May 13 2010
Illustration takes many tremendously diverse incarnations. That’s the allure of this creative specialty and why I love it. The pursuit is essentially inventive, problem solving for every conceivable situation. Over the years I’ve learned quite a few ways to provide visual commodities so, for me, boredom is absurd.
I recently took my lovely wife Teresa, and young grandson Trent, to Dreamworks’ new wonderful animated feature film “How To Train Your Dragon”. The benefit of the evening’s fun was allegedly for Trent but the fact is I love these pictures and insisted we go. In very short order this extraordinary movie, jam-packed with complex characters, lush landscapes exploding in fire, light and so many other wondrous things quickly had our mouths agape. It wasn’t ten minutes in when I exclaimed, with eyes as wide (maybe wider) as my five-year-old companion’s, “Anything is possible!” I think it was around that time too, I was able to blink and swallow.
Computer animation has come a long way and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. 3D modeling and animation open huge doors of possibility, limited only by a lack of imagination. Large studios raise the bar and battle it out back and forth. The audience can only hold on to their seats while being flattened between the armrests, dumbstruck by a riot of spectacular images.
The other benefits these feature cinematic projects contribute are refined and accessible breakthroughs for the common man. Similar to NASA that brought us Velcro, internal teams of specialized individuals at these advanced visual factories like Pixar and Dreamworks yield many technological innovations. The things these companies develop are incorporated into mainstream programs for the grassroots 3D illustrator. Their inventive effort is a huge gift for all of us wishing to capture some of the same magic. Remember these places have lots of money, rooms full of powerful equipment and exceptional talent readily available. Still, an individual can accomplish some pretty amazing things if they take the time to learn the software.
Like illustration itself, 3D is applied in countless ways. One facet for example, is packaging. The medium is perfect for bringing visualization to concepts and designs. Unpleasant surprises are nonexistent if your clients see their proposed retail products actually wrapped around boxes and bottles. Complex models complete with intricate texture maps, duplicated and placed in store environments, help even the most conceptionally challenged comprehend.
Limitless variations are achieved through adjustments to innumerable variables such as lighting, map textures and camera angles. Every creative direction brings you to distinct aesthetics to promote the all important but elusive message.
Okay, so this isn’t flying dragons breathing fire but, unfortunately very few have that kind of budget. This doesn’t mean the world of 3D is out of your reach, though. The software is surprisingly adaptive and I am always finding new ways to make use of it. In fact, 3D is quickly becoming the “Swiss Army Knife” in my illustrator’s toolbox. For example, perfecting a composition is much simpler when explored in 360 degrees.
Visiting virtual worlds filled with the virtual objects I’ve built is captivating. I’m always amazed what this software can do. As I declared that superb evening in the movie theater while gazing upon the screen in fascination, “Anything really is possible”.
Kurt Pfaff is an illustrator working in Pittsburgh, PA regularly collaborating with numerous agencies and corporations while visiting virtual worlds. His work can be found on package labels, books, brochures, posters and other printed material or websites. His work also hangs on the walls of galleries and homes. Visit his website at http://kurtpfaff.com