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Covers and layout design by Dragoş Păvăloi


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ABSTRACT From concept art to world-building, this document is meant to give an overview of the process of image-making in the field of entertainment. By looking at the fundamental theories and workflows such as brainstorming and art hacking and backing them up with several highquality examples and breakdowns of digital artworks, this dissertation attempts to demystify the process between the image development and the creative mindsets behind them by interpreting the designs through visual communication and perception.

INTRODUCTION Concept art became a crucial stage in the pre-production process of any creative domain searching for fresh ideas; representing the visual development based on iterating alternatives. It is agreed that concept art can be distinguished in two discrete categories, one helping the technical development by being more physically accurate, followed by one with a more artistic approach, which focuses on establishing moods and emotions. In the games and film industry, this can be translated by fusing shapes, colours and arrangements to guide and ultimately control the viewer's perception on the screen. The influence of concept art goes beyond the aim of guiding the production team. Due to its experimental nature, not all the creations ultimately find their way into the final piece. Nevertheless, concepts that best reflect the vision of the art can be further turned into key visuals on which, for example, the marketing campaign is built.


Concept Art

CONCEPT ART as inspiration in pre-productiton

From thumbnail sketches to intricate 3D drawings, artists and other design professionals produce all sorts of visuals to stimulate ideas, moods and scenarios. While these drawings can be quite beautiful in their own right, their purpose is twofold. Concept art serves as a point of reference for the rest of the team and is crucial for kickstarting the creative brief. (Manss et al., 2002)

“To create a memorable design you need to start With a thought that’s worth remembering.” (Thomas Manss, 2002) To flesh out ideas, artists build their own workflow and visual language to iterate compositions or shapes by trying different media and approaches (John Sweeney, 2014). Learning to select and compose is largely a matter of self-discipline, where by training, the artist balances the visual information in order to unify and create a rhythm; to form visual relationships and thus establish visual hierarchy across a design. In 1941, Edgar Payne explains his process in Composition of Outdoor Painting suggesting the importance of value dominance and use of shadow for composition and interesting designs (Edgar A. Payne, 1941). [See Fig. 1]


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[Fig. 1, Edgar Payne, Plein Air, 1941]


Concept Art

[Fig. 2, Nicolas Bouvier, Structura 3, Cityscape, 2015]

In the introduction of Structura 2: The Art of Sparth, concept artist and art director Nicolas Bouvier writes about his artistic development and how he conveys emotions and ideas into art using the power of digital software such as Adobe Photoshop: “The options are infinite. A year ago, I started perfecting a custom-shapes technique that I implemented to my workflow. This is a simple technique among many, but painting with complex brushes, or even with clone stamping or smudge tool, can as well bring a tremendous share of enthusiasm and creativity.� (Structura 2, pg. 7, 2012) [See Fig. 2]


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[Fig. 3, Nicolas Bouvier, Structura 3, Shipsketch, 2015]

Often in concept art a piece of work passes from initial idea to completion through various software, in the first part is all about laying the gesture [See Fig. 4] which capture the shape language, motifs and direction (Dening, 2015). A great example is the Mischief drawing application that is resolution independent, transforming the canvas into an ideas map (Mischief, 2015).


Concept Art

[Fig. 4, Adam Wesierski - Alchemy Head Designs, 2010]


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Another great tool for visual brainstorming is Alchemy, a software by Karl D.D. Willis, that works like a digital drawing synthesizer allowing the user to spontaneously explore computer generated shapes without the effort of drawing every single line of a form [See Fig 5.] (Alchemy, 2008) For example the program explores unusual drawing modules that cause idiosyncratic effects: the user can draw and alter the image with sound, where the device microphone inputs change the line width, another module duplicates the drawing speed of the pointer and enables symmetry making the user to spot new forms, without the undo option. [See Fig 4.] (Alchemy, 2010) This interaction can be described with a single Japanese word Kansei, that is aligned with the German concept of Ă„sthetik defining the ability of reacting and evaluating external features intuitively (Toho, 2006) (LĂŠvy, & Yamanaka, 2006).

