Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Gautam Babbar. Those names are seldom, if ever, mentioned together. Why? You would think that fame, fortune, and the multitude of female stalkers each has would separate us on some level well, it doesn’t. You will never hear those names uttered in the same breath because, “Babbar” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like “Cruise” or “Pitt” does!
Cruise and Pitt might have all the fame and glory as actors but can they design buildings for realtime, or produce color comps or even draw storyboards by hand? I think not. For a Production Designer though, designing, coloring, painting and drawing are all tasks he or she must do with ease, every day. The actors just have to show up (and look pretty), but there are countless people behind the scenes who work their butts off just so Cruise can look pretty and act in a scene. Well, Oddworld has our own actors, and they’re “pretty boys,” too, namely Munch and Abe. Ok , so they’re pretty on the inside.
Actors need motivation. The why, what, when, where are all established in the story process. Now with Tom and Brad, just give them twenty million greenbacks and they’ll act for you. But Abe and Munch require just a bit more coaxing, because greenbacks don’t quite motivate them the same way. This is what makes the production design department so important. We plan out every little action that the story script calls for. We have all seen Abe walk, fall, and pass gas. But what if a new script called for our star to run and pass gas at the same time? Well, we would have to plan that action out in every way possible before deciding which one was the most effective, and we’d use the age-old technique of storyboarding to help us.
Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Martin Scorcese, all use storyboarding to plan their movies. So how would Scorcese go about shooting Abe walking and passing gas? Maybe after Abe passes gas he says, “You talkin’ to me?” Then how would Spielberg shoot it? Maybe slow-mo would be his thing. Putting oneself in the mind of a director helps the PD to visualize good ways of staging and executing Abe’s actions and reactions – his acting so to speak.
But, then, what will it look like? This is when lighting and color come in to play – two other details that are extremely important to designers and directors alike. Lighting and color establish mood and help emphasize the feelings of the character. Production Designers take certain key frames from the black and white storyboard sketches and render them into full color paintings. So if the PD needed to communicate an angry fart, we would probably at least need a red light on Abe’s face.
After specific lighting and color are suggested, the wonderfully talented folks in our Computer Graphics Department take our work through the next stages. First, they produce an animatic of the scene (translating drawn storyboards into moving storyboards). In an animatic instead of seeing fully-detailed characters on screen, we see the characters in Munch’s Oddysee as “large boxes” or cubes moving around. This stage of production helps to iron out the camera moves and basic acting and placement of the characters. Next, the scene is detailed and finished-out by the animators, modelers and technical directors.
So after countless hours of slaving and lots of teamwork (all of which basically started with the Production Design department) Abe walks down a dimly lit hall towards the camera, farts and says, “Show me the money!” The End