Concept Art for Games (and other Entertainment Media) Brief.
The Brief below was given to Level 3, Year 2, Btec Extended Diploma Students – All of whom had chosen the course and its leaning towards Design for Entertainment Media.
This project allows the student to explore the work and process of Concept Artists in the Games Industry (amongst others) and to develop vocabulary, skills and good practice related to this field.
The transferable nature of many of the skills sets looked at in this project are discussed allowing students to see the wider value of this project and the development work produced.
Time being limited on a course such as this, many of the areas explored cannot be developed fully.
This project takes up seven weeks of the students study time.
The longer the project the more development work would be expected.
“…have a grasp of context, detail and the rationale which makes design and image-making worthwhile to yourself, and commercially to someone else…
Honestly, I get scared […] every time I start a new, big job. I read, I gather information and push the client to tell me what they want. (Sometimes they really don’t know, and those jobs are usually nightmares!) Remember details, notice how people move, how sunlight cascades over moving objects, why foliage looks the way it does (it’s nature’s own fractal magic) and how come velvet has about the same range of value as metallic surfaces but one is soft and the other is brittle. And finally, don’t assume that technique alone will save you… It still is the idea that wins…every time. Remember that elaborate technique and dumb story produces a demo reel, not a narrative.”
– A Visionary Ethic: The Life and Work of Syd Mead, p.3, OuterCircle 9, Autumn 2006
In the world of Design for Entertainment Media, the ability to render “Visual Development” art to sell an idea or “Concept” is high on the list of the designer/illustrator; whether that concept is for a Game, a Film, a Comic Book, a TV show or a Toy Line.
“Concept Art” can for the most part be divided into, or be a combination of, three main skill sets. Character Design, Prop and Object Design and Environment Design.
During the course of this project you will explore the reasoning behind and the practical tasks associated with developing Concept Art for Games (and other Entertainment Media such as Film, Animation, Comics, Toy Lines and Performance).
- PART A – Research into Concept Art for Games (and other Entertainment Media) begins week 1 of project.
You are to investigate and critically evaluate the purpose and parameters of Concept Art for Games (and other Entertainment Media), investigating the heritage of both the industry, and the techniques used, practitioners and skillsets, and relevant industry terminology.
These investigations should be evidenced as richly illustrated research sheets (with found images and examples of your own if appropriate) and/or posts to your creative blog.
- PART B – Visual Development of Concept Art for Games (or other Entertainment Media) begins week 1 of project.
Story Choice – You must choose from one of the following:
1 – Any of the animal based Aesop’s Fables – turning the animals back into human characters;
2 – La finta nonna (The False Grandmother) – Anon, or Le Petit Chaperon Rouge by Charles Perrault (…LOOK IT UP!);
3 – Moby Dick by Herman Melvile;
4 – Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream or Hamlet.
Each of these must be adapted and visually developed as a Concept Art based “Pitch”, looking at the story not in its original form but through the lens of either:
a, A Steampunk theme;
b, A Science Fiction/Extreme Futuristic/Alien Culture setting;
c. A Gangland/Third World Slum/Ghetto Setting;
d, A full-blown Costume Opera, Street Theatre/Performance.
(Be aware, those students who find selection of the above difficult during the first session will be assigned their brief on a role of a dice, or online random number/letter generator)
You are to as fully as possible develop a visual response to the story above using one of the themes given and utilising the methods and techniques used by Concept Artists for games and other Entertainment Media visual development teams.
“Usually when anyone starts to design an […] from their imagination, they draw what they know and what they have already seen. We all live on the same planet, and with the widespread availability of the internet and movies we are all looking at the same things most of the time.
A designer can be sent down the path of creating something more original by emptying his or her visual library through producing a high volume of fast thumbnail sketches […] working through the boredom can frequently allow for moments of inspiration and the exploration of truly original ideas and styles.”
– Scott Robertson ACCD instructor, founder of Design Studio Press.
Each part of the following set of tasks should involve a full design process.
- Part 1 – Character Development. begins week 1 of project.
One of the key commodities (and by that I mean “saleable” items) from amongst the concept artist and designers repertoire is the Character.
Characters (along with Story) are the driving force behind the design and successful uptake by an audience for Games, Animation, Film, TV and even web and Print based media; and many successful characters are taken beyond the media for which they were created. Some appearing in other media (games characters with their own comics), toy and clothing lines, appearing on everything from pencil cases to lunchboxes.
Characters might include all human (-iform) characters, aliens, ghosts, gods, demons; animals and creatures of all types (speaking or non-speaking); robots, androids and mecha; A.I.’s (disembodied or with a computer interface), possessed or anthropomorphosised inanimates or vehicles (Herbie*, Stephen King’s Christine* and the ship in Farscape* are all characters as are talking vehicles such as those in Pixars “Cars” movie), and any plants with intelligently mobile tendrils/tentacles/roots etc.
