Thursday, September 3, 2009

Halo: ODST

After the success of the Believe and Iris campaigns a few years back, along with Gears of War 2 last year, Xbox once again tasked my office with doing the online marketing for their next AAA title: Halo ODST. In this game you play as the rookie on a squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (get it?) as you make your way through a myriad of levels killing aliens, saving humanity, and blah, blah, every first person shooter you've ever played.

While the game itself may play out like Halo 3.5, the site and production that went into it took our team marching into all sorts of brave new territories. The site revolves around an interface which allows the user to review interview footage of the 3 members of the ODST team you fight alongside in the game. During each interview, the soldiers are instructed to put a device on their head that allows you to see what they're thinking.

The interviews were shot on a sound stage in LA and were later matched up with b-roll, shot in both Budapest and SF. My role in all of this was to work alongside my co-worker and friend Jeremiah Wassom, and support his effort to assemble the video feeds of the thoughts / memories. Since he'd been brought into the project earlier and was on-set in Budapest his role was to ensure the interview questions matched up with the memories we'd planned on producing.

While he was laying out time lines and establishing timing, I took over the visual effects work for individual shots that would be part of these memories. initially we'd planned on having 4 shots, only 1 of which was anticipated to involve 3d motion tracking and animating game models.

By the end of the project we had 10 vfx shots, 5 of which involved some tricky matchmoving, and 3 of those included animating models from the game into the shots. In all of these cases, I tracked the shots using PFTrack, animated and textured some of the game assets in Maya, and composited it all together in After Effects.



Covenant Sky

Probably the most complicated of the shots I worked on was the Banshee Attack. While initially this shot seemed to be an easy track, it turned out to be an incredibly difficult shot. In fact, due to a crazy exposure shift and the smoke that felt it had the right to casually waft through the shot, I never actually tracked the entire shot in one continuous take. Instead the shot was broken into 2 parts, before and after the banshee explodes. The explosion was done using footage from Detonation Films, and the rocket and contrails were done using Trapcode Particular.

Banshee Attack

The shot was later cut down to accommodate client request (and cover up the fact we had nothing for him to be shooting at when the camera panned back down).

After individual shots were finished and placed into their respective timelines they were treated with a process that jeremiah came up with to scramble them up and add that digital noise that's so indicative of a scrambled digital signal.

the last step of the project was to animate the various EKG / Brain activity meters that needed to reflect the soldiers stress levels as related to their memories.

At the end of the day, this turned out to be the kind of project I love. I got my hands dirty doing things like shooting extra assets and making a bomb (turns out everything I know about explosives comes from the Die Hard Movies), I pulled just about every compositing trick I could think of out of my hat. and walked away with a whole bunch of work I'm really proud of.

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