How to use 3D to develop a dynamic Star Wars scene

Star Wars inspired race scene - Mark Molnar

Mark Molnar captures a Star Wars style space race inspired by the back alleys of Tatooine

When learning extreme perspective painting techniques, it is often a good idea to borrow some methods from 3D art. Here, I am going to depict a dynamic racing scene between two speeder bikes in the back alleys of Tatooine. Because I'm keen to use an extreme perspective I do a rough thumbnail sketch and then pose a couple of free, simple speeder bike 3D models, using ZBrush.

Then I do a quick render without any sharp light sources in Keyshot after setting up my camera. This gives me a good head start with the perspective and composition, and acts as a base for the whole digital painting process.

Now I jump into Photoshop and start blocking in the alleyways. I use different photos from Morocco, and use the Free Transform tool to adjust their positioning.

Mark Molnar top tip - Star Wars race

To create a dynamic racing scene you have to place the viewer in the middle of the action, use a strong perspective and then add some additional effects to spice it up, such as Radial Blur

I build up my scene around a one-point perspective, and to strengthen my perspective even further I place the two speeder bikes coming from my vanishing point. This not only adds an extra level of depth, but gives my scene much more dynamism and speed.

From this point on the whole process involves painting to develop the scene, and the details. During this stage I make an effort to introduce as many overlapping elements as possible, because this helps the viewer understand what’s going on in different areas of the composition.

01. Start simple

Star Wars Space Race Step 1

Creating a simple 3D scene to block in a more extreme perspective can help when creating action-oriented artwork. Even if you're not a 3D expert, play around with royalty-free models and set up a couple of lights and a camera to quickly try out more interesting compositions. I do exactly this with the two speeder bikes.

02.  Fill the background

Star Wars Space Race Step 2

I use some photos to composite the background together. I also paint in the two figures on the speeder bikes and establish the positive-negative space ratio.

This describes areas in the image that either contain visual information or are relatively empty. It helps me to direct the viewer's eyes more effectively.

03. Final details

Star Wars Space Race Step 3

My goal is to create an impressionistic storyboard frame from one of the films. To this end, I try to keep the style rough and painterly and cover up most of my photo textures, using brushes that emulate oils and acrylics. I enhance the detailing around the two figures and bikes, which strengthens my focal areas.

Words: Mark Molnar

Mark works on projects for film and game companies. His past clients include Lucasfilm, Time Warner, Weta Workshop, Eidos, Applibot and Fantasy Flight Games. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 129.

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