04 July 2007

The Batman: Season 4 Finale

Apologies...It's been a long time since I've posted. Unfortunately, I have not had time to draw anything new that I can post, but I will let you in how sometimes things have to change on the fly.

For the Season 4 two-part finale of The Batman, we had to show quite a bit of Wayne Industries, a location that had been designed for a previous season. Since we were spending so much time there, I had to make sure it looked like the headquarters of a multibillion dollar conglomerate. So, I took the basic layouts from the original designs and did some remodeling.

I wish I had those originals handy for comparison along with the Wayne Industries logo, which was basically two V's shaped and placed side-by-side to create an I in the negative space between them. The first sketch, the front view, features the main tower with that "W" logo. That domed shape in the right foreground was one of the main areas of interest, where the aliens would begin manufacturing their war machines, or so I thought.

Towards the end of a season, the design team is dealing with designing off scripts, key layouts from storyboards and late additions for episodes coming back. So, it's not unusual for things to get a bit behind, especially on a detailed action show like this. Add to that continuing script changes, and you can see how changes on the fly can become unavoidable.

From the second sketch, it's clear that the space has been fairly resolved. I had done a series of interior shots to match the exterior shapes. Then the prop designs for the weapons of destruction started coming in. There were much larger that initially anticipated and the script called for more of them than expected. So, I had to throw together the second pass on a warehouse space to accommodate them. The third sketch shows the new space with some scale references in front. The airplane is a 747, which is a very large vehicle. They are on Post-Its because even the scale of this new one had to undergo several changes.

The fourth sketch shows the aerial view of the Wayne campus, the view with which I'd started the entire remodeling. The new warehouse/assembly line is in faint red towards the back. While this particular view was never cleaned up, as it didn't turn out to be needed from the way the scenes were boarded, it helped inform the changes I had to make to the already cleaned-up front view. As if things weren't tight enough on the schedule, I had to start on my next job, so a few interior details were completed serving split duty.

Not the most traumatic on the fly changes I've had to deal with, but they did require some juggling of time and quick thinking to minimize the work required to accommodate those revisions. I have yet to see the final results, as aired a while back. One of these days I hope to catch them on a rerun.

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21 February 2007

Hyped: Music Video Drawing

Here's a series of images showing my progress with some animated clips (very limited animation with Photoshop layers) for my friend Woody's music video. He's launched a new label Chaos Theory Music and it's been well-received so far with some attention from news and radio outlets. The song is called "Hyped" which explains all the "Hype" signs everywhere. Pardon my limited color application. The drawing was conceived and executed on a very short schedule. I hope the video editor can work some magic with it.

The song's about the good and bad of hype, so I thought I'd say my two cents about how hype with all it's flash can make the rest of the world seem a dull grey. The left side of the drawing definitely resorts to some cliche shorthand for West Coast with the palms and lights into the sky, but some of you Midwesterners might recognize the Sears Tower as you pan right and hidden under the large "HYPE" sign on the right is an approximation of the Empire State Building. Had I more time, I would have fleshed out the morning sky panel with full colors to let people know when the lights turn off and the sun comes up all the full colors start to come out. Alas, time has not allowed me to complete the thought. I hope you enjoy the drawings anyway.

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06 February 2007

Basketball Shoes, Manta Rays & Basking Sharks

Sometimes I am able to draw things that actually animate (props and, on rare occasions, characters). Here's some models for Dack's spacecraft from "Men in Black: The Series" season two when Kay and Jay travel to space station. I also designed a cockpit-shifting landing configuration that turned out to be unused because we only see the ship docked to the space station. The original idea started out resembling a basketball shoe and somehow ended up here.

The larger scale, flying wing type plane is a ridiculously large ship (I estimated the wingspan as needing to be over 1000 feet) from the CGI modeled "Max Steel". The premise of the show was a giant plane that flew within an artificially generated cloud and literally swallowed other, high-tech aircraft. I didn't end up finishing out the open dock sequence, but the concept was based on some photos I'd seen of basking sharks and manta rays. I envisioned the backside venting open like a basking shark's gills open up to allow water flow through its gaping mouth.

It's nice to be able to design different things sometimes, but it made me appreciate the difficulty of balancing shapes, design with what can animate well, not that I ever really got a sense of how well they translated onto screen, but it was fun trying.

