Have you noticed that the “look” of big budget animated movies has become  homogenized?  However beautiful those globally illuminated, sub-surface scattered, realistically simulated CG worlds have become, there is a common look to them…. I think it is because the artists and the tools are the same from studio to studio…

From what I understand about the industry, artists move from film to film, studio to studio, as each project ends (self described “pixel gypsies”)… The tools are similar between studios, the feature orgy in 3D software pushing in a Darwinian way towards a synthetic hyper realism.


The last animation that I posted suffered from this same look, and I had to stop and think about why…. I think  there is an unconscious bias towards that style, because our tools favor it, and there is an expectation that for it to be accepted   it has to have that look.

I am just one guy.  Even if I thought that this homogenous CG look was great–there are hundreds of people involved in creating it–and if my work attempts to emulated it, then it will rightly be compared to it.  The animation, the particles and effects, the lighting–everything has to be at Hollywood level…If it is not, then rather than being immersed in the story with the characters, the viewer is going to be distracted….

Realizing I needed to stylize the look–Dig a little deeper than what the tools want to give me–make them give me what I want,  I started looking at my influences for TAR of Zandoria to see what it was that I liked (and figure out how to make the computer render it).


Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, and Simon Bisley are my favorite fantasy artists. So I started looking at their paintings for stylistic cues that I could try to emulate–since that genre is the inspiration for TAR, if I could make it come to life that would be more satisfying….

The first thing that jumped out at me is the strong contrast between light and dark–It is called chiaroscuro in painting. The defined contours in Frazetta’s and Bisley’s work also stood out–I think this comes from their background in comics before they started painting…


The backgrounds are painted of course, and since I was already using a matte painting approach to creating my backgrounds for TAR, this is an easy shift–Even running a Photoshop filter was an improvement over the realistic matte painting…

I added toon shading to the edges of my objects, and I relighted the scene with a key light and a couple of fill lights.  I think I am also going to tweak something with the diffuse falloff at the edges, to get a look for like my airbrushed version of TAR.


  1. I totally agree with you about the homogenization of character design in Hollywood…I call it the “Digital Zeitgeist”. All hero costumes are now armored a la Iron Man / Batman. All alien tech looks it’s all come from Stark Industries or Cybertron…I want some decent character design! 10 yrs ago everyone was biting off of Feng Zu, then Ryan Church, Neville Page and now Ryan Kingslien. I get it, we’ve all stopped into Alex Alvarez’s Gnomon School Library…but damn! Borrow from a style, let a style influence you…dont abandon your “ness” and be another Ryan Kingslien be the first ( fill in one’s name here )! I totally respect ppl like Serigo Sandoval popping off fresh looks.

    None of this pertains to you…I’m just blathering about the throughput in hollywood. The sad part is that it trickles down into all the digital “Trade Schools”, everyone is pushing that your work has to look like all the Triple A game from all the big game companies or that your work has to look like Disney’s. They don’t teach originality…trust me I graduated from one of those schools.

    Lastly, I would like to commend you on your choice of Franzetta/Vallejo/Bisley. They were huge influences on me in my youth. Fire and Ice…c’mon! I also like Barry Windsor Smith too. Its funny how you can see the evolution from Brush to airbrush to digital with that style of Sword and Sandal art.

    Sorry to run off at the mouth…it’s just nice to read the same thoughts that roll around in my head from someone else’s hand.

    Love your stuff, I’m following your blog and you have a new fan.

    all the best,

    Jet Blaque


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s