The Cover of Tomb Raider – Interview with Erin Johnson

By on October 3, 2013 | 541 comments

(Click to enlarge image)

(Click to enlarge image)

Back in November of 2012, the Crystal Habit podcast gave us some behind the scenes insight on the making of the Tomb Raider cover.

Mentioned in the podcast by Tomb Raider’s senior art director Brian Horton, the cover is a mockup rendition pieced together by his team at Crystal Dynamics as well as their partners at Ignition & Visual Works.

So who is the the model on Tomb Raider’s cover art? Brian Horton and Ignition chose the lucky & talented model Erin Johnson to represent lady Lara Croft on the cover of Tomb Raider!

 

Transcribed from the Crystal Habit podcast, Brian Horton explains the cover’s creative process.

It started with an Ignition idea that we modified and did a sketch over. Ignition had done some proof-of-concept kind of stuff. Then we did Bren’s sketch, and then we did the shoot. Once we had the shoot and the pose locked from a photograph, we sent that over to Visual Works. They matched that pose and the lighting. In fact, Ignition sent us detailed lighting information. The temperature and position of all the lights and stuff. So Visual Works could simulate that in their environment. They did an awesome render. Then I worked with Ignition to composite some of that to get the final look that you see on the cover. It was pretty cool.

I’m happy to report is that once we got the Visual Works render back, which was originally only supposed to be the head and the hair, they gave us a full body render. I was able to get some ingredients from the Visual Works model and I’ve got them composited in.

TombRaiding spoke with Erin Johnson about what it was like to shoot with Ignition & Crystal Dynamics, and what it takes to be on the cover of Tomb Raider!

How did you learn about the casting notice that Crystal Dynamics had put out?

In the beginning Crystal Dynamics did not hire me. I was hired by a printing company called Ignition Print in Santa Monica.  They are responsible for the cover art of movie posters, video games, etc. I had shot with them before to be a figure model for a different video game and they called me back for Tomb Raider because I resembled the character of Lara.  When it first started out, Ignition Print was trying to get hired by Crystal Dynamics to do the cover of Tomb Raider, and they ended up getting the job with the photo that actually turned out to be the shot they used for the cover!

What did the auditioning process look like?

The casting was through Ignition Print and initially it was for “a chick who can look badass holding a gun.” This to me was perfect because I always dreamt of being portrayed somehow as a badass babe!! So I went to the casting in black pants, thigh high boots, a black midriff top and my hair slicked back in kind of a faux hawk. This to me represented a “badass babe,” little did I know that that shot would help me get the quintessential badass babe of all time.

What was it like shooting the cover of Tomb Raider?

Shooting for Tomb Raider was actually a lot of hard work. They didn’t really keep me in the know or let me know exactly what we were shooting since I shot with Ignition Print about 8 times, each session lasting about 8 hours long. The shoots were incredibly endurance driven. I basically had to do yoga poses for hours at a time and the next day I wasn’t surprised if I was unable to walk because I was so sore. On top of holding poses and pulling on a real bow and arrow (which let me tell you is anything but easy), I was also constantly being sprayed with water and having a fan blowing on me full speed so I ended up also getting sick a couple of times.

I was incredibly accustomed to Lara’s outfit, it was like my second skin!! After shooting in it so much and being drenched in all that water and mud all the time the outfit would get looser and looser everytime I shot in it but they never were able to wash it because they wanted it to still look authentic. We did shoot in front of a green screen and shot one pose multiple times to make sure we got a shot from every angle.

I honestly had no idea how big this was going to be because I could never visualize exactly what my images were going to be used for and how they were going to be used.  I guess it didn’t sink in that I was representing Lara Croft, the most iconic video game character, in my eyes. I’ve always been a huge fan of Angelina Jolie and how big of an uber babe she was as Lara, even shooting for the same thing as her is an incredible honor.  But there is nothing more shocking than to see yourself internationally representing one of the biggest games of the year.

What was the best part about the photoshoot?

The best part about the shoot besides getting to play Lara was probably the things the staff had to make me do to get angry. I’m an incredibly happy/goofy person so it’s hard for me to make angry or pissed off faces because it just is out of character for me.  After a long day of shooting and I was exhausted it came a little easier and I’m guessing that’s why they had me shoot so intensley so that I could portray the expressions of being tired, weary, and angry. After a while we started playing metal so it would get me upset, instead I love metal and it makes me happy so I just pretended to be screaming the vocals and that seemed to help with my “angry face.” Fortunately for the viewers they decided to use none of the photos of me making an angry face and now you know why. Hahaha!!

Have you played the new Tomb Raider game that you’re on the cover of?

Ok here comes the part where everyone is going to hate on me. To be honest I haven’t played the game YET. First off because I would feel incredibly narcissistic, but secondly because the last gaming console I owned is N64. I used to play video games all day long as a kid but since I’ve gotten a little bit older and going to college and working and all that annoying adult stuff, I haven’t had a ton of time to keep up with video games. Once I learn how to understand new gaming consoles I definitely plan on playing the shit out of Tomb Raider, so can someone teach me please?!

Also, while in the process of shooting I was shown clips from the trailer of the game so I could get into character and try and portray Lara’s feelings, so I did get to see a lot of the graphics and get an idea for the plot of the game. I was incredibly impressed, because I was used to Mario Kart and now the design and the graphics of these new school video games are absolutely insane! The gaming world is a whole new world. I think Crystal Dynamics did an amazing job, especially since it took them over four years to make this game. It really shows and it’s incredibly impressive the imagination and creativity and talent they have for making a game so life-like.

Erin Johnson with Cut out & Bestbuy Employee

I appreciate all the love I’ve received from Tomb Raider fans around the world! If you have any Tomb Raider pictures and are on instagram or twitter please reach out to me!! Thank you and I love you! ♥

 

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