Monday, December 17, 2012

Injustice: Gods Among Us

           This past spring I began working on my first AAA title over at Netherrealm. The game is called Injustice: Gods Among Us. I can't say much or show much of the game until the release date. However, every so often a trailer comes out and if you go without blinking for a couple minutes, something I worked on pops up. Below is the recent character trailer which features Deathstroke. I did concepts for his rifle and pistol. I ended up building the 3D rifle and sword. They went with a more standard pistol than what I had designed.

(The sword concept was done by my co-worker Ashton Ghallagher. He is an insanely good painter and his talents are no where near fully represented in the sword design. You can find his work here: )

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cite Soleil School of Music Short Doc

(Cite Soleil School of Music Short Doc from We Rise on Vimeo.)

This is a documentary which features an animation I worked on earlier in the year. It was a fantastic project to work on and the studio that put it together did a great job creating a moving piece of short film. The animated fable opens the film and has a conclusion near the end.

My contributions were to the character and overall visual design in the animated fable. They were created in coordination with the project manager/animation art director Bobby Bailey. They wanted to go with a very simple, crafty looking art style. This was for a sense of style but also for the sake of making animation easier to knock out in such a short time. I have learned so much since then. As I look back at it there is so much I would do different now to really make the art style pop.

I also made some additions and adjustments to the the storyboard in regards to the framing of shots which I really enjoyed. From there, the animator on the team took it to the next level and really made it a successful project. It was a tight turnaround, we had about two weeks to develop the visuals, storyboards and animation. Some more time would have really helped progress the animation quality. However, all the parts when brought together made the short very effective with in the documentary.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Inevitable Batman Illustration: Practicing Strokes and Color Constraint

This has been sitting in my drafts for awhile and finally was inspired to write for it and post it thanks to my partner in crime Amanda Dittami (talented game designer with a new site! She surprised me with an early birthday gift of a Batman statue which I first drooled over at C2E2. It just so happens this was the very same statue that was one of my inspirations for an illustration I did just a couple weeks ago.

There were two goals with this challenge. One was an attempt to capture the mood of the character with a simple color pallet and design. Similar to the Tim Sale designs from the animated series (which had a huge influence on my work). I did not want to copy or recreate the style from the series, so I wanted to push the detail a bit more and build more complex forms out of the simple shapes that built up the form. Also I wanted to a little something different with Batman's design so he felt a little more ghostly.

The second goal was to create a more painterly illustration with a bit of the chaotic feel you get from short and sporadic brush strokes. I also wanted to work in a limited color pallet to challenge my ability to work up a form without starting with a black and white pallet. I did this by first putting down a more colorful and textured background.

(The initial background looked like this. I spent time purposefully and strategically showing some of the brush stroke to bring the canvas to life. Along with the color choice, it helps create a blazing and active background. Didn't nail the look I was going for but was close)

I then put down a rough sketch with my brush set to a setting similar to pencil or charcoal. Outside of the dark grey, I added no other color other than what was in the background and what the background blended with the sketch created. I used this rule to pull the illustration out from the background.

(From this point on every color and value was defined by using the eye drop tool. As I built the image up I shifted the values of the background a bit. Although I am satisfied with the final piece, I feel like a little bit of the energy from this sketch was lost. Most importantly though, it was great practice and  challenges like this sharpen my abilities in a few areas.)

Below is a render of the painting at different states. Seeing the progress laid out illustrates the process of not adding color and also reveals the simplicity of the illustration.

That does it for this post. Hope this was interesting enough to have read through it all. As for students checking out the blog I hope this was helpful and may give you some ideas on how challenge yourself.

If not sorry I wasted your time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BioHarmonious- Entry III: Adaptation and Letting Go

         As we develop BioHarmonious adaptation and flexibility have been critical. As the project evolves concepts have to change direction mid-production to avoid any inflation in the game's scope. Limitations due to time put pressure on the team to come up with creative solutions. Rather than cut things or compromise ideas completely, we try and find new approaches to simplify and economize implementation. This way the visual, audio and game-play style is still rich. Although a system may not be as complex as we would have liked, the fundamental element of fun is there in a simpler form and will hopefully stir the audiences curiosity. The goal is to have audiences finish the experience wanting more and not just wishing for more.

      An example of the necessity for adaptation, coupled with ability of letting go, came about when developing the visuals for the object transformations. We started with an iterative process, with small changes being made by multiple objects. For example, you would grab one natural object at a time, figure out what building it combines with, then make the transformation. Each building had about 3 or even 4 possible transformations. This would lead to a system of mixing and matching multiple natural objects with a manufactured object. When they were all implemented, it would then cause the building to look dramatically different from it's original state. Below is an example of an early visual mock up of the transformation system along with some animation notes.

