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Tag: Superhero video


Microsoft Superhero Video Storyboards and Stills

So, after Microsoft decided on a format change from an 8-page comic book to a semi-animated video, I had to rethink the storytelling and change gears. Either format was fine with me; I just had to disregard the comic page layouts I had already begun to formulate in my head and think instead how to tell the story in a fixed widescreen format, with zooms, pans, fades and simple movements and effects. Instead, then, of doing comic book page layouts of varying panel sizes and shapes, I needed to do a series of what amounted to 35-40 "shooting storyboards" to figure and convey the action frame by frame. These were drawn quickly and small, 2" x 3", taking maybe 3-10 minutes each, depending on the degree of complexity. They're not much to look at, they're supposed to be just enough to form the plan to tell the story, a guide for effects and movements, and figure shot compositions. Below is a sampling of the boards alongside the finished color shots. The story begins with the four heroes meeting at their...meeting place, Justice League of America-style:

Nova (kinda like Charlie did with his Angels) speaks to them via intercom, informing them of the situation and and their task. Then, my fave, Affinity affords her mates a glimpse into the Dark World of the Workers they're to aid:

The Workers' World is filled with shadow and devoid of color, as they toil away chained to their desks at their desktops, limited and hampered in their prison-like workplace:

Affinity peers into that Gray World and transports herself and her colorful clan there to perform their task:

But despite their best efforts, the evil force, Pernicious fights back and begins to drain color and energy from the heroes!

Harmony turns on her charm, spreading enthusiasm and sweet color to the workers, freeing them from their sorry state:

The above shots of Harmony leaving her feet we determined to be superfluous, slowing down the action. I'd hoped to see her lower into frame from above, but that action was cut from the final video.

Harmony and the heroes celebrate before returning to their headquarters for kudos from Nova.

In the end, I lost only a few effects and motions I'd planned and hoped to see, and was pleased the animator added effects I hadn't thought of or expected. To view the video for the rest of the story, visit the GXS Facebook page. And now in benediction, Harmony wishes you peace and happiness:


Microsoft Heroes Character Design Process

While planning their new sales tool, GSX, Microsoft wanted to add some energy and pizazz by utilizing the superhero genre. Initially, they intended to use the comic book format to help get the point across, create interest and enthusiasm within their sales force. So, when I began designing the four heroes, a comic book it was to be. With some superhero illustration projects I've had over the years, clients sometimes lean towards a silly, campy and retro tone, which is fine - it can be fun. Many seem to want to emulate the Batman TV show. Y'know, it comics - it's for kids! I've drawn a Pizza-Man, who wore a hairnet and glasses. Also, heroes who aren't too muscular or curvy, or even in superhero costumes. In this case, Microsoft wanted something cool and edgy. I was on the right track right off the bat with the two heroines, Affinity and Harmony. Affinity has a punk-ish look, with something of a mohawk and lots of leather. I was asked to try leggings instead of the semi-loose leather pants, change out the boots, and then add skirt with chains. Her tattoo was later dropped. Though I think she ended up with kind of a Desperately-Seeking-Susan look, she turned out well, my favorite of the four to draw.

Harmony was to be meditative and calming, so I went with a clean and straightforward super-heroine outfit, borrowing some french curves from the yin/yang symbol. She was good to go from the start.

My initial designs for the two male heroes, PI and Alt leaned towards a sci-fi look, more clean and streamlined, evoking the new Battlestar Galactica. But to their credit, the folks at Microsoft yearned for something less "Star Trek" and more "Watchmen." So it was back to the drawing board for the males. Alt wasn't too big a change, I just added a leather jacket and made his outfit mostly black, darkening his overall look. He became a bit more serious and cocky, rather than too smiley and friendly.

For PI, a complete overhaul was required. He became a more shadowy, detective-like character in a long overcoat and fedora, more like the Watchmen's Rorschach, Will Eisner's Spirit, or DC Comics' Phantom Stranger.

I also designed an Average Joe worker, then named Simon, patterned a bit after "Jim" from The Office. His role decreased as the script was developed, but I used him in the final art when depicting workers in the story.

About halfway through the character design process, the client changed gears and decided to do a semi-animated video instead. That was fine with me. More about that part of the creative process tomorrow, including some storyboards and some of my favorite shots from the video...


Microsoft Superhero Sales Video

We recently completed artwork for a superhero video for a new internal Microsoft sales tool interface, The Rise of GSX (Global Sales Experience). The video can be viewed at the GSX Facebook page, where you can become a fan and check out screen captures from the video and desktop wallpapers. Don't miss the photos from MGX, the recent Microsoft Global Sales Meeting, where 12,000 international Microsoft salespeople had their chance to pose with life-sized stand-ups of the four GSX heroes: Alt; Harmony; PI and Affinity.

I'll post here more art from the project here soon, as well as behind the scenes pencils, layouts and initial character designs.