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Exclusive: Ed Natividad Talks About OBLIVION Concept Designs and How GM Helped His Career

TRON Legacy Producer Sean Bailey called Ed Natividad a "design superstar." and many in the industry agree. A professional concept designer who's worked on films like The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones(2002) and Transformers(2007), Ed combines real world skills with an amazing imagination.

In my exclusive interview with Ed Natividad, he talks about designing the unique world of Oblivion (2013), the "obscure" book that inspired him and how GM helped his career.

Check out the rest of the interview after the jump and click to enlarge. By the way, there's a spoiler for Oblivion that I obscured.

You studied transportation design in Detroit, Michigan, but an internship in California convinced you to work in films. What made you switch careers?
Total Recall by Ed Natividad

While still in college, I interned at both Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Advanced Concept Center in Thousand Oaks, CA which allowed me to experience exactly what that industry entailed.

I felt through this experience I needed to exercise a wider range of subject matter such as figure drawing, architecture, composition, storytelling in addition to industrial design. However, had it not been for GM, I would not be doing what I am today.

The processes involved in Industrial Design helped develop the ability to problem solve through quick ideation sketches and generate forms indicative to automotive surfaces. This does help in conceptualizing in 3D and adapting to the progressive nature of ID.

What did you work on in Oblivion?
I was involved in Oblivion at it's infant stages, primarily visualizing the inhabitants known as "Scavs," [Scavengers] which Joseph Kosinski described as an alien race when initially perceived, but [ were indeed the last human survivors on earth.] (Spoiler hidden. Highlight text to reveal.)

Images via Comic Book Movie

You've worked with director Joseph Kosinski twice now. He said, "I believe form follows function. I’m not a fan of excessive decoration, of putting fins on something because it looks cool." How did his style influence your work on Tron: Legacy and Oblivion?

Working with Joseph on TRONallowed me to focus on a specific aesthetic language involving corner radiuses and bold linear graphics which were a stark contrast to a form of "anti-design" implemented by the Scavs in Oblivion.

Kosinski said he wanted his film to "bringing science fiction out into the daylight again" to contrast with the darker feel of modern science-fiction. What was it like working with Darren Gilford?
As Production Designer, Darren Gilford was superb in urging the artists to communicate advancement, both technological and chronological. This was a result of research on current product design trends and the plausibility of the concept. Being a conceptual artist as well, he was able to provide us with drawings of his own vision as well as those expressed by Joe.

You've worked with killer robots on Transformers and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Is there a key to storyboarding these types of scenes? 
Transformers Storyboards by Ed Natividad source
When working on Transformers, I try to be creative with camera angles,composition and action sequences, some of which are specific to the director's requests.

As a general rule on the Transformers films, the more extravagant, the better.

I worked in conjunction with Michael Bay's previsualization team, Unit 11, who are responsible for some of the most spectacular sequences in these films.

Your storyboards for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menacewere recently released in the book "Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy." What was it like storyboarding for the biggest franchise in science-fiction history? 
While working on the Star Wars, the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, it was apparent that VFX intensive sequences were hardly effected by budget limitations. As a matter of fact, a good majority of the shots contained some element of VFX. It was easier to count the shots that were devoid of a digital element.

What's been the high-point of your career?
Star Wars Episode Istoryboards by Ed Natividad source
If I had to identify a high point in my career, it wouldn't be a specific project, but rather the relationship you build with certain directors and production designers which make the the experience enjoyable.

Which artists do you admire the most and how have they shaped your view of art?
When asked which artists influenced me the most, it may very well be Joe Johnston. I say this because after picking up an obscure book called "The Star Wars Sketchbook" when it first came out, it informed me that there was a "job" in drawing for the movies. This was also my first exposure to the industrial design style of drawing.

Where can we see your work next?
I am looking forward to seeing Man of Steel in which I was involved in the development of the main villain, General Zod and company. My good friend, Warren Manser, was responsible for the design of Superman's costume.

See more of Ed Natividad's work at EdNatividad.com

Click on the links if you want to see more of Ed Natividad's work and Star Wars designs.
Click to see more of my exclusive interviews with artists

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Write by: Arek - Monday, May 6, 2013

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