(When all transformations are laid out on a single sheet, the plan is visually intriguing and exciting. However, the player will never experience this layout of visual information while playing the game and the small changes fail to provide a sense of reward for the player's actions.)

            An important detail to consider outside of the short development cycle is the game's primary venue. This experience will be featured in museums among many other pieces (There will also be a web version). The average play time will be short, maybe only a handful of minutes, So the experience needs to properly scaled, so that even in a small amount of time there is a sense of reward, accomplishment and discovery. A complex system that demands long play times, would leave most players only experiencing the tip of the iceberg. This would have been a huge oversight on my part, but thanks to the great mind of lead Designer Amanda Dittami, we were able to properly revisit our plans.

(The plan is scaled and developed to not only accommodate tight deadlines, but scale the experience to the expected play time. This way we are ensuring most players will get the full experience we intended. Objects now under go single transformations and no longer layer natural transformations.)

        The second most important attribute for the project has been patience. We are a small team which means everyone has to wear many of the figurative hats. In my case, I concept characters, buildings, environments, prep in-game assets, plan animation and manage the art production pipeline. Meanwhile, the developers and sound engineer are relying on a steady stream of assets in order to start testing and advancing their end of the game. Creating something for testing purposes is important. What that means is, similar to writing, sometimes it is critical to get a draft done, whether you like it or not, ready and into someone's hands for review. This needs to be done so some other aspect of production can me dealt with. Nothing is final on the first pass. Assets are constantly prepped to a workable state with the understanding they will be revisited and truly finished at a later date. It takes patience to let go sometimes, but it is for the better of the project as a whole.

(One of the first concepts developed that helped define the design of the manufactured planet. Time spent on this concept was pushed, trusting it would help mold the overall visuals in the long run. Eventually it was scrapped as the games character. However the idea is currently being revived and redesigned for a smaller role. The character above currently survives as placeholder art and has the spirit in the design of the manufactured objects.)

             A key to maintaining this patience is communication. The advantage of a small team is flexibility and the ease of communicating. Less people to manage means less damage done if we decided to change directions mid production. There aren't as many gears screeching to a halt. However, it also means workloads are more intense so communicating, although easier, cannot be taken for granted. Everyone is responsible for a number of things, having production plans laid out in their minds. So it is important each discipline meets to ensure we remain on the same page and those plans don't stay confined to an individuals imagination. At times I have drifted a bit, meeting with Amanda helped reel art production in and keep the over all development, outside of art, in mind.
            We set out to create a rich experience of discovery. We wanted the worlds to feel complex, alive and intriguing. As we develop the game we are constantly fine tuning how we will achieve that level of immersion in such a small window of play time. At times we may be a little over ambitious, but we seem to be on the right track. The world is shaping up to be an intriguing one. The hope is that we can be successful enough that audiences enjoy poking around the world as much as they enjoy playing the game.
          We will begin closed play testing shortly which is bound to bring in a wave of adjustments and tweaking. The next entry will go over the interesting elements of processing, dissecting and implementing play test feedback. A process I have always found to be an exciting pool of psychological discussion. A few months after this stage, barring any major set backs, we will see the full release of Art Works for Change's web and exhibition game BioHarmonious. It is right around the corner which means longer hours and a frantic increase of production.
             Thanks to those who continue to make it through hundreds of digital words. For those new to game development, much like myself, I hope that these entries prove helpful. For those who aren't I hope I haven't wasted your time. The words will end after this.

Note: If anyone is interested in joining the closed play test session please feel free to contact me. If you don't have a contact for me you can find ways to reach me on my portfolio site ( or find me on Twitter (@AnthonySiixto).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Summer Draw Challenge Finale: Creepy Back Pains

This will be the final entry for my summer Draw Challenge series, I actually had this done for quite sometime and didn't get around to posting it. It started as a thumbnail for another concept. The thumbnails ended up not progressing do to a change in direction. So I figured I would grab my favorite, progress it and use it as a practicing in painting values and creating a sense of form/texture.

As I worked on it, I started conjuring up visions of the film The Thing in the mushy mass that is my brain. I started to play off that but didn't want to recreate it. So I started incorporating more organic, drier feeling textures over the slimey, sticky forms from the film. If I were to complete it I would continue defining that difference with color and texture. Although it is far from perfect it was exciting to get it to this point, since I completed it, I have seen a direct improvement on the work that followed it. So it may have not turned out the way I want, but I learned a lot from the practice.

