Andrew Holdun is an extremely versatile and talented artist with a track record of making hit games for developers like LucasArts, Disney, THQ and many others.
His work can be seen in Jedi Knights, Shadows of the Empire, and Disney MMOs to name just a tiny few of the titles he’s worked on. He received a B.A. in Architecture from Pratt Institute.
Tom: Is getting ready for the game industry the same as preparing for a bullfight?
Andrew: I read a lot of Ernest Hemingway… and drank a lot of tequila. Before you knew it, I had a cape and a hat with these stupid furry balls on it, and I was running for my life from a ton of mean steam-snortin’ mammals.
Tom: Nice! How is previsualization usually done? Is it important?
Andrew: I think that previsualization is becoming more and more important in all aspects of the computer graphics area — from movies and TV to web and game development. In fact, I think that it has trickled down from movies and TV commercials as a descendant of storyboarding. While storyboarding has been accepted for a long time in those areas, it’s taken a while for that to seep into games. As games have become more cinematic and more complicated, there has developed a need to use devices like storyboarding to express what is happening — for both the creators and the producers of the content.
While I was at LucasArts, the majority of the artwork was conceptualizing what was going to go in the game… the character’s look .. the appearance of the environment. A lot of the timing was in the script of the game and worked out as a trial-by-error function. Not really previsualized or even storyboarded that much. To be fair, I believe that there was not even a lot or any previz going on at movie studios at the time.
Then with digital tools, people started to cut apart storyboards and have them become digital visualizations of the action in the moive or commercial or game. As movie studios like ILM started using previz more, they went from cut-up storyboards (animatics) to rough 3D visualizations of the movie/commercial/video. The benefits are numerous.
Before committing large resources to the project, one can save a substantial amount of time and money and also try out numerous avenues of story, and look before committing resources. With the increase in production costs, this has become almost a standard in production rather than the rarity it was just a few years ago.
This has all trickled down to games. As the costs, complexities, and cinematic quality of games has increased, so has the acceptance of previz. In fact, it’s almost become a necessity with tighter production cycles. Previz is usually done by going from script to storyboard and then converting that storyboard to a 3D re-creation. Characters can be rough geometric shapes as can be the environment. The important thing is to create an understandable feel for what the project will be.
If you can make a rough previz exciting, then the rest (adding materials, higher quality models, environments, lighting, audio) will just be icing on the cake.
Tom: What’s the best way to build up visual reference for environmental work?
Andrew: Photographs from the web as well as such great sources as National Geographic are my favorites. Also, it’s good to just troll the library and bookstores for interesting material, such as the book: Dead Tech. A Guide to the Archaeology of Tomorrow
The other key resource is using your phone’s camera anywhere. You never know when you’ll see a grain silo or a rust covered tank that will excite your imagination. One should also always have a sketch book/pen handy … so you can draw what you see and play with variations on a theme.
*Excerpt from Ultimate Game Design – more to follow soon!