Comment on the Design please

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  07 July 2014
Comment on the Design please

Hi, this is the most recent piece I did and I know that there is a lot of problems with it. But as for now, I want to get some criticisms on the design of character and the values. If you feel like there's other major problems in the piece that I should be aware of, please tell me! Thank you!
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  07 July 2014
Can you tell us more about the visual narrative you're trying to depict? What's the scene about? Who are these characters in armor fighting? What's the general premise? Is it just a generic action scene or there's a more complex narrative layer behind the surface? What is the nature of the conflict that causes the fighting?

Compositionally, this feels a bit static and lacking a sense of dynamic action. You have a straight on side-view without any sense of dynamic movement from your virtual camera, and there's a lack of depth in the scene, with everything flattened (atmospheric perspective won't help much here). What you want to do here, is to choose a more dynamic camera angle, as well as maybe tilt the camera (tilting the horizon) to create a feeling of chaos and movement.

There's a bit of a tangent problem with the guy holding the gatling gun--the tip of the barrels are touching the bent steel beams in the foreground--that is a big nono in composition, because you are confusing the hierarchy of z-depth. Always either overlap clearly, or don't have contours touching at all.

As for the design sensibility, your design vocabulary looks dated and lacks sophistication. The shape and form language you're using feels like circa 1998 (very blocky and simple), and if that's what you intended, then that's fine, but if not, then you need to catch up on your visual library of what today's sci-fi concept design looks like. Look at the current generation of AAA video games, sci-fi movies/TV shows, sci-fi illustrations, etc. Today's design sensibility for sci-fi is far more slick as well a complex. The type of material used is also quite different, with more high-tech composite materials being favored, and the color palette much more neutral in general.

Take a look at works by concept artists like Aaron Beck, Ben Mauro, Maciej Kuciara, etc, as well as the more recent mecha designs by Japanese guys like Masamune Shirow and Yamashita Ikuto.
  07 July 2014
Thank you so much for the feedback!

For the scene, I just want it to be a generic fighting scene. But that's not clear. Maybe I could add some enemies?

For the composition, I'm not quite sure what you mean by dynamic camera angle. Do you mean like a 3/4 top view?

The design of the soldiers are intended to be bulky and angular. But I guess that won't make sense since the setting is suppose to be futuristic. So I really have to expand by visual library. I will definitely go and check out those concept artists you recommend. About visual library, I also wonder what is the method of expanding it? I watch sci-fi movies and play sci-fi games, and I take screen shots of armour and study it. I did this for quite awhile and I don't really feel like my visual library is expanding. So should I keep doing this and be patient or is there a better way?

I would like to make changes to this piece, but I feel like I've worked on it for too long and I would benefit the most instead by moving on and study the points you made. Once again, thank you for the comment!
  07 July 2014
Well, without giving you an entire page of lecture notes with example images (like I would in my online workshop when I teach students), the best way to describe dynamic camera angle, is that it should show a sense of motion and from a point-of-view that is not so typical and straight-on. Watch any current action movie and you'll see lots of very dynamic looking shots, with the camera placed low on the ground and angle slightly up, and the ground is tilted, or maybe the camera is over the shoulder of a foreground soldier, pointed towards where he's running towards as he charges into the battle, and the horizon is tilted to add a sense of motion and chaos. These are just two examples, and there are more--just watch a few action movie trailer on Youtube and you're bound to see a bunch of dynamic camera angles.

Bulky and angular isn't the inherent problem here. There have been bulky and angular designs since the invention of science fiction, but you certainly won't mistaken a bulky and angular design from the 1970's with one that's from the last few years. The design sensibility changes, and you have to observe and analyze WHAT has changed from one trend to another throughout different time periods. It's just like how a bulky and angular van or truck today will have a very different design sensibility from the same type of cars twenty years ago.

When you are expanding your visual library/memory, you have to actually analyze and take notes on the differences you see between time periods/trends. You have to be proactive and actually "do" things during this process, instead of just collecting images from the web, books, and movie/game screenshots and expect them to create significant changes in your own design ability/sensibility. You need to create project for yourself and force yourself out of your comfort zone.

For example, design a 10-foot tall military exoskeleton armor that looks like it came out of an 1980's movie, and then do a version that looks like it's from a movie that was just released. Figure out exactly why the two sensibilities are different. Is it the shape language? Is it the density of the details? Is it the ratio of simple surfaces vs complex surfaces? Is it the color palette? Is it the type of materials used? Is it the way curvature is used vs. flat planes? Is it the amount of mimicry to human anatomy?

One more thing that's worth pondering, is this:

Why create a generic and unremarkable visual narrative, when you can put more creativity into your work and convey a more compelling creative vision? Think more like a storyteller/movie director who happens to have artistic skills, instead of just a guy who can make pretty pictures but says nothing with his work. Think about how dramatically compelling a combat scene can be, and come up with ways to tell a visual narrative that is emotionally resonant. Soldiers on the battlefield have emotions--show them. They lose comrades and they suffer bodily harm. They are terrified yet they are determined to fight along their brothers-in-arms. Innocent lives are often lost as collateral damage in wars.

Be a thinking and feeling artist. Be a visual storyteller.
  07 July 2014
Thank you for the comment. It is very extensive and I certainly do learn a lot from it!
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