Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Schematic Maquette

Dinotopia: The World Beneath contains several views of Waterfall City, including this overview.

The challenge for me as a designer was how to keep the city visually consistent when it appears in various angles. To do this, I built a schematic maquette out of gray-painted styrofoam.

In a schematic maquette, you don’t have to sculpt every single building, just a few characteristic geometric forms. By looking at photos of those representative forms as you do your drawing, you can add details and multiply them into the full city.

The real benefit of such a schematic maquette is that you can swing it around at any angle and see how the light plays on it. This kind of model is a great help for entertainment designers or sequential artists who need to imagine a complex form consistently from a variety of angles.


Adam Paquette said...

you seem to be quite the master maquetteer mr gurney! From someone who has lived the better part of their life in two dimensions, may I ask what you recommend to be the best way to start learning how to produce these somewhat simple maquettes? Is there a DIY method to teach myself, or would you recommend a class in some sort of modelmaking? Is it a question of tools and materials too?


Shane White said...

I model my reference in Maya especially if it's difficult to grasp or I have to be consistent with the angles from view to view. Besides I can control the lighting in such a way where I can light it for day or night and add hundreds of little spot lights of varying temperature. Besides...it takes up less physical space too! :)

I know a lot of comic artists who use Google Sketchup...a free 3D program that is quite easy to use.

Nice stuff, James...


C.B. Canga said...

you are just like doc brown from back to the future, with your model building.

amazing work. it was good to meet you when you visited the academy of arts in san francisco.

i admire that you are keeping the child within alive. keep it up. i am a fan.

David said...

I love your maquettes-thanks for giving everyone insight into your creative process. Do you ever do sculpture for sculpture's sake or do you only do it for reference?


Ginger*:) said...

This is magnificent. What a wonderful maquette!

The idea of creating models for illustration work has shown up a lot lately and makes so much sense. This model for your city is wonderful and the possibilities for lighting and learning from it are endless.

PS~I finally found a first edition of Dinotopia in a bookstore where I work on Fridays.
I was so excited when I saw it on the shelf. I gave it a new home right away.

r8r said...

the whole maquette approach has become standard procedure over the last 20 years or so in movies and commercials for previsualizing a shot. especially if it's an expensive shot! all those web-swinging shots in the Spider-Man films, for instance.
the interior, exterior or character mockup allows the team to position lights and cameras to narrow down the best choices for a shot, and get the best possible result on screen.

thanks for letting us see your own Dinotopia model!

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Shane, for the Google link.

And to the rest of you, thanks for your kind words. I'm definitely no master modelbuilder. These models are very rough, made out of the crummy styrofoam they use in packing boxes. It unfortunately melts with a hot glue gun, so you have to use white glue.

There's a better kind of dense modelmaker's foam that saws, paints, and glues well, but it's rather expensive for a rough maquette.

R&R--I was certainly inspired by some of the cinematographer's maquettes that I've seen.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHA - this is so great! I work in games, so I tend to think along digital lines - I'm always spending chunks of time trying to do this in 3D, (tho' I'm a concept artist - thus why it take me too long to do even basic 3D) - I never event *thought* about doing it IRL - it might really just be a lot more intuitive....that's very funny if you think about it - me trying to learn this giant program, never thinking about glue guns and styrofoam...hah. (BUT _ have you tried sketchup? its a free download from google, and really easy for artists to use)....:)