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Silent Hill's Sato: Mood, Composition Essential To Characterization

As part of today's Gamasutra feature, Silent Hill character designer Takayoshi Sato writes on how mood and composition can help create characterization -- in a fashion preferable to just amping up the graphics.
Graphics have improved, but character realism in games has not, says Silent Hill character designer, Fatale contributor and CG artist Takayoshi Sato. In fact, the better the tech, the creepier and off-putting video game characters tend to become. Sato writes on characterization in games as part of today's Gamasutra feature, an article that originally appeared in Game Developer Magazine. Improved graphics is not necessarily the way to greater realism, he explains, offering thoughts on how to create characterization through mood and composition: You cannot really do anything without understanding and determining the mood. A simple character description is just not good enough. A figure could look totally different depending on the mood surrounding it. For instance, a smile that looks like a horrifying grin in Rembrandt lighting might appear innocent with a Renoir lighting scheme. Or if the subject is a monster, with a Brueghel-like background it may look like a legendary story, but would appear to be more of a surreal fantasy in Odilon Redon's style. Core elements such as story, theme, and philosophical message determine the mood of the target scene. On a more subliminal, but no less important level, lighting and composition are main contributors that define this mood visually. Characters can look totally different under different a lighting scheme, lens, or scene composition. Important shots need to be designed with those elements in mind, especially in cut scenes or establishing/reaction shots. Ultimately we are aiming for that perfect shot, and character development ideally starts with the scene test bed with the lighting and camera prepared. The full feature contains many more insights and examples from Sato's experience.

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