[Fig. 5, Adam Wesierski - Alchemy spaceships, 2010]


Concept Art

[Fig. 6, Alex Mandradjiev, No End Tomorrow, 2015]

If it is accepted that concept art stands for intuitive compositing based on a mix of problem solving, then it can be subdivided into two categories: implicit and explicit. (Kingslien, 2017)

Implicit concept Art is when the artist is providing the team with an appreciation of atmosphere, theme and motifs that evoke a feeling or sense, focusing more on visual storytelling. Illustrators like Alex Mandradjiev or Justin Sweet [See Fig. 6,7] are able to capture the cinematic mood in a frame by having an explorative process whereas explicit concept Art precisely guide the visual elements to be developed. Usually more technical with complex geometric drawings from different angles showing distinct features based on real life objects or materials, used for props and precise models [See Fig. 7] (Hill, 2016).


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[Fig. 7, Justin Sweet, Concept art for Narnia, 2004]

[Fig. 7, Mike Hill - Concept art for Killzone, 2014]


Concept Art

[Fig. 8, Mimics Aliens from Edge of Tomorrow, 2014]

For example Scott Robertson designs in a way that can be literally converted into an accurate 3D model [See Fig. 10], while Alex Mandradjiev uses a much more loose style that only suggests a place or theme. If we compare the designs from the future film "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014) [See Fig. 8] to the original concept art [See Fig. 9] we can see that the main elements remaining are the motifs - a frightening alien creature with multiple limbs.


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[Fig. 9, Alex Mandradjiev - Concept art for Edge of Tomorrow, 2014]

[Fig. 10, Scott Robertson, How to Draw Book, 2012]


Concept Art

As previously mentioned, often speed and utility are more important than creating wellrealized pieces of art. In mathematics, the beauty principle proves that a simple, elegant formula is more likely to align with the truth (Michael Atiyah, 2008). In the context of concept art, this could mean that a well-realized and ‘beautiful’ design is more informative and inspirational for the team or external audience. For example, in "Disney’s Tron: Legacy" (2010) [See Fig. 11] a follow-up to the 1982 film "Tron", the art team needed to match a cohesive aesthetic, gathering references from clean, stark, geometrical lines of modern architecture pioneers and designers, searching from scientific, geometrical beauty and simple glossy surfaces to calligraphy and Japanese art; all of this with the fact in mind that the franchise will also sell in toy stores. (Karlin, 2010) Oftentimes concept art is also featured in art books or other promotional materials to showcase different design decisions together, letting the audience to dissect the style, discover the process and the story behind the franchise to reach more people. For instance, "The Art of Fallout" 4 has over 360 pages loaded with designs and concept art from the game's environments, characters, weapons, and more, along with commentary from the developers themselves (ShoddyCast, 2017).


Blurred Lines [Fig. 11, David Simon, Tron: Legacy, 2010]


Art Hacking

Art Hacking

Time and Industry Expectations In a studio environment, concept artists are “hacking” their skills and creativity to quickly iterate visual alternatives involving a mix of problem solving by breaking the image making in methodical subcomponents tasks. Because craft and art are interlinked but different, the term "art hacking" gained popularity in the last years among with the other new terms such as “paint-overs”, “photo-bashing” or “3D kitbashing” promoting different approaches in visual development getting the final look by any possible means (Wootha, 2017).

The term photo-bashing is mainly used in digital painting to bring texture or other elements from photos meeting the client requirements, visualizing the ideas faster, (Eaves, 2017) (Wootha, 2017) whereas in Digital Matte Painting using photo elements for composing a scene is crucial and it’s part of the process for achieving the a realistic and believable scenarios. (Myers, 2014)

A design goes through several stages from concept to production, with different people evaluating it to fit all the requirements, limited Predominantly due to time constraints CG by different aspects such as the game engine artists are using “shortcuts” to enhance or time and VFX budget restrictions. speed by stitching multiple references images In an Artstation interview, film concept artist together or using 3D software to generate Karl Simon is writing about pre-production lighting and perspective in a digital painting, collaborative effort and work-flow starting with that traditionally takes more time and practice thumbnails variations for the composition, 3D to master. (Anhut, 2014) block layouts for perspective and light and For instance painting over a 3D render/model then line drawing for clean presentations, all after exploring with the 3D camera different this stages after taking gathering feedback framing, lens or placements of the subjects is from other Art Department people such as: Set far more productive than drawing everything Designers, 3D Modelers, Art Directors or VFX from scratch. [See Fig. 12] Supervisors (Mon, 2017) [See Fig. 13]


