Thursday, 1 November 2012

Elements of game design, part six: visual composition

Ok, one of the most important components of any piece of artwork is composition. This does not only apply to us trying to prosper to the games industry, but in any Art and Design profession it is a well-known fundamental attribute. When creating artwork or taking photographs I have never really put enough thought into composition, it’s almost lingering in the back of my mind as it says ‘this looks good.’ Other times I find myself saying ‘this looks good enough’ and do not put enough effort into taking reference shots or understanding what I am looking at. To assist my learning I had a look at what other, more professional people thought about it.
(Raphael, School of Athens, 1509)
An article I found breaks it down into steps, starting with foreground interest. Doing this can add strong scale and field of depth to the image; it also helps ease or direct the eye to a single focal point towards the centre. Secondly, the rule-of-thirds is a classic. This technique provides visual balance and also helps place the horizon line, the idea is to choose what you what the greater third to be, sky or ground. Finding lines or patterns in perspective is definitely something to look for, as it brings such great depth to the image, it can help divide the image and assist the focal point or direction. The article quotes a photojournalist ‘Robert Capa’ and he said “If a picture’s not good enough, you weren’t close enough”. Though it can be applied to many contexts it suggests that simply finding interesting material and snapping a shot is not the way to go, but to adjust your viewpoint and eye level (horizon line) can bring better compositions. For example, laying the camera roadside instead of holding it could bring far more exciting imagery than simply holding it eye level.
Format and frames are critical to a great shot, landscape photos or 16x9 ratio imagery are always great, but adjusting this ratio can add more energy as the eye has to travel in another direction completely. Using elements in the shot to frame the image can also be valuable. Bridges or overhanging trees can help direct the eye to the focal point. Finally, breaking rules can work to your advantage. I’ve found that applying a few of these rules can bring better outcomes than applying them all at once, as an artist constantly trying to find decent shots for final pieces, I can adjust these things to grasp a more suited image for my work. As the article summarises, it is important to do everything for a reason and to make it count.
(^breaking the rules by putting something directly in the middle, great result!)

When discussing composition, the Golden Ratio always turns up in discussion. Though found through mathematics, it is widely known by Biologists, musicians, historians, artists and architects as well as other fields. So what is it and how does it relate to me? A blog post I found suggests the Golden Ratio is a mathematical formula that provides aesthetically pleasing composition and is behind the success of the rule of thirds. Using this when creating images/taking photo’s; consciously applying the Golden Rectangle, Golden Triangle and Golden Spiral can bring much more aesthetically pleasing outcomes. It is important to fully grasp these methods as art students as I feel that without a method to FIND a good composition, you are left with guess work and opinion.  



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