Monday, 14 March 2011

The Sadistic Artistic: Art direction

Hey people,

So here we are, another day another blog... after the stress of the gladiator i've finally got round to starting these get those paintbrushes ready peeps we gonna talk about Art Direction.

So what is Art direction?

looking at the job descriptions online it's a pretty demanding job spec:

"The art director is the creative visionary, responsible for defining the visual direction of the project. The art director carries the burden of communicating his or her vision of the game design to a diverse team of artists."

"In professional game art departments, the art director is the captain of the ship. Art directors are
generally responsible for setting the visual tone, quality, and style for the game."

Every description i have looked at is pretty much saying the art director is at the head of all the creative descisions in a Game project. looking at the brief they must determine (convulsing with the art team and lead artist) everything from environment to characters, textures to levels as well as the overall style and quality of the game. They're the boss in art terms and are directly responsible to the publishing company.

So is it a creative role?

I can see why people would think an art director position isn't creative as it is a lot of descision making...which to some people could seem quite administritive. I however, revising the links I think it is a highly artistic role. Think about it, this is the person who has to derive the research and make desicions on everything - from characters to environments etc. This also means they have to use their artistic judgement to a high degree. I would compare this role to a fine artist or researcher as to create say a character the art director has to find all the relevant research and starting ideas, refine them and show them to his team.

The silver screen vs the gaming world

So we've talked about art direction for games... what about films? surely they are very similar? A case study i've grabbed from the skillset website on Alex Laurent (a visual effects film guy turned art director for EA) should tell us everything we need to know...(ooooooooooooh!)

In 2004 Alex Laurent swapped the film industry (working for ILM on visual effects on such films as the Mummy series) to take over as senior art director at EA. He is currently working on the Harry Potter games.

Talking to Skillset, Alex explains that the film industry is very mature and that there is a tendency to spend lavishly to create profit and return whereas in games "there is a very flexible standard and there is no promise of realism". He goes on to say that players are prepared to comprimise on graphics etc. if it creates an immersive game world.

Describing the transfer of films and games Alex argues that the two worlds are not interchangeable and examples of cinematic storytelling which is new in games is what he will be bringing to EA, giving games an "artistic maturity".

Scrolling through this article I can tell that the main difference between Art direction in films and games is the budgets and capabilities of the mediums. Crossing from film to games Alex Laurent's main challenge seems to be working to the revised budgets and picking battles in the design.

So what next? The Art Director from the Saff...

After discussing the trials and tribulations of becoming an art director I don't think i will be in that position for a long time. I've definitely got a long way to go developing technical and traditional skills before I become even a mere concept artist so yeah, i don't think i'll be jumping straight into this role... Although I do think I would like the art director role as i am a very avid researcher, i like discussing ideas and trying new artists etc. however working to restrictions such as briefs and time/budget restraints would annoy me!

In conclusion I think the art director is literally the big boss at the end of the game. The Dark Queen in battletoads, Bowser in Mario Bros, hell even Inky from pacman :D