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Everyone loves a good ‘hidden easter egg’ video. Whether it’s dissecting a Pixar film to find the iconic Pizza Planet Truck from Toy Story or watching the Avengers: Endgame in .25x speed to point out quickly-moving details (no really, .25x speed), it’s incredible to see the hidden gems that artists tuck into their work.

The truth is, artists include countless details in their research, drafts, and even final product that nobody sees. Not even in easter egg videos. Still, there are several reasons artists slave over these unseen details. Read on to hear more about:

  1. Preparation & Execution
  2. Creative & Accurate Storytelling
  3. Artistic Obsession

It was almost like trying to model a wristwatch with all the internals…I definitely find myself loving to model details that someone would probably never see.

Cohen Brawley, Freelance Hard Surface Artist

1. Preparation and Execution

Initial creative stages, though rough, involve lots of fantastic detail that will never be seen by an audience. These first steps are essential to set the final product up for success.

Reference guides, for example, help artists decide aesthetic direction and keep them accurate when diving into a specific time period, place, or culture.

A reference chart can provide insight on an artist’s guides and inspiration, but you probably won’t subscribe to a YouTube channel ranking a top 10 countdown best references for various artwork.

The many (many) first drafts of an art project demonstrate the huge level of detail that gets layered into the final product. Redline and ink sketches show the arduous process of comic book creation, and details in blockouts and wireframes are essential for any 3D modeling project.

Khang Nguyen

The unseen work that goes into preparation and execution leads to a beautiful result. These details are, in themselves, impressive, and although these initial stages are usually kept apart from the final project, a recent Apple Original Film defies this norm. Wolfwalkers actually keeps loose expressive line work in the film. In several shots, you can see circles and curves on the wolves’ bodies to show the initial body structure marks. Though it may frustrate some old-school illustrators and animators at first, it provides an energetic look – just like the film.

2. Creative & Accurate Storytelling

In addition to the intentionally hidden details in research and first drafts, there are also a lot of gems right in front of you, included in the final product. Though you might not see them at first, these details are implicitly impacting your experience.

For one, these details can make a character, asset, or scene more realistic without you noticing. When 3D Character Artist Diego Rodriguez created a Mursi man, he included war paint on the torso. Presumably, the character applied the war paint with his hands, so Diego added paint on the character’s fingers as well.

Diego went one step further and included paint smudges and splatters on the character’s weapon where he holds it. This type of consideration by the artist pushes this character closer to photorealism, even if you didn’t knowingly register it.

Similarly, a VFX artist included fingerprint smudges on Hulk’s glasses frames in Avengers: Endgame. See, these are the details you miss when you don’t watch a 3-hour movie on .25 speed. Shame on you.

To see Diego’s full breakdown of this character, read “6 Steps to Create a Realistic 3D Character: Mursi Man

These unseen details don’t have to work toward realism or accuracy. They can also function as pure story-telling elements. Illustrator Allegra Shinabargar drew tattoos on her character Fe’avi that, to an unknowing audience member, could be purely cosmetic. However, these tattoos were ceremonial markings from one of the islands Fe’vai visits. Likewise, she gains different accessories from other people she meets on her adventure. Although her opaque glass charm might just look like a fun costume choice, this detail clues you into where she’s been and who she’s met.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Fe’avi, be sure to read 6 Ways to Craft a Story-Driven Costume for Your Character: Fe’avi the Last Dragon.

3. Artistic Obsession

Although preparation, execution, realism, and story-telling are all perfectly valid reasons for artists to add detail nobody will see, the real purpose for easter egg details is illogical. The truth is, artists can be obsessive. Quite often the reason behind intricate details is a personal desire to execute a project as thoroughly as possible.

If your love for your art borders on romance, check out “5 Ways Being An Artist Is Like Being In A Relationship”

For example, Hard Surface Artist Cohen Brawley took the same CGMA course three times. Although this fact alone isn’t obsessive, Cohen’s passion and drive are obvious when he shows off his final results for 3D weapons.

Cohen incorporates unseen details in through texturing, which adds both storytelling and accuracy elements. The wear and scratches push this weapon closer to photorealistic, while the marked numbers suggest story behind the weapon. Cohen designs weapons for games, so the average gamer probably isn’t going to notice these details.

Cohen also modeled an incredibly complex internal part of the machine gun that would never be visible to a player. When asked about this, he said the huge undertaking was like modeling a wristwatch, but it was worth it. “I find myself loving to model details that someone will probably never see,” Cohen said. “It’s more satisfying to feel like you got every detail nailed down to a T.”

Cohen isn’t alone. Throughout industries, disciplines, and projects, a healthy dose of obsession pushes artists to think about details so small and complex that the average viewer will miss them and have to rewatch an easter egg video later.

Watch Cohen Brawley reveal the hidden details that make his assets so incredible.

The reasons to continue adding these hidden details range from layered first drafts to photorealistic realistic results. But perhaps the best reason is if you have the talent, insight, and drive to think of including fingerprints on Hulk’s glasses frame, why wouldn’t you?

RELATED ARTICLES

To see Diego’s full breakdown of this character, read “6 Steps to Create a Realistic 3D Character: Mursi Man

If you’re interested in hearing more about Fe’avi, be sure to read “6 Ways to Craft a Story-Driven Costume for Your Character: Fe’avi the Last Dragon

If your love for your art borders on romance, check out “5 Ways Being An Artist Is Like Being In A Relationship”


LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.