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ianfreeze

A conversation about Look Development

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As much as I would like it to be otherwise I am more of an animator than a designer, and I would like the opposite to be true. I've worked at shops and seen some killer boards get done at the machine next to me, but the ability to really polish frames or ideas for frames eludes me. So I turn to you for help.

I'm hoping to start an informative conversation here that may even (hopefully) turn into some kind of tutorial (through shared knowledge of many) about Look Development. I've watched Carey's tut on making story boards many times, and I guess i'd love to drill down into that a little more and get some specifics from you pure designers out there. Not just as you're coming up with the concept or story for the piece, but why you make it look the way it looks and how you make it look the way it looks? Do you carry a thumb drive with textures, sparks, particles, or whatever around with you? How do you decide when and where to use them? How do you apply them to your image? How do you decide of color palette? Curves vs levels? Any tricks you like to use to make a frame come alive (even if just a little)? Sometimes the choices are easy, but other times I notice frames that have a lot of textural elements laid over live action footage and the two aren't really related other than making some frames thats look cool. Or the color palette leans cooler, but it's for a comedy show where I would assume you'd want to lean warm. If it's that simple, just "make it look dope" alright, but I'm hoping that some of you bad asses out there have some kind of underlying methodology or system of thought that helps you in the process. I'm also hoping your willing to share not only that methodology, but how you execute it as well. I guess part theory and part photoshop tutorial.

Let's breathe some life back into this place.

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just make lots of style frames man :D

 

im not great at style frames either, but i think its like any other form of art. Just make lots of it, and copy the work of people you admire, as you copy you will learn what you actually like about it and then combine, transform and repurpose to make your own stuff.

 

Maybe start a daily challenge for yourself to make a style frame per day.

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Part of the point of the thread was to house some information that might be around for a while. Unlike slack where anything of use if gone in 10 minutes because of the 10,000 message limit (or whatever the exact number is) I was hoping to get some thoughts, theory, hunches, and hints in a place that people could come back to. Not unlike this thread...

 

http://mograph.net/board/index.php?showtopic=17803&hl=aicp

 

 

While a straight rip or someone else stuff is valuable for learning, for sure, knowing the under lying process is more valuable, to me at least. That's what I'm hoping for.

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Love the idea of this thread. For what its worth, here is my 2 cents on the topic.

 

Story/Concept: I am lucky to work with a great team so our first order of business is to brainstorm the approach after some mood board and references are gathered. As a CD usually this means designing one set of boards on my own and overseeing another 2-4 concepts which can definitely get difficult. Our process is usually to sketch out the rough open and end as I feel like that is a great way if you know where you are starting and where you need to go. I always think half of the process is meeting the needs of project and then making it as best as you can knowing that at some point it will get altered or reigned in. From there its filling in the gaps that show the necessary pieces and parts to win... ie are there supers or text on screen that you need to show. are there points to hit in a story or are depictions of transitions important. Basically you are building a visual edit for someone else to interpret into motion later so its hugely important.

 

How: This is always the tricky part for me. Usually there is some feeling in my head of where the boards need to be. I always design in AE since I am faster than in PSD and the elements are ready for motion later on. If there are 3D elements or type I start there building the composition basis.. getting the camera lens and focus of the board in the right spot. I try to do this for a series to see how things are flushing out. If the idea is not working dont be afraid to scrap it and start over. While working on the foundation we are always thinking and talking to each other about what else can be added in terms of detail. Always remembering to have the compositional focus as well as foreground and background elements. The adding details of things like particles, smoke, grids, huds, textures, anything that is necessary to push it as far as possible. Once thats in a good spot we regroup and see what needs to be taken away or added. Masking duplicate layers is always great for adding lighting and I am a huge fan of utilizing adjustment layers with Color Correction effects (curves, levels, magic bullet looks, chrome abb, etc) with blending modes and having them only apply to masks on the layer. From there a final step for me always seems to be crushing the levels on a top layer and adding in some contrast. Also adding in some camera blur or DOF helps to make the frames have depth and feel like there is motion to them. Its amazing what a directional blur layer in the middle of the stack can do.

 

Assets: Over time the studio and myself personally have just developed a large pool of assets. Things that really help to add to compositions without having to necessarily create them from scratch based on the comp. I think this just happens with time.