So that does it for the Summer Draw challenge, there may be a Halloween one soon. We shall see, if I continue to breathe oxygen, there will be many more posts on the way. Thanks for checking it out and I hope you enjoy my stumbling attempts at becoming a better artist.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Summer Draw Challenge: A Fitting

As another replacement for one of my draw challenges I did an illustration for a Kickstarter project launched by Game Designers Amanda Dittami and Blair Kuhlman. It is called A Fitting. Blair had done some sketches of the character and the game had defined themes. So my approach was to take all those pieces and create my interpretation of the mood and look of the character.

I'm not completely satisfied with the outcome. The biggest issue was my indecision on the direction I wanted to go. As I was working on it I was conflicted on how far I wanted to push the comic book feel. Ultimately that slowed things down. Even further, I initially ran away with the concept a bit. Then talking with Amanda more I realized I was overlooking some key details about the mood and character. When working on something for a limited time, sometimes having a clear workflow laid out makes all the difference.

If I decided to continue working on it I would probably push the exaggeration of the character's posture as well as build up some finer detail to help her pop out more in comparison to the background characters. The audience could look a little more distorted and odd. However, I did have fun with the illustration. It helped me work out some approaches in regards to mixing more realistic postures into stylized figures.

More importantly, the Kickstarter project I did this for is still going and it's not too late to chip in if you like the idea. It is a fun motion controlled game that challenges the player both physically and mentally. It tackles the issue of what pains people will put themselves through to be considered beautiful by the public. You can read all about the Art Installation/Kinect Videogame project over at Donations or just spreading the word would help them greatly.

They will also be holding open play-testing for the game tonight (9/27) in development at 5pm over at the Columbia College IAM Department located at 916 South Wabash, in the project room.

Until next time, or never again depending on what happens between now and then. But when is then if it turns out to be never? Hard to say I guess. So maybe you will see another post and maybe you won't.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Summer Draw Challenge: Something Medieval....kind of..

I continued to mash up the summer draw challenge with other promised illustrations. Friend and fellow Columbia 2011 Graduate Phillip Scholp asked for a contribution to his sketchbook. He collects barbarians. So, although this isn't the illustration, this is a pass on the barbarian I want to create. I treated it like a detailed concept. While working it out, I began watching a new set of tutorials. Rather than work on the provided samples, I decided to use this painting as a testing ground for a new set of techniques. This turned out great in that I was able to smoothly incorporate new tools into my work flow. So it ended up getting worked on much longer than the other challenge entries.

I might revisit this character a few time, as I worked on him I began to develop a story that I liked. So although I think it could use some more defining details to bring the character to life and embed some more history in his visual design, I'm satisfied with the creative inspiration and forward movement it created in my brain. In the meantime it will get logged. For all I know I may open this up awhile from now and despise it.

Stay tuned for more posts or forget you ever saw it. No more words now.

Friday, August 10, 2012

BioHarmonious - Entry II: Creations and Creatures

In Art Works For Change's BioHarmonious, having a planet dedicated to manufactured elements and another dedicated to natural elements really helps inspire lots of new ideas. It sets a clear stage for the imagination. However it is only a starting point. It was important to do a fair amount of research to make sure we are creating a cohesive aesthetic between the two planets while maintaining two unique identities. A wide range of influences helped inspire and motivate the vision from the game. Without imitating we look for references and identify what works and why we like it. Then use that to inspire are interpretation of the mood and feeling.

 (Old  inventions along side fantasy imagery and sculpture provide a nice spectrum of inspiration)

(Movies, Design and Games stir the imagination. I usually avoid games, but there are exceptions)

It was also important to do some writing and discussion so that the imagery reflects behaviors and personality. We wanted to develop a character for the nature of these planets as well as the civilization. A character that properly relates to the message of the game, but also will give the player something to connect with emotionally and intellectually.

In a game with little direct narrative, the story and character are all in the imagery. The buildings themselves need to say something about the inhabitants living and working in them. The designs of the wild creatures not only need to be visually stimulating,  they need to reveal something about the ecosystem they evolved in. Likewise, the ecosystem should reveal something about the creatures and why natural relationships developed. So the importance is in putting the extra effort in the details and putting those details in for a reason. Nothing is arbitrary or aimless. When we create concepts for this game, we know why the builders built something a certain way and we know the functional purposes of nature (Generally speaking in some cases). They are all rooted in a few basic principles.