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02 February 2007

The Batman: Season Four: Main Title

With the addition of Robin for the fourth season, the powers that be decided it was time to include him in the main title sequence. So, they had me crank out this upshot to eye level pan of some Gotham City buildings. Considering the quick turnaround, I was pretty happy with the results. The colors add a lot to the mood of the piece. The line art was also used for the long sleeve crew shirt (white and grey lines over black) to go along with the orange prisoner in Arkham Asylum short sleeve.

It's been a long time since they've aired those Season Four episodes. The last new one I saw was the sixth one, "The Breakout" which was a play on that stuck inside the Police station film with Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne. I believe the seventh one is the much anticipated future Gotham City episode that features Nightwing, Oracle and a Mr. Freeze with heavy prosthetic enhancements, not to mention a sweet Bat Tank designed by Byron Penaranda, our lead Prop Designer. According to the schedule, it will air Saturday, February 3, 2007 at the same Bat Time on the same Bat Channel.

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18 January 2007

Teen Titans: Season 2: Underground

One thing universal among all the "Teen Titans" fans I've encountered was a disdain for Terra. Young and old viewers alike maintain a very strong reaction to her betrayal of the team, even post redemptive season two finale. During her introductory season, the Titan's Tower slowly sinks into an implausibly giant hole underground.

My job as the designer was to make this technological feat look at least passably possible. To cover the enormous space involved I drew this cutaway view, which does tweak the scale a little to keep it manageable for the storyboard artists to stage.

It all worked out well enough, but the overseas studio animating the show didn't get that the view was a cutaway and drew the ceiling exactly as I drew it. I probably should have made a clear note on the design.

Even with such extra effort to make everything clear, something always gets lost or altered in translation. Sometimes the changes can be for the better, but more often, the work suffers. Once it's out of your hands, all you can do is hope the damage is minimal and barely noticed like this instance.

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07 January 2007

Teen Titans: Prom Ship

So, one of the more fun and quintessential Glen Murakami "Teen Titans" ideas was that a villain, the ever dangerous Killer Moth, is threatening to destroy the city, if Robin doesn't agree to take his teenage daughter to prom. As it turned out, she was only trying to make her spider-headed boyfriend jealous. Another fun part of "Titans" was trying to revive the most obscure characters in DC Comics' along with the numerous insertions of names from the crew.

I designed this prom ship as a prop and BG, and at the time, it seemed to made sense to draw the whole ship in detail. As I went along, the drawing got bigger and bigger. I think the final drawing was about 3 feet wide and 18 inches tall. Fortunately, I still had some animation pan paper, so I was able to avoid dodging tape seams for the long continuous lines for the hull and deck.

As you can see, most of the action took place in the front deck, decorated with tables complete with moon and star balloons. The moons and stars were an allusion to the theme for the wedding invitations I designed for my friend, Chap Yaep, a director and storyboard artist on various shows I'd worked on, including "Teen Titans" and "The Batman". That, in turn, was alluding to a time, when Chap and his wife were dating and occasionally he'd sleep over instead of driving back home (50 miles from the office).

One of the letters, his then girlfriend (and now wife) wrote was filled with silvery confetti shaped like, you guessed it, moons and stars. Unaware of the letter's loose contents, Chap tore open the letter (as any enthusiastic member of a couple should) spilling the moons and stars all over the floor. Even after vacuuming up most of it, for years, I would occasionally find something clinging to the bottom of my foot and chuckle when it was one of those very moons or stars.

Perhaps, I haven't said much for my vacuuming skills (and probably not much about drawing either), but it's just funny how the littlest details and filter through years in your life and somehow find their way onto a nationally broadcast television show. Though I doubt anyone could have made the connection, save Chap and his wife (I can't recall if they did), I think it's those little things that not only make the drawing process fun, but add the layers of thought put into any labor of love that shine through directly and indirectly in the craftsmanship.

BTW, the ship's name is and ode to one of the show's longtime directors, Matt Youngberg.

04 January 2007

Teen Titans: Season Three: Tamaranian Palace

This is the Tamaranian Palace from "Bethrothed", Season Three. I'll see if I can get my hands on the colored version, so I can post that along with the incredible space shots Chu-Hui Song colored for the episode. Early on, I figured out that a dual sun or moon was easy shorthand for making the viewer aware of an alien setting, since of course, we only have one of each.

The design began as sort of a blend of Lawrence Alma-Tadema's "Spring" and Moebius, who's drawings always have hints of being alien and really ancient. "Spring" was really more for its festive mood and tone reflective of the emotional makeup of Starfire's people, because the Classic architecture is probably too staid and stoic.