 

Hope this blathering helps

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There was a really helpful post and video by someone here. (maybe be Binky?)

I can't find the original thread but this is the video tutorial.

 

 

It is pretty much the ultimate tutorial on storyboarding/style frames.

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I actually have that book. However, here I'm looking for more anecdotal examples of look development. Here's a couple of frames I did a while back.

ZK9PM1L.jpg

ESPN was looking for an update for their college game day package. They had been using a 3d heavy package for the last few years and wanted to try something completely different. They had the idea to have the screen print/posterized looking treatment on the players (also mandating that school colors be used), and the mandate to use the "college" typeface, because you know, subtlety. So looking through the reference they had sent, and the style guides their agency had done I was thinking "boxing poster" right off the bat.

c552a5724afa7d679de8edd4715d92d5.jpg


Treat the selected photo like it was an image of a boxer and put it head to head with the select from the other team. Arranging them horizontally eliminated any sort of hierarchy as far as the teams went. So, Ohio State couldn't complain if they were listed under LSU or something like that. I wanted to make sure that the players were the school colors over a neutral background, because I was afraid of getting some pretty terrible color combinations if the backgrounds were split up into the school colors. I liked the idea of using the posterization effect to keep whatever player was chosen anonymous. Since not every College has a super star player, having a very high detail image of Johnny football next to an image of Johnny nobody didn't make a lot of sense to me. Lastly, the point of this lockup is to tell people what time the game is, so technically the when and where info is the most important. That's why it all lives dead center. Each player is pushed off the edge of the frame to keep things balanced, but hopefully give us some interesting compositions and hints to the future action and excitement of the game without just having a guy throwing the football. Leaving some things to the imagination as it were.

 

As for execution, it was pretty easy. They provided us with the photos. I cut out the player, the added a black and white effect, then crushed the levels so we just had a pure black and white image. used the selection to select the darker part of the image, and filled that with the school color. the rest of basic layout stuff.

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Ooooh, I'm planning on doing a video more related to these topics after I get done with the gargantuan one I'm working on now.

 

One thing that's apparent in the way you're talking about your design decisions here is that they're focused entirely on the practical delivery of textual information and the viability of the layout as a system. And those are important constraints that need to be adhered to in whatever the final execution is. Because this has to be used for practical purposes. But you're sort of sweeping the intent of the imagery under the rug, along with potentially helpful aesthetic concerns like composition. What I mean is: if you're going to use imagery, you should make it mean something, and it should probably be appealing to look at in some way. And to do that, starting from the vague direction you were given, you can start with the question "why?" Why screenprinting? What does screenprinting imply? When you see something screenprinted, and it's obvious that it's screenprinted, what kinds of things does that convey to you? Well, screenprinting is sort of ubiquitous, so it might be hard to pin down, but it doesn't really say "clean" or "high tech". It doesn't say "technology". It doesn't usually say "sophisticated" or "high end". Screenprinting is what you see when you go to Ross and look at branded t-shirts for teenagers. It's also on the crap that people buy on boardwalks because it says "Vote for Pedro" or "I'm WiTh StUpid". And it's semi-ironically used and worn by hipsters because it's slightly low-culture, low sophistication.

 

It's low technology. It's DIY. Because of its ubiquity, it can be used for all kinds of references, because it's been used on everything from psychedelic posters to worn out Alf t-shirts from 20 years ago. But regardless, understanding it in terms of its cultural signifiers is really important if you want to wield it as imagery to some effect. Because it's going to inherently mean things to people, even if those things are kinda vague to them. Screenprinting is NOT going to mean futuristic, for example. It's NOT going to appeal to people in the same way that ESPN's normal shitshow of flying 3d chrome cogs does, and that's why they gave you that direction. And it's unknown whether their direction was really precise and they knew exactly what reference(s) they wanted to get out of screenprinting, or whether someone just threw that out there as the first thing to come to mind as antithetical to the whirring underlit 3d metal bullshit. But either way, you have that direction and you have that wide set of cultural references to play in and you have to use them to convey something potent to the audience. Because otherwise, your imagery is impotent and irrelevant. Or even worse, it confuses and misconstrues and actually hurts more than it helps.

