Behind the scenes: Halo 4 ‘The Commissioning’ trailer
Benjamin Walsh reveals how Method Studios created a teaser worthy of the big screen for upcoming videogame Halo 4
From agency TwoFifteen and production company MJZ, ‘The Commissioning’ introduces the storyline behind the new, eagerly awaited Xbox game Halo 4, set to be released in autumn 2012. Award-winning Danish director Nicolai Fuglsig was keen to push the work into a dark place in an attempt to capture the fear and emotions felt at the point of contact with a new, unknown enemy. As a collective, it was our intention to create what felt like a feature film teaser with a fraction of the time and budget. VFX gluttons for punishment? Yes, but it was worth it this time.
What we did right
1. We were prepared for a quick turnaround
The schedule for the spot allowed just four weeks of post-production time, so careful preparation was required
One of the key challenges for us was the turnaround schedule for such a VFX-heavy ad. Once shooting was completed, there was just four weeks of post-production time before the delivery date. While I was on set, the 3D team was working on the full-CGI shots, cleaning up any usable game assets, modelling details and creating new assets.
2. We planned the project extremely carefully
We worked closely with the director, agency and the game’s creator, 343 Industries, and produced pre-viz for the full-CG shots. We always referenced initial game concept art to flesh out ideas and help ensure that everyone was on the same page stylistically.
The game itself was still in final development, so we were allowed a certain amount of creative freedom to develop the environments and models in partnership with 343 Industries. It was nice to collaborate with the game’s producer to execute the fine detail needed for the ad, which ultimately played a part in how the finished game would look. We planned the job well and used our international infrastructure, which allowed artists in both LA and Sydney to pool resources, helping to guarantee that both the 98-second and 60-second spots were delivered on time.
An important requirement was translating raw game assets into photorealistic CGI that’s able to stand convincingly alongside live-action footage
What we did wrong
We could have pushed harder for location shoots
Whenever possible, we always encourage directors to shoot locations over sets and practical effects over CG. Due to the tight shoot schedule and inconsistent weather in Romania, we didn’t have the opportunity to shoot the ceremony scene outside with natural light and practical foreground structures.
We could have pushed for this approach more aggressively in hindsight, especially since the tiny stage made it difficult to light the wide crowd plates effectively. However, saying that, it did rain on the day we shot the crowds – ah, the pros and cons of shooting!
Method’s goal was to create a world that would be instantly recognisable to the game’s loyal fan base, and to produce an ad that was captivating and cinematic in its own right
Since Method had won the VES award for Outstanding VFX on the previous Halo project, there was a lot of pressure on us to pull another epic spot out of the pixel bag. We had learned a lot of valuable lessons on the previous ad – ‘Deliver Hope’ – that stood us in good stead and helped us win the pitch. Everyone was extremely pleased with the final results, and Microsoft used the spot to launch its campaign to an eager gaming audience at the E3 Expo in LA. In the end, our tight production plan and talented and efficient artists helped Method to deliver another commercial worth the hype of Halo 4.
Studio: Method Studios
Format: Broadcast commercial
Client: Microsoft Xbox/agency TwoFifteen/ production company MJZ
Project length: Eight weeks in total, including preproduction. Around four weeks’ post-production time after the shoot wrapped
Team size: Around 60 artists across LA and Sydney
Software used: Maya, Nuke, Flame, Houdini, After Effects, Photoshop
Release date: June 2012
About the author
Benjamin Walsh is a lead VFX supervisor and creative director at Method Studios Los Angeles. He’s worked on ads such as Chevy’s ‘2012 Silverado’ (the Super Bowl spot shortlisted at the AICP Awards) and EA Games’ ‘Is It Real?’
- This article was first published in the special Games issue of 3D World, which you can still buy! Use it to help you to discover how to create stunning games.
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on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 at 2:56 pm under Commercial, Features, Making of, Showcase.
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Tags: After Effects, Flame, Houdini, Maya, Nuke, Photoshop