Hi Sven, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and also how you got into art?
I can't really spot one certain point in my life, at which I got interested in design. I guess it's just the addition of personal interests that drives you in a certain direction ...
What really interests us - that's what we're good in. And what we are good in - that's what's easy for us. So, to a certain degree, I owe my decisions to just taking the easiest way ... ;)
You’ve covered a lot in the early stages of you career, from FX make-up artist, interactive design to currently a matte painter. So ‘dipping your toe’ into all these different areas, do you feel you’ve grown as an artist because of this?
I grew up with the works of Tom Savini (Make-up-Artist "from Dusk till dawn" etc.). It was pure coincidence though, that brought me to the annual "Halloween-Festival" at the "real" Frankenstein Castle (yes, Mary Shelly's Novel was named after this site!). At this Horror-Event I learned the basics of FX-Make-Up. What an exciting time it was! Over the years, I was drawn more and more into the conceptual work. We developed mechanisms and stage-tools to more effectively scare the living hell out of the visitors.
Eventually, the event dramaturgy lead me to films. And from there, it was just a short step to becoming a matte painting artist. You see, after all, the multitude of things I've done so far are not even that different from each other. What it all comes down to is the conceptual staging - no matter if of events, films or computer games.
So have you attended any Halloween-Festivals recently?
Soon the season begins again. Even in Europe, halloween time has become a fixed part of the festival season. Every year new events sprout all about, all dealing with innovative and creative ways of getting scared to the bone. It's cool to notice, that the borders of computer games and live events vanish bit by bit - playful multimedia elements are being integrated into events. For example: We're working on a tracking system, monitoring the movements of visitors and having them followed by digitally projected spiders. Many of ideas like that derive from the gaming industry but are being separeted from the screen and find their ways into our real environment. I can't wait to see, what surprises will be waiting for us out ther this year ...
In the about section of your website (http://www.mattepainting-studio.com) it states that you’re a member of 3D-I0. For the readers out there that are unfamiliar with this could you fill us in on what it is and what you do?
3D-io and Ambivalenz is a vivid combination of two firms which add to each other perfectly for their different core competences. 3D-io looks back on ten years of experience in game development. Ambivalenz scores in interactive design and movie postproduction.
Both markets have grown close together over the last years - therefore their partnership. As a result we now find a grouping of animators, 2D as well as 3D artists, working hand in hand.
You have currently done a lot of matte paintings for an adventure game called ‘Perry Rhodan’. Could you give us a bit about the brief that your where give to create this images and also how long did you spend on this project?
The game "Perry Rhodan" totaled out at about two years in production. I got to know 3D-io's owner Igor Posavec during the phase of pre-production, which turned out to take up way more time than expected.
The Perry Rhodan series has been existing since 1961. More than 2000 novels makes it the biggest Sci-Fi-series in the world. It was just this mass of information, that we where confronted with in our briefing. And the later development of any given element was closely supervised by the thousands of eyes of a large fan community.
I didn't actually start out with the formal production of matte paintings. Teamed up with Igor, I developed the game's visual concept: the guidelines to ensure that each artwork derives from the same visual scheme and perfectly fits the plot.
To answer question like:
- How does colour influence the mood of the player?
- Which colour has "treason"?
- Which visual analogies will announce a change in the plot?
At that point, I strongly benefited from my experiences of the Halloween-festiva l.
Not being too familiar with Perry Rhodan, it certainly looks very interesting from the visuals that you have created.
Do you feel the work that you ve done on the games do this Sci-Fi series justice, and what has been the feedback like from the fans?
We've been working closely together with the fan community, our reference being the first graphic developments of the 60s, featuring a
charme of somewhat like Buck Rogers. Based on that material, the sci-fi epic needed to find it's rejuvenating way into our time. This effort
turned out to be somewhat of a tightrope walk as we aimed on the oldschool Perry fans as well as the much younger gamers.
Space gliders had to be fitted with different transmission shafts half way through the development process as the fans showed themselves
concerned about the basic technical requirements: Almost every single element had been documented as quite detailed sketches over the last 50 years.
Our very own visions that we intended to implement were strictly put to the test by these basic requirements. Igor was right by comparing the
Perry Rhodan universe to "Open-Source" developments: You may bring in your own ideas - as long as you play by the rules.
Working with the fans often ended in time consuming discussions - at the same time, it got the community really hyped up for the release date.
Fortunately, the feedback to the first tests proved us to be right.
Your latest pieces of work titled Sundust Particles depicts the remains of a futuristic city. Could you tell us a bit about
this project and your involvement on it?
Sundust is an apocalyptical lovestory. After a plane carrying biological weapons crashed close to a little village on the coastline, most of its
inhabitants died. The few survivors were evacuated ...
The director Patrick Fröhlich consulted us early in the production to develop an emotional opener for the film.
I was inspired by the big blackout in Canada and the US in 2004. I witnessed the incident by chance, visiting Toronto at that time. The
entire city was pitchblack. Except for a few single headlights, I feeled surrounded by a ghost city.
Based on that experience, for Sundust we created a "dying city", withering like a plant. The upper floors of the skyscrapers has already
faded, only the lower parts are still filled with live.
The colour range and lighting of the shots are more real than they might appear at first sight. The reference material came from a fotoshooting in Shanghai.There's a lot of bizarre places in the world - you just have to put them into a new context. Shanghai for me is "cyberpunk" come real, making it the perfect raw material for showing a fading city.
So from being a Director of Visual Development for DMPA where do you see your career heading, and what would you like to being doing in 5 years time?
Again, it's my personal interests that drive me on. Visual development becomes more and more the focus of our work. We consult directors and production companies, which picture language will contribute to a given story line. Psychology is certainly a big factor. Certain images, past experiences - they all trigger hidden emotions in every one of us, e.g. "smoke towering above NYC" or "tanks on Tiananmen Square". To find and unravel these layers of analogies and to recombine them in new ways - that's fascinating.
Waking, going to the cinema or relaxing with family, these are some of the ways that the artist that we have interviewed like to spend the time away from the computer screen. So what are the key things that you look forward to when you get the chance?
"Thrill junkie" - maybe that's a good term for me in my spare time. There are so many sports to tend to, film festivals to attend and so on.
One major advantage of our job: we create the footage for our matte paintings ourselves. Travelling to the places you have in mind for your next project - couldn't miss out on that, could I?!?
Well it has been a really pleasure talking with you Sven, and I wishyou all the best for the future. One last questions before we wrapthings up. What one film would you have like to have producedmatte-paintings for and why?
I'm still waiting for a filmmaker daring to produce William Gipson's"Newromancer". That definitely would be very exciting. The same is truefor China Miévilles "Perdido Street Station". Two books that reallymake me dream ...