Ice Environments…

After another meeting with the guys at Black North it was decided that we would all be working on the ice level together as they really liked Emma’s concept below which is really interesting to look at!


It was nice to have a change and to get away from the sci fi style of work, although there’s only so long that a person can stare at shades of blue and white for! The next week was spent creating concept art for the level which we would then piece together to create one environment (the level) which we would then go on to model.

While researching I came across ‘Chasing Ice’ a documentary that shows the changes of our planet over a period of three years.. some of the photographs these guys managed to capture are just stunning, along with the film’s cinematography, it can even be said to be haunting how the videos show the changing of the environment in just seconds!

I also looked into concept art from a few films.. X-men:days of future past, Oblivion and even Frozen and Harry Potter, to gain an idea and understanding of the landscape, how other people have approached the idea…


The image above would make an interesting environment, seeing the open and vast landscape before diving down into the crevice to dodge obstacles and race through, although the vastness of the image below is also works, the atmosphere created by the light is interesting, the use of the light would create a focal point/ destination point for the player.

Below are concepts from Frozen and Harry Potter… In particular I find the use of light really interesting with the images below and how it draws the viewers eye.. e.g. with the image of the shrieking shack, the light reveals to the audience where the characters are heading to next, the next part of the story…

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The technique we have been using to create our concept art…

My first concept for the ice level was created from the an image of the view from behind a frozen waterfall and a snow wall texture that was then duplicated down the left side of the image.

ice environment

With this concept I was trying to draw the player into the action happening on screen, by creating the shape of a tunnel I was trying to make it seem as if they are being lead around the back of the waterfall. The tunnel also acted as the focal point of the image, somewhere for the player to aim for.

However the colours of the water may be too harsh when placed against the softness of the snow texture.. the colour is possibly a little too bright.

Again with the concept below I wanted to create a sense of action happening within the scene – Creating this by placing an ‘overhanging icicle’ to make it feel as though the ships are moving through the image at speed – having to tilt to avoid colliding with the landscape and creating  a sense of depth by placing an image of mountains in the background, the overhanging icicle was also to placed to hide some of the image from viewers to draw them in… they should want to know what is behind it, what will meet the ship as enters out into the open sky?

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With this final concept I was trying to create more of an ‘open’ image, the previous concepts all had something enclosing the ship into a small space. I decided that an ice wall was a good place to start, the image was duplicated across, at a slight angle to add a bit of drama and blended together. Also to give the player a destination/ focal point of the level – something for them to travel towards – I added a cave, giving the image an element of mystery, the player is going from a wide open space to an enclosed tunnel, also adding to this are the mountains in the background, meaning the player has to travel through the cave, will they be travelling through the mountains? and how long for? The ship was then added and placed at angle opposing to the background and in the foreground a slightly blurred (to convey the speed the ship is travelling at) ice/rock formation… has the player just left a cave/enclosed space which will create a contrast to the open ice field they are entering?

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The next stage will be to model our environments – not concentrating on detail as this is still just pre-vis – to get an idea of layout and what assets will be needed throughout, there will be at least 7 parts to the level as we each will model a section and then bring them together to form one.

We decided to print off some of the concept work we had created and stick it up on the wall, give each image a number and from there we could connect the images to help us visualise the different sections that were going to be modelled, this also allowed us to make sure that no-one’s would be following a similar path.

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Some other concept art I used as inspiration…

Feng Zhu environment concepts: The vastness evident in the two images below is what stood out to me and what I tried to create within my own concepts.

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Ice Age concept art: This work was an example as how light would bounce around the inside of a cave.

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Semester 2..

This semester we will be given projects from companies around Belfast, myself and six other class mates will be working on environments for a game, a project Black North are currently developing.

Black North are a an award winning VFX, animation and graphics company based in Belfast. Showreel below…

Winning a BAFTA for best animated short in 2012 with ‘Here to Fall’…

link to their website –

We will be creating the environments for levels of a virtual reality game which will be for the oculus rift, meaning there will be a 360 degree view of the environment. The game was inspired by Star Wars and the player will be flying a ship through different environments ( around 10 levels in total) fighting enemy ships and blowing them up.

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The first week will be spent doing concept art with each of us being assigned a different level to work on. I will be working on the surface of a space station. We were also given a video of how to go about completing the concept art, basically pulling parts of images together and painting over them/ adjusting through the levels etc.. (photo bashing.)

Examples sent to us from Black North:

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I started off by looking at some concept artists who work mainly on sci fi pieces to gain some inspiration….

Sebastian Hue: Sci fi concept artist, the images I found most helpful below…

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I like how his paintings have an eerie sense to them and how he seems to use light as a focal point drawing the viewer into the story created in the image…

Dave Seeley is another concept artist I researched because of the hyper realist style he has to his work, again the images below are the ones I found most helpful to what I would need to create…

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Levi Hopkins, an environmental concept artist who I used as reference for colour, he uses strong colours in some of his pieces compared to the other artists I had been looking at..