 

Secondly, when you start wrapping your head around the specific reasons as to why screenprinting specifically, and that leads you to focus on some of the specific and unique qualities that screenprinting has, for the sake of conveying specific things to the audience, then you have to craft your images very deliberately in order draw those qualities out and highlight them if necessary. For instance, the image you've shown, with the posterized players cropped off the edges... it bears very little resemblance to screenprinting. It makes very little visual reference to it. And if you're going to reference screenprinting, you need to craft the imagery such that it conveys screenprinting. Crushing levels, posterizing, and filling with an rgb color is, as you can guess, not really giving the audience a specific enough visual reference for them to think either screenprinting, or any of the cultural references that come along with it. So how do you push the imagery so that it starts to convey those things? What are some of the visual signifiers of screenprints, or of that kind of low tech printing process? Is the texture of the ink important? Is the substrate, like the paper or cloth it's printed on? How about the imperfections of a process that literally involves dropping a screen that's stopped up with emulsion onto a semi-irregular surface and squeegeeing glops of paint through the mesh and hoping it sticks instead of bleeds when you pull the screen up? And the overlap of printing that occurs when you try to add a second color by doing that whole process again with a new screen lined up by eye? Which of these, if not all, are important in getting the audience to subconsciously register that thing they've seen before and automatically bringing up associations they have to it? And can you get more specific to narrow down the associations your audience will have with it?

 

What you have now does this to the weakest possible degree. And that can be ok, because references can more or less vague, and imagery more or less abstract. But by failing to realize that you're dealing with imagery that signifies things, you've gone the default route of basically computer-generated imagery, and in a subtle sense it's conveying sterile computer-generated stuff to the viewer. That's a problem, and it's close to the case where it's misconstruing and hurting more than helping.

 

"Why" can be a really hard question, but you have to ask it constantly. And I mean constantly. There's room for the arbitrary in design-oriented imagemaking, but not much. The more specificity and intention you can go into an image with, the better off you are.

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Ahhh, this thread isn't dead after all. Excellent.

 

And it's unknown whether their direction was really precise and they knew exactly what reference(s) they wanted to get out of screenprinting, or whether someone just threw that out there as the first thing to come to mind as antithetical to the whirring underlit 3d metal bullshit.

 

I used the term screen printing loosely. Perhaps too loosely. The technique for getting the posterized look also came down from the agency. It was very strange. They sent us a doc that basically said "Do these steps in Photoshop to make the pictures look this way, use this typeface, and use these colors". We tried to work in as many fine details as we could to bring it to life, but it didn't seem like the agency had put a lot of work into it, and the CD just wanted a bunch of versions as opposed to a couple really refined pieces.

 

 

It's low technology. It's DIY.

 

I think this is as far as W+K got when they came up with the look. ESPN said they wanted something different than the shiny 3d package, so they just did the opposite.

 

 

I'm not trying to come off like I'm defending a great piece of art here, I used this example just because in doing the layout (which is essentially all I did) there was a clear connection in my mind between the the look they showed and old boxing posters, and that all gelled thematically. It would be easy to follow the train of thought as it were.

 

You are right in that we could have dug further into the DIY dirt, perhaps the background had a paper texture, and different parts could be ripped away revealing relevant info, or we could have pushed their Photoshop how to further and added in more texture to really make it look printed. We were under the gun and I was looking to dive in before I asked "why" enough times ;)

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So, your initial curiosity/concern was that "the ability to really polish frames or ideas for frames eludes me." Informatively enough, mostly everything about your response highlights why this is. Making "killer boards", as it were, is oftentimes exactly about digging further. Doing the thinking and doing the work, and doing it under creative constraints, format constraints, and time constraints. You dig further, and when you find something interesting, you dig further than that, and then you dig some more. When you look at the frames that the best designers are making, you go "wow" because they started with a pile of shit and they moulded and sculpted and polished until they started to see gold. And they kept sculpting and massaging until it was 90% gold. And still they kept pushing and pulling, sometimes on small details, until it was 98% gold. And you might have looked at it then and said "cool, that's better than i can do", which is wrong, and they'd keep sculpting. And they'd get it to 99.8% and keep working. 99.9%. 99.95%. And maybe the frames were ripped out of their hands at that point because time was up, but they damn well knew the deadline and pushed right up to it. Sometimes through it, if that could be justified. And over many projects and many iterations of this process, they learned what tends to work and what tends not to within all of those constraints so that they could more often get to 99.95%.