Looking over the drawing now, it really bears little resemblance to the original inspirations, which is just as well, since I do't think I could have done either justice. I don't recall any design discussion of how stark the terrain should be, but I think that was necessitated more by the script calling for a precipitous drop to one side of the palace where a fleet of potentially hostile battle crafts was parked.

Something always bothered me about this drawing, and I think I finally see it. There are too many parallels along the stone walkway. Glen would always emphasize that parallels should be avoided unless you really need it. Especially in what should look more organic, those parallels make what was intended to look natural seem less so. Fortunately, color works like love on our drawings and covers over a multitude of mistakes like that.

29 December 2006

Teen Titans: Season One: Colored BGs

Here's three colored backgrounds from "Teen Titans" Season One. The Ops Room is a stock model where the Titans spend most of their time inside the T-Tower. The jungle scene was from the Mad Mod episode when they think there's a way out of his classroom prison. It appeared again in the second Control Freak episode (the popular among my friends, "Hakjoon Kang" chant episode). Finally, Rancid City is the city under the influence of Johnny Rancid. All of my line art was beautifully rendered by the background color crew, which at the time consisted of Chu-Hui Song and Kersti Myberg.

The Rancid City was drawn with shadow and texture using a technique I discovered in second grade when I colored The Great Pyramids over a rough surface to give it a rougher grain than the paper provided. All the textures you see in the other pieces were digitally rendered in by the colorists. Chu-Hui actually spent quite a bit of time generating the brushes from a series of paint strokes on hot press illustration board.

Glen Murakami and Eric Canete recently dropped by the new office, and Glen mentioned how he'd watched one of his (and my) favorites Tadahiro Uesugi do his very undigital looking digital paintings. His art was one of the stronger influences on Glen's art direction for "Teen Titans" Apparently, Uesugi also makes custom brushes in Photoshop, but he does it digitally. If I heard Glen correctly, Uesugi makes unique brushes for each piece and then takes those brushes to do a value composition that he refines and eventually gives an overall hue. He then takes parts of the piece and further distinguishes the colors from there. I could never have guessed that approach from what I've seen, but you can't argue with the beautiful results.

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28 December 2006

The Batman Season 4: Waggie Time Dog Food Factory

This drawing was pretty large (24"X36") and suffered a bit from a shoddy tape job using standard leger sized paper (11"X17"). As is often the case with drawing, the inked version didn't turn out quite as I'd imagined. I still like the rough enough to post it. In the episode, the Joker is thwarted from poisoning the large mixing vats.

27 December 2006

Men in Black: Santa's Workshop

Okay, so this post is a couple days late, but I thought you might want to check out Men in Black: The Series's take on where all the gifts came from, namely, a basement workshop run by aliens.

21 November 2006

The Big Guy & Rusty the Boy Robot: Promo

An unused promo piece with shadow guide for "The Big Guy & Rusty the Boy Robot". Too bad there are so many episodes that fell to a similar fate.

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13 November 2006

Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo

Since this has aired on TV already, I hope it's okay to post some of the art from our pre-production design. I don't know why it's taking so long for the DVD to come out, but I hope it's because they are adding some nice extras to it. Enjoy.

10 November 2006

The Batman Season 4: Ice Pick Club

It's been far too long since my last post. Here are some season 4 episode 1 "A Matter of Family" designs for the Ice Pick Club, an out of plain sight hangout for Gotham's underworld.

24 May 2006

NewSong: Noah's Place

This was done in one of those drawing moments where things just flow (a phrase coined by an instructor at my school while I was there). It must have taken just over 2 hours from start to finish, but it seemed about 15 mintues, one of those "spots of time" Norman Maclean (another distinguished instructor from my school) mentions in one of my favorite books, "A River Runs Through It".

I'll leave you to explore (and hopefully enjoy) the multiple narratives I wove into the drawing, but my two favorites are, first, the homage to Pablo, the penguin that hated the cold, from one of my favorite childhood books (crossed with my memory of Tennessee Tuxedo sans Chumley the Walrus). Next, the lobster who is annoyed that the PlayStation controllers are not claw-friendly.

The oxpecker posed rhino is actually Noah, whose place this is. Noah's Place is also where the kids go at NewSong Irvine.

03 May 2006

Basement: 19 April 2006

My friend and fellow WB Animation employee, Eric Canete, has been doing a series of 90 minute drawings on his blog. I was already impressed and amazed by what he's posted, but after trying to do the same, I'm even more astonished at the quality and polish on his posts. My drawing took two roughs and twice the time Eric has been allotting himself, yet is no where near as finished looking. I've got to draw more!

