Summer Camp – Scared Girl
1. This brief asked for a slightly risqué image of a young lady going for a midnight skinny dip swim at a camping site reminiscent of the classical 1980s cabin horror films. This particular image is supposed to convey a ominous atmosphere, in which the young lady is caught alone, is vulnerable, and senses that something is not right. Before we actually start creating something we do a good amount of research so we have some kind of battle plan to get the image started. In this case there was more than enough material on the subject. We looked for lighting effects on the water, ripple effects, anatomical references, and possible setting cues from similar old films within the same genre.
2. After some research is done we make a quick mock up in 3D using Daz for the initial pose, and Modo for basic meshes, materials and lighting.
3. For this particular image we decided to use Vue as part of the process to create some simple vegetation. With Vue it’s easy to create vegetation masks and lighting situations, which can save us time later on during the Photoshop phase.
4. In this stage the image is about 85-90 percent done and it is usually around the phase when we turn it in for review and feedback. During this phase (Photoshop) we apply textures over the original mesh from phase 2, and start detailing all the elements to get to a close to photo finish feel. In addition we play around with possible lighting scenarios and try to blend everything together to create a more homogenous image.
5. For the very final version some last minute changes were made. Removing the lights in the background, toning down the color and improving the accuracy of the reflection all with the intention of making the image FEEL more scary, ominous and realistic.
Adrift Space Pod
1. Initial brief asked for an malfunctioning escape pod that the player would be finding repair parts for in order to get back to earth. The initial designs were a bit to “Sci-Fi Fantasy” and not enough “grounded NASA” look which was the goal combined with a bit of “2001 Space Odyssey.”
2. 2nd pass 3d sketch using kit bashed parts for the pod got us headed much more in the right direction with the great idea that some rail structure outside the station could point the eye towards our goal, earth. The storytelling intention of the shot was intended to instantly show that this pod takes you back home and all the arrangement / visual decisions revolved around that narrative.
3. An important instance of C1 DESIGN (see “The 4 Zones of Awesomeness” Chart) Where the 3D got a bit stifling and a bit of draw-over design was necessary to experiment with shape ideas. This was a CRITICAL stage that helped to push the design past what the kit bashing 3D parts brought to the table.
4. Beginning the photo bash on top of the kit-bash 3D sketch. The image needs to be “allowed” to look bad for a long time while the right images are found and arranged.
5. A more finessed design with small details coming into the consoles and the ground
6. The initial final version which was great but the pod read was so strong that the astronaut on the top left got lost and simply cluttered the image. In the final design some of the destroyed detail was removed and the astronaut was moved to near the same focal point as the pod, cleaning up the image AND the narrative at the same time.
Project Bluestreak – Forest
Project Bluestreak – Hollywood
World Cup Robot
Snowy Standoff – Division
Last of Us – Initial Monster Designs
We tried to do some awesome stuff and to make it more awesome
RYSE – Roman Standoff
RYSE | Dead Hanger
RYSE | Wickerman Prison | Crytek
1. The brief described a 100 foot tall minotaur-esque prison made of strapped together wood and designed to house one unfortunate prisoner until their fiery demise, sounds great! The design naturally called for many repeated shapes which was a perfect for 3D. We built a figure in Maya and after going back and forth internally we felt like we had captured the right tone in terms of constructions quality. To tidy and it wouldn’t feel disposable and too disheveled and it wouldn’t feel majestic.
2. For the fire we needed good reference of a giant burning man, thank goodness for Burning Man! Although we love photo-bashing, in this case all the fire was done with photoshop brushes. Great care was taken to study and mimic the exact texture and movement of fire. We thought we knew what fire looked like but it wasn’t until we actually STUDIED it that we noticed how specific the shapes were at this distance. For example we noticed the flames of a fire pit are entirely different in scale and density from the flames of a burning house.
3. After the painting was finished we delivered callouts based on our research. Besides the money shot, we needed to give the team at Crytek some explanation of how this beast would theoretically be constructed.
RYSE | Rain Walk
1. Crytek gave us a head start by providing blockmesh screengrabs of the game. We went through the collection of shots and picked the compositions we thought would look the best and provide the most environment information for the team.
2. Our first pass had all the elements worked out and a dynamic idea for lighting the top of the rock. We were also focused on creating more realistic rain and instead of an even layer of rain drops like we’ve seen in so many concepts, we instead wanted to get the feeling of SHEETS of rain moving with the wind and changing densities all over the picture.
3. For the final we felt the background needed a big more detail as your eye naturally ended up there and needed a payoff. We also changed the lighting a bit to bring the eye down to the players level, as well as compositing a more dynamic figure into the shot. Often the figure even if they aren’t the point of the painting, contribute a lot towards selling the idea.