 

Typically, clients give designers a pile of shit to work with. If the clients could turn that shit to gold for themselves, they wouldn't pay creatives to do it. But that's what defines that skill, and that's why it's so valuable (it's vastly undervalued, in truth). Designers are given shit, and asked to turn it to gold. You were given shit, as ever expected. You looked at it sidelong, and you smelled it and poked at it with an outstretched finger and said "This is shit! I can't do anything with this!" You gave back nearly exactly what you were given. Experience and visual literacy aside, this is all that's separating you or me from baller designers. Because they fucking bring it, and they bring it hard. And when you think they've gone as hard as one can, they go harder. And harder still. And they suck for years, just like everyone else, but they goddam bring it until they start turning to gold.

 

We can talk about nuke vs after effects, and how smart objects are convenient and whether cgtextures.com has more stuff than mayang. You do need tools to build things, but the tools don't build them. Tools can't even get up by themselves. Everyone thinks if they can just get the same brush pack as the best illustrators, or use the same glow plugin as the best animators, that they'll unlock greatness as if the trick was in the tools. We all think that if we can just drive the same car that the cool guy does, we'll be the cool guy, as if that's what makes him cool. It's not. The things that drive compelling "holyfuck-are-you-serious" imagery are visual literacy and fuck tons of effort. Understanding composition is going to put 100x more power in your hands than understanding gradient meshes. You can build a tract house with cranes and power tools and laser levellers. But an artisan can do it with hammer, nails, saws and chisels, and they can do it with unutterable beauty. And still we'll say "yeah but if I could just get that laser leveller..."

 

:lol:

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If it's that simple, just "make it look dope" alright, but I'm hoping that some of you bad asses out there have some kind of underlying methodology or system of thought that helps you in the process. I'm also hoping your willing to share not only that methodology, but how you execute it as well. I guess part theory and part photoshop tutorial.

Let's breathe some life back into this place.

 

I guess I could have clarified a bit more (seems to be a theme developing here). The thought process part is way more interesting to me than which buttons to push. Its wild to see the different ways that people think about problems, and the connections they make to solve those problems. That "Why did I think of that moment!?" is wonderful and terrible all at once. Thats what I'm after, and what I think is really valuable. If they wanted to toss in how they made it look dope, that would just be icing on the cake, not the main course.

 

I posted the board I did for 2 reasons. 1) to try and keep this thread alive, in the hopes that someone would see if and want to throw in their own ideas (mission accomplished) and 2) for that "connections people make to solve problems" angle. While yes, I was given a heap of poo, and I returned a slightly more molded heap of poo, I figured there might be value in seeing one person make a connection between two ideas that another might not have made. Or maybe everyone immediately thought of old boxing posters. Either way.

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We're probably just talking in circles here. I think your board was actually a really good foundation for the discussion. Like, you keep making this boxing poster comparison, and you're showing your frame next to a boxing poster (albeit an admittedly fake one). But look at the two together and tell me what about your image communicates boxing poster. The answer is: barely anything. Your image has so few of the signifiers of "boxing poster" that I imagine most viewers would have a difficult time recalling anything remotely related with boxing posters. It's unrelated on, in fact, most levels. The colors are saturated, there's no texture, no dot pattern, the layout is radically dissimilar, and it bears no graphic or typographic resemblance. The thing it does have is this idea of photographic imagery run through a process which reduces it to flat ungraded shapes, but it's not even a process similar to what you end up with in a boxing poster, so it doesn't jog a viewer's associations toward that.

