Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rim lights in scenery

Rim lights are formed by the positioning of a light source behind or beside an object. When the light hits the object in question we only see partial effect because most of the side facing us is still in shadow, and the fully lit side is further away from us. This is similar to the appearance of a crescent moon - when the sun is hitting one side of the moon (relative to us), we only see a small sliver of what we know is a full ball. When the light hits it from the same direction we're viewing from, we can see the entire face of the moon.



A common use for this is to show two different light sources, such as in this scene from Quest for Glory. The tree on the left has two clear edges being lit differently - the left edge is light by a warm yellow light that we can safely assume is from the sun, by the conditions in the rest of the scene and the colour of the light. The right hand side is lit by a blue glow, which we can assume is ambient light from the blue sky. Because the sky is bright blue, it's common to rim light trees in this manner when going for a realistic but mysterious look. The blue isn't totally foreign to our eyes, but the strength of it is unnatural and feels interesting and a little magical/foreboding.



It's quite useful to show a transition in lighting conditions, as shown here in this scene from Gabriel Knight. On the left hand side of the image we have safe daylight, and the vegetation is lit accordingly. As we progress into the mysterious, wooded parts of the image, the trees are more strongly lit by a mysterious light source from the right side, and the light from the sun feels more light ambient light. This builds a great sense of foreboding, taking the focus away from the friendly light source that the sun represents and highlighting the less certain colours of a dark, wooded area.


Rim lights are also useful in the case of a single strong light source. In this scene from King's Quest 5 the primary light source is the open doorway that's letting in the glow of the desert sun. The foreground objects glow with a vivid yellow on their edges, which really helps to highlight the strength of this light source, and relegate the rest of the lights that illuminate them to bounce lights from this source. Using rim lights in forms with quite close values and hues like this really helps to define the forms and masses well - notice how well the column and assorted other objects read, despite being similar in colour to the floor and walls behind them. This division of a light just visible on the rim really does a great job of separating them out and making them clear and readable.


Another example is this scene from Full Throttle, in which the strongest light source hits the edge of the fence details really making them stand out despite the dark sky. This is also a great way to add strong highlights to an otherwise dark scene - lighting extremities helps to add diversity and definition without sacrificing the dark, shadowy feel needed for the scene. This also shows an example of a light source being more to the side than directly behind - notice how about half of the struts on top of the fence are lit, as compared to the much thinner rim lights we've seen before.


This scene from Simon the Sorcerer 2 shows a great use of rim lights to distinguish the foreground pipes from the dark scene behind them. Because the bounce lights here are also used for rim lighting, rather than diffused ambient lighting, it's also a way to add colour to what would otherwise be pure black objects. Notice here how the joins in the pipes also have rimlights that run along their circumference, as well as the edge, helping to show a change of plane very clearly, despite the fact that light probably wouldn't hit this area. It's an interesting example of ignoring realistic lighting in favour of visual clarity.


Another Gabriel Knight scene, this time with objects in the foreground, rather than the background, being lit on the edge. Here the left side shows various objects that have been lit this way, and as they move further and further out of the focal area of the scene (and 'away' from the light source shown by the glass door) the effect is less and less strong. This adds nice definition to the objects without  having to colour them in a way that would be distracting, and is a nice way to add some subtle purple colours into this part of the scene, without being as distracting as the purple candle in the bottom right.


This scene from The Dig shows two equal and opposite light sources (in a nicely complementary palette) with rim lighting helping to show the directions each light comes from clearly. This makes for a very moody, atmospheric scene that's clearly divided into two parts. The strength of yellow features among the purple areas also really helps those particular forms to be very easy to understand, visually.


This Fate of Atlantis shot shows us looking directly down at a pool of lava, which gives a very warm, glowing feeling. By using pink and orange rather than pure yellow (which is what we'd usually expect from a yellow light source), we view the light from the lava to be more of a warm glow than a bright glare. Notice also that the rim lights get darker as they recede from the light source, another way to help show the distance. The diffusion of light here also acts in a similar way to atmospheric perspective, with the objects getting closer in value to the light source the closer they are to it.