For those of you keen-eyed viewers, yes, that is C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) coming out of the man hole.

20 April 2006

NewSong: H2O

These are some t-shirt designs I did for NewSong a couple of Easters ago. The second one was a bit more clever in it's use of the letters, but they opted for the first one which is visually more of an immediate read. Being the geek that I am, I actually looked up the bond angle for the water molecule which, in case you don't want to hit the link, is 104.5 degrees.

As anyone who has made ice before knows, water expands as it freezes. The reason for this (as the article explains) is that the organized lattice structure of its solid form creates "space" through the weaker hydrogen bonds that occur between the H2O molecules. In liquid form, the v-shaped units mingle and tangle up a lot closer to each other. It's somewhat analogous to a steel bridge with those X-shaped or V-shaped supports versus just a random pile of those same girders.

So, you may ask, "Why do you bring this up Mr. Chemistry/Engineering Geek?" (Actually, I was never too keen on Chem and never studied Engineering.) I just thought they are good reminders for me to embrace more structure in my life, a constant uphill struggle for as long as I recall. Like many artists and slobs, I tend to view structure as being restricting and confining.

However, if you imagine a girder bridge, it's obvious that one with those X's and V's organized into a structure allows space to go through it, poke your head out crossing it and climb it. Now, if those girders were not so organized, not only would the bridge be more difficult to navigate, but I wouldn't have much confidence in the strength of the bridge to hold up under the strain of any additional weight.

28 February 2006

Teen Titans: Cybrain

Although I was playing around with the free download, Personal Learning Edition of Maya at the time, I found I did not have the extra hours to learn about nurbs and all the other features in this industry standard 3D application. I had also recently purchased the then newly released Adobe Creative Suite. Illustrator CS has some limited but still pretty useful 3D tools. They are basically: revolve, extrude and map pattern. using those three functions, I was able to knock out most of what we see inside Cyborg. The "Crash" episode called for Gizmo and Beast Boy to be shrunken and injected into Cyborg's inner machinery, ala "Fantastic Voyage" sans Raquel Welch. I have not upgraded to Creative Suite 2 yet, but I look forward to playing with some of the new perspective tools on Photoshop.

21 February 2006

Calvin: Birthday Bookmark

My friends James and Michelle asked me to do a bookmark to give away at their second son, Calvin's first birthday. I did two sketches, one of Calvin wearing a Superman outfit with those "Hulk smash!" fists while his brother, Justin, dressed in a Batman suit is trying to coax Calvin back to the DC universe. I opted for the second idea of a Calvin & Hobbes theme. So, with apologies to Bill Watterson, I hope you enjoy.

18 February 2006

Teen Titans: Bruce Timm Art

Here's two drawings Bruce Timm did for one of the Teen Titans episodes.

14 February 2006

Teen Titans: Crystal

There are some designs, where I can say I've really helped shape the environment and mood. There are others like this crystal, that show just how much the BG painters improve upon our line art. All I drew were the lines of the facets and some hints of texture. The rest was all Chu-Hui.

07 February 2006

Teen Titans: Super-D Tower

Sorry, for the delay in posting this. I had some trouble posting, but blogger seems to have worked out the trouble. This is one of several "Super Deformed", "SD" or "Super-D", as we usually called it (at the request of Warner Bros., Titans Towers I designed. I'd intended that grid of windows on the side to be colored like a graphics equalizer readout, but I forgot to mention it to the BG painters.

One of my old PSX favorites, Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo (one, two) along with some Puzzle fighter manual art I'd never seen (one, two). I hope you enjoy the SD mini-gallery.

Related link: Special thanks to The Video Game Museum for the Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo and Puzzle Fighter images.

03 February 2006

Teen Titans: Moroccan Market

The series of drawings we did of Morocco for the Hotspot episode, actually called for the lines to not be so straight. So, there wasn't much call for the ruler. The street scenes were at dusk, so the colors went very saturated and lively. It's a bit of a departure from some of the other episodes, but I liked the change of pace. The flipping back and forth between reality and Super-D(eformed: when the characters and backgrounds can get very exaggerated in proportions to convey additional emotion or mood. I'll post an example of a Super-D background this weekend) that Glen utilized on Titans afforded him quite a bit of stylistic latitude and made the show really fun to design.

As a background designer, I enjoy drawing cities and researching different styles of architecture to give them realistic details while adding my own flavor to them. Although, certainly, the rules of perspective apply to such drawings, I often eschew my ruler during the clean up (or inking phase, I'll post a series of drawings that will illustrate this process in the future).

