Monday, August 1, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens opened this weekend to somewhat disappointing box office, at least as far as I'm concerned - I personally thought it was great. Strong character work and acting, great dialog and lots of fun. Jon Favreau keeps pulling it off, and if anyone could have made a stronger film given the basic premise promised by the title, I don't know who. Let's face it, it could have been the summer's biggest joke. Instead, the material was taken seriously and treated lovingly, and we got a fine film I'm proud to have contributed to. So congratulations to Jon, writers Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci and Production Designer Scott Chambliss for a great movie!

Anyway, I'll be posting some of my concept work for the alien "speeder" vehicle in the coming days. For now, here's the image that I was told caught Spielberg's eye and led to the speeder design as we see it in the film.

Avengers Assemble!!

Most of you have probably seen this already as it was one of the most highly publicized images to come out of this year's Comic Con, but here's the Avengers Poster that Marvel released in seven parts to eager fans. Click HERE for the full poster in a larger size.

Illustrated by my good friends and colleagues Ryan Meinerding, Charlie Wen and Andy Park from their costume designs for the movie, it includes the first appearance of the Mk 7 Iron Man suit I designed for Avengers. Thanks, Ryan, for doing it better justice than I ever would!!

Looking forward to posting my own design sketches of the Mk 7 when the movie comes out. And watch out for this one in 2012, people. I don't usually make predictions on movies I've worked on, but if it's half as good as Joss Whedon's script we were working from, it's going to kick some serious ass!! And Joss is directing it himself, so how likely is it he'll screw that up? 2012 is going to be massive.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Captain America

Going to see Cap tonight, can't wait! So to celebrate I'm posting my small contribution to the project, a couple of designs I did for post production while working on Avengers in the Marvel Visual Development department earlier this year. For a couple of day's side work this was really a milestone for me, since I basically began my passion for this business at the age of 7 when my parents bought me Joe Johnston's Star Wars Sketchbook. I must have copied every drawing in that book a dozen times before the age of ten (when I got the Empire Strikes Back sketchbook and started all over again!) and that's essentially how I learned to draw. So to get to contribute even the smallest bit to one of my idol's movies meant a great deal. And that he turned out to be a friendly, gracious man is just the icing on the cake.

This first design never made it into the movie sadly, and I don't know whether the sequence ended up on the cutting room floor or was ever even produced, but would have shown the early days of Hydra with a squadron of these heavily modified Messerschmitt BF109's. The first pass I added double engines with counter-rotating props and a twin-tail to accomodate a tail gun...

Someone in visual effects thought it needed to be more different, so the cockpit was updated, the nose lengthened and at Joe Johnston's suggested a pusher-prop a la Dornier Do335 was added. Too bad it never saw the light of day.

Lastly I was handed a pencil sketch Joe Johnston had made of this remote-operated bathysphere and asked to detail out the design for production. It was a quick-turnaround job, so I rushed this out so the previs department could model it up and start on the shot.

As far as I've heard this made it into the movie, so I'll have at least one thing to look out for tonight, besides celebrating the amazing work of my friends Ryan Meinerding, Charlie Wen, Andy Park, Nathan Schroeder Jim Martin and Daniel Simon! Hope you all enjoy the movie.

**And yes, the sub was in the movie... for all of about a half-second blurry shot! :) Great movie, though, I had a blast. **

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Speaking at Otis

Had a great time last night speaking to this year's graduating class in the Digital Media department at Otis. Watch out! A serious batch of talent about to flood the industry and take all our jobs!

With any luck I sabotaged them all with some timely misinformation and crushed their wills with my devastating criticism, so we can all sleep better.

Have to say, I am continually astounded at the level of technical skill and imagination that this generation of artists is entering the workforce with. As I told this lot of future future-builders, this truly is a golden age for conceptual art. The accessibility of the tools and availability of training has really accelerated what seemed for me to be a decades-long learning curve. With such a leg up I can't imagine what all of these artists will be doing two decades into their careers. Hope I'm still around to see it, and not doddering on about how "In MY day, you had to use GOUACHE! And it dried a DIFFERENT COLOR than what you MIXED! UPHILL! BOTH WAYS!!"

