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Community Spotlight

Community Corner: EtherealEOD

Issue 015
Fan art by EtherealEOD of the Master Chief and Arbiter Thel 'Vadam standing back-to-back on a Halo ring
Photo of Alex
  -  a month ago

The Community Corner is back with a new guest to talk about all things Halo!

Last time, we spoke with Katarn343 and his love for all things Halo lore, along with his incredible YouTube videos bringing moments from the expanded universe to life.

This month, we are joined by EtherealEOD, whose incredible digital art you will have no doubt seen in many a Spotlight!

Welcome, EtherealEOD! Thank you for joining us for this issue of the Community Corner. Tell us a bit about who you are, what you do in the Halo community, and where we can find you online.

Hello everyone, and thank you for having me, Alex. I am more than honored to be here!

My name is Kristian Gallina, the fella behind the Twitter account EtherealEOD—and I go by the same username on my YouTube account.

Do you love Halo fan art and awesome trailer-style edits set around the Halo franchise? Well, that’s my thing in this vast community. My videos are merely short passion pieces I do for fun, unlike my 3D art which is where my true love for the franchise shows itself.

How did your great journey with Halo begin?

Like most in the community, I suppose, but I was just barely one year old when my mum, older brother, and sister got the first Xbox along with a copy of Halo: Combat Evolved. I never got to play it myself, being that young, but I did retain some early memories from watching them play through the game on split-screen with each other on the campaign and multiplayer.

I remember my sister not being able to drive past the first light bridge in CE’s second mission without driving the Warthog completely off the bridge. When I was around six or seven years old, my mum introduced me to Halo properly and we would play co-op for hours on both the campaign and messing around in the multiplayer. She also took me to get a copy of Halo 2 for my birthday and stayed up with me all night so we could play through the campaign together.

Ever since then, Halo has held a very special place in my heart—particularly with CE and its mix of linear and open missions, the art style, aesthetic, music, characters, designs, mystery, and atmosphere.

What are some of the areas of Halo that you particularly enjoy and why? Campaign and story, multiplayer, Forge, the expanded universe, etc.

I have always been a single-player campaign and story person when it has come to video games, especially with the Halo franchise. Though I have fond memories with old friends on multiplayer, the campaign, story, and expanded universe of Halo is where the meat of the franchise resides for me.

When I initially played Halo: CE for the first time, I hadn’t read The Fall of Reach but I was immediately sucked into the universe by the amount of existing worldbuilding that had been done! I wanted to know what the conversation between Cortana and Keyes was about, why the Master Chief was considered a living legend and seen as almost mythical by the Marines, why he was the last of his kind, how Reach fell, who built the rings, why the Covenant was trying to wipe out humanity, how the Flood came to be, why Guilty Spark treated Chief like someone he knew from his past...

In the later titles, I adored the Terminals you could come across throughout the campaigns for the characters and lore behind them—the true terror of the Flood told through extended media and how the truth of them essentially sent anyone who knew about it mad.

 What are some of your favorite pieces of Halo media (games, books, and so on!) and why?

Oh, there are so many pieces of Halo media I adore! Aside from the games obviously, I have always had a love for animated Halo media—Halo Legends and the Halo: Evolutions motion comics in particular.

From a horror set on an ONI-controlled prison ship with Flood experiments, to Spartan headhunters, a lone ODST trapped on a ship alone to fight the Covenant, Blue Team storming a carrier, the gorgeous art style and tragedy of The Duel, what it took for one Marine to “Be Human” and make a call no one else would or could... The stories told in those animations are how I found my drive to go further into Halo’s universe and lore.

Let’s talk about digital art! How did you discover your passion for this medium and how long have you been honing your craft?

I wasn’t even five when I first picked up a pencil and paper. Most do at that age for sure, but I always loved creating stuff and drawing from my own imagination. That being said, most of what I made was Halo.

Even at that age, I knew what I wanted to do in my life, which was making art—something I have been pursuing and studying for almost half my life now. I could not be happier with where I am now because of my work and the wonderful folks I have been fortunate enough to meet and talk with because of it.

Initially, I started to take this line of craft and work more seriously in late 2016 to early 2017 with digital drawing, taking courses, studying, and self-teaching with extra skills I wanted to learn. I then discovered what I could do with SFM after finding all the wonderful 3D art that the other members of the Halo community had made with it.

I began working in SFM for a couple of years, learning how to light, pose, render, and add effects with Photoshop and After Effects before moving on to Blender and learning more advanced techniques with lighting, posing, compositing, rendering, different lens types, and more.

What are some of the things that makes digital art so exciting to you?

More than anything? The reaction, seeing what people think of my art and the thoughts they have on my work has helped me become better at what I do! I would not be where I am now without those in and outside of the Halo community.

The next best thing for me would be getting to the render stage after spending countless hours concepting different variations of a single scene (some don’t even see the light of day, ever), exporting said render into Photoshop for the final stages of composition and exporting.

By the same token, what are some of the challenges that digital art presents?

There are many challenges I have faced while making digital art, but one of the most challenging aspects of digital art (which any artist in any form can attest to) would be suffering a creative block or burnout. It can hit you at any moment and really drain your motivation and inspiration. However, it is not the be-all and end-all, it can be overcome.

As mentioned above, there can also be many different concepts and variants you work on that don’t even see the light of day. It can be a challenge to leave those behind, but it’s never too late to pick those old concepts up one day.

Do you have any specific favorite pieces you have made? (And why those particular pieces?)