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[Fig. 12, Stephane Wootha, Thumbnails, 2017]

[Fig. 13, Karl Simon, Ex-Machina Concept Art, 2015]


Art Hacking

[Fig. 14, Art of Sparth - Structura 3, The Bay, 2015]


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[Fig. 15, Raphael Lacoste, Landing Scene, 2016]


- concept art myths

[Fig. 16, Mike Hill, Concept art for Rise, 2016]


Key art

Key art and its role in marketing

Key Visuals are produced for merchandising and directing purposes during the design of a film, a work of literature, a television program or a video game (Rikard Rodin, 2015). The purpose is to incite awareness and generate hype for the franchise that can drive to more sales and attention, at the same time informing the audience or guiding the production team (Justin Sevakis, 2017). The term relates to "key frames" in animation, usually containing acting poses showing characters in the setting, with the framing of the shot, lighting and props, everything as it will actually appear on the screen in the final film (Maurice Mitchell, 2013). Ancient Greeks were using the word "Kairos" to describe the decisive, opportune or critical moment when an action is happening (Emma Cocker, 2015). In archery they were using this conception for the sufficient amount of force that it may be needed for the arrow to penetrate the target. Reflecting on the framing of a scene can also rigorously impact the persuasive power of a message (Eric Charles White, 1987). Key Art is what The Hollywood Reporter defines as "the singular, iconographic image that is the foundation upon which a movie's marketing campaign is built." (Clio Key Art Awards, 2016). This image or design reveals just enough information about the plot, theme, and characters, to provoke interest from a potential audience [See Fig. 17, 18].


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Key art

“A good picture is like the first line of a story, the viewer would like to know how the tale continues.� (Thomas Herbrich, 2002)

[Fig. 16, The Order: 1886 - Sir Galahad, Key Art, 2016]


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In a visually dominated world, modern visual rhetorics represents the effects of analysing the means of visual communication based on Aristotle’s ideas on politics and language persuasion. By staging the process of communication through the use of visuals, layout or even text elements, including font choices people are influenced by what classical rhetoric logics structure as invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery (Newbold, 2015), (Arnheim, 2004). Invention is all about exploring ideas, the process starts with a communication problem. In visual literacy this can resume in generating designs that are appropriately succinct to a particular situation.

Arrangement relies on visual hierarchy, organizing the information and focusing on layout or composition for maximum impact.

Style reveals the designer’s attitude towards the subject matter usually affecting the audience’s emotions. There are differences in expressing the style, depending on the medium or industry, for example commercial business, are always looking to invent new ways to express style through marketing following the trends.

Memory is the ability to recite information, becoming familiar with the message and content by means of practice. In visuals can also refer to the ability of understanding and recall at the first glance an idea or design for example, the famous, Eiffel Tower which is basically a triangle shape with a base arch, or the The well-known Star Wars Tie Fighter - a hexagon and a sphere (Tokarev, 2017).

Delivery is about timing and location, related to style, the outcome is responsible for earning the trust of the audience receiving the message and how clearly is the message. In communication is the power of speech using gestures, pronunciation, and tone of voice. (Brett & Kate McKay, 2011) (Newbold, 2015) (Arnheim, 2004) (Dillon, 1999)


Key art

[Fig. 19, The Order: 1886, Main Key Art, 2016 ]

The presentation of a product must be simple in nature, as too much information overwhelms and confuses the viewer in the process of scanning. By keeping the visual language cohesive, with a limited number of shapes, the audience can focus on the meaningful information "first to attract, create interest and then deliver a message" (Rodin, 2015).

Visual hierarchy creates a centre of interest that attracts the viewer’s attention by revealing a sense of order and balance, establishing a pattern of movement to guide the eyes through a composition (Wroblewski, 2008). Movie posters, magazine spreads, and Newspapers use the perfect example of the design hierarchy. Headlines are located at the top, while the body text and subheadings fall underneath.