...Oh, crap.
That was me last night.

So thanks to Otis for hosting me and to all of the students for giving me their attention and honoring me with their appreciation. My best of luck to all of them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Rectifier

Another of my first jobs in the art department was the final surfacing and detailing of the Rectifier, Clu's personal homage to his predecessor Sark's carrier in the first film. Production Designer Darren Gilford is a rarity in the industry, a production designer with a concept design background of his own. He worked out the simple evocative shape of the rectifier in sketchup, treating it simultaneously as a vehicle and as a set, working the design around very specific sight-lines that the director needed in order to tell the story.

Once again I was tasked with taking established forms and giving them life, scale and texture through my renderings, focusing primarily on the exterior. These were painted over screen grabs from sketchup, with textures warped to fit with the perspective tool in Photoshop, used as a channel in order to dodge in the varying specularity of the panel breakup.

This was one of many quick comps done in Modo and painted over to come up with the layout of Clu's invasion force.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

World of Warcraft cards

Taking a break from Tron for a moment, here are a couple of trading card game illos for World of Warcraft I did between Tron and Cowboys & Aliens. Definitely a break from the world of black and neon blue!

For those familiar with the mythology of the game, above is Hemet Nesingwary with his latest creation, the Nesingwary 4000, and below is a Crypt Fiend.

I just sent off four more for the latest two sets, but those won't be published for awhile.

The City

Just about everyone on the show did some work on the city, since it was such a major element of the film. Again I came in for final detailing and keyframe work. This was a moment to get a feel for Sam riding into the city. The beautiful bridge was the work of set designer & architect Ben Edelberg. Innumerable elements went into this frame, but Dave Scott should be singled out for his incredible graphic design work on the film. Every graphic element from fonts to control panels to the lines on the road went through him, and he would generate stuff on the fly to fit our needs.

Another city keyframe, painted over a number of elements provided by Ben Proctor, Joe Hiura, and Kevin Loo.

Daniel Simon was responsible for most of the vehicle design for the movie, but the original idea was to populate the city with a wide variety of background vehicles, so we all got to take a crack at some of those. This is the only one I did that actually made it in to the final film, but I was pleased to see it in a couple of shots.

In homage to the original Tron designer Syd Mead, I tried to come up with a simple shape that would evoke a Lincoln Town Car, a vehicle near and dear to Syd's heart.

I blocked out this quick model in Modo so the Digital Domain Modelers would have a reference for the scale, proportions and subtle surface development, otherwise such a simple shape could easily have ended up looking blocky.

I was all excited to have a toy of one of my designs, but the die-cast they ended up producing was of Daniel Simon's limo design, which never even made it into the film! Oh well...

Runaway Sam - A collaborative process case study

Since I came into the project relatively late in the game, much of the design had already been established, so my job focused on final finish, whether taking loosely roughed out designs and detailing them or creating keyframes that would become style guides. As I mentioned in a previous post these images were often painted directly over rough previs frames, and served as templates for the VFX artists at Digital Domain for the final look and feel of the movie. I've never worked on anything before where the expectation of the final finish for concept art was at the level of matte paintings! Thankfully we were given plenty of time.

Here's the original Previs frame:

An early rough work-in-progress, Just blocking in the forms of the light-cycle and setting up the lighting and palette, still looking for the right shape for the towers:

And blocking in the towers. Note the perspective grid to get the foreshortening and repetition correct.

This image was a colaboration with Joe Hiura again. The Generator towers were a Solidworks model he created based on some very loose sketches of mine and incorporating his unique tech detailing sensibilities. Here's an early iteration of Joe's towers, rendered in Hypershot:

Joe's design was a little too vertical for my composition, so I cut and pasted and warped it to fit the composition as a test. When it was roughly comped in though, the production designer thought that the angles made the space feel like a high-tech barn... we went back to the hockey-stick shape from my initial rough-in and Joe did another pass at the design, which I set up and rendered in Modo:

...And the final keyframe with Joe's towers comped in. The lighting was all painted in. Often for underlighting I'll just invert the image and use it as a mask to paint in the highlighted area, or I'll make a duplicate layer and run levels on it and then blend it with a layer mask. Ultimately I find it gives me more control to just play with the elements in 2D rather than trying to match my desired lighting in 3D. Plus you end up with a more painterly feel and all of the 2D manipulation kills the 3D "curse."

