Digital Video Arts is a television production and post-production company so conceptually I tried to use a theme that was somewhat consistent with that type of industry. XMEN was chosen because of one, it's popularity at the time in 2006 and two, because it had enough characters to support the size of the staff.
From a design perspective, a project like this starts with a rough concept and sketch to determine the layout and resource requirements. I knew how many people I had in the organization so that determined much of the size and distribution of the layout.
Next was to find high-res images of the XMEN characters. I found as many as I could possibly find. Some of you hard core XMEN proponents might argue with the validity of some of these characters in the final piece but sometimes concessions must be made. Needless to say they are all super heros/villans close to the same genre.
Once I had compiled probably 25-30 images it was time to start pairing super heroes with their DVA facial conterpart. Since I was very familiar with the people I was able to fairly pair the two together. Some discussion and interaction was done as well.
With the pairings made I started a rough composite of the characters to determine layout, placement and scaling. Using trash mattes I was able to quickly layout the project and get a good feel for the balance of the piece.
Next was to shoot the face shots to be composited onto each of the characters. This was a bit trickier than it looks. I had to not only match the lighting style evident in each shot but i also had to keep in mind the interaction of light between the subjects in the overall composite.
I took each character one at a time until all 17 were finished. During shooting I had my collegues Chris McFall and Nina Omelchenko working on cutting mattes for the characters. Once all the mattes and faces were completed I then set to work finalizing the composite with attention on environment, environmental special effects (fire, ice, sparks), reflections and shadows and overall tonal and color balance.
The last step was adding the text and final image formatting for press.