Creating an emotional impact will invite the audience to project their own thoughts and The concept of visual hierarchy is based on the ideas over the graphics which will make the Gestalt laws of grouping: Similarity, Continuity, artwork be memorable (Rodin, 2015). Closure, Figure/Ground, and Proximity. This can be achieved through visual storytelling based on both design and art principles, key art, like any other effective image process it’s using visual hierarchy through Gestalt laws of grouping, composition methods to balance and typography to aid information [See Fig. 19]


The Gestalt principles is an early 20th-century German theory, demonstrating how the human brain has innate abilities to handle and connect visual input turning “individual elements, shapes or forms into a coherent, organized whole.” (Jackson, 2008, pg. 63–69) [See Fig. 20]

Blurred Lines [Fig. 20, Gestalt Theory Examples by Dragoş Păvăloi, 2017]

Similarity takes place when elements look alike to one another. People often perceive them as a group or pattern. It is named anomaly when an element can be emphasised if it is dissimilar to the others.

Continuation occurs when the eye is compelled to move through a visual element to another one, leading the sight of the viewer.

Closure effect happens when an element or space appears incomplete and the viewer fills the missing information in the mind, de-puzzling the content.

Figure/Ground relationship shows the contrasts between a form and its surrounding area that can create visual hierarchy and context.

Proximity produces groups or isolates elements through space and position. There are four specific types of proximity relationships: close edged, touched, overlapped and combined. This effect can also generate negative space that can draw attention through separation. (Herb ,2012)


Key art

Visual elements that carry a certain meaning are called signs. In semiotics a sign is an abstract unit of social meaning. In a very precise sense semiotics studies of meaning-making denote the branch of medical science relating to the interpretation of signs (Bouissac, 2007). To understand the meaning behind a sign, the viewer has to be familiar with the so-called code, which basically means the logic behind it or the translation. In communication, a message can be "encoded" from the sender and then "decoded" by the receiver (Chandler, 2017).

Semiotics can translate a fragments or the whole picture from an image into words. Often the placement, surroundings or context of the sign shows an indication of it’s visual meaning: how does it work, what is the message and how does it relate to our everyday cultural reality. In visual arts most pictures have a double meaning; visual and symbolic, conventional and arbitrary, this meanings behind a sign generally becomes more important or intricate when it is used in conjunction with other signs, forming a contradiction or even opening a dialogue. For example an image with an old woman and a broom it is just a image with an old woman but it can be perceived as an image with an witch. This double meanings are mostly found in advertising, where for establishing the campaign message and direction, a linguistic message comes attached to picture, clearing up the superfluous interpretations (Ferreira, 2007).

"We think Only in signs." (Charles Sanders Peirce, 1894)


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[Fig. 21, La trahison des images by René Magritte, 1928–29]

“The Treachery of Images” also known as “This Is Not a Pipe” painted by René Magritte in 1929, unfolds a meta-message, engaging with the viewer at a cognitive level pointing that both the text and the depiction are neither true nor false. Realistic paintings relates on resemblance and resemblance suggest hierarchy [See Fig. 21] (Puschak, 2017). The surrealist painter pursuits numerous experiments comparing words and images as means of representation, testing how they differ in modes of signifying by "deautomatization" the conventional meaning making the audience more mindful and aware of the processes by which we see and read the world (Ferreira, 2007).


Key art

The logician Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) also known as "the father of pragmatism" distinguishes three main categories of signs: symbol, icon and index. Iconic signs strongly resemble the thing they refer to, simply by imitating, based on direct association. For example, a portrait, a cartoon, sound effects, or a statue.

whereas symbols and icons are usually highly conventional. (Innis, 1985), (Lanir, 2012). For a better understanding how the human brain is dissecting information when dealing with a layout that contains both typography and imagery, Jakob Nielson of the Nielson Norman Group conducted a readability study based on 232 users scanning thousands of websites, using eye-tracking technology that depicts through eye tracking software various heat-maps showing how the eyes are reading the information on a layout.

Indexical signs are showing a clear relationship with the thing they refer to without having the same visual appearance. Meaning is given indirectly based on association. An example of this is smoke, from which The Nielson Norman Group results came with Z, F, and E-patterns we derive that there is a fire. that basically describe the eyes The meaning given to symbolic signs movement prioritizing or avoiding is purely based on established rules, information (Pernice, 2017). habits or an agreed-upon meaning. Therefore, meaning can only be given in an abstract way based on learned knowledge. For example, letters of the alphabet, the number system, punctuation marks, traffic signs, national flags and so forth. However this three types of categorization have various levels of conventionality, predictability and conformity.