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I had also looked at concept art from a few movies (mainly space related) , such as, Oblivion, Star trek, Gravity, Interstellar, Elysium and of course Star Wars and the art of Ralph McQuarrie, along with art from games e.g… Alien, Dead Space and Matt Rhodes work from Mass Effect.

Before opening photoshop I sketched out a few ideas in my sketchbook so I had a rough plan of the concept I was trying to create…

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For my first attempt I decided to keep it back and white, so that I would concentrate on perspective and composition without having to worry about the colour… This image was created from a photograph of a canyon with images of city landscapes added on top using mask layers and an image of the earth used for the background. I then added in a little bit of light along the horizon line to try and increase the distance in the image. The ships were provided by Black North and then we added in light from the thrusters/engines.

Etya base - outside (1)

The next concept was based on more of a space station idea rather than trying to show civilisation like in the image above. This concept was created from an image of a ship which was duplicated and perspective adjusted appropriately and then I just painted up the front of the image, another image of the earth was added into the background where I also painted some sort of explosion giving the illusion that the planet has it’s own atmosphere. Images of comets and shooting stars were also added in using layer masks. However the right side of the image was proving rather difficult in regards to the perspective and the slant the image is on. Originally I had an image of a freight car placed in and was trying to paint over it but I’m not the most confident digital painter so I ended up pulling in an imageI came across while researching (it’s not mine) to save a bit of time… Obviously if this was going to be developed/built I would go back and change the image.. replacing it with my own work.

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Etya base - outside (2)

For this third concept I tried to do something a little different to the previous two by introducing a stronger element of colour, like the work of Levi Hopkins, although this is probably one of my weaker concepts – the foreground colours are too ‘soft’ compared to the background image which is much sharper, it should be the other way around. This image was created using an image of a subway station to represent a reflective space station that the ships would be travelling along.

etya base - outside (3)

With the next concept I tried to ‘soften’ my use of colour, using yellow and orange colours this time which appear to be much more gentle than the bright and harsh blues of the previous image. This time I found a 3D model of a corridor which I opened, screenshot and then brought into photoshop, removing some of the walls so It looked like it could be from part of a space ship. Once I had finished I felt that it seemed too ‘clean’, something was missing so i then placed a texture and some brush strokes over the top of the image which seemed to improve the overall look of the concept.

Etya base - outside (4)

Etya base - outside (4) copy

For my final concept I wanted to create more life in the image, give a sense that there is some sort of civilisation that is living in it. This last image was a collaboration of images I came across while researching that I have pulled together to try and create the concept I had in mind… possibly the enemies base? or their own base?

etya base - outside (5)

The whole time I was creating these concepts I had one scene from Star Wars, A New Hope, replaying in my mind so I tried to stay away from anything that related to it…

Ice Environments

We are trying to decide on the design of our landscape so I went in search of some concept art to see some of the styles already out there…

Some concept art from Ice Age:

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The colours used in both of the images is fantastic especially the lighting in the landscape image, however the height of the icebergs is what caught my attention, the size and scale compared to everything else in the composition.



The colours used for the shadows and highlights of the snow are something we could possibly apply to our environment depending on what style we choose, I just thought the above image had a very simple style through the colours used that could be recreated.

Below are a few other images I came across on pinterest. I took these images because of the colours used, they have a range of styles that we can choose from and adapt as our own.




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I especially love the colours and patterns used in the image above, they are just so different to any of the images in the rest of this post but this is something we could possibly try or even use in the background of our set – the backgrounds will be painted in photoshop.

Penguins of Madagascar…

Some concept work for the upcoming penguins of Madagascar film by Goro Fijita…

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paying particular attention to the environment designs and colour schemes used throughout the storyboards… seeing as ours is set in a snowy/ice landscape our main colour scheme will probably consist of variants of blue.


Open Season

some really nice concept art from the film open season

The low vantage point used in the image below makes it much more interesting, and extends the height of the tree making the viewer feel less powerful than the animals.

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With the image above the view is the main point that caught my eye, where the light and the shadows fall, the fog that creeps across the middle of the image just create a rather stunning viewpoint of the landscape.



character development…

“I think you have to know these fellows definitely before you can draw them.When you start to caricature a person, you can’t do it without knowing the person. Take Laurel and Hardy for example: everybody can see Laurel doing certain things, because they know Laurel.    -Walt Disney


some concepts for how the squirrel character could look, using the images below as a reference

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Character development – The Illusion of Life

characters need to appeal to the audience and the easiest way to ensure this is by making sure they appeal to those creating and animating them, ” look for things in your characters that make them so interesting you end up loving them, they should be appealing to you, you are creating them.”

some of the funniest shorts come from the sheer enjoyment felt by animators working with the character, they came to know and understand them extremely well.. this comes across in the ‘How to Goofy pictures’

“- As the concept of the character grows, inevitably it will influence the development of the story, and that in turn influences the character’s relationship to others – the story is now becoming a tale about specific characters, what they think and decide to do determines what will happen and the way it happens..”