 

Now, in a lot of cases, you can abstract and use minimal signifiers of a thing to subtly reference that thing without going to a fully literal representation. For example, adding a slight digital distortion effect to an image to reference the downsides of technology can be effective, and you don't have to include an RGB split and pixels and monitor vignetting and cursors and glitching and so on until you've literally crafted an image of a broken display. But that's not really the issue here, and it's not in line with what you were doing. You have an image that fails to go so far as to signify anything to your audience. There is effectively no boxing poster reference in your image. Not that there needed to be, but it seems you're suggesting that it's there. It's not, to any degree that would affect a viewer's perception. And I point this out because one of the differences between what you've done and what probably constitutes "killer boards" is that you've stopped well short of where you might have, both in the ideating and in the polishing. This probably sounds like a rant when it shouldn't, but I'm really just trying to highlight how a designer gets from where you stopped to where everyone goes "ooooooooh fuck that's good". Because at some very early stage in the project, that designer is probably thinking at the same level of lacking sophistication before they push through and develop it into punishing and inspiring awesomeness.

 

I don't particularly want to equate my own work with any of this talk, but it so happens I've got a set of boards that are literally based, in part, on a specific realm of boxing posters. And it might help illuminate some of what i'm trying to explain.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/18881677/UFC (not the first set... you'll have to scroll down a little)

 

This was a project for UFC on Fox. The creative direction was real loose, which is why I came up with two radically different boards, but we'll pay attention to the 2nd set. Same as your project, it had to be modular to accomodate different matchups over the season. I wanted to make a boxing poster reference. So I did. But I took it farther to suggest a couple of specific subcategories of boxing poster that have a less "silly kitsch" appeal. And then I took it farther to suggest that this was really more of a narrative about the posters being printed and stacked in prep for an upcoming fight. And furthermore that the printing was late night, quick and dirty and flawed, as a visual metaphor for the nature of cage fighting. And I took it farther to suggest that this would be conceived as a kind of simple short film, which isn't as representative here because i've excluded a few frames from the pitch.

 

Again, this is a much more literal strategy, in terms of the reference to boxing posters, but I hope it highlights some of the thinking when you look at this and then go back and look at your ESPN example. This is sort of the point I'm trying to make. A designer will hit the same wall you'll hit, and keep hitting it until it completely crumbles to reveal the next wall, which they'll hit like a fucking tank to reveal the next. And they'll keep ramming through until either they reach the promised land, or someone begs them to stop.

 

Nau_UFCLetterpress05.jpg

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I'll jump up to the first post for the moment, not commenting on the boxing example which has been really thoughtfully talked about.

 

Why do I make my frames look the way I do? (And I am definitely a designer first & animator second)

 

It's a hard question to answer in the general, but my first instinct is to say 1) research 2) what I've been looking at lately.

 

I'll start with #2 - What I've been looking at lately.

I look at lot of stuff. I actually look at surprisingly little motion graphics work. Via Tumblr, Pinterest, RSS, LACMA (get a museum membership, they're awesome), riding my bike around the city - I see a lot of stuff. My favorite stuff I tuck into a reference folder that's thousands of images deep. Some things I look at and really study, some things I just file away. I'm trying to get in the habit of tagging them with a keyword (landscape, fractal, cartoon, black&white, etc.) so that I can find them again quickly. I'm always adding to this folder and - maybe more importantly - I'm looking at it. I'm going back to it to find things I have liked, pulling them out, trying to figure them out, recreating them or incorporating them into my work.

 

I think you have to put A LOT of stuff in your mind if you want to get anything back out in the form of original creative work. Always be looking and then take a couple things you can't stop looking at and try to figure out why. You won't be able to do that for every image you like, but do it for a few. And keep doing it over time. What do you like this month. What about next month. Eventually, what did you like two years ago? Do you still like it?

 

And back to #1 - Research.

This is just a directed version of #1. Research the shit out of your project.

 

There is a thing as "research paralysis" wherein you're afraid you don't have enough to get started. So don't research that much. But do more than you think you need to do.

 

Why?

1) If you do a ton, you won't just have one thing to look at & you won't find yourself copying it.

2) Your first round of research will probably be the solution everyone else came up with for a similar design challenge they had. Go deeper. What's 15% unexpected? What's 70% unexpected? The client may buy off on the one that's only 5% unexpected, but then again, maybe you'll knock it out of the park.

 

My $0.02.

 

Great topic!

