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