Art Directors : Edison Yan (Seasons 1-3), Kory Heinzen (Season 1).
Matte Painting and Backgrounds
My official title on this show was BG Painter, making my primary responsibility environments or sets. One of the most enjoyable parts of the job was to paint dramatic establishing shots of locations for the first time we see them. Often these locations only exist in 3d form as an interior, and the matte painting is the only time we see them from the outside, yet that is enough to sell them as a real place.
When there were no BGs to be done, or I was waiting on client approvals, I would work on whatever was most urgent to help the team out.
Guillermo Ramirez was our fantastic character designer on this show. He pumped out a tonne of quality designs really rapidly, and I had the pleasure of painting up the colour pass of a couple of his pirates!
Quite separate from matte paintings are the actual 3d sets. For the Adventures of Puss in Boots, these would be designed by Olga Stern and then handed off to another artist for colour passes.
When creating a matte painting you can use lighting and interesting camera angles to create a good composition. Set colours are more about communicating clear information to the surfacing team. Texture artists prefer to see a set painted with neutral diffuse lighting to better understand the local colours and materials. The set colour works best from a three quarter angle, with litte perpective. Notice there is a closeup detail of the throne, reference photos and little notes to call attention to, and better explain design decisions.
While the diffuse colour pass was enough for some sets, other sets had very unique lighting which required a painting to showcase it. The set below just didn’t feel the same with diffuse neutral lighting. The unusual magenta torches and purple lightning really help to create the otherworldly feel of this set. Because the set lighting is all about storytelling, and how the set actually appears in the show, the lit pass was usually done from down at the characters POV.
Props are the simplest and most abundant assets created for an animated show. There are always more props that need designing if you have a spare day in your schedule. I always found them an enjoyable change of pace and subject matter from all the environment work. Here are some of the memorable ones.
CYcolramas and skydomes
Animated TV is always a bit of a compromise. Nothing comes for free in animation, you have to create every last bit of it, including skies and distant hills that most people will never look twice at. On a TV budget and timeline the sets tend to be very limited in the size. When the set is an exterior, this means that you can see the edge of if in every shot, and the only cost effective solution is to use painted elements to extend the set and hide it’s edges.
It is common in animated shows for the set to have a layered painting of the distant landscape set on a cylinder all the way around the set. These paintings are known as cycloramas. Behind them is usually a large dome or box with a painted sky on it. Being the BG Painter of the show, these elements were all my responisibility.
Cycloramas are almost like a set extension. Painted in layers to create some parralax, they need to be painted to sit right behind the edge of the set, and give the illusion that it continues into the distance. Each set would need the cyc repainted for each time of day. These are just two examples to show the style