I was pretty wowed when I saw the final shot in the movie. I'm sure if I screencapped it from the Blu-ray it would look pretty close to this.

End of Line Club

I had a crack at doing the final design for the End of Line Club, working again from designs established by David Levy and then Ben Proctor. A rough model had been started by a set designer in Canada (whom I never met so unfortunately can't remember the name.) Working off of that I finished off the design to the needs of the director, who wanted the exterior graphic of the windows to match the already established interior set.

Ultimately I had to produce a couple of keyframes that set up the sense of height above the city and atmosphere. This one showed how a recognizer would dock to drop off Clu and his minions...

...And the fateful attack by the Black Guards. I had a lot of fun with painting the clouds and the glow from the city below.

Digital Set Designer Joe Hiura ultimately translated my final design into a kick-ass Solidworks model.

More Tron: Legacy

The first environment I worked on was the Game Grid. By the time I started the show the design had already been established and my job was to create a few "style guide" keyframes to set up the atmosphere, lighting and look-and-feel of the environment. Working over screencaps of Production Designer Darren Gilford's sketch-up models imported into Modo, I rendered these in Photoshop. David Levy had already found the sweet spot of heavy atmosphere and crushed blacks/blown out blues in his speedpaintings, so my job was really to find the moments and adapt that look into a more rendered finish.

Originally Rinzler's bike was going to follow Sam & Quora out into the wildlands, so this was a frame of that moment. Daniel Simon provided the model of his beautiful Light-runner for this frame.

I had fun with this one. A lot of the keyframes were painted over frames of lo-rez previs, so illos actually match exact moments in the film. Sam didn't have a final helmet design yet, so I took my own crack at it.

This one was a real struggle. Figurative work generally isn't my forte, so trying to come up with a likeness of Jeff Bridges from an unusual angle and lighting was nigh impossible for me. Needless to say I did not succeed! I'm happy if it looks remotely human.

Again, this was more of a digital matte painting than an illustration. Again, taking screencaps of model elements to paint over. I think the bkgd even includes some of Ben Proctor's city map!

This job was such a back-and-forth collaborative effort, I don't know that there was much that any of us could claim to have done solely by ourselves. This may sound limiting but in fact it was a really fun and free process, and I think we all grew a lot as artists from passing our work back and forth between us.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tron: Legacy

Yeah, I know, it would have been cooler to post all of this when the movie was hot, but I'm either a lazy bastard (That or I just don't have any time!) So at long last here's some work from the grid. Since I started out in the costume dept. on this show, let's start with COSTUMES---

This was my design for the SIREN characters, back when money was no object. Neville Page had started this one out and I picked up where he left off. The costume would be practical and blend from makeup to suit seamlessly. The robotic pivots on the knees and ankles would be a digital replacement. The final execution ended up being a little less ambitious, but still retains the basic character and lines.

Following off of that aesthetic was the character that would ultimately become Zeus. Also started far more ambitious (and expensive!) Being a two-faced sort of guy, I liked the idea that he would have a drawer full of faces he could take on and off as the need suited him.

Below is the final design for Clu. I was the last of a long line of artist who took a crack at this character. The helmet was a tough design problem, finally cracked by Neville. The undersuit was also originally a lot more geometric, but budget dictated that we incorporate some of the moulds from the black guard character, so it ended up tying together pretty closely. The digital Jeff Bridges was also going to have a more Hitler-like haircut. My friend Fabian Lacey illustrated a ridiculous number of haircuts for him before they decided he should ultimately have a young Jeff Bridges mane.

Uber-zBrush artist Tully Sommers ultimately did the final polish on this costume in 3-D, making it all work in the round and adjusting for the countless practical challenges that kept coming up in fabrication.

Finally to give a sense of just how much detail we got into for these costumes, here are a couple of illos of boot designs, in this case for the Sirens and for Clu's major-domo Jarvis.

More environment, keyframe and vehicle art in the next couple of days. Stay tuned...