Life through someone else

In December 2009 James Cameron’s Avatar became the highest grossing film of all time. It was a visual spectacle and brought stereoscopic 3D to the mainstream big screen for the first time.

Due to the size and nature of the project it encouraged research, development and advancement in film making technologies that are now common place across the entertainment industry today. Some of these included full performance, motion capture and facial capture animation technology; lighting setups to light massive areas; advancements in texture painting software; and hardware advancements to keep up with the ever-growing amount of data needed for a production of this magnitude. Avatar pushed the boundaries of what could be and what can be achieved in computer visual effects.

Below are some images from the Avatar art book. Although it doesn’t document each process in detail it does show you some of the concept, sculpting and CG work that went in the development of the film. Once again, if you haven’t seen the film I implore you to do so as it really is a visual spectacle. Feast your eyes!

Painting the picture of war I

With the release of Valkyria Revolution I wanted to make my next art book post about the first game in the series Valkyria Chronicles. The world of Valkyria is set in the fictional region of Europa and is loosely based on Europe in the second World War. The game series has a very distinct art style which ties pencil drawn images and watercolour paintings together in a three-dimensional world. It was first released for PlayStation 3 back in 2008 and was later remastered for PlayStation 4 and PC in 2014.

Valkyria Chronicles: Design Archive is one of the thicker art books I own and comes in at a hefty 400 pages long! With this in mind I’ve decided to split the book between several posts so I can do each section justice. To start, I’ll be showing you the evolution of character designs from the game. This chapter is around 132 pages and features character bios, rough designs, early development sketches, rejected concepts, equipment detailing, in-game models and final press pieces. Surrounding all of these images is notes from the Designer explaining their thought processes and decisions throughout this stage of production.

Although a little pricey now, I do think that this art book is one of the better game ones available. The sheer amount of content and detail that is shown is astonishing and these insights really describe what goes into the development of such a successful game.

A world designed by animals

How do you create a world inhabited by animals but make it feel like it was created by them? One possible answer lies in the art of Zootropolis. This book is jam-packed with beautiful art work! Each page is filled with concepts and paintings that develop the look and feel of the film. All aspects of the world have been thought about and the book provides a really good insight into the evolution of ideas that a film of this scope has to go through.

As an Environment Artist, Zootropolis is one of Disney’s better films for me due to the way the world has been created and shown to us throughout the film. Having so many different animal habitats seemingly flow one into another works on so many levels and I can really appreciate the time that must have been spent planning how it could functionally work opposed to making it work for the sake of it.

I’ve included a handful of images from the art book below but I do recommend purchasing the book for yourself to really get an understanding of what went into making the film what it is. If you haven’t seen the film then I recommend that you stop reading this and go and watch it. You will not be disappointed!

All of the images below were created by the highly talented concept team at Disney. Feast your eyes!



Five things I learnt at Guru LIVE

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Guru LIVE conference for Film, TV and Games hosted by BAFTA in London. It was the first real conference I’ve attended and I had an absolute blast! The talks varied from presentation to panel discussion and were hosted by some game industry veterans and big name collaborators. Each gave me an insight into the different disciplines found within the industry and it was great to hear about the trials and tribulations others had gone through to get to where they are today.

As a way of documenting the conference I’ve decided to devote a blog post about five things that I took away from (not literally!) the Guru LIVE event.

Indies are human too.

Before attending I didn’t know that much about the indie game development scene. All I really knew about was the odd scrap of information that I might have stumbled across on Twitter or Kotaku. I find there’s generally a lot of information about Indie success stories but you never really hear about what each developer had to go through in order to get to where they are today. The presentation “Your First Game” was all about these untold tales and how it worked out for them.

One thing I always forget is that Indie developers are normal people. They’re not born with magical super powers that make them brilliant at making games. They have to learn the same way everyone else does. What I respect the most is that they have an idea for something that they want to make and they put everything on the line in order to make that idea work. Sometimes the thing you want to make is just out of your reach and you have to stop working on it to learn more about how to move past the issue. It’s about knowing when to call it a day and when to continue. It’s not about money or pride.

It’s nice to know that the people making these great games have families, mortgages and other things in their lives that affect their livelihood. They didn’t appear to be phased by cash flow running out or the game they are working on going under. They just made games because they enjoyed it and that other people might enjoy playing them.

Take notes

This is the one thing I wish I’d done more of throughout the weekend. I think the main reason I didn’t really do this was because I was in a new place, meeting new people and just happy to be attending talks hosted by known industry professionals or people who had worked on big franchises. I did end up writing a few pointers down on the second day but I think I’ll make a consorted effort to write things down in the future.

Research your talks

As this was my first conference I didn’t really do any research on the talks I wanted to attend. The event was for Film, TV and Games people and the schedule was split up accordingly. None of the talks overlapped with each other (within a single industry) so you didn’t have to pick from several at any given time slot. This won’t always be the case, especially at bigger conferences, so have a plan of which ones you want to attend and a backup one for each time slot in case your first choice is full.