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We can talk about nuke vs after effects, and how smart objects are convenient and whether cgtextures.com has more stuff than mayang. You do need tools to build things, but the tools don't build them. Tools can't even get up by themselves. Everyone thinks if they can just get the same brush pack as the best illustrators, or use the same glow plugin as the best animators, that they'll unlock greatness as if the trick was in the tools. We all think that if we can just drive the same car that the cool guy does, we'll be the cool guy, as if that's what makes him cool. It's not. The things that drive compelling "holyfuck-are-you-serious" imagery are visual literacy and fuck tons of effort. Understanding composition is going to put 100x more power in your hands than understanding gradient meshes. You can build a tract house with cranes and power tools and laser levellers. But an artisan can do it with hammer, nails, saws and chisels, and they can do it with unutterable beauty. And still we'll say "yeah but if I could just get that laser leveller..."

 

 

Some fine fuckin' nuggets being dropped in here, but this quote above can't ever be said enough.

Not surprised it's Binks dropping the knowledge bomb. Props.

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A little off topic, but I am finding these very useful. A series about concept art/digital painting. Goes into some cool painting/composition theory as well as how to execute. In case anyone else out there is interested.

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/shaddy1100/videos

I love this stuff. If you're into more sci-fi or fantasy based stuff... concept design for movies and games, you might like this guy too, who is kind of a legend, and has a shit ton of videos. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbdyjrrJAjDIACjCsjAGFAA

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Just found this thread today. I'm taking it as a reminder that I need to check back here more often and unplug from the noise of the slack a little.

 

As Marc Z just posted, ianfreeze, I'm doing monthly personal projects and posting progress/thinking along the way in an attempt to do exactly what was spelled out in the first post.

 

Project 1

Project 2

 

My stuff has tended to lean more towards my own experiences/ feelings / fears/ etc. around the process. for the most part I'm fumbling my way through it and trying to keep a record of where I screw up so I can go back to it and do better next time. I can't really add much that Carey didn't already contribute but I will say that I've run into experiences where I've noticed, after the fact, that my workflow and ability to learn how to make what I wanted grew to match the amount of time I spent thinking about what exactly I wanted to make. when I jumped into things I just did stuff I knew. when I had specific motives, references, ideas I was trying to pull from and I wanted a look that was beyond my existing skill set I had a much easier time looking for assets and learning materials I needed to make it happen.

 

I'm pretty chatty in the art-of-the-pitch thread but I'll be checking back here on this for sure. Stuff like this thread is worth it's weight in gold to me these days.

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I come from a print & web background and only recently started doing work for motion/video so I'll do my best to help and give advice.

 

 

 

 

how you make it look the way it looks? Do you carry a thumb drive with textures, sparks, particles, or whatever around with you? How do you decide when and where to use them? How do you apply them to your image?

 

I have a gigantic library of reference images — stuff I've found on Behance, Dribbble, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo, you name it. My reference folder is currently 11GB and dates back to 2005. I keep it all on Dropbox so that I can access the references from anywhere. When time allows, I will spend up to an entire day just gathering reference. I like to place them in an Indesign file in a nice little grid and print it out so I can tape it on the wall of my cubicle for the duration of the project. Sometimes, I have 3 pages on the wall. Having references is a huge thing for me. Artists like GMUNK have vast amounts of reference (he uses Pinterest) and they go to it on a regular basis.

 

In regards to assets, I store it all on Dropbox as well. I've got loads of footage like pre-rendered particle animations, environmental images (snow, rain, dust etc.,), lens flares, light leaks just about anything you can think of I try to collect. I do the same for still images. Over the years I've made my own textures (once I get a decent camera I hope to make my own footage too). I keep this stuff handy with a shortcut on my Finder sidebar.

 

For example, on this board (that is on hold for the summer so I've yet to finsh), I brought in video footage of light leaks and ink bleeds (so that I know I can use the actual footage to pull of the effect in animation when the time comes). I also used a few still images for texture. Thankfully it's still a work in progress because I've questioned numerous times "why did I use the ink bleed? What does it have to do with Hockey, let alone the New York Rangers?". Unfortunately I've yet to come up with an answer other than "I like the way it looks and it serves as a transition to the next frame" however like Binky said, you have to keep questioning why you're adding things. The background (the roof of Madison Square Garden) is an iconic feature of the arena the Rangers play at so including this felt right but I feel that I can take this even further and use the roof of the building as a core element, possibly projection mapping? The scratched textures were brought in to provide a distressed/old feel since most of the footage/imagery is from the past and this is about the "history" of the team. It also lends itself to the texture of the ice that the players skated on without going cliché and slapping an ice texture on the canvas.