The inhabitants of the manufactured planet are of an industrial culture. Much like the American Industrial Revolution, a large cultural theme is the moral of hard work and the drive to produce as much as possible. For better or worse. Playing on those themes, we created a sense of the manufactured planets culture falling in love with its own invention and design. So much so that it is injected into every aspect of life whether it is practical or not, safe or not. The small planet shares a one track mind. Keep working. Unfortunately it is at a cost. Growing pollution, destruction of the environment, wearing infrastructure start to threaten the sustainability of the society. The inhabitants are aware of the issue and are aware of the need for help, but are a bit stuck. They have been working with their heads down so long they are a bit lost on how to change their ways. That is where the player comes in. They need help updating their civilization so that it is healthier and more efficient.

The wild creatures of the natural planet are another story. They exist on the chaotic harmony that is the razor's edge of life. I wanted to really push the the theme of symbiotic relationships between a single creature and it's surroundings. From this came the idea of various creatures having evolved a symbiotic relationship with some sort of smaller life form (usually vegetation). In some cases it appears to be a newer relationship, the GyroBeetle and the Propeller Tree still seem to exist as separate entities in cooperation. The tree provides the beetle the ability to fly, giving it advantages in evasion as a well as food gathering. In return, the beetle provides the plant the evasive protection it lacks, by eating for two the Beetle allows the plant to take root in it's body and create an exchange of nutrients. Other creatures have a much more blurred line in the symbiotic relationship.  For example the frog concept. The flower like appendage is used as a lure, much like an angler fish. The relationship having existed for a longer amount of time, the two beings began to merge into one entity. In a dangerous, cramped planet, movement is a mutual benefit for both creatures. The key to surviving the natural world is adaptability.

The cramped design of the natural planet also effects decisions on what concepts makes sense in the world and which ones don't. A concept currently in limbo due to this is the aquatic creature. Originally it was a decision between the crab and fish like concept. Although the crab makes things easier for animation and the space needed for animation isn't as demanding, it got beat out by the fish creature. Ultimately the fish design provided  more of the odd feeling we have been going for while providing clear advantages on how it will contribute to gameplay. However movement is a dilemma. I can't go into detail yet, but the concept will need to go through some clever re-imagining to properly be implemented into the world.

That is it for this entry. I will try to cut them down a bit to make them a lighter read. Next entry will begin to discuss more gameplay elements and pull the curtain back on the natural worlds environments.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Draw Challenge: Monster Currently Under My Bed

I am still trying to catch up with the summer draw challenge. The self imposed limit is about 2 - 3 hours per illustration. It can be difficult, for example I really like the start of this one and didn't want to stop. If I had more time I would probably rework the bed and figure on his back. I think I could have designed it better and could really boost the composition with a better pose of the figure in the bed.

I thought it would be interesting to flip the idea of a monster being an intruder under ones bed and instead turn the human in the scenario into more of a parasite. The bed is kind of fused into the back, turning the person into the intruder. I thought it would funny to draw the monster at the point of having had enough and on his way out the door. In the fashion of the old Looney Tune gags, this is done with the bowler cap grabbed from the hat stand and the suitcase slammed shut, clothes hanging out, followed by the march out the door.  The monsters posture probably could be improved to match the attitude of the gag.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Draw Challenge Day 1 and 3: Scheming Scientist and Ice Cream

In order to catch up, I combined the Day 1 and 3 topics (scheming scientist and ice cream). As usual with these challenges I feel like I'm leaving it hanging a bit. There are somethings I would like to fix as far as pushing the pose, details in the characters head and some lighting detail. The idea came from the saying that everyone is a scientist as a child in their curious and exploitative demeanor. Then for the scheming part I played off of child mischief and the mischief of an evil scientist. I ended up with a kid fearlessly plucking a scorpion off the ground by it's stinger and then with the slow but steady gears of a child's mind, deciding to hide it in someone's boot (evil part!). Then when Ice cream came up as today's topic, I though it would work nicely if the kid also dumped his cone in the boot, something more expected of a toddler. So with that I am all caught up.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BioHarmonious- Entry I: Discovering A New World, In Time for A Deadline

(Concept stages for amphibious inhabitant of the natural planet)

BioHarmonious is a small game project I'm involved in for Art Works for Change ( As far as the overall development is concerned it is still a bit early to delve into the details so I can't explain too much of what it is in terms of how it is played and what the story entails. However, there is enough to talk about in regards to the art production at this point which will make for interesting dissection.

It is a small development team of five, Amanda Dittami (Lead Designer/Project Lead), Matt Farmer (programmer), Blair Kuhlman (Art and Design), Craig Deskins (Sound Engineer) and myself (Lead Artist, Animator). The game is about twin planets, one consisting mostly of manufactured elements and the other mostly consists of natural elements. The goal of the game is getting the planets in harmony with each other while rescuing the inhabitants of the manufactured plan from their self destructive behavior.