A very strong example of the power of rim lighting is this scene from Monkey Island 2. The mass of complex, overlapping forms here would be a visual mess, save for the fact that their edges are very clearly defined by the blue and orange lights from the sky and lanterns. This not only makes for a beautifully moody night scene with a great atmosphere, but means that we can see where we can and can't go. This shows rim lighting as a great way to show planes, edges, curves and establish depths by very clearly indicating overlapping elements.


One last word, and something I sometimes see that I'm not too fond of, is where I see rim lighting where it's very hard to imagine a light source. Notice in this scene from Shannara the left bedpost, which sits right against the wall of the room. The blue rim light here is hard to accept - we can clearly see what lies on this side of the post, and it's a brown wall with no blue shade whatsoever. This makes the blue rim light feel quite fake and wrong. Notice how it feels less 'off' in the elements like the dragons at the foot of the bed - they're not great, but because there's no wall there, it's much easier to imagine a light source coming from this direction.

I love using rim lights - whether for adding definition, balancing colours, showing the strength of a light source or simply making a scene feel more atmospheric. They're a handy tool to instantly bring any object into a scene, and also for adding a bit of colour to a dark area in your background. As long as you're relatively careful to ensure the possibility of a light source in the direction you're suggesting one, they're very easy and a great tool.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Tangents, and why they should be avoided (and how hard it is to avoid them)

A common term when discussing art and composition is 'Tangents'. These occur when masses or lines are grouped in a way that's visually confusing and hard to read. There are many great examples of tangents, and how to spot and avoid them around the place, but one of my goals is to be able to look at traditional technical artistic knowledge in the specific context of adventure games, because I think it helps to be able to see the problems directly in the medium you're interested in working in.

With that in mind, I've compiled a list of examples, with the goal of showing a variety of types. Something I want to stress is that tangents happen to everybody - I recall watching a lecture about composition during which the lecturer noticed a bad tangent in one of his examples, and had to laugh and say that he'd hoped to avoid any. They happen to everybody, particularly as compositions get more complex, and it's always worth double checking once you've got fresh eyes and stepped away from a finished piece for a while. They'll still slip through, if you're anything like me, but a double check can help to minimize them.

I've tried to make the tangents in these examples as clear as possible with the use of arrows, but towards the end of this post they grow quite numerous. It might be worth opening each image in a new tab, so you can see them at a larger size, and read along this way.


A great starting point is the banners in this scene from Discworld. Notice how the right edge of the banner indicated by the second red arrow aligns perfectly with the right edge of the column behind it. This flattens the banner terribly - it's much harder to read the depth, because it feels like it's a continuation of the column, rather than a separate form. Similarly, notice how the bottom of the flag to the left of it, as indicated by the other red arrow, aligns perfectly with the line running horizontally through the column. Once again, the continuation of this line makes it harder to read. 

In reality, none of the banners in this scene are placed particularly well against the columns behind them. The ideal goal is to have two object edges either overlapping by a substantial amount, or not at all, with a decent gap between them. Placing lines as close as they are here puts a scene at risk of tangents and near-tangents.


It's not just straight edges, either. Notice how in this scene from The Dig, the angled curve from the edge of the alien craft's cockpit follows on the same curve and angle as the edge of the foreground object that touches it. This can make them hard to read, as at a glance it can give the illusion that they're somehow connected. It's a particular shame when tangents happen in such abstract forms such as these, as there's no real architectural or practical reason that these forms align in this unfortunate way, and it would be quite simple to fix.


In this scene from Quest for Glory you can see not a foreground detail but a background detail forming the tangent. The edge of the building ends, and clearly goes to a downwards wall, but the dirt in the background makes this much harder to read, and unless one looks closely, it's hard to see that the wall ends and the brown to the left of it is dirt. This case is particularly unfortunate because it's not just the fact that the lines meet in this way, but the colours match so closely that it's hard to distinguish them anyway.


