Making Movie Posters

Industry Insider Tomasz Opasinski tells us more about what it’s like to design eye-catching feature film, show and game posters in 3D

Can you describe your typical working day designing posters?

It truly is an amazing job! It’s great to see how a creative brief takes shape into an image where you can literally feel the vibe of the movie, show or game. I love it.

There’s typically a morning meeting to see where we are in regards to scheduling and delivery, and then we’re off to individual computers and screens to see the work in progress and what’s been done already. Internal revisions and brainstorming go on and off all day (and night) long.

Each day consists of a few projects being developed simultaneously – it requires sharp thinking and decision-making skills, as well as an eye for what may or may not work poster-wise. When a few days later you see all these amazing posters printed out and ready to be shipped to the clients it feels great. Incidentally, I don’t remember even one comp being 100 per cent finished before it was sent or presented to a client. There is always room for improvement. There is always something that I would do differently the second time around.

Do you feel that as 3D CGI is used more and more in VFX for films, movie posters should reflect this by also utilising 3D software in their designs?

Yes, definitely, although it’s worth noting that because we usually have to create a somewhat decent poster promoting a movie eight to ten months before it hits the screens; nothing we can get our hands on from the film itself is finished and ready for use. That is the biggest challenge: we, the agency have to design a poster for a movie that is most probably at the casting stage. In order to start promoting it worldwide, we have to create a feel for it; we have to intrigue a viewer. This is when fun begins! We have to create 90 per cent of the CGI by ourselves in a short period of time.

So, how do you go about creating a great poster?

For my personal posters things look pretty simple: in my poster template within Photoshop I sketch my initial idea to see where the title and typography could go, then I’m off to ZBrush or CINEMA 4D, where I quickly block out what I already see in my head. Next comes what I call my reality check, where I estimate whether I should doodle for around ten hours in ZBrush or fake elements in five minutes within Photoshop. Once this phase is done, I detail my work, keeping in mind that the overall message is the most important element of a poster.

Lighting, texturing and simple cameras are set and it’s time to render it once or twice at high resolution. Once renders are finished, it’s compositing time. I’m back in Photoshop merging, blending, adjusting colours and transforming my raw 3D elements. Whoever invented Alpha channels is my hero! Things are slightly different when it comes to commercial work, where I have to design something that +/- 20 people imagined together. Usually, I also have way less time to doodle.

What advice would you give to other artists looking to utilize 3D software in the creation of professional quality posters?

In this fast paced industry it’s easy to forget that what you do is very specialised and what may happen is that a few years into it you may be stuck making title treatments and title treatments only – as much as you love it – there is more to 3D than that. So if you can, try to expand your skills on your own every single day. You’ll definitely learn how to be patient – all renders for a poster are huge because of the specifications for print.