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Hi Sven, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and also how you got into art?

 

 

I can´t really pick out one certain point in my life when I got interested in design. I guess it´s just personal interests that drive you in a certain direction; what really interests us - that´s what we´re good at. And what we are good at - that´s whats easy for us. So, to a certain degree, I owe my decisions to the fact that I just wanted to take the easy way out ...
 
You´ve covered a lot in the early stages of you career, from FX make-up, through interactive design to matte painting. So having dipped your toe into all these different areas, do you feel youve grown as an artist?
 
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.

 

 

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You have currently done a lot of matte paintings for an adventure game called Perry Rhodan. Could you tell us a bit about the brief that your where given in order to create this images? And how long did you spend on the project?



The production stage of the Perry Rhodan game took about two years. I got to know 3D-IO´s owner Igor Posavec during the pre-production phase, which turned out to take up way more time than expected. The whole Perry Rhodan series has been around since 1961, and is made up of more than 2000 novels, which makes it the biggest sci-fi series in the world. So as you can imagine, we were presented with this mass of information in our briefing, which we then had to try and sort through. 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 development - the guidelines to ensure that each artwork derived from the same visual scheme and perfectly fitted the plot.
Visual development is the phase in that you set the optical stylistic elements. Concept arts and 3D-pre-visualisation are a few items. Visual development is the visual translation of the script. We test which colorings adapt to the single scenes, which light-changes happen and which elements reflect in the landscape. Proceeding this way, the look of the game/film becomes more controllable.

 

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While I´m not too familiar with the Perry Rhodan universe, the visuals that you created certainly make it look very interesting. Do you feel that the work that youve done on the game does this sci-fi series justice, and what has the feedback from the fans been like?

 

 

We´ve been working closely together with the fan community, and the references from the first graphic developments of the 1960s, which feature a Buck Rogers kind of charm. While this material was great, it really needed rejuvenating to bring it more up-to-date. This turned out to be somewhat of a tightrope walk, as we aimed to please the old-school Perry fans as much as the newer, younger gamers. Space gliders had to be fitted with different transmission shafts halfway through the development process, after the fans showed their concern about the basic technical requirements. Almost every single element of the game universe had already been documented in quite detailed sketches over the last 50 years, and we had to respect that.
Our own vision for the project was strictly shaped by these existing requirements. Igor was right when he compared 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 resulted in time-consuming discussions, but at the same time, it got the community really hyped up for the release date. Fortunately, the feedback from the first tests showed that we´d managed to get things right!

 

Your latest pieces of work entitled Sundust Particles depicts the remains of a futuristic city. Could you tell us a bit about this project and your involvement in it?

 

Sundust is an apocalyptic love story. After a plane carrying biological weapons crashed close to a little village on the coastline, most of its inhabitants died and the few survivors were evacuated. The director Patrick Fröhlich consulted with us early on 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 happened to witness the incident by chance, as I was visiting Toronto at the time. The entire city was pitch-black, except for a few single headlights; I felt 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 have already faded; only the lower parts are still filled with life.
 
The colour range and lighting of the shots are more real than they might appear at first sight. The reference material came from a photo shoot in Shanghai. There are 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.

 

 

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So now that youre the Director of Visual Development for Mattepainting-studio, where do you see your career heading, and what would you like to be doing in five years time?

 

It´s my personal interests that drive me on. Visual development becomes more and more the focus of our work each day. We consult with directors and production companies, where picture-language will contribute to a given storyline. 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 - thats fascinating.
 
Waking, going to the cinema or relaxing with family, these are some of the ways that the artists we have interviewed like to spend the time away from the computer screen. So what are the key things that you look forward to doing when you get the chance?

 

Thrill junkie - maybe that´s a good term to describe me in my spare time. There are so many sports to take part in, film festivals to attend and so on. One major advantage of my job is that we create the footage for our matte paintings ourselves. Travelling to the places you have in mind for your next project - couldnt miss out on that, could I?  

 

 

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Well it has been a real pleasure talking with you Sven, and I wish you all the best for the future. One last question before we wrap things up: what one film would you have like to have produced matte-paintings for and why?
 I´m still waiting for a filmmaker daring enough to produce William Gipson´s Neuromancer. That would definitely be very exciting. The same is true for China Miévilles Perdido Street Station. Two books that really make me dream... 

 


 

 

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