Sometimes it might not be the background artist that made a tangent happen, but an object artist or someone else who placed the objects in the engine. In this scene from Police Quest, we can see two fairly unfortunate examples - one where the edge of the red police light just touches the edge of the wall, and another where the line of the car's front left fender runs along the same line as where the asphalt meets the concrete. Because the car is an object, not a painted in background element, it would've been very easy to move it up further, so that it overlaps these edges more completely, and these tangents could be somewhat minimized.


Sometimes, though, it's much harder to avoid. It's hard to see how the two points where the wooden supports of the attic wall align in awkward ways with the balusters of the stair's balustrade. No matter how things get rearranged, putting repeating patterns in front of similar repeating patterns always runs the risk of forming nasty tangents like these. The one shown by the right arrow here is particularly bad, looking as though it's a recoloured part of the baluster, nullifying the depth that should be apparent here.


This scene from Simon the Sorcerer 2 has some fantastic examples of tangents that really confuse the eye. The tangent shown by arrow number 1 shows a stand whose leg should read fairly clearly - but the fact that it meets at another junction of angles makes it quite hard to see depth here, compounded by the fact that the colours are very similar. The lines at arrow number 2 have the same problem, to an even worse extent. The top of this stand genuinely looks like part of the edging of the rug, and is even the right colour to be, and meets it in two places. This is a very beautifully bad set of tangents, and very indicative of how confusing they can be to the eye.

Arrow 3 shows how different colours reduces the impact somewhat - the bases of the chandeliers runs directly along this wooden trim, but because they're so different in hue and lightness, it's much less confusing to the eye. It's still worth avoiding tangents like this, though, because so much more depth can be achieved by overlapping them more or less so that the lines don't run along each other. The fourth arrow doesn't so much show lines touching as it shows two areas of the same colour touching in a way that they bleed into each other a bit. It's not as bad as the first two examples here, but still misleads the eye a little.


This scene from King's Quest 5 shows tangents in a more organic setting. The first arrow indicates what should be two separate root structures, but the way they diverge from the same point makes it look like a single root split into 2 parts. Because they follow a similar angle, it's not that easy to tell the foreground shape from the background shape. Similarly, arrow two indicates an area where not only do two trees meet with a horizontal curve that looks like it continues from one to the other, but the rear root sits upon a path that matches it so closely in colour that the form gets lost a little. Just above the second arrow we see two branches, from two separate trees, appear to join due to a nasty tangent.

At point three, we see a small tree branch ending right where a pair of small tree trunks start. At a glance, it looks like these distant tree trunks are a continuation of the branch, an unfortunate illusion that ruins the depth somewhat by making it hard ot judge where the tree trunks start. Similarly, point 4 indicates two more tree trunks whose bases are obscured by shapes in front of them. Again, this makes it hard to judge their distance, and therefore flattens the image somewhat.

The fifth arrow points to a wonderfully clear example where the tip of the smaller foreground tree occurs right on the angle of the larger  one, making the two forms merge into a single form at a glance, another unfortunate ruining of depth.


As we move into more complex forms, such as those in this scene from The Curse of Monkey Island, the possibility for tangents increases. The edge of the chair at arrow number 1 aligns in a way with the stool behind it, and with such similar designs, that the depth here is lost once again. At arrow number 2 we see the curve of a lamp's brasswork touching several lines of the shelf, helping to make what should be a fairly deep, solid feeling design somewhat flat.

At arrow number 3 we can see the edge of the cabinet on the counter matching the edge of the shelf behind it perfectly, which makes the shelf feel like it's part of the cabinet here. Another flattening effect, as is common with tangents. At number 4 the other edge of the cabinet runs along similar lines to a portrait behind it, cluttering up the grouped mass in a way that's hard to read and doesn't feel very natural.

Arrow 5 doesn't actually indicate a tangent, but instead where a tangent nearly happened. The top of the chair's backrest and the edge of the bar are close enough that it would've probably been improved had the chair been moved further to the right to avoid this very close proximity. Arrow 6 shows a chandelier touching the edging similar to the earlier example in Simon the Sorcerer, but here it only touches in a couple of places. Nevertheless, it's an unfortunate meeting, and would've probably felt deeper and more easy to read had the chandelier overlapped the edging more boldly.


