[This entry is brought to you by the wondrous magic of Adobe Photoshop]
When I first laid eyes upon the set of teaser posters for Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi brainer Arrival I was immediately struck in awe. It happens rarely that I fall in love with a film poster at first sight, but I just lost myself in those amazing still-lives with their gorgeous colours and lighting. So much so that I could even ignore some of the choppy Photoshop actions in there. Furthermore BLT Communications, widely regarded as a leading player in the business, got into hot water with a quite controversial faux pas, but not even that stopped me from totally going into raptures.
Excitedly I added Arrival to my fall schedule and waited for some textless posters or key art to be released. But except for a few character posters (#14, #15), Paramount never put out any more promotional material. Week after week I was looking out for something useful, but no such luck. The thought that somewhere, some graphics designer had all those unprocessed source images sitting on his workstation drove me nuts. So I opted for the more difficult path, even if it meant I had to do everything manually, just like in the old days.
After a rather simple first task of removing all text elements by hand, my main concern was the typical portrait poster format. Somehow I had to extend it in width without loosing the monumental appearances of the alien ships.
It was kind of a revelatory moment when I realized I could cut out the ships from the background and fill the remaining area with the help of Photoshop’s intelligent algorithms. This would also allow me to crop the posters down to a square and resize/reposition each ship to maintain the overall image composition. Said and done. It more or less worked like magic! There were some particular tricky ones which needed further work, for instance the addition of some atmospheric haze and clouds to fix minor scale issues. But overall it payed off nicely.
Due to popular demand I also tried to include some artworks featuring actual human beings.
I haven’t seen the film yet and only listened to bits from the score, but Arrival is already among 2016’s favourites for me. Denis Villeneuve’s track record so far is flawless and Jóhann Jóhannsson is for sure one of the most interesting and creative composers working today. The film itself is lauded as the most intelligent yet equally entertaining science fiction film in years. A statement that only seems to be supported by those twelve beautifully crafted scenes of seemingly random alien spacecraft landing sites. A stylish combination of understatement and attention to detail that, at least for me, captures everything Arrival is supposed to and apparently will be.
By dismantling the original posters I was left with perfectly cut out spacecraft PNGs. So I decided to take an extra turn around this score. The custom covers below are all based on the beautiful landscapes, mountains, lakes and rivers of my home country Austria (plus a particular one from Prague, which I made upon request). It was a fun thing to add those massive UFOs to various regions I’ve already visited for real. But it also made me realize that I’m absolutely no Photoshop guru. Creating custom covers on already polished pre-existing material is one thing, but editing and photoshopping regular photos and make them look good and “real” is a completely different thing. Not mine necessarily.
Once again I’ve re-visited this covers series at request for an old-fashioned Vinyl design, like I used to make plenty in the past. And it was surprisingly satisfying to work on this viually rich film score again. I’ve had some unused source images in stock and figured one of them might work well on the front (#24) of a Vinyl jacket. For the back (#25) I’ve had a pretty clear picture of how I wanted it to look like as well. The beautiful landscape shot is a concept artwork by Meinert Hansen.
This Vinyl Edition went through quite a lot iterations, from a plain textless front over a sort-of solo album art and into the old-fashioned font design I considered as final. I guess sometimes it’s best to stick with established looks, especially when explicitly asked. I also wanted to contrast the ultra-minimalistic cover from the official Vinyl, so a little retro font design was the right way to go. But I’m sure that my custom cover would look particularly less retroesque if it was meant to be a modern release.
The final Deutsche Grammophon version (#26) was a by-product that just happened along the way, and left me wondering why it didn’t occur to me any sooner.