Dragon, Drawn and Quartered

February 12, 2014

Above is concept art (upper left), storyboard art (upper right) and (below) a design prototype for building models shown in split screen to reflect the final scene and how it will appear in the video.  This prototype helps me to understand what it is I need to build and what I don't have to build.


The snake-like body of the dragon will not necessarily move in this scene, maybe it will breathe, but only the head and tail will move.  The background sky will be a painted backdrop made of card stock poster board.  The houses will be made of cut out foam core.  The important use of this kind of concept art is that I can set up the composition, the final image that will be on the screen and so as I build the models I am, in a way, tracing this image, putting a house this size here, another house that size there, and the moon goes there and the dragon is placed this size and in this part of the composition.  All that I need to build is in the painting and nothing else, (it's not a moving shot), and so I don't have to build a whole town that the camera might swoop over.  It's a static shot, a still composition.  Moving shots are nice but they are over-rated.  Even in moving shots the composition is very important.  I love Hitchcock films, Kubrick films and Harryhausen films for many of the static compositions.  There is a classic, painterly approach that can go into them. 


In the spirit of comic books I thought of a way to break up the screen that would break up the composition of the dragon into parts, details, the way that comic books can.  The screen is split up in three parts, three compositions, one showing the dragon draped on the tower, another framing the dragon's head, the other a composition of the tail whipping through the suburbs.  This will also allow for several things.  I do want to show these individual compositions but they wouldn't be so impressive in a full screen.  The dragon is in the distance and I want to keep it there.  If the head of the dragon fills the screen it will suddenly seem to be closer to the character.  I want to capture that effect of seeing something in the distance and though we can focus on the various parts of something, that object is always in the distance. 


The other thing I like about breaking up the composition into three frames is that it sort of tells the viewer how I constructed the full dragon shot.  This is something I like to do with my projects.  I like to give away the special effects techniques.  I want people to know these things have be fabricated and not only built in the computer and I want to give hints on how the overall image was achieved.  The best way is to break up the image into its parts, as in a lecture where I can show the individual elements that make up the final image.  The image will be made up of three parts of the body.  The head of the dragon will be a hand puppet, the body will be a tube of cloth painted with detail and draped over the miniature power tower, the tail will be made possibly of plasticine clay and shot using stop-motion animation.


I decided to follow this split screen composition with another split screen composition of the woman who sees the dragon in the distance reacting.

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