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Thread: How much of your art is "visual noise?" - And opinions on random visual cues

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    How much of your art is "visual noise?" - And opinions on random visual cues

    Recently while watching a tutorial video, I heard the creator talk about what he called "visual noise," or random little details meant to add visual interest without necessarily adding function to the design. If I've learned one thing from observing the real world (and absorbing ideas from art) it's that form follows function, and it's a little bit disappointing to look at models and concepts in games I play and find myself wondering exactly how much of the detail I see actually matters in the workings of the world.

    When I was younger I'd be amazed at how games could present an entire world for me to experience, and my mind would reel at how many countless hours they must have spent thinking about how to build each tiny part of it from the ground up. But, if it's all for a visual or emotional hook it loses meaning in my opinion. Are we looking to actually create something here, or just trying to sell the most interesting concept and finish the job? How much of it is emotion and how much is function, i.e. how much of it would really matter if the object actually existed? If someone inside of our fictional world was trying to sell the object to consumers, would those random visual cues be important to potential buyers? Would it come off as silly looking?

    Another, perhaps more important question, is: Do designs created with meaningless doodads and shapes, which only try to look cool for the project, fare better than those based first upon function?
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    From the viewers perspective, something not having a function and not noticing something's function is the same thing.

    You don't need to know something's function to accept it as part of an environment. In fact, you're more likley to be convinced by the functionless noise, because it's that unoticed stuff that makes the real world real.



    One, somewhat related issue, that comes to my mind is how animators over animate people. It really irritates me, because it looks so unconvincing. Technology clearly isn't at that stage yet where it can simulate all the tiny movements humans make and they stick out like a sore thumb... Anyone know what I mean?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nateman742 View Post
    When I was younger I'd be amazed at how games could present an entire world for me to experience, and my mind would reel at how many countless hours they must have spent thinking about how to build each tiny part of it from the ground up. But, if it's all for a visual or emotional hook it loses meaning in my opinion. Are we looking to actually create something here, or just trying to sell the most interesting concept and finish the job?

    sorry to disapoint you O_O
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    Quote Originally Posted by HAJiME View Post
    From the viewers perspective, something not having a function and not noticing something's function is the same thing.

    You don't need to know something's function to accept it as part of an environment. In fact, you're more likley to be convinced by the functionless noise, because it's that unoticed stuff that makes the real world real.
    I can see that. The art's function is to be convincing, and if it looks accurate, it is. Makes sense. It still bugs me that oftentimes things which seem logical at first glance fall apart under scrutiny, like extra bells and whistles on an armored car or erroneous buttresses on a futuristic skyscraper.

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    sorry to disapoint you O_O
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    Jewelry is pretty. People like art to be pretty.

    Nateman, I've been where you've been, (although about art, not video games.) The modernists were zealously anti-ornament to the point of making their buildings inhuman.

    You should look into Frank Lloyd Wright's theory of intrinsic ornament, which is similar to the approach most of the great illustrators have taken, which is that the natural graphic qualities of all materials and their functional arrangement, provided they are well drawn, will supply all the ornament needed to entertain the eye, without adding anything superfluous. This actually goes back as far as artistotle's poetics.
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    Thanks for the recommendation, kev. Sounds like an interesting read.

    Been thinking, and I often draw little details that do have a function, though they are neither described to the viewer nor referenced from actual sources to get an immediately recognizable appearance. Those could be seen as meaningless noise, perhaps, and without any explanation, I guess they pretty much are. I'll keep that in mind the next time I look at something and think, "Those details don't really fit there."
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    One thing often skipped over is the fact that most "people" will attempt to decorate or adapt existing environments and devices to make them their own. This is often ignored by artists prepping commercial products like games, etc., even when the level of detail allows it. Anyone who has ever seen a Japanese school girl's cell phone knows what I'm talking about...I find it amazing they can even use the damn things with all the danglies, sequins, toys and "jewelry" hanging off them.

    I would find it quite sensible/normal for an army of mechs/fantasy warriors/random-crowd-types to have individualizing graffiti, feathers, bones, tinker toys and rick rack hanging off their "issued" equipment. It occurs in real life/battle conditions, so why not in fantasy worlds? Personalizing ornament is what makes "us" "us."

    Beyond that, overly ornate or counter-productive add-ons that compromise efficiency would be not only unnecessary but stupid, for obvious reasons.

    Kev's suggestion on Wright is a good one, but keep in mind that the man's a bit of a "personal environment" control freak, so he shouldn't be your only reference.
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    What the kittycat says, yes...

    Also, shouldn't it depend on WHAT you're designing? If it's some ornate Lovecraftian demonic opium-dream city, them slathering it with useless ornament would be TOTALLY appropriate. On the other hand, if it's a government-issued factory-built tank, it'd probably be best to keep it plausibly functional. On the OTHER hand, if it's a rogue tank piloted by Mad Max-style rebels, it'll probably have extra useless junk on it purely to make it look badass.

    And so forth...

    Granted, sometimes you have to make up something that looks plausibly functional without having the slightest idea how it actually functions... I mean, how exactly does a time machine work? (And if you know, and can build one, can I have one?)
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    In architecture when building has more details than it is necessary, it is often the case that they were used to hide the previously made design mistakes. For example bad proportions of facade are picked and the building looks too heavy. Instead of fixing the proportion architect goes for adding some stuff that makes it slightly more bearable. Something like this is usually sign of weak design skills. It is actually harder to make building visually pleasing just for it's true function and nature.

    Of course concept art is much more daring but I don't think that's always a bad thing. Everything depends on a project and what you're designing.
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    I'm sorry for not posting anything of value but....

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    THAT!

    Quote Originally Posted by Farvus View Post
    In architecture when building has more details than it is necessary, it is often the case that they were used to hide the previously made design mistakes.
    Really? Aren't extraneous details more often about making a statement?

    I mean, take your typical cathedral, do you really NEED all that just to house some priests and hold masses? No, the whole point of the thing is to look impressive. It has to say, "House of God, here! Be in awe!"

    Ditto with most palaces, mansions, fancy townhouses, etc. The ornament is usually there to say either "I HAVE MONEY AND POWER" or "This is an IMPORTANT building!" or something along those lines...

    It's like fashion. If people wore clothes purely for functionality, we'd all be wearing those Chinese Mao uniforms or something...
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    It has to say, "House of God, here! Be in awe!"
    I'm talking about using too much detail as a sign of design mistake. When someone shoots for something simple and ends up with completely different result. It's not like using ornament automatically make the design bad. If you use it consciously, want to make a statement about detail or it's important necessary part of project then there's nothing wrong in using it.

    As for the "I have money and power". There can be ornaments but you can also go other path and show that by using well put together high quality materials.

    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere
    If people wore clothes purely for functionality, we'd all be wearing those Chinese Mao uniforms or something...
    Well. Architecture is far, far away past that period. Modernism ended maybe fifty years ago .
    Last edited by Farvus; August 5th, 2010 at 03:14 PM.
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