 In my role, I must direct the visuals and create art for the world we are building.  Hopefully if I do my part, we will have a unique style to support that world. Along with getting my hands dirty with silhouette work, painted concepts and asset creation; I do some writing to help define the architecture of the world, the rules found in nature, personality of the inhabitants and the aesthetic we hope to deliver with the interactive experience. This of course is done in close contact with the lead designer (Amanda Dittami) and along side the help of Blair Kuhlman (Designer and Artist) and Craig Deskins (Sound Engineer), to ensure that my vision for the game meshes with that of my team members. So although I have the final call at times with the art direction, it is very much a collaborative effort driven by plenty of concept reviews and feedback sessions.

When creating worlds I prefer to work through an organic, flowing experience. In other words I only write some base ideas for what the world will be and don't set up a rigid plan. Then through sketching and sometimes final concepts I let the imagery reveal the world to me. So at times, some detail about the inhabitants will come out as I work out the detail of the architecture and vice versca. Other times it happens while review reference images. This will then propel other concepts, sometimes leading to revisions to adjust to the subtle shift in course. This is easier to do in a small team. When only dealing with two people, shifting gears and changing directions on the fly is not as much of a headache. The important principle that remains consistent, is that there is a harmony to the details of the world and the individual parts. Aesthetically things need to mesh, but in this game I am making a point in particular to have things mesh in behavior and in the laws of nature that we created.

(Work in progress - Concept of a GyroBeetle, found on the natural planet. The symbiotic relationship between living creatures and planets developed into a key theme)

At some point there is a wrangling in of the art direction. I review concepts, create new ones making sure themes are consistent, but still different enough to avoid monotony or over saturation. Then I gather my final cuts and iterations for the week and upload them for the team to check out. Usually meetings take place weekly in which critique the current iteration of the art. By the end of the meeting I have enough notes and have read enough reactions to start to then incorporate the team's ideas into the art. This leads to yet another round of iterations and new concepts for the next meeting. 

One of the driving themes for this game is an exaggerated version of something that can be found in our civilization. The idea of amazing levels of technical advancement, coupled by mistakes or ideas that seem absurd when coupled with the previously mentioned. The world is based in a familiar aesthetic of earth's natural elements but I am trying to push it to the border where oddity meets uncomfortable strangeness. I don't want it to feel alien or creepy. It needs to feel like a unusual discovery that draws you in with apprehensive curiosity. The audience needs to relate to the issues the civilization faces, the laws of nature need to be vaguely familiar, but outside of that it should feel upside down. 

One source of inspiration that helps illustrate the point, is really contemplating the nature of ants and their behavior. Seemingly odd at first glance, but vaguely familiar, eerily similar, possibly mindless, but always having a hint of something more to be understood. Something more complex about their actions that is yet to be revealed.

By the time I write again I hope that i will find the art of the game to be settling in to the targeted aesthetic. Although, I hope not too tightly so that it still has space to morph into it's rightful place. Considering the nature of the smaller development cycle and the ambitious target of quality, there is a bit of an approach of doing pre-production and production alongside each other. There is a need to create things econmocially and quickly. The biggest challenge is finding ways to do so without things feeling cheap or rushed. I hope that the final product is one that feels rich and properly shows the amount of effort put into the art.We are approaching the stage of finalizing concepts. Soon it will be a matter of bringing them together and getting the seperate pieces to mesh. Then on to the task of producing the final game assets and injecting life through animation and secondary detail.

Pardon grammatical errors or mistakes. I am busy and only can proof read so much. That ran a bit long, I will try and keep it shorter. Maybe. You can stop

(Teaser image of early concepts/silhouettes for the game's solar system)

Summer Draw Challenge Day 2: Paint Over Concept

The topic for Day 2 is Sci Fi background. I did a standard retro-looking alien invasion scene. I mostly focused on the mood and playing around with technique.

I'm already behind on the challenge so I decided to use a production technique to spit out a rough concept. I did a paint over using a photograph. This way I focus on the mood and the additions and have the perspective blocked out for me in the photo. It is a common technique for film and video game environment concepts. Sometimes they use photos and other times they will block out their scene in 3D and paint over that. I'm not used to doing environments let alone paint overs so it was a very different experience.