Here in this scene from Broken Sword we have similar levels of overlapping shapes, and once more feel the presence of tangents. At the first arrow the top of the wire mesh panel aligns perfectly with the trim on the wall, meaning the top here is basically lost, and hard to read. At point 2 we see a non-lit light fitting touching both the ceiling trim on one edge and a lit fitting on the other edge, flattening it somewhat.

The third point indicates the end of a curve in the chandelier that lines up perfectly with the edge of the ceiling trim. There's a couple of similar spots in this fitting where the curves touch the ceiling trim lines in similarly close ways, but this is the strongest, clearest example of a tangent. The fourth point is particularly unfortunate, where we see the curve of the arched doorway completely masked by the angle running across it. The fact that this angle is the same colour as the elements behind it can also give the illusion that the vertical bars in the foreground are connected to this angled foreground piece of wood, rather than the curved feature it's hiding. A lot of depth and readability is lost this way.

Arrow five indicates another point where a light fitting is just touching the edge of the wall trim, particularly frustrating when there's so much empty space to the right that the light could've been placed instead. As with most tangents, this could've been improved by moving it to either the right or the left - grouped masses should overlap boldly, or not at all. The sixth arrow shows the edge of the desk just overlapping the edge of a file cabinet - not enough to really flatten the image, but enough to make me wish the desk ended just a handful of pixels before, considering how much blank wall is between the cabinet and the shelf.

I deliberately tried to pick well loved, well known games here that have great art to prove just how hard it is to avoid tangents. Hopefully seeing these examples will show or remind us of the problematic nature of accidentally working tangents into a composition, and give some idea about what sort of scenarios they might crop up in. Knowledge on how to identify problems such as these is the first step in knowing how to solve the problem, and once we've gotten used to looking for tangents, it's much easier to identify them and, hopefully, solve the problems they present our compositions with.

Atmospheric perspective in adventure game scenery


Atmospheric perspective, also known as aerial perspective, is a very old artistic technique where objects that are further away from the viewer are weaker in colour compared to those close to us. Usually the colour of the object shifts towards the colour of the sky - the idea being that dust and water in the air gets between us and the object we're looking at, and the more distance between us and the object, the more dust and water in the air to weaken these colours. It's very common to exaggerate this to direct focus, as can be seen in the Willy Beamish shot above, and it's interesting to see other examples of this in other games.


When atmospheric perspective isn't used, the effect can be a little jarring - in this scene from The Case of the Serrated Scalpel here we have deep blue water, despite a grey sky, which doesn't make any sense outside of the context of us expecting blue water because we're used to seeing it reflecting a blue sky. More relevant, though, the dark grey tower also feels like it's quite close, because it's darker than much closer objects, and it's somewhat hard to read the distance. The colours aren't representative of their environment.


In this scene from The Secret of Monkey Island, we can see aerial perspective in play. The trees close to us are a vidid green, and then the tree covered mountains in the distance are much bluer, making it really feel like they're further away from us. It's still easy to see greenish hues on the mountains, but the closer and further greens are much easier to distinguish because of this effect.


This scene from Loom shows a great use of dithering to show distance - with the mountains in the distance clearly showing the different layers of depth very clearly. Here the mountains start blue and recede to a white sky - it's not about making the distant colours blue, it's about making them closer to whatever colour the sky is.


In this shot from Simon the Sorcerer the clouds recede from a creamy-yellow colour to a purplish grey and finally to a medium blue - almost the opposite to the blue to white we saw before. The effect works both ways, as long as we can tell what's a foreground image and what's a background image. Here the layers of distance also give a nice sense of physical perspective due to their arrangement, a nice use of these layers of atmospheric perspective.