 

The point here is that you need to keep experimenting and as much as I dislike the term — playing, with your concept/idea. Sometimes you'll push too far and you'll realize that you added too much unnecessary fluff but thankfully, you have the ability to peel back.

 

Building off of what Binky/Carey said, I think that understanding your subject matter inside and out makes a huge difference. George Lois (old school Art Director form the 60's that did the famous Esquire covers) said that if he doesn't come up with an idea in 20-30 minutes, then there is something he doesn't understand about the subject. He went on to say that if you're cultured and understand different things like language, art, music, dance etc., that you will find that ideas come easier. I'm paraphrasing here but I find that it holds true in all areas of design.

 

Another thing that I find makes a huge difference in "good designers" and "mediocre designers" is collaboration and socialization. I consider myself in between "good" and "mediocre" but when I stopped hanging out around my peers is when I started falling apart. Getting back into "the design scene" and not shutting myself away from the community was a huge detriment to my career development. Talking to and hanging out with other artists, designers, animators, editors, illustrators et al will only further your development. Thankfully social media has made it much easier than it was in the early 2000's where all we had was AIM and Message Boards.

 

 

TLDR: Collect references, collect assets, experiment with your work, understand your subject matter, collaborate and socialize

Edited by jnicklo

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So, your initial curiosity/concern was that "the ability to really polish frames or ideas for frames eludes me." Informatively enough, mostly everything about your response highlights why this is. Making "killer boards", as it were, is oftentimes exactly about digging further. Doing the thinking and doing the work, and doing it under creative constraints, format constraints, and time constraints. You dig further, and when you find something interesting, you dig further than that, and then you dig some more. When you look at the frames that the best designers are making, you go "wow" because they started with a pile of shit and they moulded and sculpted and polished until they started to see gold. And they kept sculpting and massaging until it was 90% gold. And still they kept pushing and pulling, sometimes on small details, until it was 98% gold. And you might have looked at it then and said "cool, that's better than i can do", which is wrong, and they'd keep sculpting. And they'd get it to 99.8% and keep working. 99.9%. 99.95%. And maybe the frames were ripped out of their hands at that point because time was up, but they damn well knew the deadline and pushed right up to it. Sometimes through it, if that could be justified. And over many projects and many iterations of this process, they learned what tends to work and what tends not to within all of those constraints so that they could more often get to 99.95%.

 

Typically, clients give designers a pile of shit to work with. If the clients could turn that shit to gold for themselves, they wouldn't pay creatives to do it. But that's what defines that skill, and that's why it's so valuable (it's vastly undervalued, in truth). Designers are given shit, and asked to turn it to gold. You were given shit, as ever expected. You looked at it sidelong, and you smelled it and poked at it with an outstretched finger and said "This is shit! I can't do anything with this!" You gave back nearly exactly what you were given. Experience and visual literacy aside, this is all that's separating you or me from baller designers. Because they fucking bring it, and they bring it hard. And when you think they've gone as hard as one can, they go harder. And harder still. And they suck for years, just like everyone else, but they goddam bring it until they start turning to gold.

 

We can talk about nuke vs after effects, and how smart objects are convenient and whether cgtextures.com has more stuff than mayang. You do need tools to build things, but the tools don't build them. Tools can't even get up by themselves. Everyone thinks if they can just get the same brush pack as the best illustrators, or use the same glow plugin as the best animators, that they'll unlock greatness as if the trick was in the tools. We all think that if we can just drive the same car that the cool guy does, we'll be the cool guy, as if that's what makes him cool. It's not. The things that drive compelling "holyfuck-are-you-serious" imagery are visual literacy and fuck tons of effort. Understanding composition is going to put 100x more power in your hands than understanding gradient meshes. You can build a tract house with cranes and power tools and laser levellers. But an artisan can do it with hammer, nails, saws and chisels, and they can do it with unutterable beauty. And still we'll say "yeah but if I could just get that laser leveller..."

 

:lol:

 

 

I want to buy you a beer for this.

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