New Art & Animation Show (Video!) and Tell (Interview!)
Today was a great day for our friends at Hero-U! Thanks to everyone who supported Corey and Lori and their quests for meep!
For this update, we thought we would do a little Show and Tell! (Although technically I guess it's Tell and Show as the Kickstarter UI puts the video at the bottom of the update :P)
So, we've also posed a few questions to the guys and they did their best to answer them properly without resorting to nonsensical babbling or silliness (Okay, there is a bit of silliness)!
Then, we'll show y'all a new promo opening video with a few more rooms that Chris illustrated and Aaron animated. These are obviously concepts but they've been working hard on them and it would be a shame not to share what they are envisioning!
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
CHRIS COLD: Hi, my name is Chris Cold and I'm 22.I started doing some space-related art about 4-5 years ago, and around 3 years ago tried to go for different genres and digital painting in general. Since then I think I improved a little bit but still have a long way to go till I'm satisfied. I also like waffles and my favourite color is #1b1e21.
AARON MILLIGAN: I'm Aaron Milligan and I’m 37. I have been blessed with the opportunity to make art for a living for a number of years. I started with print and publication and slowly migrated into animations and motion graphics. I have been called the man with many hobbies but my wife would say I’m the man with too many projects. When I’m not on the computer making animations and creating art you can find me in my basement workshop carving wood. I have a number of carving projects in many stages of completion. For some reason, I have to have multiple projects going on at the same time. I enjoy helping people and I don’t listen when they tell me not to touch the staff.
What usually inspires you to make art?
AM: It’s hard to pinpoint what inspires me to make art. I think it’s just the urge to create in any medium I can get my hands on. I’m inspired by seeing great art - be it on paper, wood, online or as music. I’m inspired by the urge to understand other artists that are masters of their craft. The process that is taken to create is just as rewarding to me as final works. This investigation challenges me to learn new techniques and incorporate what I have learned into my creations.
CC: To be honest, I'm trying my best not be inspired by movies or games (because often it results in some cheap copy of something else), once in a while it still happens but most of the time I can resist. The best way to get anything creative and original done is to get inspiration from unrelated sources. Music, for example. Visual art is very different from music in a sense that you “see” paintings while you “hear” music, in other words there is nothing for you to copy – you simply interpret the sounds as visual images. Obviously, you can get inspired by many other things (sometimes unwillingly), so I just take everything in and sort it out later.
How do you approach your work?
CC: Well, it depends. A sketch usually contributes more control to the painting as opposed to something you start randomly and try to improvise on the fly. Basically, if I have a strong, complex idea in mind then I start with a sketch. I need to do that, otherwise the result rarely matches what I had envisioned and that's very disappointing. In any case, a sketch is very useful because you can solidify the composition and some core elements of the scene without wasting much time and change them if needed without trouble. But I won't lie, sometimes it's just fun to start an abstract brush mess and turn it into something cool. That being said, this second technique almost never works with clients :(
AM: My good Friend Jim M. (from Maine where I’m from) always said “Think Big”. I always take this to heart when I approach my work. “Go big or go home”. This can be a bit problematic when I get an idea into my head and I run with it. I will throw everything I have at it even if the direction is not established. It can result in rework but elements can always be used. Learning how to make things better is part of the fun. Understanding what the client wants, I think, is a process that every artist struggles with. One great thing about the “Go big or go home attitude” is to surprise the client with what you have come up with. Over the years you find with practice you can get results that you are pleased with and the client is ecstatic and in agreement with your design choices.
What equipment and tools do you use to create art?
AM: You always hear the given rule: Spend the money on the right tools! Yes, you can paint a house with a five-dollar paintbrush but with the right brush you can do a better job quicker with better results. I have been using Adobe products since Photoshop didn’t have layers. It is interesting to see the products change over the years as I progress as an artist. I am currently working on a Mac. Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects are the three main programs that I use. Each program has added plugins that assist in design and animation. For example, I use Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite and Particle Illusion from Wonder Touch plugins to enhance my Aftereffect creations. The plugins sometime cost more that the programs they run on but are crucial to the development of fine-tuned effects. The Wacom tablet is also an important tool that I use. One new tool that I have been using more and more every day is the iPad. There are a number of great drawing apps that allow you to create storyboards, paintings, sketches and even vector. Having the portable studio at my fingertips has been handy to show concepts and Ideas to the team.
