1 9 1 9  .  B i r m i n g h a m
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1 9 1 9 . B i r m i n g h a m

My entry for the Peaky Blinders contest. I will create an industrial city concept while also breaking down my process in details. A great chance for me to venture outside my comfort zone AND binge the show!

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Update - 6 Jan 2020

Final concept!

Definitely more of a loose concept sketch rather than a polished environment, but for my first time making a photobash work like this, its a good start.

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Update - 3 Jan 2020

Next step is adding in the details, probably the most daunting step! It’s the formulation and planning of where every single bit and bob will go that can be really tedious and quite difficult when on a time restraint. I wanted to challenge myself this project by being as efficient as possible with this concept, as I would be if I was working in the industry!

Photobashing can be used as a shortcut for this process, creating happy accidents and helping to quickly visualize those details, which can then be further fleshed out later.

I laid down a variety of textures using different layer blending modes in Photoshop. The secret to keeping it from becoming a vomit of textures is using layer masks, in addition to having the original 'flat' composition layer on top of it. This keeps the ‘form’ of the composition from getting lost; don’t want to lose the readability and negative space! 

The ominous gangster was also changed to (probably Thomas Shelby) riding his horse. I really liked the juxtaposition of the 'black knight' peacefully riding a beautiful horse  through a harsh industrial landscape of rusted metal and factory smoke. 

I start by having a black & white adjustment layer on top of everything to help keep all those phototextures consistent in a non-destructive way. Here I turned off that layers visibility to reveal the color formed from  the image. All the phototextures have added a nice subtle color. I was happily suprised at the nice red brick that was coming through. However, it’s not a consistent color scheme. To find one efficiently I use gradient maps (usually a few). 

I made a few variations for the color scheme, but I would definitely want to try out some more, (maybe experiment with different times of day.) So far, however, I found B to reminded me the most of the color scheme used in the show and a good representation of UK weather.

Update - 3 Jan 2020


Using the photos I already collected, I sketched out some different scenes using a mix of photobash and paintover. I wanted to showcase the oppressed economy through equally oppressive, looming industrial structures.  By having a threshold adjustment layer I can create striking compositions very quickly that play with negative space.

At this point it was still quite hard for me to settle on just one thumbnail, they all expressed interesting stories. However they were also in desperate need of some structural clarity before moving forward. I went into trusty Autodesk Maya to then block out my favorite thumbnails to iterate with different angles and see how the environment interacts with each other in 3D space.

Maya Blockout



Maya has defiantly become an inseparable part of my process when creating environments. I spent a good amount of time on creating a detailed bridge model, but otherwise just left the buildings as blockouts. Using Arnold for rendering and adding a 'physical sky', I played around with the angle of the sun to find some cool shadow shapes. It also allowed for some happy accidents, like the long shaft of light that unintentionally appeared while I was rotating the 'physical sky'.  I could place a character there to make them pop and give the scene extra depth and interest through a bright focal point.

For my final composition I basically combined my renders using the elements I liked the most from each one. I liked the looming arch composition in A, and the general shape of the buildings in B. The shaft of light made for a great focal point for an ominous gangster.

Update - 18 Dec 2019

Developing the Idea

To get started, I made a comprehensive mood board. 

At this point I was still unsure what kind of concept I wanted to make; environment or character.

I was leaning more towards environment (as is given away in the title haha), though I was also interested in designing a gangster. I settled by making an environment featuring a character. Using both the grand environment and the character to help create a sense of story.

This is also an opportunity for me to make a city environment, meaning it will be far from my usual comfort zone. I’m going to need to put a lot of effort into my 3D environment to help make the process easier and quicker.

In terms of my current portfolio, I don't have any industrial or modern environments, with all of them being natural/fantasy landscapes. This is a great opportunity to showcase a researched historic cityscape using hard surface modelling in Maya and photobashing to demonstrate necessary industry skill in my portfolio. 

I was really inspired by Noir style black & white photography with dramatic compositions, depicting eerie fog lit scenes with a sense of mystery and thrill.
I also looked into artistic depictions of 1920s style cities by various artists (mentioned below, check them out!). Finally not forgetting of course the fantastic cinematography in Peaky Blinders itself!

Featuring artwork from:

Eddie Mendoza
Pablo Dominigue
Pete Amacheree