Saturday, January 5, 2013

VFX "Abduction" - Moodboards & Ideas

In our next module we'll be combining live action filmed footage with computer-generated effects and set extensions using After Effects. The story of the short film involves a photographer getting abducted into a spaceship, where they encounter an alien of some sort. 

I knew from the start that I wanted to do something detailed and realistic as opposed to cartoony, like I've done for the past number of modules. As I'm focussing more on the visuals, I'm not too concerned about an interesting or unique narrative.

At this stage I'm thinking of having an organic spaceship, and the person will be abducted and held in some kind of giant gooey pod. I'm not certain yet how the alien will reveal itself - I thought it would maybe be quite dramatic to have the room filled with eggs, then have the alien burst from one of them. They will then ominously approach the person. (The film's going to be very short so there probably won't be much more to it than that).

I started off putting together some moodboards.

Here I looked at a variety of approaches to a more 'realistic' alien. Of course something that came to mind was the film Alien and HR Giger's dark designs, so I think that will definitely be an influence to the overall tone of the setting. I'm also very much inspired by Guillermo Del Toro's style when it comes to non-human characters. His models are highly detailed, I find it astonishing that they are actors covered in special effects make up rather than CG - you don't often see that nowadays and it's something I really admire in his films. But, because I would like to develop my CG skills (and I wouldn't know where to begin with prosthetics) I think in this case I'll stick to digital modelling.

Another particular feature I wanted to look at here was the texture on the aliens, and how they have been made to look creepy and organic. I would like to experiment with Mudbox to model the alien as it'll allow me to go into great detail, although I need to figure out how to take information from a Mudbox model and use that with a Maya model using displacement maps and things like that, so I'll be able to animate it - it will involve a lot of self-teaching but I think it will be worth it. 

Either way I will be depending heavily on the textures to 'sell' the look of the alien. I'm going to have to look at creating realistic textures in Photoshop using photographs and other references, rather than just painting.

I'm not sure on the look of the spaceship yet. Here there's a couple of typical spaceships from before I'd decided on the style I was going for, and a lot of jellyfish. I really love the look and movement of jellyfish, although obviously I don't want to just have a giant jellyfish for a spaceship I'd like it to perhaps influence the structure and details. I've also included an image of Leviathan from Mass Effect 3 - this was interesting to me as I want to have an organic spaceship, and the appearance of the Leviathans resembles an organic approach to an otherwise mechanical-looking structure (reapers). 

I'd like one of the central focuses to be the alien pod, whether that is holding the alien itself or the abducted person. I've looked at other designs for pods and eggs, and also some peculiar plantlife that show some interesting shapes I could use so that it's not a typical egg-shaped structure.

I was inspired to do an 'alien bursting from a pod' scene whilst playing Resident Evil 6, when on Leon's mission they come across video footage of a character bursting from a frozen zombie-like shape (I'm not entirely sure what was going on).

You can watch it here at around 13:24.

I like how the expectation of a gruesome zombie is pretty much the opposite of what actually comes out of the thing. I haven't decided on the character yet, but it's something to consider. Of course I'm not expecting to be able to reach anything near this professional standard, but if I can increase my knowledge of bump/specular/displacement maps and experiment with animating goo/ooze I could hopefully do my own interpretation of something like this.

Even though I've thought quite a lot about this approach, I don't want to tie myself down to the first aesthetic I think of, particularly as the 'gruesome dark alien' look is one that has been done many times before. So another idea I've thought of and would maybe like to do is something more fantastical and magical, whilst still being detailed and realistic.

I really like the colour scheme of this moodboard, even if many of the images are from the same thing (Avatar). The jellyfish idea I mentioned earlier would probably fit better into this look. It would also be a great opportunity to experiment with unusual lighting and atmospheres, and shapes and textures inspired by the enchanting feel of underwater life.

At this stage I'm probably more attracted to this idea as I'm not the biggest fan of horror/scary stuff. I'll need to develop some of these ideas in to my own designs and see what inspires me the most.

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