Challenging concept art for a character's face (seeking help)

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  12 December 2013
Challenging concept art for a character's face (seeking help)


A client gave me a very special project (short film), where the exigences is that the character mustn't have the face, or have a very simplified one. My main problem is that I'm trying to retain the character's emotions. A second problem is that the graphic style is realistic.

I mean that the character is in a photorealistic environment and the character himself, if he was saw from behind for instance, he has a photorealistic look, and if we saw him from the front, his face is simplified/stylized, all this while retaining the graphic coherence.

I thought about a cartoonish style on a realistic character, simplifying the existing face, etc.

I was wondering if there were concepts of characters that have no face or a
simplified/stylized one, that were successful out there. I'm sure I saw some of these but I don't remember.

I wanted to ask you if someone has some reference in this regard, or a hint I could use to make my way through this, because I've searched the web without success until now, I don't know how to proceed in this research.

Sorry for my english, I hope I've explained clearly.

Thank you for helping.
  12 December 2013
So everything about the art direction is photorealistic--the environments, the characters, the props, etc, and the only thing that is simplified/stylized are the characters' faces? How is that supposed to look, when everything about the character is realistic except for the face? It would be like having a real person put on a mask (like one of those anime or Halloween masks), and it would look kind of creepy.

I can't really think of any examples matching your description.
  12 December 2013
Thank you for your feedback, it helps.
That what I'm afraid of, that the coherence couldn't be sustained, and that it's gonna look weird. But I have to find a solution, because actually it's not a new style that I'm trying, it's just a project constraint I have to deal with, no matter which graphic style I choose for the face, it's just that the face shouldn't be seen while trying to vehicle the character's emotions. And since I chose photorealistic for environment and props, it has to match or be coherent/acceptable.
I thought about filming him from the back most of the time, and mixing that with first person POVs, and if he was saw from the front, we could play with the shadows to hide the face etc.
Another idea could be to actually put a mask on his face, and invent a reason in the scenario for that (could a good amount of time to elaborate that though), or make him wear a hood, etc.

Last edited by boumay : 12 December 2013 at 12:08 PM.
  12 December 2013
Alright. Perhaps I have a good idea... I would like to know what you are thinking about this choice:

I'll go for a 1st person POV for the most part of the film, with some wide shots where we only see the character from the back or the side etc, avoiding the front so we're not seeing his face.
This way may be efficient since it puts the viewer in the character's role, as if he was experiencing what the character experiences. And to convey emotions, we could put sound effects of his breath or heart pulsation, talk etc, as well as all the foley and ambience sounds.

The only issue I see in this concept is that it could be tiring to watch the entire film in the 1st person POV or boring. Do you have any reference of films done like this?

And what do you think of the concept?
Thank you again.
  12 December 2013
Well, what is the premise and narrative context for this odd creative choice? Maybe the problem isn't with trying to find a way to convey this requirement, but the idea itself is flawed/unreasonable to begin with? Without knowing the story it's impossible to give any truly useful suggestions.
  12 December 2013
Ok, let me expose the plot quickly:

This is a story about a young man of one of the western societies. He's seriously thinking about what he's doing on earth and what is the purpose of life. He is deeply sad because life as we live in these societies just don't bring the answer.

When he sleeps that night he dreams...:

... he wakes up in his bedroom but this is in his dream, this the same bedroom but the atmosphere is strange, blueish and surreal. He goes out of his home in a hurry just to notice that the city is in the same surreal state. But also, the city is completely empty.

In this environment, he'll begin a journey when he'll search his way out of this city to find the truth he's so passionated about, facing danger and adversity from a surprising enemy wanting to prevent him from escape the city and from finding the truth.

The ambience is dark blue, at night, lit by the moon, and the city isn't destroyed or the like, but intact yet being very frightening and cold.

I cannot talk about the reason of this requirement as the short film isn't released yet, I just have to do this way. And it isn't that the story motivates this choice, it is rather a constraint that motivates to change the story if we have to. The main story doesn't change of course, as we try to tell the best story we can, but only some aspects of it could change because of that.
Btw, I find it an excellent way to be original and innovative, as it pushes us to explore new concepts that could be very efficient. I may be successful or not, but it definitely has a creative benefit.

I would like to add that there were successful feature films that used this technique of 1st person pov. I watched some clips of cloverfield, enter the void, etc, this style is good. And the fact that these films were successful in cinema means that there are a lot of people enjoying actually.

Last edited by boumay : 12 December 2013 at 01:44 PM.
  12 December 2013
First person POV precludes the possibility for the protagonist to be seen in an expressive manner, so make sure your scenes don't have narrative requirements that need the audience to see the protagonist emote (either with facial expression or body language).

If the whole thing is meant to be surreal during his dream, then it really doesn't matter if his face is stylized, as that becomes part of surrealism. Or do you want to avoid showing his stylized face for other reasons?
  12 December 2013
Indeed there is a major reason why I avoid the face.

Actually, I'm a muslim. The believer has strong values.
God has forbidden drawing the human face in a manner that represents it as it is in reality.
A cartoonish-style isn't concerned here, because the character isn't realistic, that's why I wanted to stylize the face in the first place.

This isn't the moment nor the place for getting into this subject now, but there are many harmful effects in one's life from trying to "create" the human face this realistic way, both at the natural and psychological level.

There is a great wisdow behind this ban, I would be very glad to develop it, but again, this forum isn't the place for that.

Sorry for my english, I'm french so I may not explain the point very well.

To return to the subject matter, I'm trying to tell the best story and acheive the best cinematography I could while avoiding this, and I think it's manageable. It could have been much easier if I chose a cartoonish style, but it wasn't appropriate because the story is so serious that a cartoon look wouldn't work.

I'm really optimistic and I hope God will help me acheiving my dream if I'm righteous...
  12 December 2013
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