What do Scandal’s Olivia Pope and the criminals of Grand Theft Auto V have in common? They’re dressed by the same person.
Scandal costume designer Lyn Paolo — whose other credits include The West Wing, ER, Southland, and Shameless — created the wardrobe for the animated characters in the fifth chapter of the ultra-violent video game.
How did Paolo go from wardrobing D.C.’s most powerful in Armani and Prada to designing virtual suits, riot gear, and stripper clothes for the residents of the fictional city of Los Santos?
“[Rockstar Games’ associate art director Michael Kane] felt that the vision for GTAV was partly displayed in the gritty nature of [Shameless and Southland],” Paolo recently told Tyrannyofstyle.com of being recruited to design the wardrobe for Grand Theft Auto V.
To Paolo’s surprise, the process of creating the wardrobe for a video game was quite similar to designing for television. “Michael and his team sent me concept boards for many of the characters…. They were very detailed and diverse. Each character would have a number of different variations in their look, examples were students, hippie types, professional,” she explained. “I was amazed at how detailed the boards were, and surprised to see images of Bill Macy from Shameless on a few of the boards and also the guys from Southland on the boards that portrayed the LAPD.”
And, just as it is on Scandal, stories and characters are essential elements in the costume design process. “After they handed me the boards, I then went to work finding an array of clothing that defined each character. I sketched my idea of what each of these characters should wear,” Paolo said. “Then the Rockstar team created the scans of each individual and with each character we did several 3D scans of each person in the game, changing clothing accessories, shirts, shoes, glasses, hats and on and on. We also created a database of many accessories so that Rockstar would have a lot of images to pull and add to each character as the game progressed through production. This was something that Rockstar did well after our initial scans.”
How was designing for a digital world different from dressing living, breathing actors? “Fit is not as important and we can tweak things as each person is scanned, additionally because of the nature of the process color and tone can be changed after each character is scanned. In film and TV I do not have the ability to alter color or texture. I am sure that will come with time, which would be amazing, but right now what we film is what you see on the screen,” Paolo explained. “Additionally, it would be fairly scary to allow someone in post to change the quality or color of items that have been specifically chosen for a character. If someone turned a white suit on Olivia Pope to purple, I would not be entirely thrilled. So, if this technology progresses and we get to that point in film and TV I would work very hard with the Union and Producers to ensure that the Costume Designer retained some creative control over the look of the show.”
Paolo hopes her work on the game will be appreciated as much as what she does for the small screen. “I hope that other video design teams understand and come to appreciate how important it is to put the actual clothing onto each character,” she said. “The movement and texture of clothing really adds to the realism of the game. Often I look at games and everything seems so flat. The Rockstar team does an amazing job and took the time to fly to Los Angeles so I could help them to create a truly interesting and realistic costume experience within the game.”
Read Paolo’s full interview about designing the costumes for Grand Theft Auto V at Tyrannyofstyle.com.