My favorite pieces of art that I have made over the last few years that are related to Halo would be:

  • “Hijacked,” featuring Jackals hijacking a Pelican with a Marine being super combined.
  • “The Last Stand,” featuring a Spartan in Mark IV armor and an Elite Major back-to-back against the Flood.
  • “Arbiter’s Embrace,” featuring Thel ‘Vadam lending his helping hand to an injured Grunt.
  • “Arrival on Delta Halo,” featuring the Master Chief and three other Marines traversing the jungles of Delta Halo.
  • “Broken Quarantine,” a full scene I built from scratch recreating one of the segments from the level 343 Guilty Spark in Halo: CE, showing the Chief investigating the broken containment module in the middle of the room.

You’ve put together some absolutely spectacular Halo scenes over the years, it really must be said! What does your process look like from conceiving the image you want to make through putting it all together?

Thank you, truly! That means so much to me.

My process is pretty standard and not overly complicated. I tend to sketch up a quick concept over an extremely rough block out for what I am looking for, preferred camera angle, base poses, depth, and the type of environment I am looking to create.

I continue with the concept to the side on my other monitor and import what character models, terrain, foliage, buildings, structures, vehicles (and so on) I need for the scene. Once all models are imported, if I haven’t sculpted or modelled them myself, I place them in the scene matching the layout of my rough 3D concept draw over and build up the scene from there.

Once everything is in place, I move onto lighting and compositing, after that stage—once I am content with how it looks—I render everything into their separate layers, export those rendered layers into Photoshop, add the final touches, and take away anything that needs to be patched up that couldn’t be done in Blender.

Who are some of your favorite Halo characters to depict in different scenes and situations?

I have lots of favorite characters in Halo, but I’ll list the ones I use frequently.

The Master Chief to start, obviously! He is the most frequently used character in my scenes. I like to make his scenes brave and heroic most of the time, but I want to lean more into his human side with future scenes and make some more tragic content with his character.

The Arbiter is the second most frequent character I use in my renders. I tend to make his scenes a bit more heartfelt as I think he is much more of a tragic character on the outside compared to the Chief—especially in Halo 2. I try to make his scenes more sympathetic in nature, such as the scene where he is lending his hand to an injured Grunt.

Most of the other Halo characters I have used have only appeared a few times, but I try to make the scenes to those characters match what they are like in the Halo universe.

What is it about characters, environments, and scenarios of the Halo universe that captivates your imagination?

I think it mostly comes down to the style, design, and execution of how these characters, environments, and scenarios play into the world of Halo for me. And more than anything, it would have to be the mystery of the Halo universe—how we still know so little about so much.

The mystery that was captured in Halo: CE is what captivated me the most. What is this giant mysterious alien ring construct doing in the middle of nowhere space? Who built it? Why was it built? Why is it abandoned? What happened to those who built it?

We know many of these things now, but the first time without knowledge or context to the series really hits the nail on the head for me.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited about that you can tease us with?

I have plenty of projects that I am working on this year that I cannot wait to share with you all, and I am more than happy to drop a few little teasers for what is to come.

All I can say is that those who love the Arbiter, Didact, Flood, Forerunners, Banished, Covenant, Johnson, Rtas ‘Vadum, Guilty Spark, Cortana, and the Weapon are going to be eating good!

One scene in particular that I am working on as I type this is one I have already dropped a screenshot for on my Twitter showing the Arbiter standing in front of his past self, before his great shame. I cannot wait for you all to see this when it is finished!

I’m also planning a scene of Atriox taking on some Spartan-IVs on the UNSC Infinity before he runs into Chief from the opening cutscene of Halo Infinite, so keep your eyes out for that one too.

What are some personal highlights you’ve had over the years as a member of the Halo community?

One of my first personal highlights that just blew me away was in 2017 when I was contacted by another member of the Community that goes by TheMythicTyrant. He’s such a wonderful person and he gave me my first real commission when I was just starting. I made a 3D mashup-style intro for his channel based on an old TV series called The Outer Limits. This intro was also voiced over by Steve Downes himself, which was one of the best things to happen in my life.

Being featured on the Community Spotlight for the first time was absolutely fantastic and pushed me to improve as well as inspired me to keep pushing this as a career choice.

Two years ago, I created a video called “20 Years of Halo – Trailer.” I edited this video over the course of three months as my personal tribute to the Halo franchise. I was extremely proud of how it came out, but the response to the tribute video is what truly made it great for me—seeing everyone’s reactions to it was an incredible feeling and I am glad I was able to get that edit out for the community to watch.

What advice do you have to folks out there who might be at the start of a journey similar to yours with digital art?

Just be consistent with your craft. Take any advice you can get, including criticism. Remember you will always be your own worst critic, with anything really. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help and advice from other artists, and don’t be afraid to use references when making your art either.

Whether you are drawing traditionally with pencils and paper, digital drawing, creating 3D art in Blender or Maya, or if you are just getting started with 3D in Source Filmmaker—give it what you can to the best of your abilities and build up from there. We all start rough, we all have dozens of different draft variations behind our main pieces, it’s what makes the final result so rewarding in the end.

My SFM art when I first started is drastically different in style and quality compared to where I am now, so don’t doubt yourself! The possibilities of what you can create and how you create them are endless if you put your heart and mind into it!

Be the best you can.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I have a secret passion for woodwork and metalwork. Wood crafting has been in my family for a long time, so I know how to make a pretty neat desk or kitchen table if need be, and have been considering pursuing that as a side hobby in the near future.

Thank you again for joining us for this issue and sharing some of your time to talk about all things Halo! Do you have any parting words to share?

Thank you for having me, Alex. It was an honor to be featured here and to answer these questions.

I just want to say thank you to everyone in the community who has been there, supported me and helped me get to where I am now! I would not be here doing what I love if it weren’t for you wonderful folks. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this community and I hope to meet you all someday soon in person.

I hope you are all doing well and take care of yourselves. I cannot wait to see what else this community can create in the future!

Godspeed, everyone!