Stylisation of VFX – Scripting and Dynamics Coursework

For scripting and dynamics last year, I looked into how fx can be stylised and how this can support the overall feel of piece of media. I could extend this project for my honours year, if I decided that stylisation is the route I want to go down.

This was my proposal from last year.

Joseph Gilland, an effects animator on well renowned Disney films such as “Mulan” and “Hercules”, describes the visual effects seen in today’s 3D animated features as “cold, lifeless and predictable.”[Gilland, 2009] While character animators bring the 12 principles into 3D, effects animation is often constrained to highly realistic simulations, disregarding its classical roots and leaving little room for stylisation. As Blue Sky’s effects TD says, “limited in its ability to incorporate stylization and other special animation considerations beyond realism or surrealism” [Thornton, 2006] Classical effects are what made some pieces of media great – what would Fantasia have been without its magic, smoke and fire? The purpose of this project is to bring these classical techniques into 3D.

This is perhaps not so large an issue within games, as stylised visual effects are often employed to communicate the idea of magic, or energy that is unseen, such as a sword slash or punch. Pieces like “Journey” and “Wind Waker” use stylized effects to support the aesthetic of the game, incorporating shapes and colour from the environment. In discussion with a professional visual effects artist, it was found that more realistic games, like “Far Cry 3”, use this subtly. “The fx are realistic but this hasn’t stopped them from pushing the saturation and echoing the reds used extensively in the character clothing and on the holo sights of the weapons” [Sharp, R. 2014. pers. comm., 23 Jan]

Bringing the ideas of classical 2D effects animation and stylised game effects that support the overall feel of the piece together could result in some fantastic visual effects that awe the player, whist still “compliment[ing] the scene rather than dominat[ing] it”[Gilland, 2009]. In the end, classical effects are incredibly important – “The background knowledge of how to bring our artwork to life hasn’t changed. Only our paintbrush has changed.”[Gilland, 2009]

This was based on Joseph Gilland’s Elemental Magic, and emails with a friend from college who currently works in game vfx. The idea I had planned to look at was colour and shape/motif matching, but in the end learning the tools took over and I didn’t do as much of this as I would have liked.

Here’s the final piece.

Looking over my portfolio, a larger proportion of my work is stylised than I would have thought. I have a couple of low poly, block colour projects, some hand painted texture stuff and some cartoony work. Continuing this could be good or bad, depending on where I want to work and take my folio. If I continue this, I could have a really strong stylised folio, but would be locking myself out of a lot of potential jobs. If I go fully realistic, the fx will not match everything else in my folio. Ideally, I’d like to do a mixture of both, but I don’t want that to mean that my work is weaker overall.


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