Hence in "Understanding Media", published in 1964, Marshall McLuhan introduced the enigmatic paradoxical phrase "The medium is the message" to denote the effect each medium has on the human sensorium creating a symbiotic relationship by which the message is perceived. In other words, the message comes embedded with the medium, creating secondary According to Peirce's writings indexical or tertiary effects in a cascade of signs can also “direct the attention interactions that the audience may to their objects by blind compulsion” not be aware of (Federman, 2004).


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[Fig. 22, Terminus in Halo 4 by Jihoon Kim, 2014]

For composition and harmony it is often stated by professionals in visual field that in order to have a design which is understood and remembered without effort it is imperative to plan out the details placement in the early stages with a strong appreciation for “eye resting areas�. This areas creates negative space around the focal point/s that attracts the eye; and by distributing details from large, medium, and small shapes it will visible separate primary and secondary areas in the artwork guiding the audience where to look. (Gleb, 2017) (Blevins, 2006) [See Fig. 22, 25] Another fundamental method to aid readability is what the senior 3D artist Jihoon Kim, is describing in his design process by 70:30 ratio, suggesting to separate the visual intensity in larger areas versus smaller areas. Applying this strategy of detail distribution (simple versus complex) to value contrast (e.g. 70% medium value against 30% of a stronger darker value range) in image making, Jihoon Kim is able to create a combination of uniqueness and repetition through forms that emphasize the focal point/s its meanings. (Kim, 2017)


Key art

[Fig. 23, Throne in Halo 5 by Jihoon Kim, 2015]

Known as the Golden Ratio, Rule of Thirds, the Fibonacci Sequence or in some other derivations as Pareto Rule, 80:20 or 70:30, these systems were concluded from an interpretation of how artists intuitively place details within a composition in a more pleasing way, demonstrated in various disciplines as attractive to the human brain. However, creators use these mindsets to guide their process but in reality, the results are achieved without perfect mathematical precision (Meisner, 2014). Like rhythm in music the patterns make expectation to the focal point and visual hierarchy. For example long shaped structures reinforce the direction of the design to indicating the final destination for the eye that can be a circle or triangle shaped element [See Fig. 22, 23] (Kim, 2015). “Our visual system enjoys grouping objects together into larger more manageable objects. So clumping can make an image more brain-friendly, hence, makes it more aesthetically pleasing." [See Fig. 24,25] (Sinix, 2017)


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[Fig. 24, Daniel Bystedt, Alien Bust, 2017]

[Fig. 25, Gleb Alexandrov, Mech, 2017]

Takeaway: - Dividing large, medium, and small shapes improve readability. - Composition harmony means that areas of grouped details are balanced by areas of negative space, utilizing one to contrast. - Composition rules enhance aesthetics but there is no "definite method"


Colours and readability

Colours and readability

[Fig. 26, The Munsell color system, Jacob Rus, 2007]


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To enhance further readability in the process of image-making, most of the designers reckon on understanding and application of contrast to create impactful visuals. Contrast is present when two colours have opposite values or meanings and are arranged together in a layout. Values are the range of brightness and darkness within an image, being located at in the middle of the three dimensions of colour (hue, value, saturation) (Harkness, 2006) Berlin, Kay, Hardin, Rosch, Munsell, Favre, Albers and Tufte are a few among many authors that research the colour correspondences with communication efficiency. (Machin, 2014, pp. 243-244) Just as important as lighting, colour affects both the mood and the feel of a piece, and therefore the viewers interprets the final image alluring attention to the relationship between visual cues. The meaning and symbolism people associate with different colours are influenced by the cultural and societal groups that they identify with and differ from person to person. Because colour has a unique connection to our moods and emotions that affect and induce reactions based on both instincts and associations; the deliberate use of colour psychology can improve visual literacy as a unified whole supporting the message and consequently semiotics mentioned before. (GobÊ, 2010) (Machin, 2014) In the entertainment industry, a colour designer's mission is to recognize what the viewer should see first, where the eye should move next and how much time is the viewer's attention is held within each area. This is done through professional colour grading software digitally or using different analogue film formats. The typical colour selection tool interface is based on the Munsell Notation System that dates back to 1905, and it is internationally accepted as the leading colour system. (Machin, 2014, p. 252) Alber Munsell established a configuration of a three-dimensional model designated as an asymmetrical sphere based on the human visual system’s perception of colour. The colour sphere is segmented into a vertical pole with variations of hue and chroma from left to right. The top pole of the colour sphere is true white and the bottom is black, in between the axis has a graduated scale of neutral greys, which places 50% in the exact centre of the sphere. Outward horizontally (at a right angle) from the neutral grey axis, the colour would become more intense in colour strength, marked in steps of chroma. The hues become lighter as they go upward in value; darker as they go inward toward the neutral axis [See Fig. 26]. (Munsell, 1905)


