Scene and Composition Development
Posted 08/03/2015

One of my favorite areas in art and motion is setting up the scene and developing the entire environment.  Here I will try explaining my method with an example I am currently working on.

I first started by sketching out a quick idea in pen.


I then moved into Cinema 4D where I built and rendered a very simple setup of the composition. The benefit of doing this is it helps get the perspective right but also makes it easier if a different angle of the scene is needed. Keeps the layout looking continually correct.


In Photoshop I overlayed the 3D render with basic shape outlines and picked out some colours from photographs. It’s always best to get this right early on so its easier when adding the detail. This is sort of like building the foundations first.


Once the colours are picked I move onto adding in tone. Lighting is always quite important  in a scene so establishing the light direction helps with the shading. You should be able to roughly guess where the sun is located even though its out of shot.

I also started developing the sky and sea, making sure they have really nice blue tones to them. I find these are always the easiest sections to begin adding in detail because skies in real life look like paintings, so you can’t go wrong.


Next I added more detail in the roofs, developed the steps further, and worked out window and door locations. I do tend to look at some photos for ideas to make sure its accurate to the setting, but because its an original composition I have to rely on a lot of guesswork. I can’t exactly copy photos because my scenes perspective will be very different to any photograph.


It was then a case of refining details and adding in some lighting effects. More darker shading was added around the buildings, hints of purple also helped. Windows and doors were refined, using much of the blue and black colours already in use. Reflections in windows were kept minimal as they are normally tricky to get right. Some foliage was brushed in to give some green to the scene. Tiny details such as wires, antennae’s, boats, and floating dust were fitted in place too.

The last thing I always like to add is lighting glow and colour adjustments. With this example I boosted the contrast up slightly, added a light lens flare in the sky and boosted purple tints in the building shading.


The example I have shown is part of a video I am currently making. In the finished concept, some of the elements will be very different because they’ll have animation to them. This will bring the scene to life even further.