I found the Business of Creativity talk super interesting and full of useful information. The presentation was about how to find funding, attract investment and how to build a product. Each presenter was from a different industry and each spoke about how they came to be where they were and what they do to support up and coming projects in their respective industries.

The “How to Freelance” presentation I found less interesting and not a great use of my time. Despite the name it didn’t actually cover how to freelance and instead should have been called “How to write a CV”. I hoped to find out about the inner workings of being freelance: How to price myself. What resources are available to me for writing my own contracts with clients. What to do if a client doesn’t pay up. What’s the best approach to working a typical day without it taking over my life. Although I’m not currently freelance, this information would have been far more valuable to me.

Network, network, network.

Since University I haven’t been to any specific ‘networking’ events and as such I’m a little rusty. Having said that I like talking to people that I don’t know and find it pretty easy. I was a little disappointed to not receive a name badge at the event launch party but on reflection I think this worked out quite well as it meant I had to talk to people in order to find out who they were and which industry they were in. For the first two hours I didn’t meet anyone from the games industry but instead of shying away and not chatting I now know a few people in both the Film and TV industries.

Being able to network is a skill that can be learnt and mastered, it just takes a bit of time and experience. You have to remember that nearly everyone in the room is in the same boat and that the first introduction is always the hardest and most awkward bit. Once you’ve said who you are and what you do (and asked them the same questions) you’ll be past the awkwardness and into the conversation. It’s all plain sailing from then on!

I’m a firm believer in being proactive. The event is only so long which only gives you a small window to talk to people. If you want to speak to the presenter, go and talk to the presenter. If you’re unsure of someone’s name ask them what it is again. You’ll be glad you did when the event finishes.

On one last note, you don’t have to have business cards.

Keeping up appearances

As with all events of this nature following up new contacts is the way forward but you shouldn’t do it to get ahead. Personally I like contacting people because they’re doing awesome work and I want to know more about it or want to get involved myself. A tweet here, an email there goes a long way and it’s always good to thank people for their time. It could be you one day!

For more information on Guru Live, please click here, and for information on all things BAFTA please visit their website or follow along on Twitter @BAFTA


Journey. The art of game development

Journey is not your stereotypical video game. It makes no demands on the player and doesn’t ask you to do anything specific in order to finish it. It’s a relaxing experience from start to finish as you uncover what your journey is about. If you haven’t already played Journey then I really encourage you to download and play it. It’s available for download for free on the Sony PlayStation Store and can be played on PS3 and PS4.

Before I continue with this art book post I have to point out that there will be spoilers. You’ll understand more about the images and descriptions if you’ve already played the game so I really do suggest playing it before continuing. It’ll take you a maximum of 3 to 4 hours and everything below will make a lot more sense afterwards!

This is in no way a book review just an opportunity to display some of the work that went into such a wonderful game. This book is a very rare and as far as I’m aware the book is no longer being published. Feast your eyes!

This is a fantastic art book and the above images are only a small selection from it. I might revisit it in the future as it really is an excellent look at the amount of work that goes into the development of a game.

Thanks for reading/looking!

Shedding light on dusty pages.

I saw a post on Artstation a couple of weeks ago by an Environment Artist called Devon Fay. It was about how he had built up a collection of art books over the years but had only opened and flicked through them a few times. They are now just sat on his shelf gathering dust. I’m in a similar position myself with my art book collection. I don’t even have enough space for them all in my own home…




In an attempt to breathe new life into them Devon is doing a weekly blog about each of his and he has inspired me to do something similar. Unfortunately I can’t read and write about one every week but I am going to aim to do at least one a month (to begin with). As you can see from the pictures some of them are a lot thicker than others so I’ll need a little extra time to peruse them. Some of these books are a little tricky to get hold of so I want to do each book justice. Expect lots of pictures, maybe not so much writing!

If there is a particular book you want me to do first (or ones for subsequent posts) then get in touch! I’m thinking about writing my first book post on one that takes us on a Journey.

Out with the old, in with the new!

After having a Squarespace website for two years I’ve decided to give my site an overhaul and save a few pennies in the process! I was getting pretty fed up of the look of my old site and it wasn’t that easy to update especially if I didn’t do it very often. I decided to rage quit and move over to WordPress as it’s (almost) readily available to use (though I’m still getting used to the ropes).

One of the main things that my previous site lacked was an accessible blog and it’s this that I want to focus on in this new space. I’m considering leaving my portfolio on Artstation (as it does a really good job of displaying artistic portfolios) and using this site to document my adventures into the realm that is three dimensional. Regardless of what I end up doing, this site will be getting regular new content in the form of documented 3D workflows, live demonstrations, related articles and good ol’ tips and tricks. Nothing like keeping things simple!

If you are interested in seeing how things unfold then please follow me on Twitter and leave me a comment below!