Stu­dio pro­file

From Marvel char­ac­ters to Mi­crosoft games, Se­quence stretches its artists’ hori­zons.

ImagineFX - - Contents -

Based in Van­cou­ver, The Se­quence Group has been cre­at­ing con­cept and pro­duc­tion art and il­lus­tra­tion for games, films and other me­dia since 2003. Work­ing with the likes of Marvel and Halo, the com­pany has won a string of awards and re­cently opened a sec­ond stu­dio, in Mel­bourne.

How­ever, still not ev­ery­one re­alises it’s a full-ser­vice stu­dio, says founder Ian Kirby. “Peo­ple of­ten think we only worked on smaller as­pects of projects ,” he says. “But we al­most al­ways han­dle ev­ery­thing top to bot­tom, from con­cept art to sto­ry­boards to full CG.”

And that means The Se­quence Group team needs to be su­per-flex­i­ble. “Typ­i­cally, our artists are very fluid with jump­ing be­tween styles when nec­es­sary,” ex­plains art di­rec­tor An­drew West, who joined the com­pany in 2006. “Cel shaded, painterly, pho­to­real… we have such a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent gigs com­ing through our doors.”

As such, the com­pany’s em­ploy­ees – how­ever tal­ented – can never stand still, says artist Tyler Bradley, who works mainly on de­sign and painted pro­duc­tion art. “I’ve cer­tainly broad­ened my skills in terms of dig­i­tal paint­ing since I’ve been here,” he re­veals. “You have to be able to paint char­ac­ters, crea­tures, en­vi­ron­ments and props well, and of­ten in a short amount of time.

“We use a num­ber of dif­fer­ent styles, which I love.” Tyler con­tin­ues. “It’s pre­dom­i­nantly stylised re­al­ism, but it can also be a more car­toon an­i­mated style, of­ten por­trayed with cin­e­matic light­ing.”

Range of st yles

His col­league Brett MacDon­ald, a 2D gen­er­al­ist spe­cial­is­ing in con­cept de­sign and il­lus­tra­tion, tells a sim­i­lar story. “On any given day, I’ll typ­i­cally be work­ing on matte paint­ing, visual de­vel­op­ment, or mo­tion comic art­work,” he ex­plains. In­deed, as Imag­ineFX went to press, he was work­ing on char­ac­ter-re­veal trail­ers for Marvel: Con­test of Cham­pi­ons, a free-to-play mo­bile fight­ing game from Kabam. “Thanks to the ex­cel­lent artists I get to work along­side, I’ve picked up

tons of new tricks and tech­niques,” Brett en­thuses. “I’d be a lot less con­fi­dent us­ing light and colour in my art­work with­out the ex­pe­ri­ence that I’ve had work­ing at Se­quence.”

It’s not just about tech­nique, though. Keep­ing big clients happy also means de­vel­op­ing a key un­der­stand­ing of their brands, says Ian. Take Halo, with which The Se­quence Group has a long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship (it’s just fin­ished Halo: The Fall of Reach, an an­i­mated se­ries cre­ated in part­ner­ship with Mi­crosoft game de­vel­oper 343 In­dus­tries). “With Halo, there’s a lot of lore that we have to play well within, en­sur­ing we’re do­ing it jus­tice,” he ex­plains. “This in­volves a lot of study­ing the Halo bi­ble, mak­ing sure the Spar­tan’s ar­mour is ex­actly how is should be, for ex­am­ple, and read­ing in be­tween the lines where we need to.

“It’s an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence imag­in­ing past events within the Halo uni­verse,” Ian adds. “You get to re­veal some­thing that hasn’t been seen be­fore. It’s bring­ing the imag­i­na­tion to life.”

Mo­tion comics

While The Se­quence Group pro­duces ev­ery­thing from con­cept art to an­i­ma­tion to live-ac­tion VFX and beyond, one cre­ative dis­ci­pline holds a special place in its heart: mo­tion comics. Re­cent work in this area in­cludes 40 mo­tion comic-style cutscenes for the free role-play­ing game Marvel He­roes from Gazil­lion En­ter­tain­ment. It’s also been an­i­mat­ing key en­tries of the Bat­man: Black and White comics for DC Comics and Warner Pre­miere.

Get­ting a mo­tion comic right is all about hon­our­ing the source ma­te­rial, says An­drew. “We main­tain what we call the ‘comic­ness’ by match­ing the art style to the orig­i­nal ma­te­rial,” he says. Although that’s not as easy as it might sound. “We’ve adapted some older comics with noth­ing more than scanned comics from the 80s or 90s, for in­stance. And we’ve been tasked with ex­tend­ing frames out­side of the nor­mal comic boxes into a more mod­ern 16:9 as­pect ra­tio.”

But if the work is chal­leng­ing, the en­vi­ron­ment is wel­com­ing, says Tyler. “Peo­ple work hard here, but it’s also re­laxed. There’s a great at­mos­phere and peo­ple re­ally do get along and hang out out­side of work. In­side work, it’s al­ways a bit of a col­lab­o­ra­tion among the other artists, an­i­ma­tors and di­rec­tor. It’s nice to have tal­ented peo­ple to re­view and cri­tique your work.”

Brett agrees. “When I walk into Se­quence in the morning I look for­ward to what I’ll be do­ing that day,” he says. “The stu­dio has a real feel­ing of fam­ily and ca­ma­raderie. It’s loose, some­times a lit­tle wild, but it’s one of the best places I’ve ever worked.”

Fancy join­ing them? “We’re con­stantly on the hunt for new tal­ent,” says An­drew.

There’s a great at­mos­phere and peo­ple do get along and hang out out­side of work

“We look for a va­ri­ety of artists, but it’s great to find those who can jump be­tween styles. It’s a real valu­able as­set, to be open to step­ping out­side the box.” So it’s not so much about spe­cific skillsets, but about hav­ing pas­sion for your art and cre­ativ­ity.

“While the visual and tech­ni­cal chal­lenges of some­thing like an NHL ice pro­jec­tion holds very unique prob­lems ver­sus a painterly Halo an­i­ma­tion, it all comes down to the same thing,” says Ian. “Ul­ti­mately, it’s about mak­ing some­one feel some­thing when they watch what we cre­ate,” he con­cludes. “It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.”

The Se­quence Group 48

Ian Kirby and An­drew West cre­ated the first mo­tion comic in 2001 – Se­quence has since worked on many more.

Se­quence part­nered with film di­rec­tor Do­minique Car­rara to pro­duce four cin­e­mat­ics for the ac­tion-ad­ven­ture game Re­mem­ber Me. Want to work at Se­quence? Tal­ent, pas­sion and a good chat over a cup of cof­fee may get you there. Along­side work­ing on new IPs, Se­quence’s artists love get­ting to tackle art of the char­ac­ters that they grew up sketch­ing. Col­lab­o­ra­tion is at the core of all Se­quence’s out­put. Ev­ery­one gets their say.

Se­quence il­lus­trated and an­i­mated over 20 min­utes of painterly cutscenes for Sa­cred 3, each filled with de­tail. Along­side work on Halo’s col­lec­tor’s edi­tions, Se­quence also con­cepted and de­liv­ered the en­tirety of Halo: Fall of Reach. Se­quence has con­trib­uted a great deal of art­work to Marvel: Con­test of Cham­pi­ons’ cin­e­mat­ics, and con­tin­ues to do so. The team con­stantly ex­plores new projects, from mo­tion graph­ics to UI de­sign, and much more. Se­quence works hard to in­stil each and ev­ery frame it de­liv­ers with char­ac­ter and de­tail.

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