The “deep paintings” of Warhammer 40,000K Dawn of War III

The “deep paintings” of Warhammer 40,000K Dawn of War III

Dawn of War III returns once again to the battle-scarred frontlines of Warhammer 40,000, bringing the conflict of Space Marines, Eldar and Ork to the lost planet of Acheron. Read on to learn how Axis Animation and director Abed Abonamous took inspiration from classical paintings to build the game’s brooding expository cut scenes, revealing a world where beauty and violence sit side by side…

Axis Animation first stepped into the ominous nightmare world of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III in early 2016. Relic Entertainment – the creator of the lauded real-time strategy series – called on the studio and director Abed Abonamous to create an announcement trailer that would challenge the expectations of the Warhammer franchise, revealing a darker take on the universe and its characters.

The result was a haunting journey through visuals inspired by the forbidding work of painters like Zdzisław Beksiński and H.R. Giger – mysterious stone structures tower behind plumes of dust; behemoths clash across corpse-strewn battlefields; and lonesome soldiers face their ultimate end with a wry smile.

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Axis and Abonamous were once again invited into the netherworld of Dawn of War III to further expand this atmosphere throughout the title’s in-game cinematics, imbuing them with the same tone and atmosphere as the trailer.

The team worked to create 14 minutes of compelling 2.5D “motion-painting” cut scenes, each exhibiting the scope and fury of Dawn of War III’s violent clashes with the same oppressive atmosphere that pervades the initial trailer.

Read on to find out how Axis approach each of these doom-laden tableaus, taking inspiration from the classical masters…

Deep paintings

As a team of Warhammer fanatics, Axis Animation stood as the studio of choice for Relic Entertainment, who knew the team would show due reverence for the beloved tabletop franchise.

Axis collaborated closely with Relic to ensure the cut scenes hit the right tonal notes from pre-production onwards, with Abonamous once again diving into the universe headfirst.

“Relic had a clear idea of the storyline; they gave us detailed scripts that covered all of the cut scenes’ narrative beats,” explains Abonamous. “They also gave presentations revealing how the scripts tied into the game’s narrative context, revealing what would happen between one cut scene and another. That was a kind of ‘narrative glue’, which we used to think of the cut scenes as part of a larger tapestry.”

Abonamous and Axis needed to make this “tapestry” feel as rich as possible, both narratively and artistically. As such the team chose to implement the cut scenes as a series of “deep paintings”. Each frame revealed an atmospheric diorama or character and environment, shrouded in the sinister atmosphere that permeates Dawn of War III.

“We broke down the scripts provided by Relic into storyboard sketches, and iteratively finessed them while discussing each with the developers,” Abonamous explains. “Relic’s scripts and briefings rarely mandated any specific compositions for each cut scene. We had a lot of flexibility in approach for the deep paintings we wanted to create, and could decide on compositions that allowed the camera to tell a story.”

Indeed, the similarity between storyboard sketches and final output can be witnessed in lead storyboard artist Paul Coulthard’s comparison reel, detailing the initial sketches alongside Dawn of War III’s final results.

A two-way street

Using Relic’s directions for the cut scenes’ narrative elements, Axis worked collaboratively with the studio to define the look, feel and approach of each short composition.

“We approached this very much in the vein of classical painters, who guide the viewer’s eye through use of composition and lighting,” explains Abonamous.

“Relic provided high-level designs for locations and characters, as we had to make sure that the cut scenes corresponded visually to the players’ in-game experiences. This wasn’t a one-way street, however, as the cut-scenes required higher resolution assets, which meant that sometimes we would design details on characters or locations, and then send them back to Relic for signoff.”

Once the rich, tactile designs were ready, each conveying the painterly style the Warhammer 40K franchise is known for, Axis worked to give the images subtle motions and a delicate seasoning of effects, then meticulously planned the camera movements through each diorama.

“Using the animated storyboards we had prepared as reference, we translated the nuance of the camera movements to the final images,” says Abonamous. “Relic gave us high-level feedback, giving us an idea of the important narrative beats. But otherwise we had a lot of creative freedom to explore visual and compositional options on our end.”

Fans first and foremost

Axis’ animated paintings were ultimately delivered as eight separate sequences, comprising 14-minutes of beautifully brutal narrative. Concept to delivery took six months, with Axis engaging in much technical and creative thinking along the way.

“The biggest challenge we faced was how to add a sense of depth to these paintings,” Abonamous recalls. “Our tech gurus came up with an approach that allowed us to use a ‘thick’ atmosphere of smoke, fog, and haze inside 2.5D compositions.

“We also had a lot of content to render, which always poses a challenge on projects of this scope,” he adds. “We streamlined the pipeline to a point where we saved time by rendering assets just once for an entire shot, regardless of the moving camera. That saved huge amounts of time and enabled us to focus on getting each sequence feeling right creatively and rhythmically.”

