If you really want to know how a film is going to "look", you can typically look at the artists working on a film and look at their styles. A director that listens to their artists is usually a director that makes AMAZING films. Directors like James Cameron.
James Cameron has assembled a who's-who of artist on his upcoming film AVATAR. For this post I'm not going to list everyone who has worked on AVATAR but instead list only the artists I could find substantial info on or find links to. The purpose of this post is to give these amazing artists some credit now, before the trailer for AVATAR comes out and their sites get overloaded with traffic :D
If I couldn't find enough info about an artist or find a link I didn't post them here. So please, if you have worked on this film and feel you deserve a link please email me! (mordecaidesign at gmail dot com)
(No-one can ever find ENOUGH info about Robert Stromberg, but suffice to say that he is one of the most prolific matte painters in digital matte painting history and looked up to by just about every digital matte painter I know. His company, Digital Backlot, doesn't have a website because it doesn't need one. He's that well known.)
I might not be able to describe what happened this weekend so I'll start out with these three photos.
They do a pretty good job of giving you a pretty good idea of how I felt:
I deleted my entire directory of matte painting photos/reference. But not to worry. I can get most of them back.
I decided to organize my matte painting photos directory over the weekend. I went into 2 of my external drives and deleted what I THOUGHT were two directories that were the same, and that didn't have matte painting photos in them. Well, one of them was my collection. I emptied the trash to clear up enough space. Oh no.
Really, you can get back almost any thing from any drive if you want to spend the time doing it. I started to use this program called photorec, ran it in terminal (DON'T I SOUND SMART!), and preceded to get back some of my files. photorec takes a LONG time so I called my buddy Cliff and asked if he still had my photos. He does. I'll just get them from him. I think I only need my Washington DC photos (the ones I'm most worried about are some Harry Potterish Smithsonian photos, which I have anyway), and some Vermillion Cliffs photos. I still have ALL of my photos from both trips to Hawaii and a trip to Saing George. The DC photos were a little different because I kept them seperate from family photos. This week: Some freelance work and some matte painting.
My buddy Cliff and I used to play "tag" before Siggraph to keep each-other accountable. He and I would send emails with the subject of "tag". If I recieved that email I had to stop what I was doing immediately, and send Cliff a screenshot of what I was working on. This gave us the the chance to review each other's work.
Cliff "tagged" me today and told me to do a Rocketeer painting. I was only supposed to spend two hours.
I spent EXACTLY two hours painting this and though I feel pretty good about the composition, but I noodled with it. There's also some
problems with the depth.
It was a good exercise though and much needed, since I've been busy with a lot of freelance lately.
This inspired me to do some free work for a friend. I've been reading/inspired by Daniel Davis's webcomic Monster Commute. It's about two characters, a red-goat like character named Beastio Wand, and a skull enclosed in a glass-dome-robot body named Chadworth Machine. The plot and suspense is REALLY starting to build on the comic so if you haven't checked-it-out, you should.
I looked at his characters and thought, "what would I do if I where creating concepts for a live-action film of Monster Commute?"
I approached this work with a Martin Laing flair. I love how his technique is approachable. Much like a great matte painter, when you really get up close you can see all the little brushstrokes and differences in image resolutions. But looking at it in its intended size, everything tightens up. You can't tell the difference between a piece of leather and a
brushstroke. I decided to work loose, but at a very large resolution , and just try to blend a bunch of different brushstrokes and photos together.
I started collecting the needed photos from sxc.hu (and used only royalty free non-attribution photos). For Chadworth I used a bunch of tractor parts, steam engines, and a grain silo. I painted the glass bubble myself because I know that you can never find good transparent glass that is even close to the shape you want. After I positioned these parts on the canvas I just started painting them together till I was happy with the result.
The same pretty much went for Beastio. He's made from several goats and bears. The funny thing about the smirk on his face is it wasn't there in the original white goat photo I swear. It sort of just emerged and I accentuated it.
The methods I used for matching photos and painting were really matte painting techniques.
Here's the final results:
I sent the results over to Daniel and he even liked them enough to post them to his blog.
This was a really great exercise and I really recommend supporting your friends by creating something inspired by their work.