Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Arena: Details and renders 2

I have used a combination of techniques for the renders starting with the hand drawn sketches then digitally painting the colours and render textures. I have gone for metallic surfaces that are rusted with brushed and stained metal for some contrast. Alongside these textures there will be stone walls. The arena is set deep within the medical research centre into the bedrock and will be dimly lit. I am planning to experiment with some lighting scenarios as part of the final concept paintings.  The arena space is in complete contrast to the main complex being more run down and rough. The book often describes many of the settings and props as being medieval in influence even though it is set in the future. Working with a variety of textures, influences and architecture provides some great challenges in terms of research and design. Although every set is different they all need to connect to create a coherent overall design. This is part of the Production Designer’s job throughout, from pre-production to post-production regardless of whether CGI is used or not. I will look at how CGI/VFX will be used in the arena space. It’s likely that if anything is needed, it will be subtle, if at all.

door render e 2

The surround of the doorway is rusted. Both sides of the door will be the same  apart from a warning sign on the exterior side.

lights 2 render

Light design (hanging). This will also be replicated for a wall light. (Rusted metal texture on the main casing.)


rail render 3b

Railings continue the rusted metal theme throughout with steel coloured handrail sections.

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The Arena: Design details and renders

I’m finalising the details of the arena design, including the doors, lights, handrails and another set props that are needed this week. Although the space is fairly stripped back in terms features there are still many things to consider such as texture, colours and materials to use in both the model and actual set. Most of the wall will be a rough stone texture with the columns made of stone and metal. The rest of the space will have industrial features so will be a mixture of part medieval part industrial.



The door will be a mixture of rusted industrial looking panel surrounds and metal, safety signs, handles etc and will take on the features of an airlock/security style door. This will be rendered with signage, colour and texture in my next post.


I’m going for a similar look with the handrails, making them around 36-38 inches tall which is a fairly standard height.


The space also features a wheel/chandelier type of prop that will have chains to replicate those you find in medieval torture chambers. I was thinking of making it so that it could rise up or lower to tighten the chains accordingly.



Finally some lighting that can be used as wall mounted lights. These could also be adapted to be  hanging by wires or chains to carry on the industrial/torture chamber theme of the space.

The next phase of the arena design will involve rendering all theses features and completing some visuals/concepts. I will also be completing the technical drawings.

Categories: MA Practical Project, MA project, sketchbook and visual diary | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Sound Stage Build: The Arena

I’m turning my attentions back to the main build of the project and fleshing out the details of each section one by one. This week I decided to focus on the arena part of the design. It’s a fairly basic shape and design in regards to details and features as it’s a subterranean space with little light. This section has to be set in the bowels of the building, so needed some kind of pillar structure and to drop down into the tank for depth.

I had a basic structure planned out for the space and now I’m working on the textures, details of doors, railings, lighting etc. It also houses the Huntsmen so it needs chains and will take on a horror theme with lighting and colour.

I collected lots of additional images to piece together an overall look in several mood boards.

arena mood board 1

arena mood board 2

arena mood board 3

I want the arena to have the feeling of a rustic, almost medieval/classical space but with modern/futuristic additions, such as lighting, doors, railings etc. It will also have hints at torture/confinement with the addition of chains.

I used Sketch Up to create a 3D model that can become  concepts but also can be viewed from several angles and directions.

arena 3b

arena 3d arena 3a


The next stages include finalising details and producing 1 or 2 concepts that show the space with all its colour, fixtures and fittings and technical drawings that will include a plan, elevation from 2 sides, cutting through the circular space.

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CGI, Post Production and Production Design

It’s clear from reading articles over the last few weeks that there is a shift in not only how films look but how they are being made. Traditionally a film goes into the pre-production stage, is designed, filmed and then any edits or visual effects are done in the later stage of post production. Now what seems to be happening, certainly with larger companies is that filmmakers/directors are approaching the post production/VFX companies directly to make their films. Inception was one of those films that was done entirely in-house. AWN’s (Animation World Network) Bill Desowitz spoke about the new trend of VFX companies handling films in their entirety.