I usually focus on creatures and characters so this was a change of gear and a nice break. There is still a lot to be fixed and detailed in the image but for a quick mock up I'm happy with what I got out of it. Quick sketches like this are good with familiarizing yourself with the different challenges of different subject material.  Still have a lot to learn, but with a few more hours I think I could turn the image into something worthwhile. I would definitely push the image further away from the photo.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Fury Of Master Zange - Brief look at Production

This is the latest episode for the Box O Zombies series. I had roughly 5 weeks to write, storyboard, illustrate and animate it this time, opposed to the 3-4 weeks for the last series. The story features the winner of the Kickstarter package which promised they would be featured in the next animation. I was weary of this idea (I had the winner as a zombie getting slayed in a few seconds route ready to go). Luckily, Bob Zange won the package and had the look of someone who could easily star in a comic book, on top of that he is a martial arts instructor.

I figured I would just peel back the curtain a bit and give a very brief overview of the process.

As stated above I had five weeks to get a ton of work done. I started by meeting with Marty Meinerz (he did the score and SFX for short), I threw some ideas at him to get reactions and critique. He in turn would give me some ideas on how to flesh out my vision for the animation. At the same time, he is getting a prep on what to expect in regards to his score and SFX duty.

I then write out the beats of the story, with not much detail just action. In some cases I made general notes on the camera. For example (transcribed from my original notes):

-Wide shot of house in residential area
- Cut to medium shot, peering through open doorway. Door is damaged
- Cut to pan through living space. Pictures knocked down, seats torn, blood spots, etc.
- Cut to pan of mantle that stops on picture of class.

I took this and re-wrote a few times adding more details each time. Since I didn't have time to write a full script, a lot was added during the storyboarding. I did however, figure out ideas for framing, mood and details through this process. Below are what the notes looked like a little further developed.

- Start with wide shot of a typical Chicago bungalow style home. 
- Cut to tighter shot peering through the front door which is wide open. Subtle signs of forced entry (doorknob broke, little blood, toppled plant pots)
- Jump cuts through main living area to show more signs of some rummaging (knocked down lamp, frames, chairs, blood on wall, phone off the hook.
- Cut to shot of mantle, slow pan through pictures, medals and trophies. Stops on a class picture from a kung fu school. As the camera stops the glass of the frame reflects to reveal a figure looking at the picture.

After watching a lecture from Mark Andrews (Pixar) on storyboarding I abandoned my previous technique of thumb nailing. Instead of doing small rough sketches to figure out space and movement, I sketched to scale. So that when I found my frame, I simply inked and painted over it. Thus avoiding losing anything in translation when redrawing a thumbnail to scale. So the comic started out looking something like this.

From there I cleaned up the sketches so they were more like penciled panels, then ink and painted. As I animated the video I made various touch ups, adjusting light, focus, composition and filtering in photo textures to make the images pop (photos helped make up for the inability to add detail by hand due to time constraints). Somewhere in the middle of the rough and final state seen in the animation they looked like this.

In regards to the development of ideas behind the action, there is a little more writing and less showing (so if you are bored already this is your stop). Having to develop a story for a martial artist fighting zombies put me in a pretty over the top place as far as story goes. So as a challenge to myself,. I wanted to see if I can make it feel believable, grounded and a little more thoughtful.

Originally I was trying to make the zombies the sympathetic characters. This is the origin of Bob accidentally killing a former student (some interpreted as his son which was an interesting). However the idea didn't fully evolve and I don't think I was successful in selling sympathy for the monsters.

I used a lot of reference to The Way of the Samurai and tried to have some subtle negativity along with the positive representation. I didn't want to shamelessly go for cool points.

In an attempt connect the morbid and dark idea of the zombie plague with reality, I included some Easter eggs. They may be a little too covert and out of context, so I will point them out. If you notice the address number is 731 with only the letters U-N-I-T being visible (never revealed but the street named was intended to be Unity). Also the clock is shown at 7:31. If you pop these clues into Google it will lead you the rest of the way.

As far as some background on sound, maybe Marty can give me something to post up to provide some insight to his process. On my end, I listened to a lot of Black Sabboth, Stanley Kubrick scores and the There Will Be Blood soundtrack. I sent all the material as reference to Marty with a note saying "make it feel like this but sound unique to our animations". Not an easy task. I think he conjured up the score and SFX nicely.

Overall I was challenging myself to make a few minutes of an animated comic about a zombie slayer more than just pulp action, while of course, still making it an entertaining zombie story. It was difficult and I'm not quite sure it worked as anything more than a zombie slayer story. It still has a certain degree of camp to it. However, I think the attempt was worth the time and I learned a lot about developing a visual story. Hopefully it entertains some people. If it does speak up and we might have more on the way.

