Props are essential for creating believable worlds.
So why are they often neglected in Visual Development portfolios?
This is the fourth part of an ongoing series…
1.) Create A History For Every Prop:
Era-specific materials, style, taste, texture, color, dust, weather, fabrics, patterns, storage, quantity, physical condition, monetary value, dents, scratches, inscriptions, creative customizations…
There are stories in the objects that surround us.
When you design a prop, you’re designing its history as well.
You don’t have to write an epic backstory for every single prop in your portfolio.
…but an imaginary history will inspire authenticity in your designs.
…and authenticity is essential for designing believable worlds.
2.) Connect Your Props To Your Characters:
You didn’t spring into existence, full of memories, tastes, hopes and fears…
Rather, your individuality was formed by your life experiences.
…and you, like everyone else, own a collection of objects that you associate with specific memories from your life experience.
There are memories in the objects we collect.
Whenever possible (and especially for your portfolio) design props that communicate a relationship with one or more of your characters.
What is the character’s relationship to the object?
Why did the character keep this object?
…or did they lose it?
Did the character augment or affect the appearance of the object?
Do they take care of it?
…or take it for granted?
Did the character make it?
…or break it?
3.) Prepare With A Personal Project:
While extensive research will certainly help you become a better prop designer, research without clear goals can become overwhelming.
Personal Projects focus your study and guide your visual development process.
That focus alone will make research more manageable.
…but choose a topic that interests you and your innate, creative curiosity will keep you going.
Develop several pages full of props for your Personal Project and you will feel way more confident and prepared for your next studio gig.
4.) Learn How Stuff Works:
Whether you’re a gearhead, a costume designer or a hobbyist historian, specialized knowledge will support your creative career.
It could even lead to related work on an animated production.
My (Chris) first visual development gig was as a “Prop Visual Development Painter.”
My job was to paint over prop designs to make them look like they would appear in the final film. (You can see a few examples on my art page. You can learn more about the process here, here and here.)
I learned how to paint many different materials. I learned how certain mechanical objects were built and how they work. I learned about nature, anthropology and meteorology…
…but imagine the advantage you will have if you can demonstrate this knowledge in your portfolio the next time you apply for a VisDev job.