In this scene from Gabriel Knight, for another example, the trees recede from a dark green into a lighter green. There's not much of a hue shift this time, but the effect is still pretty clear - the colours change as they become more distant, from one shade to another, in a linear progression, and this helps to indicate distance. Here we get the impression of light coming through the trees.


Again, we see the opposite effect here - we get the impression of trees receding into shadow from this shot in Simon the Sorcerer. Despite using totally opposite shifts in value, the effect is very similar. The main difference is that the dark distance in this shot supports bright nearer objects like this fallen tree, whereas in the previous one it supports darker objects closer to the viewer, like the dark tree and Gabriel himself. This particular example is less like atmospheric perspective and more like lessening levels of illumination as the thick forest blocks out more and more light going back, but the effect is very similar.


The light itself has a big effect on how these colour gradations should be picked. For example, in this shot from Discworld we see the distant trees going to a bluish green, a fairly light colour compared to the shadowy blues in the nearer trees next to it. There's still green highlights on the trees, showing the warm, yellow sunlight hitting the tree and making it look greenish.


The same scene at night shows the distant trees without any green and all, and now a darker blue. Because there's no sunlight hitting the trees, making them green doesn't make much sense, so an ambient blue light is used to inform the highlights instead. The effect of distance is still quite readable, though, because these trees are once again closer to the sky's colour than the closer trees.


In this scene from Gabriel Knight we can't really see the sky, but the dappled sunlight of the scene suggests day time, which means it makes sense to make the top left hand corner recede to a light blue rather than a dark blue. In scenes such as this it's sensible to assume a shift to the colour of an imaginary sky, despite the high horizon line meaning that the sky isn't visible.


Weather conditions also play a big part - here the foggy air means that the trees and stones in the distance fade very quickly, which really helps to convey a thick, misty atmosphere. In this scene from King's Quest 6 you can directly see the moisture in the air, which really allows for a strong separation of foreground and background elements. A great way to convey depth and atmosphere, as well as direct focus.


This scene from Broken Sword does something quite different and uses a very bright, strong sunlight to make the foreground elements have very strong highlights and shadows, and makes the distant objects feel quite washed out by the glare of bright light. A great comparison is the very richly coloured textiles in the foreground versus the much smaller, much paler textiles in the distance. Their much smaller size helps this to read clearly, but the fact that they're so much more washed out really makes the distance here read very well. This is an excellent way to bring the focus right towards the foreground and away from the background.


And one last example from Full Throttle, just to prove that there's no specific rule that works all the time. Here the foreground rocks are a rich, vibrant red colour, while the distant ones are pure black, despite the fact that they're receding to a blue sky. Here the lighting of the scene takes precedence, and we still read the forms as being distance because of the implied direction of the sunlight - we read the distant rocks as having shadow cast on them by the larger, closer foreground rocks. Here lighting trumps the trickery of atmospheric perspective, and we can read the distance perfectly clearly. Much like the whites of the background in the last scene, the darks of the background here make the lighter foreground colours read much more clearly, and bring the focus towards them.

Atmospheric perspective is a great way to show distance, and to direct focus. It's easy to get caught up thinking about one form of aerial perspective, but as can be seen from these examples, there's many ways to use the idea. It's a neat, versatile little trick, and a very useful one to have for when painting or drawing scenery like this.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Foreground objects in adventure game scenery

Something I learned fairly early on from other adventure game art enthusiasts is that adding foreground objects to a scene is a nice way to spice things up. I think I first really noticed it in Day of the Tentacle, those wacky, cartoony shapes sitting in the foreground in pure black, and have used the idea many times myself.


These were especially cool because they took up some of the boring floor space, added decoration without being distracting and made it obvious where we could and couldn't walk. For quite a while I've drawn them this way because, well, everybody else did it, too. What really interests me now, though, is the different ways they've been used by different people, and what sorts of effects they can have.


An interesting comparison to show the value of foreground objects is to compare King's Quest 5 and 6. Here in 5 we see an interior is shown as a picture in picture type effect - it's not very immersive, and feels like the town details distract a bit from the part they want us to look at.