Colours and readability

“Colours trigger very specific responses in the central nervous system and the cerebral cortex. Once they affect the cerebral cortex, colours can activate thoughts, memories, and particular modes of perceptionâ€? (GobĂŠ, 2010, p. 77) The first circular diagram of colours was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666, who joined the joined the red and violet ends of the visual spectrum into a circle. Since then, scientists and artists have studied and iterate numerous systems described in three ways: by name, by purity, and by value or lightness, that basically consists in a logically arranged sequence of three primary colours (red, yellow, blue), three secondary colours (colours created when primary colours are mixed: green, orange, purple) and six tertiary colours (colours made from primary and secondary colours, such as blue-green or red-violet). Depending on the implementation and medium (digital screen, print, pigments), the colours behave and look differently. Most of the artists are blending less saturated cool tints to the shadows and increase the temperature of colours in the light in this way avoiding the "black hole" effect when using pure black (Bleicher, 2005), (Feisner, E.A. & Reed, pp. 35-37, 2013). From the warm side to the cool side the colours correspond also to the value range. High key colour represents the range from mid-tone hues to white, while a low key set of colour spans the gamut from mid-tone to black. In general, the high key range produces upbeat options suitable for cinematic, nature, advertising-related content, while low key colours provide more dramatic expressions (Gage, 2000). The temperature of a colour is its relative warmth or coolness. Cool colours contain blue or green: blues, greens, violets, and the steps between them. Warm colours are reds, oranges, yellow, and the between them, generally associated with enthusiasm, brightness and action, whereas cool/cold colours are frequently identified with calm, stillness, and serenity [See Fig. 27].


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[Fig. 27, Graphic Springs, Colour Infographics, 2015]


Colours and readability

[Fig. 28, Eytan Zana, Glacier, 2015]

Monochromatic colour schemes are based on distinct tones of the of a single hue. Usually, the term is used to describe black and white imagery and it is used by designers to create a decisive appearance regarding the contrast. (Cousins, 2015) Analogous are any three colours that neighbour each other on the colour wheel, regularly one of the three predominates. Complementary colour schemes are based on colours opposite each other on the colour wheel. When placed to next to each other the colours compete, and "vibrate" becoming more intense, changing the perception of depth. The split-complementary colour scheme is a variation of the complementary colour scheme - hues opposite on the colour wheels green-purple, yellows and blues, orange in blue, red and blue


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[Fig. 29, Jason Scheier, Light on the lake, 2015]

Triadic colour schemes use three colours equally spaced around the colour wheel, forming an equilateral triangle. Tetradic/Quadratic colour schemes are formed by picking colours at the corners of a rectangle inscribed in the colour wheel. (Feisner, E.A. & Reed, 2013) (Itten, 1974) (Scheier, 2017)


Colours and readability

The jobs of a concept artists and visual storytellers is to portray the narrative responding to the energy and atmosphere in the best version that serves the plot or brief. Lighting can reveal or hide details from the scene as in classic theatre where, on the stage the characters have spotlights around them following the action, allowing the audience to experience in a dreamlike quality the show and the design. (Block, 2013). For instance, in the "Screening Wish Theories: Dream Psychologies and Early Cinema", the author Lydia Marinelli establish a correlation between dreams and films affirming “The dream factory has become a household expression for the film industry" (Marinelli, 2006, 87-110). In animation, the production designers or visual development artists are portraying the separation between the hero characters or background characters by assigning specific colours, coding a sensation. Animations such as "Kung Fu Panda" do apply the colour contrast mentioned before among the character designs; the protagonist Po which is rendered with black, white and grey values indicated by strong round shapes is fighting against other creature antagonists (Furious Five) that use a plethora of colours. That absence of colour makes PO character an individual that stands out [See Fig. 30]. (Oliver, 2010) (Scheier, 2017) In the historical drama film "Schindler’s List" (1993) directed by Steven Spielberg, the most obvious symbol and metaphor used is the girl in the red coat, simply because her coat is the only coloured object, suggesting the "red flag" in the context of World War II [See Fig. 31]. (Schickel 2012, pp. 161–162)