Phantom Dust Environments
1. No matter how simple something seems, in this case a city park, there is always a shocking amount we don’t know. The team spent a few hours looking at references of parks to get a feel for how the floor stones should be arranged, what kinds of materials and structures are appropriate in a park, and how those individual pieces are formed. The client had a pretty clear layout of where the action in the trailer had to take place, but it was our job to take what was real and fit to their staging.
2. In this case the Maya 3D was designed to match the perspective of a great statue photo. The team didn’t have time to figure out or model the statue from scratch so we improvised moving the camera around until the shot matched our reference. The trees were free models found on google warehouse.
3. Next was a black and white comp based on the 3D. Of course the comps INITIALLY started with moving the sunlight light around in 3D space to put the tree shadows in a place that would frame our fountain in the most pleasing and natural way. The statue was cropped in as well as photo reference from our initial gathering. The stone textures were referenced from photos but high rez versions found on CGtextures.com
4. After all the essentials were worked out and we got client approval we set to compositing in all the pieces in for real, and this version is the rough pass before the team really set to adding lighting, color and fog in a nuanced way. The last color adjustments are always tricky but they go a huge way towards getting a realistic cohesive look. The client was happy, ZERO revisions and we moved on to the apocalypse version!
RYSE | Church Statue
1. The idea from the beginning was to to design a robot that didn’t look like an angry military-esque killing machine. After some initial doodles the idea came up that it might be fun to see a long legged robot drinking from the ground like a giraffe and in this case he would ingest fuel instead of water. The fun part for us was to create an awkward stance with his legs splayed.
2. After the sketch was done a simple hack model was built in Maya. The construction of the model was not about creating perfect geometry, but rather to get an accurate perspective template to paint on. We put shiny blinn shaders on the body to see how the surroundings would reflect off the surfaces and rendered the whole thing using the mental ray physical sun and sky in Maya.
3. The third step was to create a color sketch to experiment with where we would put the light with an emphasis on keeping everything thoroughly readable. Some of the structures and objects in the background were taken out to simplify the design and keep the focus on the relationship between the survivor and the robot.
4. For the last step we spent many hours loving on textures and fog to give the image another layer of realism. The photos were painted over to make them less like photos and the render was painted up to make it look more like a photo. There is a delicate balance in harmonizing separate elements. In the end the piece felt a bit static so we added some wind and debris to get a sense of movement.
Planetside 2 | Hossin Swamp
1. The Brief described a sunken swamp with raised plateaus and some alien plants. This being a MMO shooter we new that the terrain had to provide cover but be relatively open. We focused on getting a descriptive variety of mud types since that was most of the terrain. We like to give our clients very clear black and white sketches so even at this early stage all the shapes are finalized so there are no surprises in the final render.
2. After the client approved the black and white we moved on to texturing. For the plants we wanted something creepy and our artist came up with this great “bloated severed hand” vibe as well as carefully finding and placing all the photo textures and beginning to establish the fog.
3. The polish is always critical to making our work stand out as a Studio. For this image we spent some time lovingly adding fog layers, debris, fire, smoke and other fun stuff that wasn’t in the brief but gave the image much more interest. We also took care to include some sunlight but very subtley as real is sun is often suprisingly dim especially when travelling through layers of fog
Planetside 2 | Swamp Basin
Bioshock Infinite | Columbia
1. The amazing team at Irrational had long decided the style of the game, so our job was to match it but add some JUICE! Irrational provided a screenshot from the game to get us started. For this job we started with a 3-D blockmesh in Maya but ended up going back to basics with some simple graphic black and white sketches in photoshop. Originally the image would have a rose parade sized head of lincoln floating into the frame but that got cut early on.
2. The heavy lifting came at step 2 where we combed through and studied hundreds of pictures of architecture to find photos that could be cut up and distorted into perspective. For a scene with this much detail, existing architectural reference proved to be a huge help. Columbia was intended to be a fantastical floating city but it took cues from American architectural history.
3. Due to the variety of colors in this world we decided a color sketch would be helpful and helped us make a decision to keep the focus on Elizabeth, the main character. The brief did not call for a narrative but we generally try to include one in every environment concept. This allows us to give the image some focus and helped decide to make the air-cablecar yellow and Elizabeth blue to contrast it.
4. The original final image had all the architectural elements but was missing the signage. Working closely with the Art Director we found ways to pack the shot with all the trappings and character of Columbia. It’s arguable whether or not this simpler image is better, but certainly when playing the game the signage makes the world feel more real.