This allows for better cooperation between artists and a broad scale understanding of the film’s intentions rather than parceling off the film into pieces to be assigned to different studios, which creates a disjointed artistic experience.  ” (DESOWITZ, B. (Cited 2011) [Online])

Some companies such as Framestore have a pre-viz department as well as post production services allowing for films to be designed in-house, so for science fiction and fantasy films it could be something that happens more and more in the future. It would be interesting to see if smaller companies would have the capabilities to do the same, or whether this is purely the arena of companies like Framestore, Method Studios or Double Negative.

I approached Framestore to ask them whether the production designer is part of this pre-viz stage and they confirmed that their designers  are involved with the design process from early on, collaborating with the production designer.  They also directed me to the art department site where many of the concept images are produced. However, that said, it does not always follow that they do the VFX for that film later on.  An example of this is World War Z in which they produced only concepts. From left to right World War Z and 47 Ronin  where they designed many aspects from pre-viz to VFX/post production The images are concept art, environments and creature design and VFX.

wwz6  47Ronin_Wip_Ako_L  47Ronin_Wip_Dragon_L

images available at   and [sourced on 11/05/2014]


“Framestore astounded me with their combination of technical skill and artistry in creating the world of 47 Ronin. From conception at its art department right through to execution by their incredibly talented VFX team, they created creatures, FX and environments that are truly unique. Thanks Guys!” 47 Ronin director, Carl Rinsch. [online – sourced on 11/05/2014]

Most films are still packaged off to several companies all over the world. But these are large budget films so have the money to employ production designers, art directors etc to oversee the process.

I looked at Inception  and found that the pre-production/art department and VFX both worked on concepts with the production designer and the art department team researching architecture to provide a solid visual foundation. I will look at Inception and Double Negative in the next VFX post in more detail.


image from on 13/05/14]


What is evident is that companies such as Double Negative and Framestore work with production designers at an early pre-viz stage, research, concepts, VFX planning etc whether they are all in-house or packaged off to various VFX studios.

This is a brief breakdown of some of the companies and their services:-

Double Negative :- Concept/pre-viz/VFX designing Inception in-house, bringing in other designers.

Framestore:- Art/Department/Concepts/Pre-vis/VFX/Design etc working on films such as 47 Ronin and Gravity

Method Studios:- Art Department/Concepts/Colour/Design/VFX working on films such as Divergent and Cloud Atlas

Scanline VFX :- High end VFX/ Colour/Titles and mainly post production, on films like Divergent and 300

Sony Imageworks :- VFX/Animation/3D, film such as Spiderman and Godzilla

Boogie Studios:-VFX/Sound/3D/colour/post production



Blog article:-

DESOWITZ, B., (cited 2011) Oscar nominated Inception helps to develop a trend in the VFX industry. Available at:- [sourced on 22/04/2014]

Images and website information:- [online- sourced on 11/05/2014] sourced on 11/05/2014]

47 Ronin director, Carl Rinsch. [online- sourced on 11/05/2014]

image from on 13/05/14]

Double Negative website:-

Framestore :-


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Post Production Research

I have broken down the elements of the next phase of research for post production into a diagram. This is to give me a plan of how to approach such a vast and constantly evolving part of modern-day film making. Before completing the set design and location element of my project I need to really understand what is happening now and how it affects science fiction film design. There are other considerations including the budget of the film and the size of the post production company involved too.

post production

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VectorWorks and Plans

Towards the end of term we were introduced to the industry standard software VectorWorks. It is similar to CAD in the way it allows you to produce technical drawings to scale. It also has 3D capabilities so that you can turn plans into 3D models and then render them with realistic textures and surfaces. I found a few examples before having a go at making a basic plan and seeing how it looks as a 3D model.


image available at[sourced on 2/5/14]

Gallery00250_Rest_BarArea Gallery02349_jasper

two above images available at [sourced on 2/05/14]

These pictures show what is possible for rooms and architecture. I want to use some of my plans of the Medical Research Centre and turn them into fully rendered images to practice using the software.

I had a go at doing a basic plan and model shape just to see how it worked, then a basic plan for part of my model below.

vector 1 3d render3vector 1 3d render2

vector plan 1i



Visuals image available at on 2/5/14] [sourced on 2/05/14]




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