Our latest video for Chicago Opera Theater's newest show "Elizabeth Cree" went out last week, so I thought I'd take a little dive into the art direction. This was a very stylized piece that required a specific look and feel.
The opera is set in Victorian London and follows Elizabeth Cree, a woman on trial for her husband's death, her troupe of vaudeville performers, and an Inspector investigating a string of horrifying murders. So, pretty spooky. I wanted the final look of the video to be dramatic, dark, foggy, broken, and detailed. I created a style guide for our artists to use when creating props, backgrounds, and characters.
The most important direction was avoiding parallel lines whenever possible. This gave the shapes a more chaotic, unbalanced, and characterized look. It also helped the buildings and backgrounds feel worn and hand-built.
For our characters, it was important that we were able to approach them with the same style guidelines, without them feeling too cartoony or disproportionate. We found very early on that the eyes were the more important part of these characters. Here's a few eye tests from early character development, followed by the final look.
We designed the characters as if they were in a dramatically lit environment, since a majority of the video was set in dark rooms lit by oil lamps and candles. This allowed us to actually design interesting shapes for the highlights and shadows. Since there were no actual "lights" in the scene, these needed to be created in the vector art.