Two Romands, Jessica Rossier and Bastien Grivet, designed the sets for one of the parts in the series. A fantastic tribute to the designer Moebius.
There’s no denying that the stunning anthology series Love, Death & Robots created by Tim Miller and David Fincher for Netflix never ceases to amaze us.
Season 3 has been out for a little over a week and has given us some real nuggets. We especially remember David Fincher’s first animated production with “Bad Voyage” with a giant crab in the middle of a group of sailors; “Night of the Dead Little Ones”, a zombie outbreak that is devastating the planet and told on a small scale, and then the incredible “Jibaro”, which pits a deaf knight against a sea mermaid in an ultra-realistic visual style. But the stack also includes “The Brutal Pulse of the Machine,” which follows an astronaut stranded on one of Jupiter’s moons. An introductory and introspective journey of great beauty, executed in a graphic style that pays homage to Moebius, the brilliant caricaturist of comics.
Romands Jessica Rossier and Bastien Grivet are behind the design of this episode. The couple (they are married in the city) founded their own company – Wardenlight Studio – in the south of France, near Montpellier, where they work as “concept artists” on prestigious audiovisual productions between video games, television and cinema. In other words, they are responsible for developing visual universes, sets, vehicles and other weapons based on a scenario during the very first drafts of a project. They worked on The Witness, a fabulous part of the first season of Love, Death & Robots, the games Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Halo Wars 2, the animated film Spider-Man: New Generation” and “Star Trek: Prodigy”, an animated series for children, due out in Switzerland later this year with the forthcoming launch of the Paramount+ platform.
They tell us about their immersion in the world of Möbius and that of the “Trekkies”.
It can sometimes take a long time to finish working on a film or video game and get it released. How do you usually discover the works you’ve worked on?
BG: Always a bit scared because we don’t know if our work has been respected or not… But we always manage to do it with our friends. There we organized an aperitif at our home for this episode of “Love, Death & Robots”. So we crossed our fingers, we launched Netflix… and we weren’t disappointed (he laughs).
JR: It can sometimes actually take up to 3 years between the time we submit our designs and when the product is finished. In the meantime, there are often changes, sometimes radical ones, to our proposals. There were times when they completely changed directions along the way or didn’t move from our concepts to animation and therefore had to change it…
BG: But there, on The Rough Pulse of the Machine, they really stuck with it. With a few details we can find all our works. When we started the project, the artistic direction was already set. They decided to reproduce the style of the Moebius drawings and asked us to create sets in that style.
How did you appropriate his universe?
JR: Starting with a lot of documentation, going through his work from start to finish to soak up his style…
BG: First of all, we had to do a lot of tests to find the lines of the comic aspect because Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) was drawing with a ballpoint pen. We had to find a way to reproduce the feel of this technique in Photoshop. And I think we made our bet by recreating that comic book-specific feel of inked pages.
What aspects of the film did you work on?
JR: Mainly on the sets of that moon of Jupiter where the film is set. But also on the graphic effects when the heroine starts to hallucinate. It was also a very nice aspect of the work because we could really let go and use color schemes that aren’t typically used much in cinema.
BG: Since Spider-Man: New Generation and his Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2019, all production has given way to artists. The film showed that a rather wacky visual style can appeal. So far, the animation industry hasn’t taken too many risks and has been limited to the standards developed by Pixar and DreamWorks, but has remained in very specific shackles. But Spider-Man: Next Generation was a real game changer. Our radius of action used to be much more limited, while all our customers have given us much more freedom since then.
Is that freedom enhanced by the fact that this series, Love, Death & Robots, is aimed at adults?
BG: We actually felt a certain maturity straight away when we read the script. For example in the scene where rocks turn into naked women emerging from the desert, for any other film we should have thought about the camera angles used. There we had no restrictions. And it’s a real pleasure to have a free hand to best illustrate the scenario. But one doesn’t prevent the other, since we’re also working on the Star Trek: Prodigy series, which is more geared towards pre-teens, and we can let go there too. I’m designing some kind of really mean drone/ship for season 2 and I’m happy because I don’t have to skimp too much on the corners so the kids don’t have nightmares about my ship. We can still afford some very scary concepts.
Your episode of Love, Death & Robots is directed by a woman, Emily Dean…Did you sense a difference in the conception of the film compared to this essentially male universe?
JR: Yes, she was very quick to emphasize in our discussions the sensitivity she expects from our proposals. Especially in this scene where the rocks turn into women. She was also glad that I could take special care of it. And it’s true, this collaboration was particularly enriching for me. I don’t want to denigrate the male gaze, but I think I managed to shape these women’s silhouettes and the position of their bodies without having in mind the desire to seduce a male audience. I was just trying to stay sensual in my line while paying as much attention to her hair or face as I did to her chest or butt. And all that aspect of my work was really respected to the end.
How is your work with new technologies developing today?
BG: Specifically, we started using virtual reality to sculpt in 3D. So far we’ve worked on 3D software mostly volume by volume with the mouse. For example, designing a robot might have taken 2 days. There, with my VR headset and controllers in hand, I can fully model it in space, like I would with plasticine, in just two hours. It’s a phenomenal time saver. And in terms of sets, we can enlarge them to walk around and really feel the space and volumes. It is great!
What did your work on Star Trek: Prodigy entail?
JR: We started working on the concept art to define the graphic style of the series. Then we set about designing the sets, spaceships and even different vehicles… We also hired my father, Dominique Rossier, to take care of the computer interfaces of the spaceships! A graphic designer for more than 30 years, he is above all a true “Trekkie”, a die-hard fan who knows the universe of the saga inside and out. What he has designed is just phenomenal! Crazy precision work, where each button has its own function… So much so that you really feel like you can steer the ship. He’s the type of guy who can say, “No, we can’t put that kind of button there because in this episode and that, such and such an event happened, and the federation changed at that time.” Even the production in the United States was amazed. In fact, the ship from the first episode, which they designed before we started delving into that aspect of things, brought them one hell of an uproar on social media when fans posted screenshots of the screen, explaining that this button there is , top right, was not possible. So they hired my father to take care of the rest of the fleet and he now acts as an expert at Paramount, which administers the Star Trek license. A childhood dream comes true for him.
BG: The series also allowed us to get into pure animation and do our own sequences, like with the very first seconds of the first episode. It really allowed us to develop our bow and add strings.
How soon to make your own short film in one of the next seasons of “Love, Death & Robots”?
JR: We’re mainly preparing our own animated series: a big project that we hope to launch next year that will bring together our favorite themes: motorcycles, strong female characters, the supernatural…
BG: We like girls who kick demons ass (laughs)! We’re going to find a cartoon style but with a very realistic visual aspect in rendering the photo. We’re going to try to reproduce a silver film look… Basically, we’re not taking inspiration from animated films, but from great American photographers: Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz and his Kodachrome period… We’re going to get pretty pushed out before you start looking for a diffuser. But we’re already in talks with streaming platforms, especially Netflix, which we’re starting to get to know well… That should keep us busy for a while!
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