King's Quest 6, however, has the space taken up by the frame and exterior now taken up by foreground detail. In this case it's very simple - we're given the impression that a stone block is missing and that we're peeking through this to see into the room. These blocks that frame the shot are much less distracting than in the previous image, and it feels more immersive as a result - seeing a single scene at a time, rather than different parts overlaid another feels much more akin to actually being there.


The game really plays around with this idea - from the fairly basic stonework framing in the last shot, we move to a rather evocative shot from within a bookshelf that adds a lot of texture without adding too many distracting specific details. The shot is somewhat awkward as a result of the books being rather out of perspective with the rest of the shot for the most part, but the radiating lines do feel like they draw the eye to the centre of the image.


Here's a much more subtle and accurate version of the same idea - here the books are in perspective, and still nicely varied. You can see how nicely they hide large areas of fairly boring masonry and replace them with different colours and textures. Again, the lines of the books that appear to radiate from a central point in the image seem to help draw our eyes towards that central part.


Gabriel Knight is full of many examples of interesting use of foreground objects. Something particularly interesting to me is the way many of them are facing the player, rather than towards the room itself. Here the various relics are clearly facing us, or in directions where we can very easily appreciate their designs, despite the fact that it'd make more sense to having them facing towards the desk and the doorway. This is an interesting example of style beating out realism, where this was deemed more effective by the artist at conveying the atmosphere they were going for. It really does add a lot to a scene that would otherwise be quite dull, and putting them so close to us as a viewer really does help show the grotesque details much better than having them as tiny, scaled objects on the shelf against the back wall.


Another interesting example of relics as foreground objects is in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. What particularly interests me about this is that the artists had to take into account the user interface when doing backgrounds, but in some cases, such as here, the interface is hidden. This leaves a large amount of space that has to be filled somehow - thankfully, the role of an archaeologist leaves plenty of room for placing the many recovered treasures of his expeditions.


Once we switch into the game proper, the foreground objects are all hidden, with the user interface taking up this spot now. This is a really clever and interesting way to hide an otherwise omnipresent interface in a few specific locations without resorting to massive amounts of empty floor that would look quite odd.


The use of an omnipresent interface doesn't negate the use of foreground objects, however, as can been seen from this shot in Simon the Sorcerer 2. Here the debris and waste of a messy kitchen clutter up the bottom part of the scene nicely, despite the fact that the interface takes up a similar amount of screen. This works particularly well in the Simon the Sorcerer games because Simon tends to walk in lines, rather than areas, so he very rarely moves towards and away from the camera unless on a specific path or through a specific exit. This means the foreground objects aren't really blocking any walkable area.


However, as can be seen in this scene from Sam & Max Hit the Road, blocking a walkable area off still works perfectly fine. It's quite obvious that we can walk past the Fiji mermaid in its tank to the right side of the room, but what this helps to do is to break up the wide, scrolling room into two separate compositions, left and right, which helps to eliminate some of the struggle that a wide scrolling scene can bring to balancing a composition, due to the shifting nature of the scene. It also establishes a nice zig-zag pattern in the floor space. This shape of foreground detail can be seen in several other locations in the game:



Notice again how the compositions are somewhat broken up by a central, more prominent object, that separates the two halves of the foreground areas nicely, and creates a zig-zag shape in the framing, and therefore walkable area.


Compare this to the somewhat linear arrangement of the interesting shapes in this scene from Beneath a Steel Sky, which still has an object in the centre that creates nice negative space, but here without the wonky cartoon feeling that wouldn't fit a serious science fiction thriller so well. It still blocks the composition off nicely, but feels more sober and realistic than the zany angles of the Sam & Max scenes.


Another interesting example, this time from Willy Beamish shows the opposite - here the bottom centre is completely open, and the foreground detail mostly sits in the corners. What I particularly like about this is how the artist used a lovely purple to make the foreground detail stand out from the yellow scene - a great use of a complementary palette (see my earlier post about this for more examples). This really makes it a great framing device, and also adds a nice second hue to an otherwise very mono-coloured scene.


