Sunday, May 25, 2014

Duel!! In space.

Been awhile since I did a new blog header.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gridsmasher's Finale!

Here's the last of the concepts I created for Gridsmasher - the Smash Stadium interior concepts. This was one of the last things I worked on for this project, and since it was a combination of many of the other concepts I was developing, the variations occurred mostly in color. However, you can see that Grizz's observation tower went through a design change and a scale change. Originally, the director wanted it to look like it could be an old school giant robot that might as some point in the show activate and do battle against evil forces. However, it started to become very focal and so we simplified it to the lowest black and white sketch and shrunk it down so it wasn't so imposing.

Once we had the basic structural designs in place, the primary focus became choosing the mood and color palette. We knew that the goal was to have a lot of pop colors to maintain excitement and energy to simulate the most awesome event ever. In my first pass, I kept the light and materials fairly monochromatic so that the holograms would really stand out as bright warm colors against a very dark background of deep blues, blacks, and purples. In shows like Tron Uprising and movies like Speed Racer, I saw a great deal of success in using black and white as neutrals against which a lot of colors can be displayed.

However, this was a little too serious and dramatic. We changed tack to depict space not as a dark void, but as this fun and brightly lit place, so that when you're at a game, it feels like you're outdoors at a sports game during the daytime. Games like Homeworld or Wildstar have really beautiful palettes where space looks like a just a vast sky of color. I tried a bunch of different color palettes and different space vistas.

 This ended up being the guide for our project. An epic afternoon in space.

 I was still hanging onto my darks here. ;)

 I wasn't interested in painting space as sky blue, but leave no stone unturned.

Maybe a little atmosphere...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


 Yup. Some more Gridsmasher artwork. It takes a lot to make an episode.

Above: Smash Stadium. This was the first concept to be developed for the show. It's probably the most important environment in the whole show. This is where the Gridsmash games take place - a giant floating stadium in space, complete with giant navigational rockets and spinning gyroscope. Add in a little Speed Racer Movie crazy light show and holographic adds and you've got it. The little dots on top are the bleacher pods that fly in from various planets.
 Not the most exciting, but I thought I'd attach a breakdown/callout sheet. While I try to do the most explaining that I can in a concept and the modelers I work with are quite talented, sometimes your intent is just not always that obvious, or in this case, a profile or 3/4 view leaves room for incorrect interpretation. I knew that the field would be a big oval, but I designed the base to be a big circle with a donut rim. I also find that drawing the orthographic views often reveals flaws in my design or shapes that are impossible to model and have it look like I intended in multiple views. People, it pays to take this step. Your 3D team will thank you.

Below: I submitted 3 ideas for the Smash Stadium with an emphasis on rockets, light shows, massiveness, holographic advertisements.

Fold out teletrons!

Announcer Droid
The Announcer Droid was designed as a pseudo narrator to explain the game to the viewers. It was thought of as part of the stadium, so it was determined to be a mechanical robot from the start as opposed to a biological or humanoid character.

  We eventually started adding a view human characteristics - eye cameras, the voice box where the mouth is, and rocks where legs might be.

We tweaked the designs and removed the rockets in favor of a little variety and wackiness. I kind of thought of it as a big shell with all sorts of hidden mechanical appendages that could come out of portals and hatches. Navigational paddles allowed for flight and gesticulating.

At one end of the grid field, Grizz would observe Johnicco's progress from his secret room at the top of a huge observation tower. The tower base didn't change much, but we went through several iterations for the top as we fiddled with the scale of the field and as the actual physical interior the puppet team created was being developed.

 At one point, Grizz would have his own little observation pyramid.
 Then it needed to be bigger.
Then the top became more pyramidal. We ended up placing the Gridsmasher logo dead center and putting Grizz's quarters as the top layer of windows.

Friday, May 16, 2014


(unknown artist)

As any concept artist knows, 99% of what you create never makes it into production. In the worst case scenario, 100% doesn't make it. Gridsmasher was a neat project I got to work on that unfortunately got pretty far before being cancelled. A scifi kid's show that would combine live puppets with computer generated environments and effects. The premise focused on a the human hero Johnicco, who along with his alien pals, formed a team that participated in an interstellar sport called Gridsmasher. Players would compete on a constantly evolving field that could morph into all sorts of wild obstacle courses. Each team was tasked to make it to the other side of the field to a safe zone while preventing the other from doing so. Various weapons and power ups were sprinkled everywhere to make things interesting.
 Almost all of the action was designed to take place in one of two locations, the Smash Stadium where the game was played out and Smash City (above) that supported the various league teams during the off hours. Originally, I designed it to be more like just the middle of a city, but as the designs and story progressed, it became bigger and more expansive.

