Method Studios - Halo 4 ‘The Commissioning’

Category: AEAF News
Published on Thursday, 28 June 2012 Written by Adriene Hurst


AEAF ENTRY Method Studios has followed their previous Halo spot with ‘The Commissioning’ for Halo 4, creating
animated FX within live action and digital environments for an immersive gaming experience.


‘The Commissioning’, from agency TwoFifteen and production company MJZ, introduces the storyline for the new X-Box game, set for release later in 2012. Director Nicolai Fuglsig wanted to present the immersive gaming experience and produce visuals consistent with the Halo game and the excitement of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Short on Time
One of the challenges was the tight deadline. Once shooting was completed on location in Bucharest, there were four weeks of post before delivery. Method’s Producer Bethan Thomas ensured that the 3D and matte painting teams could start preparing digital elements and sequences while VFX Supervisor Benjamin Walsh was still on set. The facility’s LA and Sydney teams pooled resources to be able to complete and deliver both a 95 second and 60 second spot on time.

The story begins in a futuristic city where dramatic evening light and spacecraft of various sizes and designs fill the sky. The narrator announces the inauguration of the peace-keeping vessel ‘Infinity’ but the war free atmosphere is short-lived as viewers watch the civilian ship being captured by an immense, hostile force, the planet ‘Requiem’.
Method's brief was to create a world immediately recognizable to the game's fan base and produce an engaging, cinematic featurette. Working with the agency and the game’s creators 343, Method produced animatics and referenced concept art to flesh out ideas and develop a consistent style. The game itself was still in final development, which allowed the team a certain amount of creative freedom to help develop the environments and models.

343 provided Method with several 3D models of the game characters and spacecraft. Key examples of these take on the major roles in the commercial such as Master Chief, the games’ playable character, and the civilian ship Infinity the aliens capture. Other assets included three types of smaller spaceships, the huge ‘Mammoth’ vehicle and smaller ‘Warthog’ trucks shown colliding in the ship’s hold.
Photoreal Assets
These raw game assets had to be translated to photorealistic CGI able to hold up alongside live action footage. The models passed on by 343 were refined according to how close they would appear to camera. Assets moving slowly or further from the foreground were less labour intensive and often enhanced with matte paintings.

The two day shoot involved filming the live action characters either on green screen or sets built-out as the space craft interiors. Benjamin Walsh and Tracking Supervisor Fabio Zapata captured raw material and references from set for the team creating CG scenes in post.
The project’s environments are composed of live-action footage frequently extended with extensive digital matte paintings. Working in parallel with the 3D and compositing teams, the matte painters created the cityscapes, space environments and added detail to the huge spaceships. Nearly every scene was then enhanced with CG and 2D elements such as explosions, smoke, debris, clouds and lens flares.

For the ship interiors, some scenes show live action material filmed on set while other shots are entirely CG. 343 provided basic set geometry to the Method crew, which was then refined according to concept art and ongoing creative discussions.
Animated Hologram
Method Design helped generate several graphic animations for the spot including the control room’s holographic schematic of the Infinity. Again, because this is a part of the game itself, the designers had reference material to work with. In this case, they could augment the colours and introduce attention-grabbing animation to indicate the ship’s distress warnings.

Another effect requiring artistic input was the ‘scan’. As the Infinity is overpowered, a band of orange electric light passes through the ship and disables all online systems. Method created multiple layers of the electric effect, which were then combined in 3D. Flame was the compositing package for 2D work and final conform, but the majority of 3D compositing was run through Nuke, coordinating with the elements created in Maya.
The 95 second featurette was streamed live at the 2012 E3 Expo conference in LA and on Spike. It contains extended scenes from the 60 second TV version, plus actual game footage. Method also produced the previous Halo spot ‘Deliver Hope’, which received a VES Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in 2011.
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