Here the colour difference isn't so obvious - instead, the artist has used rim lighting to make the foreground objects stand out. This doesn't present as clear a thumbnail as the previous shot, but it does feel somewhat more realistic, which suits the game better, and still reads quite well in game. The details here are also somewhat more abstract, suitable for the alien environment in which The Dig takes place. Here it's also very clear that the designers wanted us to walk in a very specific area, due to the fact that we're inside a vehicle, and the massive foreground detail makes it very clear that we can't walk in the bottom third of the image.


This scene from Full Throttle also uses rim lighting to define the objects, as well as a large contrast in values, but here we're given much more specific details. The wonderful swirling, curving forms presented by the group masses present in the foreground here add wonderful negative space to the large, flat wall that runs along the right two thirds of the image, and also help to reinforce the luxurious wealth of the building we're looking at.

Foreground objects, then, can be used in a variety of ways and forms to slightly different effect, beyond the simple, pleasant methods I first noticed being used in Day of the Tentacle. They're a great way to make scenes look better, and there's many, many examples of them being used in adventure games. A powerful tool in any background artist's toolkit!

Friday, February 3, 2017

High camera angles in adventure game scenery


Having looked at low camera angles last post, it now makes sense to study the use of high camera angles in backgrounds. Once again I'm starting with a fairly standard camera angle, this time from Kyrandia 2, so that we remember what most artists choose to use when approaching a scene. With that fresh in our minds, let's look at some higher angles, and try to figure out what they bring to the equation.


This fairly mild shot from Gateway is an interesting place to begin. What this mostly does is give us a nice long shot of a location, while still putting us straight into a scene, and not relying on an establishing shot for the angle. It's not really very dramatic or tense, really, it just gives us a nice view and helps to remind us that we're in a raised structure. The fact that we're looking from a first person point of view also probably makes it a little less dramatic, as we can't see anybody in danger.


Another first person shot, this scene from Dune uses the technique to slightly more dramatic effect. Here we're placed up high in a hallway, with the perspective shifting quite strongly due to the top vanishing point inside the frame of the image and another one below the image. Including this vanishing point inside the frame here makes the distance to the back of the hall seem much further, and despite the somewhat uneven foreshortening (notice how the pillars at the back seem wider than those closer to us) this effect makes the hall seem large and spacious. The other vanishing point, sitting some way below the bottom of the scene, also helps to warp the perspective and give the impression that we're looking down.


This shot from King's Quest V does something similar, but this time with the two vanishing points having slightly shifted roles. Here we can feel a vanishing point below the bottom of the scene the most, which really makes the walls and ceiling seem high, whereas the other vanishing point lies a fair way above the top of the image, making the lines receding in that direction much less effective. Comparing this image and the last image really shows how placing a vanishing point closer to the image makes the angles in that direction seem more extreme, which really helps to accentuate the distances perceived in that specific direction.


This scene really interests me because we can see that it's basically the exact same layout as the previous scene, yet it does a couple of things differently that are worth noting. Here the decorations on the far wall loom out nicely, stretching over the scene which really helps to spice up the composition by adding different layers of depth. The absence of the statues in the last scene, though, make the back wall's angle read slightly less clearly, so while we gain a nice looming feel, we lose some of the clarity of perspective. This scene also has an exit to the bottom right, and you can see the tightness of the lines as they begin to converge on the vanishing point more and more, and how the character sprite doesn't fit in here as well as he did in the placement of the last scene.


From establishing the height of a ceiling, to establishing the depth of a drop, here we see a scene in Loom that also employs objects that cover the lower parts of the ground to make them seem like they loom nicely. This is an interesting example that feels like two different sets of vanishing points were used for the background and the foreground, abandoning reality in favour of a more dramatic shot. Unlike the last scenes we can't see lines descending from the taller parts to the lower parts, which makes the change in perspective more excusable. It's also interesting that the near and far areas use similar shades of green, and rely on a solid black border to break them up.


