Tight Production Schedule? Dave Blass delivers the shots

By Marc Fredrickson

Perspecitve Magazine is the bi-monthly bible of the Art Directors Guild. It regularly displays the best of the best in Art Direction for film and Television. I was reading the Feb/March 2012 issue of Perspective Magazine when I came across the work of FormFonts client, Dave Blass.

Dave Blass is a Hollywood-based art director and production designer. He uses SketchUp, Photoshop, and FormFonts’ 3D Model Library for pre-viz to bring television sets and Hollywood back-lots to life. The Perspective article was on the FX Network show “Justified.”

I watch Justified on a fairly regularly basis (although the visiting villain in the most recent season was too scary for me). So I was interested in learning more about the show, and how Dave uses our FormFonts 3D content in his work.

I contacted Dave about writing a FormFonts blog post. His Response was “Anything I can do to help out one of the best sites on the web!” What follows are some excerpts from his written for Perspective Magazine in the Oct/Nov 2009 issue titled “Ext. Hospital Night” a long with a few of my thoughts.

Dave explains how he worked with SketchUp and other tools like FormFonts 3D in creating an exterior shot for the once long-running show “ER.” The final episode of the show was the first and last time the exterior of the hospital was ever shown to viewers.

Dave begins by explains his overall approach to set design.

“For me SketchUP works like a free-form foam core model. You cut, you paste, you move, you adjust. It’s not about the minutia; its about the form, the feel, the look.”

I can so very much see this in his work. The concept sketch he created using Photoshop has a great lighting quality. It doesn’t take rendering something totally perfect to get the feeling communicated. As we all know, the modernist axiom goes “Less is more.”

Fig 1. Exterior nightime shot of ER’s County General Hospital using SketchUp and FormFonts 3D models

Fig 2. Exterior shot of ER’s County General Hospital after lighting in Photoshop

Fig 3. Exterior shot of ER’s County General Hospital as it appeared in on Television in ER’s final episode.

Dave continues saying that “the important thing to remember is that this is television, not pre-viz for a 2009 Avatar or even a 1994 Jurassic Park. We had to get all this done in two days and deliver it to the producers so that we could meet the new network deadlines.”

This advice rings especially true for me. When setting out to visually communicate an idea, we need to curate, edit, and condense the message, so viewers can ‘pick up’ on the important ideas being communicated.

And who doesn’t have short schedules and tight budgets in which to get the job done? Using a good and fast technique is so important.

Here’s another example of Dave’s work for a music discussion and performance stage set.

Fig 4. Using SketchUp and FormFonts SketchUp models for stage set concept for a MTV show “Shoot to Kill”

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Perspective Magazine – The Journal of the Art Directors Guild
Dave Blass, Art Director and Production Designer – IMDB ProfilePortfolio
Ext. Hospital Night – Perspective Magazine, October/November 2009
Just How Green is your Valley – Perspective Magazine, February/March 2012
Justified Official FX Website

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