Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Sam's Law for creating awesome environments

First off is an environment all that important? Of course it is, films, books, games...etc. All media need to to work within an environment. You have to have characters to support the environments to give a sense of scale and mood. I will use scale a lot in this blog because it is my weakness, it's one of those things that makes my heart shudder, I love games that play with scale.

If you take books, if you have people talking without describing where they are it gives no visual aid to the audience and you can bet that the book will be soon shoved aside. As for films and games they highly rely on the environments to create a scene and present mood through lighting. Okay so I just basically pointed out the obvious...I do that a lot actually in life also...I also structure my sentences in life in a similar way too (keep reading it gets better I promise).

Films and games are the biggest sectors within the branch called “Media”. Environments play a big part within them. For me there are three things to make an interesting environment, scale, colour and lighting. If you nail all these things I will appreciate the film or game. So lets look at Sammy’s three elements of how to make an interesting environment... I will call it Sam’s Law...oh I just got shivers.

Lighting is one of the hardest things to get right in both media outputs and there are so very few that pull it off well. I find games that rely on light usually are beautifully lit as it is a main gameplay mechanic as well as an aesthetic element. Take Alan Wake for example, now I've never played the game but in researching games with nice lighting I came across this and it seems you have to banish the darkness by using light. That in itself sounds quite generic, all very cliché but they have executed it quite well. Below is a video preview of the gameplay.

 Horror survival games usually have nice lighting but I just finished Silent Hill: Homecoming and I must say I found it too dark most of the time. I know it's to build suspense but when I can't see my hand in front of my face then there’s a problem. I had to adjust the brightness of my TV just so I can play the game. Granted I'm not the best at playing these games in the first place because I am easily scared but there’s a difference between low-key lighting and nothing. The monsters where beautifully rendered though, they had this lovely matt texture to them and I spent most of the fights always admiring the speculars. Now low-key lighting is only one lighting technique used, these terms are normally used in film making but the same is used in games. There is so many different types from background lighting, fill lighting, flood lighting to mood lighting, high-key lighting...etc. Angel-a had some beautiful shots and lighting, it shows the work of a talented director with a keen eye. Now even though it has no colour and Sam's Law states to make an interesting environment you need the three elements. Technically this film only has two, the scale of Angela herself puts her on a higher level than man this emphasises her status. And the lighting is down beautifully I find he uses a lot of background lighting and soft overhead lighting to set the mood of the film. It's a fantastic film and hey I never said Sam's Law was perfect.

Colour is one of those things that you never think is that important or large but it really is. There is so many colours and saturations of colours and knowing how to put them together is a hard thing. Film wise Hero is a perfect example of it's use in colour, it uses four main colours in the film green, white, red and blue. Each symbolise different characters stories, I'm just after reading an article on the colour usage within the film. http://www.helloziyi.us/Articles/Hero_Color_Code.htm .

 Tim burton is always an interesting director to look at especially with Edward Scissorhands the use of colour was amazing from suburban 1960's theme neighbourhood to the old rotting away house with beautifully green hedge sculptures. Another film that plays with colour is The Cell, it is a surprising awesome film that tries to portray inside the mind of a killer and it's weird and cool and crazy. I love it because it plays on the demented, the film uses colours to shift back and forth from good and evil. I will post video links below for ya mike and again in researching I found a film very like The Cell called What Dreams may Come. It looks awesome and weird and I will watch it now...not illegally or anything cause that would be wrong...yeah. Two hours later...well that was interesting, to sum up man meets woman they fall in love, kids die, he dies, she dies and heaven and hell. To be honest it was kindof a naff film but it did use colour so in a way I got what I was looking for. The film used purple as a representation of memories or connection or that's what I got out of it, they also used red a lot for travel so it might be something to do with movement or transitions, green was another strong colour I'm not sure its meaning. There were some nice shots but overall quite disappointed, here’s a trailer anyway.

God this is going to be a long blog sorry I'm getting carried away, I'll try speed things up. Okay so what about colour in games. Well Prince of Persia is one of the first games that pop to mind it is a stunning game with vibrant colours...once you restore it that is. This beautiful over saturation of colours work because it is fantasy and the environment helps that with it's weird architecture and layout. Another video, I'm gonna spoil you with vids Mike.

Okay last but not least is scale, I love scale in games and I can't mention that word without thinking of Shadow of Colossus. One of my most favourite game because of it's scale. I won't even add a video this time because I'm sure you have heard plenty off it. It is a beautiful game and this is why I still prefer PS2 games over any off these next gen ones is because they may be low poly but they are more fun and longer than any of the games produced today. I know you're sick of me mentioning FFX but let me say this, I love the scale usage of that game, the temples...orgasmic, the environments...orgasmic...okay I'm shutting up, you already know I love FFX without having to visualising me orgasming to it. Why do I put these ridiculous statements in my blog...because I care.

Anywho scale in films is hard to find, LOTR is an obvious choice as with most fantasy films they play with scale a lot to give a sense of unnatural and grandness. God try watching the extended versions of all three films in one day, it is draining but I had to do it. It's the initiation test to transition from nerd to super nerd.

So what games and films incorporate all of Sam's Law? Games wise I'm actually going to say two games that aren't even on the market yet and that is Bioshock: Infinite and Alice Madness Returns. Why these, well take a look for yourself (more videos omg).

Bioshock looks absolutely amazing, it is very steam punky and stylized it's definitely going to be a big seller. The use of colours is amazing with added awesome scale, floating city it's all been done before just not quite like this. And the lighting looks, well as my sister would say “lush”. Alice is another game that is beautifully stylized with high focus on colour and the world being demented like a nightmare. They use scale awesomely, even as a gameplay technique with Alice and the lighting looks awesome, I think they used the CryEngine. As for films that use Sam's Law...I cannot think...oh wait I got one Avatar. OMG that tree in the centre of their homeland made my heart flutter, it uses beautiful colours and lovely night time and daytime lighting.

In conclusion I have learned I get excited about Sam's Law, possibly a bit too excited. I probably could have went on even more but I need to end it sometime and I just remembered I didn't mention A series of Unfortunate Events for it's amazing environments or Assassins creed for it's large scale and beautiful lighting.

 Environments for me are the most important thing in media, if you nail that all you need is pretty characters and if you have a story then that's just a plus. And if you can ever get me to stop talking I will gladly draw you diagrams of my excitement, it would look something like the following.

P.S. Just one last picture on real life inspiration - Oh world I love you

No comments:

Post a Comment