This scene does show areas that are connected, but with flowing, curving lines that makes the shift seem slightly less extreme. What it does, however, is make the transitions between these areas very interesting and dynamic, and the way the tubes snake and curl around also help give an impression of distance without necessarily relying on lines converging to a point to show that. I also love how, unlike the last scene, there's a very clear distinction both in saturation and hue between the elements, with the rich red foreground elements being very apparent, the yellow mids being nice, balance details, and then the distant blues feeling less focused and further away. A great way to separate the different heights.


More consistent in portraying straight perspective is this scene from Beneath a Steel Sky which shows the player perched precariously above a massive city. The angles used here work really well - the buildings in the middle ground have plenty of lateral lines that show the strong shift in perspective, and because there's no floor to limit the vertical lines, here the vanishing point above the top of the scene really sells the depth beautifully, rather than relying on a vanishing point below the scene. This is a great way to show the danger of the situation.


Once again, having the bottom vanishing point much closer to the scene makes for a much more dramatic drop. Placing Foster on the other side of the scene really works well here - the warped perspective hasn't gotten too extreme yet, and he still feels like he fits the background very well. This allows the whole bottom half of the image to be dedicated to showing the depth, and makes for a very dramatic, tense angle. The many vertical lines take great advantage of this close vanishing point, too, really playing the shot to its full potential.


This scene from Curse of Enchantia uses a warped, fisheye style of perspective that has some vanishing points receding to a clear point in the image, and others slightly further down. This really gives a great example of a long drop, that warped perspective giving a dizzying, unsteady effect that really sells the height we're looking from. I particularly like the bits of floor that remain over the drop, more lateral elements that help to add layers of depth to the scene, and the fact that we can actually see where the drop ends, unlike in the last scene.


This scene from Lost Secret of the Rainforest also has somewhat uneven lines, here quite easily excused by the fact that we're looking at natural structures. Once more we have lateral elements covering the scene in layers in the form of branches and leaves, that helps to break up the trunks nicely, and once again being able to see where the drop ends works great, even though the vanishing point is further down than last time.


Taking uneven lines to an extreme is this lovely backdrop from Simon the Sorcerer 2. Here the twisting and warping really comes into play, and similarly to the scene from Discworld in our examination of low camera angles, really makes the drop seem dizzying and unsafe. Something I really love here is the use of two different light sources, one from above and one from below. Having them be very different in terms of saturation and brightness really sells the idea of one light source being strong daylight, and the other coming from a warmer light source, farther down the image than we can see.


Speaking of Discworld, this shot is a fantastic example, with the shelves making concentric circles, leading down to a vanishing point right around the bottom left third point. The laterally crossing pathways break it all up wonderfully with nice diagonals that help to show depths of specific parts, and the way the red light shifts from a rich, solid red high up to a brilliant pinkish white down the bottom really adds to the feeling of depth.


The ultimate example of a high camera angle, this scene from The Secret of Monkey Island places the vanishing point very clearly in the image, and surrounds it with cliffs. This level of extremely high camera angling is somewhat impractical - the character had to be completely redrawn and animated here, and trying to have a conversation from this angle wouldn't be quite so enjoyable as normal, because seeing expressions and gestures is much harder. Still, it does a great job of conveying the drop, and is a great way to show an item at the bottom of this canyon.


One last example, to show the power of perspective, is this shot from Dreamweb. Here the verticality of the walls and furniture has been ignored or played down, and we no longer feeling like we're looking from a massive height like many of the earlier scenes. Shots like this feel more akin to playing a board game that we're sitting directly over, than looking down a deep well, and this kind of shot basically shows no depth, despite the bird's eye camera angle. This just goes to show what power relying on vanishing points gives us.

Much like low camera angle shots, these high camera angles are a great way of conveying drama, tension and danger. They can provide some spectacular views that really add to an important moment in a story, and can also simply help to make a nice change from seeing the same angle all the time. I love to see how these artists used the idea to achieve certain effects in their work, and believe there's plenty to be learned from studying these scenes.