Pardon the spelling errors and rambling.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Box O Zombies -Zombie Scuplt Production Review

So as C2E2 approaches, I figured I would take a few of minutes to gather some of the images from the production of the latest figure to be produced for Box O Zombies (I recently posted the non-painted sculpt). Like many of my contracts, it required a quick turnaround so it has been great training. I am learning how to produce quickly and do so without sacrificing quality. This  gives me the experience which provides confidence that I can deliver under pressure which is increasingly vital when working as a professional artist.

                                  (LOVE THE CONCEPT,  HATE THIS CONCEPT SHEET!)

However, the production of this character and sculpt wasn't with out short comings.  Although very rushed to get the concept done, I could have done a much better job. The basic idea of the character design was present for the most part. The execution was sloppy. Anatomy was not as accurate as I would like and the color/rendering was a bit off. I could have done better in the time given if I would have had a clearer work flow laid out. I unwisely decided to try and experiment with a new concept approach on the fly. This was a mistake. I tried going away from the comic style, didn't like it then tried to swing back to the comic approach. This swerving led to neither approach coming out the way I would have liked. Luckily, ZBrush allows me to compensate and I had a strong vision for the character. So I was able to recover.

The concept is based off of a Japanese ghost story I read, but I could not find the source. It was the myth of a one legged, one eyed ghost who roamed the forest. It carried a rusty sword and an umbrella. Legend was that if you roamed the forest on foggy nights and run into the ghost, your end was guaranteed. If you look around at some Japanese videogames, you can spot this characterization in exaggerated form. For my concept I tried to ground it a bit more. Making the character a fallen rogue samurai, I turned the umbrella into a wide brim sun hat. The rusty sword was still rusty but I left pieces of past victims on top of the blade. Instead of hopping one leg, I had his foot cut off so he limps along with only one full functional leg. In reference to the single eye, I simply gave him some more damage and rot which destroyed his left eye, thus having only one functional eye. However, he still roams the forest and you will meet your end if you spot him, Another render below includes a brief write up I used to clarify and provide some motivation behind the character.

Below are some renders of the sculpt with and without paint. Painting is fun, but maintaining the look and feel of materials is key. I am getting a little better but still have some work to do. It was a challenge to get the feel of dead skin while still making it feel organic (a lot of unpleasant Google searches). Same with stylizing the colors of blood without it looking too shiny or cartoonish. Painting also takes focus and subtlety to maintain the sculpts level of detail. Sometimes you can wash out details that help define the smaller details.

The sculpting process was a slow incline. Again sculpting under the gun it was fun to see how quickly I can put together a final piece. The sculpt really came together in the last few days. I had been playing around with proportion and posture for quite some time. Once that clicked everything else fell into place. I was then able to properly identify points of tension in clothes and skin (for the most part). It is no where near perfect but I am satisfied with the end result, as well as how much i learned from the process. I would go into the poly paint process but this post is running long as it is.

Finally there is the pay off of seeing the thing printed and painted. On top of that it will debut at C2E2 which is definitely exciting. As I mentioned before if you are at the conference keep an eye out for the Box O Zombies booth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More Box O Zombies Posters

So I have been scrambling to finish up a few projects as C2E2 nears. It will be the first time I have any representation of my work at such a big convention. Meanwhile I have a handful of other projects starting in the next couples weeks which will be keeping me busy. So posts have been slow lately. However I plan to begin regular updates again.

This week I have a sneak peek at the new Box O Zombies animated-web-comic-youtube-video-thing. Not sure how to categorize it. I won't say much about it but it is taking the series in a different direction and with a little more time to work on it is really a step up in quality. Although I'm sure I will nit pick the hell out of it by the time I am done. Below are the posters that will be in print and handed out at C2E2, so look for the Box O Zombies booth across from the Marvel booth.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sneak Preview: Box O Zombies

Here is a peek at one of my current projects. In the near future I will have another post with a write up, concepts and fully painted sculpt. For now I'm just painting the sculpt.

This was the first time I sculpted to a pose and it was a lot of fun. Still have a lot of areas to improve on (specifically anatomy, facial expression, unique fabric), but I made a lot of progress with this sculpt. I made great strides in improving my posing, gritty detail and clothe sculpting. I also expanded my level of comfort with new Zbrush tools and render settings. I feel pretty good about moving on to my next game character which will be high res.

Anatomy is still very tricky, especially when rendering to pose. Every project I learn you can never have too much reference. However, it can be tricky finding the matching body type. So it is necessary to pull from a lot of sources and use your imagination to bring it together. Sometimes references are of "generic" body types, so it can be challenging to find reference for creating a unique body type that is unusual but still feels like everything is in place.