You should begin by listing all the key characters from your chosen narrative and their attributes and traits if relevant.
At least one of your characters should be humaniform, meaning you must consider human anatomy and various costume designs as part of your character design.
Your design sheets should include: rapid pen/brush pen thumbnails, silhouettes, pencil thumbnails, head shots, variant costume designs, multi angle views of the figure, marker sketches, watercolour and pen and ink renders, digital renders inc. photoshop sketches and full colour artwork, and perhaps if appropriate 3D digital models and fimo/clay maquettes (see examples and handouts given in session)
- Part 2a – Props & Objects. begins week 3 of project.
Your character will no doubt interact with Objects and/or Props, inanimate non-sentient things that could be: weapons, cartable/portable items such as books, radios, communication devices, amulets, or heavier objects such as boxes/crates, barrels, special feature environment items such as thrones, feature tables, statues etc or…
- Part 2b – Vehicles. begins week 3 of project.
…vehicles, including cars, tanks, skateboards, unicycles, airships, helicopters, boats, futuristic transport ships, flying machines, rickshaws etc.
Look at the work of industrial, product and automotive concept artists, how do they render vehicles to show their clients/art directors.
Your vehicle and prop/object designs should go through the same process as your character designs, from scrappy thumbnails to final colour renders, and perhaps models using a variety of media and techniques to fully explore all design possibilities.
- Part 3 – Environments. begins week 4 of project.
Your character will also no doubt carry or move those (portable) objects and vehicles into and through a particular environment, or perhaps several differing ones.
Your environments could be interiors, exteriors, natural or man-made these environments can often (especially interiors) be examples of “character design” in themselves, showing us, without the characters presence, the nature of the character(s) that inhabits the space.
Will your environment be awe-inspiring in its grandiosity or subtle, claustrophobic, intimate? What feeling do you wish to convey, from who’s perspective or POV will we be seeing it?
Remember! Some artwork can show atmosphere, some the explicit form. Perhaps using both to explain your environment concept/idea would be best.
- Part 4 – Fully integrated narrative Concept Images/Art. begins week 5 of project.
During this project you will create examples taken from all three of these areas, finally bringing them together in a single concept image (or perhaps a storyboard) that illustrates some important or crucial narrative element within your concept.
You may wish to look beyond Concept art at this stage and look at other forms of narrative image making, comics, illustrated books, murals, tapestries, narrative fine art paintings, poster art etc. You should discuss these wider investigations in your sketch notes/annotations and on your creative blog.
Consider the format/ratio of your image/s. Don’t just stick to A-sized images, why not try something in extreme widescreen/letterbox format, or extreme portrait like traditional oriental prints. The nature of your image should dictate the format, not just whatever paper you had to hand.
Your image should be fully rendered, this can be monochrome or colour as appropriate, but half finished pencil sketches will not be acceptable.
- PART C – Presentation of Concept/s. begins week 7 of project.
Your final proposals should be presented as professional presentation boards, whether printed or digitally via your creative blog or using an alternative presentation medium such as Prezi or Video (sound should be considered for any video presentation), if presented online the final designs should be presented in a coherent order that explains clearly your concept (you should not need to scroll between blog posts and websites to find your next image).
Thumbnails and early designs may be included in this presentation but should be severely edited, and only used when relevant to discussing key conceptual developments or ideas. Key ideas and images should have been developed fully during the design process.
All presentations should culminate with the final narrative image that sums up your over all concept in one image utilising many of the elemnets explored previously i.e Characters, Objects, and Environment.
REMEMBER – Target Market/Audience may well be relevant if trying to keep your concept cohesive – Is your design for children? Is it for an adult/mature audience? Are you trying to attract serious readers/viewers? Or are you trying to evoke a sense of fun? UNDERSTAND AND DESIGN FOR YOUR INTENDED AUDIENCE – THERE SHOULD BE A CLEAR IDEA THAT THIS WOULD APPEAL TO YOUR CHOSEN AUDIENCE.
Some practitioners and websites and books etc you might wish to look at:
Practitioners and Practices:
Warner Bros, Disney, Doug Chiang, Mike Mignola, Guy Davies, Serene Wyatt, Jake Parker, Khang Le, Craig Mullins, Mike Yamada, Wayne Barlow, Felix Yoon, Ritche Sacilioc.
Plus these inspirational websites may also be useful:
The Skillful Huntsman
Structura 1 & 2
The Making of Brave
The Art of Hellboy.
Burne Hogarth’s Dynamic Anatomy.
The (Art of the) Hunchback of Notre Dame
To complete this project the student will have to have evidence for all the following assessment criteria (see linked search pages).