As the years have gone by, I've become more and more reluctant to rule out even my roughs. It's not that I shun the rules and think that my lines are perfect without the ruler, but since your pen or pencil runs along an edge that is constant, there is a sense in which the ruler kills the character of your line. Oddly, even though your hand can run along a straight edge far more confidently and quickly than without it, I find that, mentally, things go faster when I draw freehand.

Still, some lines just call for the ruler. On occasion, the freehand line can get a little too wobbly, especially with any dose of caffeine, so there's also the possibility of having to bring in the ruler to straighten things up. Some artists even hold their breath during some of the longer and more crucial lines. For me, this practice was, in part, inspired by an exhibit I'd seen at the satirical Museum of Jurassic Technology. It's down the street from where I used to live and my former apartment manager's husband was it's curator. The exhibit highlighted a man whose microscopic, fully posed and painted dust sculptures required him to stroke his one hair brush in between heartbeats.

Now, before I start off some young artists on the wrong foot, I should add that I did first learn correct perspective with rulers and strict rules on creating the illusion of a realistic depth. Repeated use of these techniques then allowed me to tackle more complex perspectives with angled and curved planes, multiple vanishing points & a bunch of other jargon filled aspects. While I can't say I've fully mastered perspective, I can see that I have improved in my understanding of it. The understanding has, in turn, provided the solid foundation that enables me to produce convincing perspectives in freehand. Others may discover their own way of coming to this point, but that has been my process thus far.

Child prodigies and budding Mozarts aside, most musicians must learn how to generate notes on an instrument along with scales and chords and some way of remembering them in sequences (most of the time by learning the language of notes on a staff with the various markings), as they tackle the basic harmonies and melodies of simple songs. With practice, reading those notes and commanding the body to respond accordingly become second nature allowing the focus of a performance to shift from those basic concerns to more complex ones that might add to or accent certain points of a piece. Even the timing and understanding of those things can grow, until that musician is performing the most difficult of concertos in front of a captivated audience. Of course, not every musician strives for such mastery nor can everyone attain it, but I am confident that those who do have suffered long hours of practice mixed in with various triumphs & failures, that refined their skills and demanded a piece of themselves to pour into its artistry.

I hope to draw "concertos" some day.

02 February 2006

Teen Titans: Road Runner

This wasn't the most sophisticated background, nor is it indicative of the "normal" Titans style, but I thought I'd post it for nostalgic reasons and to give props to Chu-Hui for matching the color so well. I really enjoyed emulating the style of the Warner Bros. cartoons that were my Saturday morning and weekday afternoon staples. I am an ice cream fiend, and my addiction to Rocky Road and Cookies & Creme began with my grab-a-half-gallon-tub-o-ice-cream-and-a-spoon Saturday mornings camped in front of the TV watching them. Studying what had been done on those old Road Runner cartoons, I was amazed to find that I hadn't noticed just how different some of the eras looked. Even the cacti leaned different directions during the running scenes. Ultimately, I opted for the Maurice Noble look.

For those keeping track, the sequence was called for when Beast Boy turns into a green Wile E. Coyote as he is chased by Control Freak in Episode 257-494.

31 January 2006

Teen Titans: Clean Room

This first season drawing of the clean room from the teaser of the Masks episode (the first appearance of Red X) was never fully shown, since most of the melee takes place on the lower portion. Anyone who has seen Chris Cunningham's video for Björk's "All Is Full of Love" will quickly recognize the influence of the music video's aesthetic.
I don't know if the directors of The Postal Service video "Such Great Heights" are Cunningham fans, but I can see some similarities. There's been a bit of press lately on how everyone saw the influence of The Postal Service video in the new Apple Intel ad, but all that was put to rest, when it was revealed that the same directors were behind both.

30 January 2006

Teen Titans: Launch Pad

Here's where the Titan's T-Ship is launched into space, beautifully colored by the BG paint crew. The ship was designed by Norm Ryang. It was cool to see it made into a toy. It's rare that a background element gets made into a toy, however, one of the 1.5-inch figure series includes a T-Tower that can be completed by collecting all three sets in the series. Also, Ben bought the giant tower toy, so I can no longer maintain that my designs never get made into toys. In any case, Norm has a post with another view I did of the launch pad (scroll down to T-Sub Layout).

NOTE: While the ship was originally designed as a submarine for the Aqualad episode, this launch pad appeared in the Starfire transforms and runs away, so everyone flies into space looking for her episode. So, the sub became a space ship. I'll post the launch tube for the submarine mode another time.