3DTotal: Hi Sven, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and also how you got into art? Sven: I can’t really pick out one certain point in my life when I got interested in design. I guess it’s just personal interests that drive you in a certain direction; what really interests us - that’s what we’re good at. And what we are good at - that’s what’s easy for us. So, to a certain degree, I owe my decisions to the fact that I just wanted to take the easy way out ... [Laughs].
3DTotal: You’ve covered a lot in the early stages of you career, from FX make-up, through interactive design to matte painting. So having “dipped your toe” into all these different areas, do you feel you’ve grown as an artist? Sven: I grew up with the works of Tom Savini (make-up artist on From Dusk till Dawn etc.). It was pure coincidence though, that brought me to the annual “Halloween-Festival” at the “real” Frankenstein Castle (Mary Shelly’s novel was named after this site!) At this horror event I learned the basics of FX make-up. What an exciting time it was! Over the years, I was drawn more and more into the conceptual work. We developed mechanisms and stage-tools to more effectively scare the living hell out of the visitors. Eventually, the dramaturgy of the event led me to films. And from there, it was just a short step to becoming a matte painting artist. You see, the multitudes of things I’ve done so far are not that different from each other really. What it all comes down to is the conceptual staging - no matter if for events, films or computer games.
3DTotal: A couple of years ago you did a lot of matte paintings for an adventure game called Perry Rhodan. Could you tell us a bit about the brief that you were given in order to create these images? And how long did you spend on the project? Sven: The production stage of the Perry Rhodan game took about two years. I got to know 3D-IO’s owner Igor Posavec during the pre-production phase, which turned out to take up way more time than expected. The whole Perry Rhodan series has been around since 1961, and is made up of more than 2000 novels, which makes it the biggest sci-fi series in the world. So as you can imagine, we were presented with this mass of information in our briefing, which we then had to try and sort through. And the later development of any given element was closely supervised by the thousands of eyes of a large fan community.
I didn’t actually start out with the formal production of matte paintings. Teamed up with Igor, I developed the game’s visual development - the guidelines to ensure that each artwork derived from the same visual scheme and perfectly fitted the plot.
Visual development is the phase in which you set the optical stylistic elements. Concept arts and 3D-pre-visualisation are a few items. Visual development is the visual translation of the script. We tested which colorings adapted to the single scenes, which light-changes happened and which elements reflected in the landscape. Proceeding this way, the look of the game/film became more controllable.
3DTotal: While I’m not too familiar with the Perry Rhodan universe, the visuals that you created certainly make it look very interesting. Do you feel that the work that you did on the game did the sci-fi series justice, and what was the feedback from the fans like? Sven: We worked closely with the fan community, and the references from the first graphic developments of the 1960s, which featured a Buck Rogers kind of charm. While this material was great, it really needed rejuvenating to bring it more up-to-date. This turned out to be somewhat of a tightrope walk, as we aimed to please the old-school Perry fans as much as the newer, younger gamers. Space gliders had to be fitted with different transmission shafts halfway through the development process, after the fans showed their concern about the basic technical requirements. Almost every single element of the game universe had already been documented in quite detailed sketches over the last 50 years, and we had to respect that.Our own vision for the project was strictly shaped by these existing requirements. Igor was right when he compared the Perry Rhodan universe to “Open-Source” developments: we were able to bring in our own ideas - as long as we played by the rules. Working with the fans often resulted in time-consuming discussions, but at the same time, it got the community really hyped up for the release date. Fortunately, the feedback from the first tests showed that we’d managed to get things right!