Halo Master Chief vs Cortana WIP


Here’s a piece that I’m fleshing out right now. And I was wondering if I could get some feedback/critiques on it as I go. It’s a reflective image of Cortana in Master Chief’s helmet visor, from the Halo Series, begrudgingly contesting with Master Chief to go along with her “do as I say” plan, both characters not all that happy with this happening between them.

Started off with a black and white image,

black and white digital sketch

and now I’m at the digital color sketch phase.

halo digital sketch prev 1

I’m trying to see what lighting will work best here. Should i have wires dangling at the top there like this, should I even have wires there? Maybe I need to do more research on the tech in Halo as a background that they have in a destroyed state but do I want human wreckage or alien ware wreckage? Not sure which to shoot for.

I want to make Cortana’s blue glowing energy swords a light source on each side of the Chief’s lower face. However looking at the references of Master Chief’s helmet reflections. I wonder should it be a warm purple reflections or just blue with the tint of the glass helmet part of the color? I tried to find references with the energy sword being reflected in his glass visor but could not find any good references.

I also want to encase Cortana in Warden like body armor floating around or otherwise giving the same feel as what the Warden’s character was.

Any thoughts or notes on the image so far would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!


energy sword reference 1

mc 1 reference

mc 2 reference

mc 3 reference

Cortana reference 1

warden reference 2


Continuing on with step two.

Rendering the shape of the helmet out more and editing it up. Cortana has floating warden parts around her. I’m curious as to what I should do for the background. Should I have wires dangling over head or take them out?

Should I warm gray the reflection out more?

I’ll try to get more references into this post.

Any Help or suggestions are appreciated.

reflection of visor’s color scheme reference

mc 6 reference


Whether having the thick cables dangling over his head isn’t inherently a problem narratively, but compositionally, how you’re doing it is problematic. The position of the cables look too contrived and unintentionally decorative, divided almost perfectly into one central piece and two matching pieces on both sides. And then the three cables also fits over his head almost perfectly too, like some kind of ceremonial headdress. I doubt that’s the effect you wanted, and this is one of the most common mistakes inexperienced artists make (along with awkward tangents and sharing of contour edges).

If the point of this visual narrative is the interaction between Master Chief and Cortana, then maybe her reflection needs to be closer/bigger so her emotional state has more weight. Or, reconstruct the scene so she’s not just a reflection in his visor and we’re looking at the scene a bit more zoomed out, or maybe even from another angle.

What color cast to put into the background depends on: 1) What the local color of the background actually is. 2) What is the color cast of the light source lighting that area. 3) What kind of mood/visual aesthetic you’re going for.


Thank you for the critique! Yes having things line up awkwardly tend to happen a bit. I try to watch out for them though usually get corrected about them still.

I will have to see about making perhaps another angle on this as suggested.

For now, I did several mock up changes and lighting additions. I’m thinking maybe I could have one energy sword strike into the wall next to his head. The lighting here would be dark and illuminated mostly by the energy swords. I guess the tint of the visor would be greenish in this case. Yes, no?

If I were to not go with the energy sword next to the head but stayed with an increased size of her figure/head in the visor. How much bigger are we talking about here before it becomes to much or is still to small?

I have several here to ponder on.

Thanks again for any advice and critiques.


Here are some other size differences.


Just the figure/head without the energy sword feels like it’s missing a narrative visual clue, so I suggest keeping it in. The version with the green light is the best one, but it’s on the wrong side (or the reflection is reversed). The green light and the side showing the energy sword in the reflection should be on the same side.


I think pulling out from the scene might help out as well to understand maybe better where the light sources are and what maybe I should do that would work best.

Here are some stick figure drawings.

If the energy sword in the left hand would be next to the head, It would be the dominant light source but I think there would still be some subtle lighting coming from the energy sword in Cortana’s right hand that would hit the face on the right side.

I Also have a dodging pose for Master Chief though from the head on shot most of that would not be seen.

What do you think would be a better shot of this pose if I were to go with a more zoomed out shot? A bottom up shot from behind? Over Cortana’s shoulder view? If anyone has an opinion on this, do let me know what you think.


When you change the camera angle and camera-to-subject distance, you need to also consider the dramatic impact. Composition isn’t just about arranging objects in a scene so you achieve good spatial balance and your visual narrative has good clarity–it’s also about optimizing the dramatic impact of your visual story. The further you zoom out from your subject the more you lose the dramatic impact and intimacy. If you don’t know too much about how camera angle and focal length and subject distance affects the emotional/psychological response the audience/viewer has to your images, then I recommend you watch some Youtube videos about the art cinematography–it will help you a lot.

Most of my students start out really bad at effective depiction of visual narrative (emotions, drama, mood, visceral response)–but as soon as they go through the week I dedicate to this exact subject, their work improve by leaps and bounds. It is definitely something that can be learned.


Thanks for the information on the art of cinematography. Very interesting and informative. I found it interesting on what shots work for terror either from the shot from above for a villain’s perspective or from below for the character that’s afraid and for the viewer to relate more with them. I’ll have to do more searching on this to find out what shots usually depict a regretful confrontation. Definitely much appreciated search info. I’ll come back with some different angle shots after doing some more studying with this in mind for the scene.