Visual De­vel­op­ment for Fea­ture An­i­ma­tion

DE­SIGNED ART Con­cept de­signer Gil Rim­mer shows how to cre­ate a piece of art where ev­ery el­e­ment sup­ports the story and char­ac­ters

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il Rim­mer’s day job in­volves

G de­vel­op­ing char­ac­ters and ideas for an­i­ma­tion, which means he of­fers a dis­tinc­tive per­spec­tive in this video. Don’t get too hung up over the term an­i­ma­tion in the ti­tle: this project has noth­ing to do with time­lines and splines in Maya, and ev­ery­thing to do with cre­at­ing a strong con­cept and ex­press­ing it in im­agery. Bread and but­ter for any artist, what­ever field you spe­cialise in.

Gil starts with story and stag­ing: what the sit­u­a­tion is and how best to rep­re­sent it. He has what he calls “the Big Idea” – a sim­ple ex­pres­sion of the theme, look and feel he’s after. You’ll see how he re­searches visual sign­posts for the con­cept to re­fer to through­out the project. As he blocks out his com­po­si­tion, he’s think­ing con­stantly about what his de­ci­sions com­mu­ni­cate, tin­ker­ing with sil­hou­ettes and per­spec­tive un­til he finds a good ar­range­ment.

De­tail starts to de­velop as Gil con­sid­ers the light­ing, es­tab­lish­ing pri­mary and sec­ondary sources to keep ma­jor el­e­ments sep­a­rate. He gives some great ob­ser­va­tions on how light fades over dis­tance, which will help you de­velop some ba­sic rules of thumb for your own art.

The ab­sence of colour through­out this de­vel­op­ment work is strik­ing, and Gil has a rel­a­tively un­usual but ef­fec­tive tech­nique when he fi­nally in­tro­duces it. Work­ing with the Curves tool and Layer Masks he’s able to rapidly in­tro­duce colour washes that work dif­fer­ently in high­light and shadow ar­eas, giv­ing a rich feel with lit­tle ef­fort.

Gil has a lot of in­sight­ful things to say and an en­gag­ing style, so it’s a shame the audio qual­ity is so poor. It sounds like it’s been over-pro­cessed, with mushy acous­tics and dis­tract­ing noise arte­facts. At this price you ex­pect bet­ter. But although the lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is un­com­fort­able, what’s be­ing said is well worth your time.

Gil Rim­mer’s story-driven ap­proach to il­lus­tra­tion comes from an an­i­ma­tion and de­sign back­ground. Gil uses the Curves tool to build up ba­sic colour washes, then sup­ports the colour schemes with painted-in de­tails. Fire and fog are among the ef­fects Gil adds to­wards the end to deepen the rich­ness of the scene.

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