Saturday, 25 April 2009

Backgrounds...again

I keep coming back to backgrounds - but then you would if you make cartoons because they are a requirement of the medium. I have to say though...I think I have found my niche when it comes to background design...at last. All my research and looking seems to have paid off because I like the work I am doing on my backgrounds at the moment.

I keep trying to remind myself I am doing a lot of different peoples jobs....jobs that people specialise in and get paid money to do. It doesn't help though and I still beat myself up all the time.

Anyway, here a few of the backgrounds for the cartoon so far.

This opening shot needed to be pleasant and optimistic to counter the following scene which is red and evil. Careful and non-obvious uses of gradients proved well founded in this background giving a nice sense of depth to the image. Also, by no using a sun and just using a gradient fill with a bright yellow/orange, the audience knows the sun is shining even though they don't necessarily see it. Its one less thing for the eyes to concentrate on or be distracted by, but the its presence is still there. Light after all is the only reason we actually see anything.

I have output these images as .png's to keep the quality, but also because if I was painting these backgrounds I wouldn't draw the stage size and paint to the edges, I would paint the background and cut my favourite bit out to suit my needs. Also, by having a little over the edge, no white lines show on the edges of shots by accident and it allows a bit of room for camera wiggle to add an extra element to any shot. It also looks a bit more professional and well considered.

Finally I knocked this one up this morning ('Tis a Saturday today). In this scene Captain Uber is crawling along the floor so I needed the background to be able to slide along behind him to reveal something further down the street. A longer background was required. This is a city scene so I wanted to bring a bit of suburbia to my image. Everything is quite geometric deliberately and I worked with a lot of light effects to add a few extra dynamics to the scene.

The window for instance is been attacked by light from more directions that I could ever possibly consider, but if I take into account just a few I can add a sense of realism to this cartoon side walk shot. Chewing gum, grass in the pavement cracks and a water grate all add extra detail. There is a reference to the comic book I made, barely legible on the poster behind the lamp post and suggestive brick patterns adorn the walls. I deliberately strayed away from cliches like cartoon pavement cracks and dog turds though, I am tired of seeings that in cartoons. All this adds up to a nice bit of background design that I am quite pleased with overall.

Backgrounds have always been used to add more depth to cartoons because adding such detail to the characters themselves isn't an easy or cheap task. With a static background though, you can be as detailed as you like - Gepetto's workshop in Pinocchio is proof of that. With more time and more exclusivity I would like to add a lot more detail, but working on the go means I have to use a few tricks and move on quickly. Overall though, I'm happy with this part of the cartoon (More than the animation at any rate).

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