 You can see here that the sizes of the stadium (left) and the city (right) were very close. The director wanted a much more drastic size difference but to keep the stadium as a focal point. Consequently, we reduced the bottom structures to almost just a donut platform and the spot lights were toned back to much more ambient light.

I designed the stadium separately before the city, so for a while there were two different perspectives, but eventually it became necessary to redraw the stadium in perspective to really sell the idea. The stadium would just be this incredible ball of activity with tons of floating holograms of sponsors and game clips with all sorts of spot lights and laser shows happening on the inside. In later concepts (coming soon), you'll see the the stadium seats are actually self contained pods that transport the audience from their respective planets to the game and act as the stadium seating, hovering in place around the field.

 We went back and forth with the actual scale of the field. At first it seemed like the most epic field would be 4 times a soccer field, but it became clear quickly that it would be difficult to create a wide shot that encompassed the whole field where you could also clearly read all of the players, so we reduced it to about the size of a professional soccer field.

 As you can see from the above two concepts, while there are standard yard markers like on a football field, the field surface itself is not made of grass. Since the field would morph into all sorts of different and challenging obstacle courses - mazes, lava pits, ice towers, deserts, etc., when it wasn't "active" it would be pulsing or swirling with energy. I did a bunch of concepts for the energy effects ranging from electrical arcs, to swirling lava-like energy flows.

The storytelling style was designed to emulate a sports show where there would be slow motion replays, stat motion graphics, sponsor commercials and graphics, etc. I designed a floating jumbotron that would float above the stadium with constantly changing screens that could telescope out to the audience or the camera. There's a ring of multicolored lights to create holographic laser shows or spot light some action. One of the things I loved about this project was that it wasn't supposed to take itself too seriously. You'll notice that rocket power was the basis for a lot of our mechanical designs. The above jumbotron is kept aloft by rotating rockets. Think helicopter rotors with rockets at the end. Everything to the max. I think this philosophy was rooted in the use of traditional puppets. We certainly could have animated computer generated characters, or motion captured puppets, but the use of physical prop puppets has such a unique and distinct look that is unmistakable next to cg animation where everything looks so smooth and fluid and simulated, you almost always get caught in trying to recreate reality.

More concepts to come soon!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Marvel's Iron Man and Hulk - Heroes United

I had the tremendous pleasure of working on a Marvel project recently at Brain Zoo. With the success of the Avengers and Iron Man franchises, we were hired to animate a dvd feature film starring Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. My main responsibilities on this project included creating lighting studies to help establish the mood as well create several matte paintings for production.

Before beginning production, we did a test sequence, which can be found in the movie in various parts, of Iron Man fighting Zaxx at night. With limited time and budget and an emphasis on glowing effects, we took a very graphic approach. To help pop the effects, the movie takes place entirely at night except for the final scenes. We used primary colors a lot for the outdoor scenes -  an epic red dusk leading to a night sky to pop out a red and yellow Iron Man and a green Hulk. I didn't end up handling the lighting studies for the interior, but they're often dark rooms illuminated by the main superheroe's complimentary colors, red light and green light.  

Some of the above keys are a little bit styled. At the time, we considered having more 2D comic effects,  like speed lines for flight scenes and energy trails for Iron Man's boot/hand repulsers. We ended up abandoning those ideas, but the show ended up getting a nice 2D look, and no wonder, our creative director Leo worked on Tron Uprising!

When I'm tasked with developing color keys for a movie, a lot of times I'll go through the animatic and choose frames from key moments in the story or action that can guide the lighters through the rest of the shots and do really rough color keys. If time permits, I'll bring them to the level of the above keys or higher. This is helpful for the Brain Zoo team, but especially for discussing lighting ideas with clients.

Below are the matte paintings I created for production.
 A gamma explosion goes off outside city limits.

We were able to use one global sky matte for most of the film, but there were a few shots that required their own unique painting.  I painted in the shield helicarrier for guidance.

 Hulk and Iron Man fall from the Shield helicarrier to a graveyard just outside of town. There was only a center of town model that was an enclosed environment, so for all the wide above shots showing a whole town, I had to paint the town form scratch.

 Amazing, for one or two seconds, Hulk jumps up to the helcarrier from left to right, which of course requires a new matte painting since we have no real 3D town.

 Iron Man being chased by missiles flies by came in a wide arc and back again.

 The movie ends on a new dawn over the town. You can see a frame from the movie below. A lot of times my matte paintings sit way in the background and there's so many effects or such camera movement, you can't really pick any of the details out, but you get a nice uninterrupted shot here. I even separated the clouds out so they could be animated.