultimately showing what should appear on camera.

Another thing that should be noted is that storyboards can have varying levels of complexity in their drawings, but the most important thing is that the images show what should happen on screen clearly. More often than not storyboards are completed in pencils and tones, sometimes with Markers. What's important to remeber is that storyboards often show the action in the scene where as concept art's purpose is to show the detail and design of the items in the scene.

As with concept art as I research more about storyboards I'm sure more inforamtion about the artform will reveal itself along with tricks and techniques but the general rules seem to be. Basically it seems that a good storyboard contains Good composition and is easily readible as an action scene.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

What Makes a Good Piece of Concept Art?

As mentioned previously I've completed projects where I've had to touch upon concept art research, through this research I discovered that there were two types; Environmental and Character designs whilst are different have similar processes

Concept Art may first have a rough design that gets the feel of the area in the first draft and will ultimately look like this, detailed, well thought out and presented almost like a frozen screen shot from a film. Notice that with only the use of grey tones and blacks that depth and atmosphere is easily created.

It's the thought process and development of building up from rougher drafts to more final stages. Concept art can be created using digital or traditional methods but through my research it seems the more rougher pieces of work are created using digital tools and the more technical and detailed ones are created using solely traditional or a mixture of both.

It seems that the best concept art shows not just the technical aspect of a scene or a character but also an atmosphere or a presence. It's this quality of mixing atmosphere with detail that makes good concept and I will be keeping this in mind when it comes to creating my own work.

Here I've only just touched on Concept art for this project as I begin to research it in more depth over the coming posts I'm sure to learn much more about the art of conceptualising.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Tools I'll be Using

Previously I've done several projects that required the use of concept art, so I'm familiar with a fair range of tools.

For this project I will be using a mix of Traditional and Non-Traditional art tools to create my body of work. First of all I will be using my trusty pencil case, filled with things such as a range of Pencils with different shades, a range of pens with various nib width. A new addition to my pencils case though is a Blue Pencil Crayon, this is due to after reading Mechanika: How to create science fiction art, the author Doug Chiang often uses a blue pencils at first to sketch out various shapes before starting onto the next step with conceptualising, blue is chosen as it constrasts very well against pencils and allows the artist to clearly seen where his next set of lines should be. In fact I also recently learned that Comic artists do the same thing as you can make the blue invisible when it comes to scanning the work. Not shown is a collection of Copic brand markers for colouring traditionally, most importantly the grey tone markers will be used in the early stages of conceptualising.

Along with pencils and pens I will also be using rulers but also a drawing table as due to it's titled angle it helps the artist keep everything in proportion as whilst working on a flat horizontal surface a pieces can become skewed due to the angle from which the artists is working on. I'll also be using 3 types of paper, Kent Paper (B4 size), Bristol Board (A3 size) and Layout paper (A3). The Kent and Bristol Board are much thicker and are a personal preferance as they're easier to draw inks on but pencils must be used very lightly on it. The layout paper is to trace over designs and make any changes without having to redraw the whole thing again, say I want to change the design of a hat worn by a character, instead of rubbing out I just place the layout paper of and draw a new hat on there photoshopping it in afterwards.

The non-traditional tools that I will be using are all essentially digital tools. I'll be using my computer thats set up with a Wacom (Bamboo fun) tablet and an extra moniter (Should it be required). My computer is equiped with Adobe CS3 (Photoshop and Illustrator). I also have Art Rage and Corel Painter to use giving me a wide options. These programs can be used to create completely digital works or scan in traditional ones so that they will be coloured and added to digitally.

Overall I think I'm well eqipped to start the practical side of this project. As I go through this project I will note which tools I have used for which piece of practical work.

Time Management

Time management is an important factor of any project with multiple deadlines, in this negoticated study there are two deadlines:
  • Intrim Crit' (3rd May)
  • Final Dead line (3rd June)
Within this time I also have a critical report for another project to write so I have to factor that in.

For the Intrim crit I should have a collection of all my research and the starting steps of my practical work to present, after that date it's time to blast on full steam ahead with practical work. Ideally I want my schedule for my project to look like this:

  • All Research & Development and decision making.
  • Intrim Crit.
  • Complete practical work.
  • Deadline.
Within the R&D stages I should have collected enough information to start doing my designs based of information from books and on the internet, this will range from notable concept/storyboard artists to techniques and professional protocal. Within this R&D stage I will also be trying to secure a third party to complete a storyboard for.

From there the practical stage will be creating the storyboard and designs I set out to do after the R&D using the tools and techniques I've learned from the R&D stage.

With due dates now in line I feel more focused and prepared for this project.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Books That I Will Be Using

For this negotiated brief I will be using awider selection of books than I have for previous projects as I want to really increase my knowledge and understanding of the process of creating conceptual art. In my own collection of books I have quite a few art of books which come from both movies, games and tv shows including some basic art (& how to) books.

The most notable books that I can foresee me using for the conceptual art in my research from here will be:
  • The Art of Star Wars Episode II
  • Caught in the web: Dreaming up the world of Spider-Man 2
  • The Encyclopedia of Fantasy & Sci-fi fiction art Techniques
  • The Art of Hellboy
  • Mechanika: How to create Science fiction Art
  • The Art of Mass effect
  • Imagine FX (Magazine)
When it comes to the storyboarding section of the R&D I'll most likely be using:
  • The Fundamentalsof Film Making
  • How to draw comics the Marvel way
  • Animation: From Pencils to Pixels
Ontop of this in my personal collection I have various art books that I can draw influence from when it comes to the designing stage of the concept art. In the following posts as I go through the project I will be noting how each of these books contributed to the learning of new skills or techniques, or possibly doing posts about what is featured in those books which makes good concept art.

Ofcourse this is just my collection of books, on tuesday I will be looking over the univeristies library for any more books that could be useful. The more I write about the preperation for this project the more excited I'm getting to start it!

How I Decided What to Do for My Negotiated Brief

For this project the first challenge was to establish whart I wanted to do for my negoticiated brief. I knew intially that I wanted to focus on my conceptual art skills, I looked to various optionas in how I could complete a brief via this method. I considered doing some live briefs such as the Pepsi Film Festival of the D&DA Disney Brief, but ultimately I opted for creating my own brief as none of the ones I looked at fitted my idea for what I wanted to do.

I decided to start with the base theme of creating concept art and stemed two branches from there looking at either re-inventing an exisiting IP or creating my own. I decide to choose re-invention as it would save on a lot of R&D time to start with something that already exists but also because it would be a fun challenge to try give something a fresh coat of paint, so to speak.

From there I tried to decide on what IP I would re-invent. I decided that I would write a list of all IPs that I'm interested in to see if anything sparks inspiration in my mind. I first thought about re-inventing a fantasy genre film as something else, starting off with titles such as "The Lord of The Rings", "Jason & The argonaunts" etc. I then came across the idea of re-inventing the Japanese film "Yojimbo" but I remebered that it had already been done as the western movie "A Fist Full of Dollars", this lead me to choose "The Good, The bad and The Ugly" as my choice of IP.

Originally I wanted to re-invent it as a Sci-fi but at these early stages of R&D I want to keep the direction I want to go in open as I want to research more IPs that have gone through re-inventions.
Below are more pages from my Notebook from when I was trying to decide what to do.