CC: I list them by priority, starting with the most important stuff. A Wacom tablet. I actually have 2 of them, but I bought a second small one for cheap just to drag around with me and paint whenever I want, like in a cafe or something (using my crappy laptop). Then, of course, a good monitor. This is key, while you can get a rather cheap tablet and still draw and paint decently a bad monitor will always display bad colors, have bad contrast, basically show you poop. A lot of people don't understand it till later and simply get an expensive tablet. Software. I use only Photoshop nowadays (CS5 but version doesn't matter), however, there are other options as well. GIMP, for instance. Used it for a long time myself when I was on Linux (long story), not too bad and completely free. And, naturally, you can get some supportive 3D programs to help do certain things faster and more efficiently. I was using 3Ds Max for some time, don't have it anymore, although still could see it as being very useful. And now the PC itself. Not really a big deal. Pretty much everything can run Photoshop so I'm just upgrading my RAM and the CPU from time to time to work on bigger files. The rest is for games.
What is the process for creating an environment for Shadowgate? And what is the most challenging part of it?
CC: There are two versions of environments, in one hand we have paintings like the title screen (showing the Shadowgate castle) or the poster with the Behemoth and on the other - the in-game rooms. The first part goes something like this: I am told to paint the Shadowgate castle, so I just start painting away. When i have something to show I'm sending a progress shot to the team, asking if anything needs to be changed, then I proceed from that point. With the rooms it's not that straight forward. Before I start painting anything I get a lot of info about what's going to be in the room (items, monsters, relics and so on) and what's happening there. Then I do some sort of a quick black and white sketch to pick a direction for the room, sometimes the layout of the room is similar to the designs from the previous games, sometimes - very different, but always very helpful seeing the old designs. Then, when I finally get to painting, all the objects within a room have to stay on separate layers for them to be properly animated afterwards. This is something I'm not used to because usually I never create images for animations, definitely the most difficult part to keep all things organized in a proper manner.
AM: The process in creating the environments is well on its way when I get my hands on it. Chris Cold has done an amazing job creating the rooms with all the elements. I take my hat off to him for providing me with a number of layers for each room. This task is difficult to do when creating these rooms. I take the layers that he makes and import them all into After Effects. I intertwine particles between the layers to bring the rooms to life. The torches are on separate layers in the rooms and I add a particle flame to them. Chris has provided the torch highlights as a layer as well that I can edit. I will take this layer and affect its opacity and add effects to it to get it to flicker. With the use of masks and specific particle techniques you can get the light to shift, water to flow, fog to rise and fire to burn. One of the most challenging parts of creating these environments is to take the concept art animations and get them to be represented in the game. When making each room we have looked into the best ways to make the animations. We will be using a particle generator and shaders to get most of the effects. Some animations will require sprite animations. The balance between the different ways we will provide the animations will be a challenge but an exciting one that will turn out some amazing results.
What is your favorite thing about Shadowgate?
AM: I would have to say my favorite thing about Shadowgate has been the collaboration I have experienced with Chris and Rich Douglas (the composer). It feels like we are running an Olympic relay. Chris runs the first leg of the race and creates a room. He hands the baton off to me and I add all the animation and effects. I pass the baton to Rich and he adds the sound effects. If you have yet to check out our Update #1, please check it out. That video best represents our collaboration! I’m excited to be a part of this project and get a chance to work with such talented people.
CC: Oh that's hard. If I had to pick something from the Shadowgate world it would be the castle itself (I know very unoriginal). But it's like a gigantic death trap, each room can eventually lead to your demise and the reaper will take your bones and drag them to hell. Other than that, when I look at this whole project, there are too many things to pick only one... The soundtrack probably has the most impact on me. I just love it. Everything new from Rich lands instantly on my playlist. And, of course, the huge Staff of Ages. I didn't actually have the privilege to hold it yet, but, you know, next Halloween you better prepare yourself cause I'm gonna get it (steal it if necessary) and you will notice a huge decrease in your candy supply. Aside from that, it's a great experience seeing the game come together, I learned a lot already.
What do you want to do in the future?
CC: Hmm, well, my dreams aren't overly ambitious, really. I just want a Death Star. Seriously though, I think I am a storyteller-type-of-person and I just like to tell stories. Art is only a tool which I use to share ideas. I think if some time ago I decided to focus on writing instead I would be the same person now just with a different set of skills. Ultimately, I'm very happy that so many people enjoy what I do, so whatever happens next I don't think it will fail.
AM: Hmm, well I want to design the interior and furniture for Chris’s Death Star. I have simple plans for the future. • Make great games • Become a Master Woodcarver • Build my first guitar • Build a Kayak • Enjoy making Art • Have Fun. Oh and last but not least, my favorite color is 0b2a46 :)
Here is the updated opening from the promo complete with Rich's awesome score. We left the old-school bit in there because we can't get enough of that NES music!