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“Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions” (Pablo Picasso, 1923)

[Fig. 30, Kung Fu Panda, Key Art, 2011]

[Fig. 31, Schindler’s List, Film Still, 1993]


Key art [Fig. 32, Ghost In The Shell, Animation Sequence I, 1995]

Takeaway: - Colour and light are the artist's most powerful vehicles for driving a story in mood, tone, and themes. The meaning and symbolism people associate with colour different from person to person. - Colour was initially used to show the dreamlike quality in cinema and is used to show changing of time, and the inner workings of characters. - Colour and light will enhance the treatment of symbolism and metaphoric storytelling.


- Colour is hue, saturation and value. Light is Value.


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THE SHELL Heterotopias+World Building


World building

[Fig. 33, Ghost In The Shell, Animation Sequence II, 1995]

There are 3 minutes and 20 seconds long sequence of 34 mise en scène cuts in the middle of the animated sci-fi action thriller "Ghost In The Shell" (1995) directed by Mamoru Oshii, that does not absolutely qualify as scifi action or thriller. This interlude of detailed atmospheric shots describes a future city in Japan that’s modelled after Hong Kong cityscape. By itself, this interlude performs as a whole in the context of the film (Yuen, 2000). This montage is full of what Scott McCloud has named spect-to-aspect transitions. In the book, "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art" he describes the variety of panel to panel transitions that have become popular in different parts of the world. For instance, in American comics, most of the transitions are action-to-action which is appropriate for a goal-oriented culture, interested in telling stories about goal-oriented characters. (McCloud, 1994) (Kaiens, 2012)


On the other hand, Japanese comics, have long-drawn pronounced transitions that are very unusually seen in the west, the aspect-to-aspect transition, in which time is implicitly abandoned for the exploration of space that evokes a sense of mood letting the audience enough time to fill the gaps of the story. (McCloud, 1994) What director Mamoru Oshii accomplishes, is to develop and induce attention to the audience’s perception of space in the film - exploring the chaotic multicultural future city scenes congested with people and other elements at the intersections of technology and old structures. The anime was created using a mix of traditional cel work and computer animation. In this respect, the cluttered Hong Kong and the saga anomaly of the Kowloon Walled City (an ungoverned Chineses enclave) (Hung, 2013) matched the ideal city prototype for "Ghost in The Shell" motifs. It is a city layered with histories and cultural memory and the relationship between

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[Fig. 34, Maciej Kuciara, Ghost In The Shell, Environments and People, 2017]

identities and this kind of environments are constructed to work together with the main theme: the story of a female cyborg police officer, who with her team, hunts down a notorious hacker in a metropolis where dilemmas are played out in the space. These are not utopias, but they don’t have to be imagined as dystopias either. (Silva, 2016) (Foucault, 1984) (Puschak, 2015) The philosopher Michel Foucault defined spaces like these, heterotopias, places that exist in a dynamic state of layered and changing meanings being based on the concept of utopias. Whereas utopia means a place that actually doesn't truly exists, a heterotopia is a place that represents society, but in a distorted way, involving a multitude of "secondary" worlds. (Stace, 2017) (Foucault, 1984)

just before "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence", where abandoned factories and industrial ruins engage with virtual reality technology creating a sense of novelty over the character and plot development (Brown, pp. 132-135, 2016). Relationships like this signify the blending of man and machine - the three-minute aspectto-aspect interlude in the middle of the "Ghost in The Shell" film suggest a strong break from the rhythm of the plot forcing the viewer to consider the parallels between city and body, network and ghost. Further, the rest of the film is framed with characters set against the city they live in. Spaces are made of humanity, but humanity is made by its spaces, too. It’s a feedback loop that functions like a visual metaphor unfolding the dynamics of space and society changing continuously. (Soja, 1996)

There is a similar meditation in another of The DOP Jess Hall declares in one interview: Mamoru Oshii's films, "Avalon", created in 2001, "The Major has a human brain and a mechanical


