Thursday, April 26, 2007

Think Big Picture

Think Big Picture

Think Big Picture

As a Producer, you need to think big picture, if you don't, you shouldn't be a Producer.

You need to see a birds-eye view of the episode, from story genesis, to design(characters, backgrounds and props),colors, storyboards, voice casting, retakes, ADR and editing. All of these elements make up a television program and must be done within the production time alotted(hopefully). Having a birds-eye view allows you to see every aspect of production in context. To make sure everything is consistant. If the script calls for an "albino moustache -twirler that speaks with a russian accent" to go up against your protagonist, you have to make sure that's hit when the character is designed and carried through to color and voice acting. Not an easy task when your working on 3-4 episodes at a time, all in different stages of production.

I have a story that illustrates my point very succinctly.

When I was Producing on the batman, I was in Ink and Paint with a director. He wanted to go all out on this effect shot, on the screen for maybe 15 seconds. He wanted it to be awesome, and I was on board. There would be many different colored models, multiple dx's and other layered effects. It ended up being a nightmare. I wasn't thinking big picture, I brought the camera in from the birds-eye view and tunnel visioned my focus onto one aspect of production.

I fell behind 3 episodes for a 15 second shot. You can't add time to one aspect of the show, without sacrificing it from somewhere else. While trying to catch up and get back on schedule, there was also a quality drop across the board to try to make up time. It was a painful lesson to learn, but it drove the point home to me.

Though I've given all of this a Producer-centric twist, everyone would benefit from thinking big picture. Here's some examples:

Writers: Figure out what the arc/theme of the season is. Keep the production limitations in mind for whatever medium you're writing for. In animation, write in locations that have already been visited to utilize reuse. This way you're not burdening other departments when it's their time.

Character Designers: Design characters with animation in mind. If you can't figure out how to draw the turnarounds, they sure aren't going to be able to animate it well overseas. Simplify the line work to essential lines only. Keep story in mind, diminish the "noise" in a shot, if it's about 2 characters having a moment, make sure the unimportant incidentals become part of the background, and aren't designed so strongly that they trump the stars or the point of the scene.

Storyboard Artists:A lot of times a board artist will go nuts on a scene and make it amazing. Sadly the scene wasn't intended to be a show stealer. It needed to fit into the beats of the show.

I understand that everyone wants to kick butt and do the sweetest job possible, but you have to do it in context to the big picture.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hope you guys enjoyed the Character design tip, I'll try to post them as they come to me, I've found them to be very helpful in my career. I hope they can help you guys avoid the mistakes I made early on when I was a wee tot.

Here's another Hellboy animated cover from Me and Aron. My favorite part is the larvae doing a swan dive from the far right. I've posted 2 versions, the darker Blue one was the first pass, then the lighter version was the revision that saw print!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Character Design Tip #1

You will be more valuable as a character designer if you can design what your client is seeing in their head. In order to be able to do this, before anything else, you need to know what they are seeing, or what they want. I like to ask a slew of questions to figure out what they are looking for. You cannot leave the meeting with the client saying"I'll know it when I see it" This is asking for about 50 revisions and like finding a needle in a haystack. You need to take out the variables and ambiguity out of the conversation, remember scary,cool or appealing can mean different things to different people. Many people are from different cultures or generations so rather than assume, keep on asking questions to get a more tangible answer.

Here's an example of how NOT to do it.

Client: I would like a scary monster.

You: Okay, let me get some sketches done.

I know this is over simplified, but you get the picture. As a designer, the more time you spend in revisions, the less value you get, not to mention the mounting frustration of not being able to hit what the client wants. Don't let the client be wishy washy, make them give you responsible direction, in turn they will see their idea put on paper faster.

This next example takes up more front end time, but it's exponentially faster than doing 10 more revisions on the back end.

Client: I need a scary monster.

You: Humanoid? Amorphous blob? Four legged with razor sharp teeth? Decaying tendriled nightmare?

Client: Hmmm, humanoid, like a flesh eating Zombie.

You: Okay, what stage of Zombification? Just turned 10 minutes ago and is a confused pale skinned human, or a zombie that's been eating off of human brains for 2 weeks in a state of severe decay?

Client: Maybe he's been one for awhile, eating a lot of people.

You: So if that's the case, maybe you want to play him as being an overweight decaying zombie? He may be more scary if he's physically big and intimidating rather than the typical emaciated zombie.

Client: Good point, I hadn't thought of that, sounds good!

Now a lot of the variables have been taken out, you know what to draw and the client himself has a clearer picture of what they want. Through this discussion, you can even prove instrumental to helping them visualize what they want!



Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Here are some "The Batman Strikes" covers Dave McCaig and I did. Dave did an incredible job as usual. These were a lot of fun to do, I did them while being a Producer on the show. We really wanted as many ancillary products to be of high quality,so Dave and I did as much outside stuff regarding"The Batman" as we could. The first cover is for an issue that was a companion piece to the "The Batman vs Dracula" DTV. The next one features the Ventriloquist and lastly , the cover to "The Batman Strikes" #1. It's a lot of fun bouncing from comics to animation to magazine covers and video games. they each have their disciplines and allow you to flex different muscles. I believe it's important to keep your name out there in the public eye in as many different venues as possible, in order to hit a larger audience.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

This is the first time I've drawn Kaboom since it's last issue. I always enjoyed drawing him and the diverse cast of characters that made up his world. I did the book with my good buddy Jeph Loeb, brings back such fond memories. Since it's been so long, my design vocabulary has changed a bit, and it reflects in the new look that Geoff has. It was so much fun revisiting Kaboom, I may just revisit a bunch of other stuff as an exercise to see what elements I would change, and which ones I'd keep. I've done some designs that will make me question the vocation I've chosen. Hope you enjoy the new Kaboom!

Friday, April 13, 2007

I'll have an illustration up of a character I haven't drawn for years, I've revamped him style-wise with the stuff I've learned since. Hopefully it's better and not worse. Expect it sometime tomorrow!

Here's a pin-up for the Special edition Spider-man 2 dvd. I had a blast drawing Spidey pounding on Doc Oc. It's meant to be an illustrated version of the Subway fight from the movie. Can't wait for Spider-Man 3 BTW.

I also would like to mention that I ate at Manpuku restaurant last night and it was unbelievable, I'm still full. It's an amazing Japanese BBQ joint. Since I went with my two buddies, Sean and Bill, we ate for 4 hours, disgusting, can't wait to do it again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

And a Max Winters for Shoham. This is one of my first takes of Winters battle gear, I really wanted to push the shapes and pinch where I could. I also wanted to have layers of different material. When designing I really try to have areas where different materials cross over and affect each other, like cloth restraining armor, or armor causing cloth to bunch up. The contrast between the properties accentuate each materials design element.

This is a cover to the comic book that was included in the Hellboy Animated movie. I liked the style that Sean Galloway had established for the DTV so I was happy to do some covers. My editor at Darkhorse, and "brother from another mother" Scott Allie, said I could inject some of my aesthetics into it and I think it turned out like a pretty interesting amalgam.

When I started the piece, I always want to have a focus, an area that everything points to. In this piece, it's Liz Sherman, she's about to unleash her powers. She's the focus, she's even the actual light source. Remember, your eye will go to the area of highest contrast, so here I made it the flame. My buddy Aron Lusen and I worked together closely on this cover and I love the way it turned out. His colors really tie it all together and paint a believable space.

I also designed April O'Neal and Max Winters, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Patrick Stewart. It was a lot of fun imagining a new April, after all those years of seeing her in the comics. They did a great job with her in the movie and I'm especially happy with the shot of her biting her lower lip.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Here's the Casey Jones sketch of him in his crime fighting outfit. All the gear he has on are actual items from a sporting goods store. I find that reference is indispensable when designing, why make up motor cross gear when you can just google it? It makes the character more believable. His armor is a mixture of motor cross, hockey, baseball, and a slingshot.

Okay, gonna try bloggin on a more consistent goes! I'm going to try to update everyone on what's been goin on. Here's a picture of Casey Jones(sans armor) from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie that just came out. I'll show a design sketch a little later. I was the character design lead and I got to work with my pals Jose Lopez and Tom Perkins. Both of those guys did an incredible job making the movie come to life. Kudos to Pez and Perkinstock.

I finished my time on The Batman with season 4 and it was the most fun I'd ever had in animation. Season 4 was incredible, being able to work alongside Mike Jelenic, Jane Espenson, Doug Petrie, Paul Dini, the list goes on. The two part finale which Espenson and Petrie wrote are airing at the end of this month on Kids WB, so keep an eye out!

I'm working at Google now on a secret project that will knock people's socks off, and I can't wait to show it everyone when it's ready. The guys involved are kicking much booty. It's a blessing to be able to work with a lot of my buddies and have free lunches.

Periodically on the weekends, I'll have time to work on a Marvel DTV that I can't mention yet, but I'm sure will bring drool to the mouths of comic geeks everywhere(myself included)!