How can I quickly create an interesting environment for concept purposes?
Julie Tidby, England
Answer Mark replies
Art directors often ask me to mock up something quick to establish an overall direction for a scene. For this I’ll use photos and matte painting techniques to comp a scene together. It’s much faster than simply painting everything from scratch.
The most important task is to find the best source material, so I usually spend half my allotted time gathering the exact reference photos I want to work with. I then create some rough scribbles of the overall composition; these help me to visualise my idea. I then try to find a base image that roughly matches my composition and has a similar mood or lighting setup. After this I collect extra ‘ key’ and ‘enhancer’ images. The enhancers can help to push the base image further, while the key photos can either make the final art look unique or add extra story elements.
It’s crucial to match the lighting, colours and values of the different source materials, which then creates a unified look. I do this using layer adjustment options such as Color Balance, Curves and Selective Color. I also use the Match Color option (Image> Adjustment> Match Color...), which can match the colour and value structure of two layers containing different objects.
Sometimes the easiest and fastest way for presenting a certain mood to an art director is to create a digital collage from different photo plates.