Creating havoc for fun. brings out the cinematic big guns for gaming in destruction and aviation.
RealtimeUK, 15 January 2009
The team at RealtimeUK were delighted when approached by game designerto produce a concept movie for the Stormbirds game.
"Our reference for cinematics tends to be game design documents, pre-viz & some game assets depending on how far along development is," explains RealtimeUK producer Steve Kerswell. On this occasion the client had an impressive body of concept art, that was pretty inspiring and outlined ideas for missions and plane designs. It was RealTimeUK's job to digest all this information and create a cinematic version of the game with the emphasis being on cool camera work, excitingand awesome FX."
"With this piece we wanted to create a movie experience for the viewer, putting them behind the gearstick of a super-sonic combat machine while also allowing them to view the destruction they had just created," Kerswell says. "When you are playing a game you often see things from one view, the drivers’ seat, but we needed to engage the viewer in as much of the action as possible."
RealTimeUKs' research started with a trip to a local aviation museum to view existing jetfor inspiration. They then moved on to creating mood boards, mainly highlighting the type of detailing associated with real aircrafts which, even though our jets were based a little in the future, would make for a more believable viewer experience.
They then had to develop some initial speed paintings for atmosphere and styling so the crew could present and discuss it all with the client. Once the overall look and the 3D animatic were signed-off they picked key frames from each scenario to concept further for their modelling team to follow. "With time being tight," Kerswell points out, "we tried to answer as many questions as we could in the 2D stage, leaving as little ambiguity as possible."
The landscapes throughout the piece varied immensely and were the biggest challenge for this project. You see everything from serenely beautiful mountain ranges to harsh, dense jungles. Nailing the camera work and animation as early as possible was the key, allowing maximum use of camera mapping and matte back plates.
Working on Stormbirds, The RealTimeUK crew quickly realized they wouldn’t be able to achieve the complex jungle scene within 3ds Max. "We’d recently created a forest in 3ds Max using V-Ray proxy objects but this time we wanted to push things further both in terms of efficiency and creativity."
"We used a rough 3ds Max block-out to pin down the overall layout of the scene along with the plane’s motion and camera moves. It was also important to establish the look and feel of the shots with our concept artist because it was very difficult to visualize such a complex and atmospheric shot with just the primitive geometry in our blockout."
"One of our initial concerns was that the one scene created inwould look different to the other scenes which were to be created in 3ds Max. To minimize this issue, we created as much of the scene as possible within 3ds Max. The jungle floor, cliff faces and the entire military campsite were modelled and texture within 3ds Max and then exported to Vue," says Kerswell.
"We had a rather complex camera animation rig which allows us to recreate the look and feel of a physical camera. Because we had issues moving this into Vue, we had to bake the entire rig down to just the camera’s coordinates prior to export."
"We populated the majority of the scene with an ecosystem and then manually placed some trees to fine tune the areas around the camp."
The rainforest village was blocked out with buildings, vehicles and props in 3ds Max, they were then moved over to Vue to have the trees added.
Still renders from 3ds Max and Vue were composited together in Photoshop and worked up into a layered digital matte. These mattes were then camera projected back onto the original 3ds Max file and rendered from the scene’s camera.
The other environments such as the snowy mountains and jagged canyons were all modelled in 3ds Max and either texture mapped traditionally or camera mapped.
Rendering canyon runs could have been problematic with the vast distances covered in a short time, however using V-Ray proxy objects for the trees allowed for a manageable and stable scene.
Bringing the fighter jets to life was one of the most enjoyable aspects of this project. The client provided low-poly game planes which we used as templates for the initial model block-outs and also featured in the animatic. The high-res planes were modelled in 3ds Max, UV's were generated in UVLayout and texturing created in Photoshop.
"There were similarities with existing fighter jets, so the details were mainly added from our own photography. The planes went through a few iterations of design, we would review the progress during our morning dailies and the team would all put their aeronautical engineering helmets on!"
Collaboration with THQ
Kerswell is glad to say THQ were a pleasure to work with. "There were regular reviews and exchanging of creative ideas, which ultimately made this concept movie the stunning piece you see. The key milestone stages were the 3D animatic and first benchmark scene. The narrative was pretty much pinned down straight away, but there were other items we needed to take more into account such as introducing a few in-game type cameras to show the game-dev team how to link from the active to passive viewing experience in the most cinematic way."
"For the benchmark scene we usually work up one shot to final quality at an early stage – probably about a third of the way into the project. This should show the client how we envisage the environments, the lighting, FX and post treatments will look. It’s good to go though any revisions and iron out any issues at this stage, then both the client and our project leads can sleep a little easier!"