Over the past few months I have been building a landscape alongside my talented first year Jack, who has helped my vision come to life. Whilst doing the past few projects on this course, I have really enjoyed creating new worlds and realities for my characters to explore. Research has been a key part of my process for my graduation film. Firstly, studying in depth about wild horses in America. Secondly, figuring out where the wild horses live in America and lastly, what kind of environment they live in. Alongside the emotional narrative, I want to closely model the environment to look like the area in Nevada that wild horses inhabit. In hope that the more realistic it is, the more the audience will be able to connect with the character.

After finding out where the wild horses live across Nevada and the Great Basin, I began seeking areas of the Nevada desert that would make an ideal backdrop for my film. After researching into the making of ‘The Good Dinosaur’, I took inspiration of Pete Sohn, by studying topographical maps across the Nevada Desert. I began making mood boards of areas to refer back to. I found a beautiful location called el dorado dry lake bed in Nevada. It is a popular film location not far from Las Vegas. It had the flat ground and sprawling hills in the distance that I envisioned for my film.

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el dorado dry lake bed

Recreating a landscape environment in Maya however was a new experience for me. I started of by experimenting with flat ground planes, and then using the sculpt tool in maya to create hills and valleys in the plane. However this wasn’t creating the detail that I had hoped for. After discussing the issues with Jack, he suggested that we use a different program called World Machine, that would create detailed environments.

After numerous tests using multiple different softwares, Jack created an ideal Nevada desert scene using a combination of World Machine and Z Brush. It had the mountain and valley shapes that I had hoped for. We spent a large time trying to perfect the shape of the mountains so that they would look realistic, and true to the shape of the mountains in the Nevada Desert.

Close up of the Model

In my mind, I picture my horse running across a huge landscape. With the narrative of the film being about freedom, I wanted to represent that through the environment. Size was a factor that we had to consider whilst modelling the landscape. I needed the landscape to be big enough to look vast in the camera view, and huge against the horse. We needed to make sure that the model of the landscape wasn’t too high in polygons, otherwise my scene would run slow and it could take forever to render. Therefore, finding ways around a high polycount, whilst creating the sense of vastness, became our next challenge.


I began to consider how I could recreate the vastness using colour, shape and different horizon levels. What I found was apparent, was the use of cool colours in the distance. It took me back to a painting lesson I took recently with concept artist Ty Carter. He taught us that if you want something to appear closer, you should paint it warmer, and if you want something to recede into the distance you should always paint it cooler. This was obvious looking at the pictures of the Nevada Desert, the warm oranges, reds and yellows were filtered out and became less saturated the further they went into the horizon.

Myself and Jack played around with the idea of creating rings of mountain shapes around the model that would become increasingly less saturated. In hope that the addition of the rings this would add to the feeling of enormity. However, it didn’t achieve the look we were hoping for, the rings weren’t as detailed as the model Jack had created using World machine.

Instead of building more around the model, I began to concentrate on how I could use colour in my favour. I had a lot of fun with this, I studied areas of the Desert for inspiration and then using photoshop, I began to create colour pallets that we could use to paint the model.

I made numerous colour pallets based on various locations in the Nevada desert. Always considering what type of colour would convey different moods.


I was swaying between hues of blue, purple, pink and orange. I also considered what Ty had taught me, using warmer colours in the foreground and cool in the background. I have always been drawn to using muted pastel tones throughout all of my work. I liked the idea of continuing this theme within my film. I think that muted tones will be less distracting against the movement of the horse. Whilst creating the colour pallets, I always considered the feeling I want to portray throughout the film, calming with an emotional yet powerful narrative.

I am currently in the process of painting my model using the different colour pallets and also referring to the mood boards of Nevada for reference.

Colour Test




Hampton-Smith, S. and Arts, C. (2019). How to master colour theory. [online] Creative Bloq. Available at: https://www.creativebloq.com/colour/colour-theory-11121290 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2019].

The Good Dinosaur. (2015). [DVD] Directed by P. Sohn. Walt Disney Animation Studio.


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