World building

[Fig. 35, Ghost In The Shell, Animation Sequence II, 1995]

body, so she exists in what I liked to refer to as a third space, outside of each aspect, a theme we carried over from the anime. Since Rupert wanted a purposeful approach to camera movement, I came up with what we called the “GhostCam,” which conveyed this third space. We liked that the Major was ghosting through the world; revealing an inquisitive purposeful nature that also had classical weight." (ICG Magazine, 2017)

the space of the two-dimensional screen opens into, literally, another world. (Foucault, 1984) Comparing the original anime to the last version of Ghost in the Shell adapted to live-action in 2017 by Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks studios and directed by Rupert Sanders, is revealing the use of semiotics over the city and the cyberspace setting translated in a photo-real environment, overpopulated and wealthy that almost close the gap between humanity and complete robotization. In one article, the architect Julia Ardabyevskaya states: "The future film explores the city covered in huge holographic images that reminds me of contemporary Hong Kong – a place unimaginable without billboards: they are almost like its second skin". The key visuals from Ghost in the Shell signified to expose the advertising and holograms like a higher force ruling over the inhabitants showing the uniqueness of each structure in neon-lit visuals.

According to Foucault, “The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible”. Moreover, he explains that when one goes to the theatre, the stage becomes “a whole series of places that are foreign to one another”. Likewise, the cinema gets its own space that contains the "third space": “the cinema is a very odd rectangular room, at the end of which, on a twodimensional screen, one sees the projection of a three-dimensional space film function as (Strelka Magazine, 2017) heterotopias in a similar way. Through visuals,


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[Fig. 36, Maciej Kuciara, Ghost in The Shell, ChaBus, 2017]

"No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be‌ This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking." (Issac Asimov, 1978)



[Fig. 36, Maciej Kuciara, Ghost in the Shell, Gynoid, 2017]

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[Fig. 38, Maciej Kuciara, Ghost In The Shell, Environments, 2017]

The use of colours matches the typical sophisticated and nuanced colour palette of science-fiction/cyberpunk genre attracting the viewers with saturated neon lights usually contrasting on low key backgrounds keeping the audience in awe with frequently eagle’s eye shots or gigantic holographs on architecture (Christakis, 2017). The visual effects supervisor Guillaume Rocheron writes: "Our opening GhostCam shot runs about 90 seconds, establishing the city with such detail it also becomes a character. As in Blade Runner, advertising is everywhere. But instead of being 2D, these spots all have volume. We created about 65 of these “solograms,” each running up to 25 seconds, but integrating them into shots flying through the city required we be able to move around them."

and culturally levels affirming that based on the original anime, colour theorists like Josef Albers and Japanese artists like Hiroshige was able to design a palette of 28 LED colours looking for a "simple yet refined color schemes to create a harmonious effect" (ICG Magazine, 2017)

“Colours are the mother-tongue of the subconscious” (Carl Gustav Jung, 1964)

(ICG Magazine, 2017) The cinematographer Jess Hall, who worked as a DOP in the pre-production stage of the film said in an interview about his colour examinations and meanings on both emotional


Conclusion We already established that due to time constraints and the fast-paced environment of the entertainment industry, speed and utility are crucial elements a concept artist cannot overlook. Having a saying in the pre-production phase of a project, we looked at how concept art can further incite awareness and generate hype by being used as key art. Furthermore, by looking at the fundamental theories and workflows we got a deeper understanding of the thinking that goes behind the creation of an image. The mathematical-like thinking in the way our brain analyze and interpret images can be used by the concept artist to purposely create meaning. Thus, elements such as similarity, continuation, closure and proximity are only just some of the principles that can reverse engineer the audience's brain to create emotional impact. Photo-bashing, paint-overs, 3D kit bashing are just some of the several routes an artist can choose when trying to create an art piece. Real life examples show us that a concept artist's duty often transcends the job role. It's subjective nature and close relationship with the way we associate meaning and create symbols extend the potential sources of inspiration to areas such as industrial design, architecture, philosophy, semiotics and so much more. There are blurred lines in each examination and experiment in visual development is a short step towards finding solutions, and each might lead, in some modest way, to understanding, training and contributing to effective visual communication.

“To create a memorable design you need to start With a thought that’s worth remembering.� (Thomas Manss, 2002)


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Key art



BLURRED LINES | Concept & Key Art Research