Beyond the technical innovations, the final animated sequences represent a deep pool of artistic talent: the sweeping panoramas glide past in amber and copper chiaroscuro, fetid Orks and bulwarked Space Marines held in moments of frozen bloodshed. It’s static poetry – taking the viewer through fragments of captured time.

“The Axis team on Dawn of War III are fans first and foremost, so they really put their all into this,” concludes Abonamous. “We’re the guys who played on tabletop for years, and now we get to find new and exciting ways to cast light on the characters and concepts we know so well. The excitement we feel for Warhammer 40K is evident in every frame.”

 

 

 

RTS Futures – VFX & Animation: Meet the Experts

Dive into the world of VFX and animation as we take you into the minds of our experienced panelists, including Alex Donne-Johnson, Creative Director at motion design studio Dazzle Ship, responsible for creating video for branding, broadcast, online and installations and Pete Allinson, Head of Design at multi-award winning broadcaster UKTV, the home of TV channels such as Dave and GOLD.

Throughout their careers, our experts have worked across a diverse range of fantastic projects spanning film, TV and advertising, utilising a range of VFX and animation techniques.

Learn how they have made it in the industry, the secrets of their career success and view some examples of their outstanding work, looking at both their creative inspiration and the “nitty gritty” of the technical and logistical aspects that come with this line of work.

This session will give you an insight into everything you need to know about making it in the world of VFX and animation, along with the chance to ask our experts any of your burning questions on the night!

Panelists:

Alex Donne-Johnson, Creative Director at Dazzleship

Pete Allinson, Head of Design at UKTV

Lindsey Watson, Founder of CANUK Productions, Head of Animation at Kindle UK and Founder of Animated Women UK

More expert panelists to be announced.

 

6:45pm for 7:00pm
Curzon Soho

Booking Details
Tickets are £10.00.
All tickets are non-refundable.
Tickets for full members of the Royal Television Society are complimentary but MUST be booked in advance – please provide your membership number when booking.

To sign up click here.

In Sequence Kickstarter

In Sequence is a new animated film from Brooklyn based artist George de Moura. The animation is executed in a fairly wonky style reminiscent of artists such as Mike Judge, Priit Parn, and Igor Kovalyov but at times utilizes a form of rotoscoping to increase the realism of the character movements and pacing. The film is part way through a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the expenses to complete the film. Professional actors will be used in the creation of the footage and audio that will be used as the foundation of the project. I hope that you can help make this project come to life by contributing or sharing through your networks.

Kickstarter – http://kck.st/2qv0QHE

Website – http://georgedemoura.com

Proofs of Concept from Exit 73 Studios

Cool little bit of animation from my friends over at Exit 73 Studios

The First one is called #BLUD:
It follows the adventures of Becky Belmont, who has to balance the perils of middle school by day and fighting the undead at night.  All of which serves as an allegory for what it’s like growing up as kid in this modern world.

The last one is called Duke and Darryl:
Darryl and his imaginary friend duke find ways to make mountains out of molehills in this Cartoony adventure!

NBCUniversal Is Building Its Own Children’s Channel

The New York Times has an interesting article up about NBCUniversal’s new kids network which will replace the Sprout Network.

From the article:
LOS ANGELES — In a new salvo in the children’s television wars, NBCUniversal is creating its own Disney Channel.

Starting on Sept. 9, NBCUniversal will turn one of its smallest cable properties, Sprout, into a network called Universal Kids, said Deirdre Brennan, who will oversee the effort. She said NBCUniversal wanted to create an “umbrella brand” for its family offerings — television cartoons made by the Universal-owned DreamWorks Animation, Universal-Illumination films and attractions at Universal theme parks.

Sprout is solely aimed at preschool viewers, but Universal Kids will concentrate on children 2 through 11. The revamped channel’s first series will be “Top Chef Junior,” a spinoff of the cooking show on NBCUniversal’s Bravo.

“Reality programming is a real white space in the U.S. children’s market — food, pets, dancing, even news,” said Ms. Brennan, who will be general manager of Universal Kids. “Look at how sophisticated 11-year-olds are these days. They want more than the same sitcoms.”

Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment is getting into the booming, competitive animation business

The L.A. Times has an interesting story up that Hollywood producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are stepping into the animated film business in hopes of taking advantage of the booming — and increasingly competitive — market for family movies.

From the site:

Grazer and Howard’s production company Imagine Entertainment has teamed with Australian animation firm Animal Logic to develop, produce and finance six movies during the next five years, they said. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Animal Logic, based in Sydney with offices in Vancouver and Los Angeles, is best known for doing the animation for hit films including Oscar-winner “Happy Feet” and “The Lego Movie,” both of which were released by Warner Bros.

The move comes amid animation’s continued dominance at the box office. Four of the top 10 movies last year were computer animated — “Finding Dory,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Zootopia” and “Sing.” The grown-up mid-budget movies Imagine has built its brand around face growing difficulties at the box office.

You can red the entire story here.