Another minor challenge is when working on a zombie is pulling up reference for the damage to the skin. I wanted it to be as effective as possible so that involved pulling up some gruesome images of wounds. It is disturbing at first, but like a lot of things as an artist, you look past those hesitations and focus the artwork.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Rise (Documentary) - Animated Short Concepts

Last month I worked on an animated short for a documentary titled We Rise. I am not sure the status of the film at this point so I won't go into too many details. The documentary follows a group of music students in Haiti. I worked on an animation that will be coupled with a telling of a fable with in the real life story.

Unfortunately, I was brought in late in production so I didn't get the preferred amount time to really flesh out designs. I had about a week in a half (which was split into two parts do to the client bringing me in on another project mid-production). We also decided to go with a minimalist approach and created a theme of shadow characters which was fun to work through. This made concepting quicker and preparation for After Effects animation easier. I have yet to see the animation, I simply created the concepts and framed the shots. I then passed on the puppet style assets to be animated.

I was given an animated short from the recent Harry Potter movie for reference. It is a great piece, but I wanted to avoid doing something too similar. I started to look for similar styles to mix it up. This way I will still be working in the desired look of the client, but multiple points of reference help inspire something a little more unique. I pulled from the classic known amongst animators, Lotte Reiniger's Prince Achmed. I also drew a little inspiration from African contemporary painting and the shadow demons from Zelda:Twilight Princess.

Although it was a rushed process I like aspects of the design. It would be great to go back and fully flesh it out and bring it to life by fully animating it. There may be some more animations like this down the line, but for now it is on to the next project with impossible deadlines.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ko Ko Ko (Mobile App for Kids)

Last December was a busy month. One of my contracts was an educational app for kids called KoKoKo for a start up called Tink Tank. It was definitely a change of pace as I usually don't work on projects directed to such a young audience. I started out as a character artist responsible for concepting all the way through 3D production. Fortunately, the client like my work so I was asked to work on the color pallet, environment assets, logo and some UI clean up.

I welcomed the opportunity with open arms and really appreciated the challenge. Although it was a simple art style and the characters would be view from a fixed camera, I had less than two weeks to complete all the assets I was assigned. It also happened to be the weeks leading up to Christmas which made things a bit more hectic.

The character art needed to be modular. In other words, both the little boy and girl shared the same body mesh. Their clothes were made with a swap of diffuse, Normal and Spec maps. Details like their hair and the little girl's dress were separate meshes that were attached accordingly. Although this can be tricky, it helped production time considering the tight deadline. They also would only be seen from the front, again this helped. Any hiccups on the character's back were of no concern, so I didn't have to spend much time cleaning it up.

The image above is the comparison between 2D and 3D art. I will be rigging and posing the 3D characters myself for the final presentation. Also on the image is the game's color pallet and logo which I worked on with the client. In the coming months the app should see a release and I will be creating a follow up post.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Box O Zombies: Figures, Comics and Logo

Since last summer I have been involved as an artist on the Box O Zombies team along with fellow Columbia Alumni Ryan Blake (Figure Sculptor) and Marty Meinerz (Sound Engineer). I began my contributions by writing, directing, illustrating and animating the 3 animated web comics. It was a tough task having about 1 month to produce each episode. However as always, a valuable learning experience. Got a chance to really challenge myself and sharpen my After Effects skill set. I am currently working on the next wave of content so stay tuned.

I also designed the logo as well as some of the website elements along with Ryan. All that work as accumulated to the first release. The figures are now shipping. Check the link below for more info.

Below is the final installment of the three part animated comic. You can YouTube or check the site for more episodes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Old Man Free Sculpt

I spent a little more time on this than usual, about another hour on top of the usual 2 or 3. It is always fun sculpting old skin with all the folds and cracks. I went pretty far before pulling up some reference. I did pretty good with out reference but as usual having something to compare puts it over the top. This was more of a practice sculpt more than a concept. I will begin concepting my next character soon and I used this free sculpt as a warm up.

I approached polypainting a little different. After painting the skin temperatures. I spent some more time to refine the colors, directly incorporating some orange and purple on top of the of the blue, red, red and yellow I usually work into the paint. I also intensified the red in key areas which came out nice. It helped in the lip areas, one I placed the skin paint on I didn't need much to get the lip color down.

I used alphas to create the veins as I have done before, but this time I went in and painting in some specific veins that I had sculpted. I then grabbed some brown and used alphas to put in some blotches. I then proceeded to paint over that with my skin tones. Overall I think for a quick sculpt it came out decent, the color still needs work as well as some of the anatomical portions. Some tweaks to the contrast in skin color as well as touch ups to anatomy portions would really make it pop. Ultimately I feel like I just missed the mark I as going for, but was a great exorcise.

Below is a very brief overview of the sculpts progress from block out to final render.