I Must Create Concept Art
So for those new to this filmmaking stuff, concept art is created during the pre-production phase to try and capture the director's vision for things - sets, costumes, props, etc - that need to be created for the film. In uber-budget films like Star Wars, there may be a huge team of concept artists with different skill sets that crank out ideas under the director's guidance. So George Lucas may say, "We're going to see Chewbacca's home planet for the first time. I want his Wookie species to live on a non-industrialized planet in the woods. They're technology should be sparse and heavily grounded in wood and organic elements. GO!" And the concept artists will sketch a brazilian ideas for him and Lucas will filter through them with nods and umm's and nah's, and the nods will continue to be refined until the idea fleshed out completely is approved and the concept art becomes more of a blue print for the production/creative team that will realize the idea. So to use the Wookie planet again, the wood-based props and costumes will be made by a prop/wardrobe department and images of the planet and woods may go to the digital art department for digital matte creation. That's basically how it works. Concept art is often thought of as rough and quickly thrown together, but if you've ever seen concept art from Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, your head would explode because it's soooo darrrn gooood. [artbyfeng.com best concept artist I've seen! Know of any others? Add them as a comment here!]
Anyway, I didn't have the budget for a concept artist and basically did all the concept art myself for the prop maker, effects team, and 3D designers. Since we were such a small crew, a lot of the concept art was just for myself since I had to do a lot of art department work!! I've included almost all concept art I have here on this page below and have added descriptions for you.
The DropShip Set
A third of the film takes place inside the dropship- the multi-purpose transport carrier utilized by the Homeland Security Cyber Enforcement department. As the troops of Division 9 fly to their destination, we learn more about the characters, their motivations, and the plot. For this film, the set design, look, and feel would dictate that of the ship's exterior that would be designed and textured later by a 3D model designer. This was simple logistics since the ship set had to be built for production first. To get started, I basically sat down and wrote an entire backstory just for the ship. It was used to transport both personell and machinery, so its cargo space was open and versatile. The walls were armour plated and had numerous cargo bins for tool storage. For reference, I googled images of WWII airplanes that flew paratroopers over Europe. I wanted the set to feel dirty and used- nearly overused - which fit the story where the department was operating way over budget with little time and resources for upkeep and maintenance. You can see in the sketch, the fire extinguisher on the wall which was faithfully produced in the actual set. I thought that it gave the set a level of authenticity!
The Combat Mech
With my low budget and limited resources, I knew that the mech design was going to be pretty basic and that the actor's size and appearance alone was going to have to play a large role in creating a cyborg created by the military. Fortunately I had landed a former Mr. Universe as my actor!! You can see in the sketches that I tried to keep it really minimal. I knew I wanted the eyes covered up and what I came up with was influenced by Vin Diseal in Pitch Black combined with Lando Calridsean's assistant, Lobot, in Empire Strikes Back. (lol. if you knew who Lobot was by name, then you get mad props!) Probably the best addition to the mech's costume wasn't something I thought of during this conceptual stage, but when I was at Home Depot buying other stuff for the dropship set..The two mounted lights on the mech's shoulders gave him a really nice earie appearance that I feel was just enough to suspend your disbelief (maybe for a second?? :). Those lights were actually set decoration in the dropship. After that shoot, i removed them and duct taped them to the mech's costume.
The Power Gloves
The multibodies are controlled by Multibody Wranglers- soldiers with the extra accessory of a control glove. At first I thought that this would be more like some cheap digital watch I'd have to buy at the 99 cent store, but Brian Thone from Knight Driver who created the multibody props did such a good job on those props that I asked him to tackle the controller gloves. The gloves would be featured in some close ups for certain plot points, so it was important that they had a certain level of detail to them. As you can probably tell (if you're old enough!), the gloves were made out of old Nintendo Powergloves, a novelity controller for the original Nintendo Entertainment System!
So i originally saw this in a Japanese comic book in a totally different context, but I loved it. Most of the times when a head gets severed in movies, it looks a little too comical. There's something so grotesque about it, that I think your brain just wants to believe it's a dummy. So I asked the fx team to do a slight variation whereby the bottom jaw remains on the body. The lower set of teeth/gums and tongue would still be attached to the neck. This was the only drawing I created for this effect, and the fx team did an incredible job and matching it!