Netflix & Skill - Stranger Things Contest: Runner Up Entry
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Netflix & Skill - Stranger Things Contest: Runner Up Entry

Netflix & Skill - Stranger Things contest runner-up, Daniel Truman, shares details of his entry titled, 'Left for Camp'.

Throughout the year at The Rookies, we run contests to help you challenge yourself, meet deadlines, win cool prizes and even kickstart your career!

For the Netflix & Skill - Stranger Things contest, entrants were tasked with designing, rendering or animating something that represents Stranger Things - An American science fiction horror drama television series.

Games Academy Falmouth University student, Daniel Turman, was a runner-up with his piece titled Left for Camp. In this article he breaks down is entry and will hopefully inspire you to get your own contest entries cranking!


I wanted to create an environmental concept themed around the character Dustin Henderson. My goal was to create an environmental concept that was production ready.

Research Phase

A lot of my information came from the book 'Stranger Things: Worlds turned upside down'.

The book helped me develop my understanding of the show's visual aesthetic. This included breakdowns of all the characters.

I always use PureRef for my mood boards. It's free to download!

To give the environment more visual interest I needed to ground it into the story of the show in a way that made sense. The more specific the better. I decided to place the environment at the moment after he left for Camp Nowhere before the start of Season 3.

I wanted the treehouse to reflect Dustin’s transition from a child to a teenager. Placing references from his childhood and personal interest was perfect to weave the treehouse into the main story. I also researched common trends and tried to make assumptions about the 80’s culture he would have been interested in. The mood board consisted of various screenshots found online and from previous seasons.

Sketching Phase

A lot of my sketches include experiments with how to fill the treehouse with references. I had already decided on the look and shape of the treehouse and as I started to fill the treehouse with various props, I modified the treehouse as I saw fit. My general goal was to make it feel both cramped and used. There would be a general hangout area than other areas used as secondary storage to a bedroom.

To keep the general aesthetic true to the theme I found items from the 1980s online to place into the environment. Some items were easy to find and others were hard!

The final sketch explored the lighting in the scene. I added a window to allow daylight into the scene. An old lamp hung up on the shelf to add warm temperature lighting as well.

3D Phase

I used Maya with Arnold Renderer to produce the 3D. I used a variety of downloaded 3D assets and basic geometry I modelled myself.

For me, the most important part of the 3D process is pushing the lighting and perspective as far as I can. Arnold is a good renderer and can handle complicated lighting scenarios with high accuracy; this is something I tried to utilise in my environment.

The environment started to come together as soon as the HDRI was added. For me, Poly-Haven is an essential resource whenever I need an HDRI. By keeping all the models the same neutral grey I know that all the variations in value and hue are coming from the lighting. This is extremely helpful information for when I move to the paint-over and begin to overlay textures.

Paint-over Phase

For paint-overs, my program of preference is Adobe Photoshop. Although they're good alternatives these days. Photoshop for me has a great balance between digital painting and image editing

After doing basic line art, I start to overlay textures and add colour to bring the scene to life. I develop the line art and texture as two separate layers. I felt I needed to have a strong line art layer to back up the main piece for visual clarity.

Using my mood board and research notes as guidance I continued to add to the environment. The treehouse needed to feel abandoned but as a once-loved place. Dustin would come back from Camp grown up and the treehouse acts as a time capsule for his childhood.

Final Image!

Thanks for reading my breakdown if you like to see more of my work or ask any questions, find me here: The Rookies | ArtStation | Instagram | Email