Friday, March 9, 2012

Art Dept: Live Action v. Animation

I was recently asked to give a lecture on the Art Dept at Reel FX. I used a live action Art Dept as a point of comparison and learned some interesting points:

An Animation Art Dept is made up of the following positions during the Preproduction process -
  • Production Designer
  • Art Director(s)
  • Character Designer(s)
  • Visual Development Artist(s)
    • Environment Designer(s)
    • Color Stylist(s)/Background Painter(s)
    • Prop Designer(s)/Texture Designer(s)/Graphic Artist(s)
  • Layout Artist(s)/Workbook Artist(s)
  • Previsualization Artist(s)
These positions replicate their live action counterparts, and then some. A VisDev Artist in an Animation Art Dept could be tasked with the responsibility of many positions found on a Live Action production.

The following is a list of Live Action production positions that are filled by some member of an Animation Art Department:

Art Dept:
  • Production Designer
  • Art Director(s)
  • Assistant Art Director(s)
  • Illustrator(s)
Set Dept:
  • Set Designer
  • Set Decorator
  • Set Dresser
  • Greensman
  • Key Scenic Artist
  • Head Painter
  • Painter
Props Dept:
  • Prop Master
  • Prop Maker
  • Weapons Master/Armorer
Costume Dept:
  • Costume Designer
  • Assistant Costume Designer
Hair and Make Up Dept:
  • Make Up Artist
  • Hairdresser/Hair Stylist
 Special Effects Dept:
  • Special Effects Supervisor
  • Special Effects Assistant
Camera Dept:
  • Cinematographer
  • Director of Photography
Visual Effects:
  • Matte Painter
  • Continuity
  • Location Scout
  • Previsualization Artist

The Art Department in a major feature film can often number hundreds of people. Usually it is considered to include several sub-departments: the Art Department proper, with its Art Director, Set Designers and Draughtsmen; Set Decoration, under the Set Decorator; Props, under the Propmaster; Construction, headed by the Construction Coordinator; Scenic, headed by the Key Scenic Artist; and Special Effects.

In the past, the title of art director was used to denote the head of the art department (hence the Academy Award for Best Art Direction).

On the movie Gone with the Wind, David O. Selznick felt that William Cameron Menzies had such a significant role in the look of the film, that the title Art Director was not sufficient, and so he gave Menzies the title of Production Designer. The title has become more common, and now Production Designer is commonly used as the title for the head of the Art Department, although the title actually implies control over every visual aspect of a film, including costumes.

Also known as the Creative Director, the Production Designer is responsible for creating the physical, visual appearance of the film - settings, costumes, character makeup, all taken as a unit. The Production Designer works closely with the Director and the Cinematographer to achieve the look of the film.

The Art Director reports to the Production Designer, and more directly oversees artists and craftspeople, such as the Set Designers, Graphic Artists, and Illustrators who give form to the production design as it develops. The Art Director works closely with the Construction Coordinator to oversee the aesthetic and textural details of sets as they are realized.

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