Monday, January 07, 2013

Art Direction: The Last Extinction

Well, I still can’t talk about it in detail, but I’m dying to tell you all about a very exciting project that has been keeping me very busy for the past 6 months, or so... 

I’m still sworn to secrecy on the details until the project is officially announced and online. However, I can tell you that The Last Extinction is an exciting new novel by award-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Hanrahan, scheduled to be published in the next couple of months. An adventure story with an environmental (and apocalyptic!) bent, The Last Extinction is not only a prose novel, but an “Enhanced eBook” with special supplemental media that will augment the experience of the story using powerful images and animation.

That’s where I come in, and what’s kept me so busy recently.

Michael's idea was to create animated vignettes to enhance the reader’s immersion in his story, while not treading too deeply into the reader’s own imagination. Rather than depict scenes straight out of the text (and doing the reader’s work), he wanted to concentrate on sequences that might take place “around” the story, filling in holes and expanding upon events beyond the written word.

Though well established in film & TV production, Michael was less sure about the creation of art and animation... Or even if that’s what he wanted to do. After an initial meeting with me to discuss the particulars of the project, I sold him on the idea of using a team of digital painters rather than trying to use licensed photographs or stock video footage. This served many practical purposes, but this first big decision also felt like the more unique, artistic way to go. Our goal was to create animated vignettes to accompany the prose as kind of a 21st century equivalent to a beautifully illustrated book.

Last year, Michael created an animated sequence with his collaborator and Creative Director on the project, Scott Walker, using photographic images to depict a scene of the actual text (this scene is currently playing on their website). With the new animations, we would be creating digital images, custom made for our purposes.

When I was hired as Art Director, my first task was to take Michael’s words and ideas and turn them into visuals. After brainstorming with Michael and Scott, I began to storyboard the vignettes while also assembling an international team of digital painters who usually create conceptual art for film and video game development. These amazingly talented artists would bring the world of The Last Extinction to life.

But first, a proof of concept was in order, so before leaping in to the specific story sequences, we decided to concentrate on pulling images from throughout the book to create an exciting trailer for viral marketing...

...And that’s what I’ve been busy with. The trailer is still being animated as I write this, and it’s looking awesome! At this point, I can’t really say much more about the process without showing examples of the work and divulging secret story info! Suffice to say that I’m very proud of all the work the Art and Animation teams have done so far. This is going to be a fantastic looking project, breaking ground in the still very new landscape of electronic publishing (and interactive entertainment).

To be continued...!