Blur Studio director, Dave Wilson lays his Magicka to rest and recharges his Stamina to chat to us about the latest awesome cinematics created for The Elder Scrolls Online
All images copyright: Blur Studio, AKQA, Bethesda Softworks and ZeniMax Online Studios
Few game cinematics have caused such a huge rise in anticipation for a game than the recent Elder Scrolls Online cinematics. Both The Alliances and The Arrival have been watched online by millions of viewers.
Dave Wilson was the director over at Blur Studios where these incredible trailers were created. He talks about some of the difficult processes involved in creating them, such as that incredible moment when the chains drop down from the newly opened portal, and the challenges faced by having such an open spec to begin with. No doubt it took a lot of Stamina, and maybe Health was affected to some degree, but with a little Magicka, anything is possible...
Altmer elf from The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
"Enthusiasm is infectious and starts at the top; as long as you foster a welcoming, collaborative and friendly environment, its natural for everyone to want to be a part of the process and pitch in"
3dtotal: Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us today. Congratulations on your work on The Elder Scrolls cinematics both the The Arrival and The Alliances are truly awesome! How was it working on these? How long did they take to complete?
Dave Wilson: Working on both projects was fabulous. The initial brief called for a 3-minute trailer, but after seeing how nicely everything was coming together, we worked with AKQA and Bethesda to expand The Arrival and The Alliances into what they are today. They gave us key moments to hit, but beyond that, the brief was relatively open, which meant we had a lot of room to play. That kind of freedom allowed us to explore our creative possibilities in the best possible way. Production began in early 2012, and we wrapped up both trailers in about 18 months.
Nord from The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
Breton from The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
3dt: Do you have any favorite moments from either of the cinematic trailers?
DW: I have many! In the first trailer, I love the cavern scene this came together better than originally imagined. It was also particularly exciting when they asked us to produce a second trailer.
With that said, Id have to say one of my favorite parts of the second trailer is the battle scene with the Nord and his interaction with the scamp creatures. Figuring out how to best combine motion capture and keyframe animation was incredibly complicated, but the animation team did a stellar job. The destruction of the tower was also a highlight, and although a very ambitious undertaking our FX supervisor Brandon Riza led the charge with great success.
Daedra from The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
Last but not least, I really enjoyed the ending of trailer two with the undead Breton; it was a great way to cap things off and was actually one of the very last scenes we finished. Everything the crowds, sound design, and matte paintings came together beautifully and our lighting lead for this scene, Darren Butler, did a fantastic job in helping to set the right mood.
Atronach from The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
3dt: What were the biggest challenges you needed to overcome?
DW: I view challenges as a way to break new ground and make us better, so I try to incorporate these sorts of elements into the trailers I work on. That said our first challenge out of the gate was making sure our characters looked absolutely incredible since they would be the foundation. We spent a lot of time on the characters, especially on the finer details like hair and cloth.
Mathieu Aerni our character modeling lead was diligent at making sure all the characters were up to speed. We had a lot of people with various skill sets working on the project, and Mathieu made sure everything worked together harmoniously on screen, which set the tone for the rest of the project.
Nord from The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
Undead Breton approaching the Imperial City
In the second trailer, we had to tackle massive amounts of destruction. Our initial brief from the client contained portals that open with dark anchors and chains, which quite honestly made me giddy. I specifically wrote those scenes at a scale of destruction we had never done before, and put the action front and center. We created simulations that wound up driving multiple simulations, which is no easy task.
First, we animated the chains, then simulated them and used the simulated chains to drive the destruction. As the destruction happened and each piece fell, they further informed simulations back on the chains in a massive feedback loop. On top of all that, we had smaller simulations of dust and debris, which were all driven by the larger simulations.
The entire process required a lot of back of forth, getting one aspect to work, and then going back to get the other in line. The physics simulations of all that destruction was a tall order and we couldnt be happier with the way it turned out. To a smaller degree, but no less impressive, was the simulation of the cloth and hair.
Undead Breton from The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
Final scene from The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
3dt: Will the characters in the cinematics feature in the game (they're pretty kick-ass!)
DW: Im not sure, but there is a lot of speculation within the Elder Scrolls fan base as to who the characters are in the trailers as no one really speaks and we dont specifically address their identities. If you look closely at the sky towards the end of trailer two, you might spot Molag Bal in the clouds.
Model of Daedra for The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
Daedra concept art for The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
3dt: How many artists worked on them and how do you find collaboration?
DW: Between both trailers, probably a little more than 100 people contributed in total, but only about 20 people were actively involved at any given time. At Blur, we excel in collaboration. We have a very open environment and easy inter-department communication.
We usually meet several times a week to discuss project progress and strategy, especially when the work is complicated like the destruction simulations in trailer two. For that scene, the effects supervisors, rigging supervisors and animation supervisors would all convene and map out how to address the various challenges. CG supervisor, Jerome Denjean, was the point man for all that was happening, and our producer, Tiffany Webber, helped make sure the collaboration and communication was flawless.
Enthusiasm is infectious and starts at the top; as long as you foster a welcoming, collaborative and friendly environment, its natural for everyone to want to be a part of the process and pitch in.
Storyboard for The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
DConcept art for The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
3dt: Are there any other movies or games from the last 12 months you have been impressed with, VFX-wise?
DW: Gravity was very impressive; I like the thought and planning that goes into executing those big VFX shots. Its like a visual symphony all those elements working together harmoniously to create an outstanding composition. With Gravity, the singular vision resided in the directors mind without much to really sell the action on set, which would be the symphony metaphor equivalent of playing with minimal sheet music and just following the conductors lead.
I respect immensely the effort required to pull off such a feat, and to execute it so flawlessly was even more remarkable, especially considering the huge amount of patience, vision and forethought required to get there.
Model of undead horse for The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
3dt: As massive Elder Scrolls fans, we wish we had a next gen console to play this on, but we'll have to be patient. Will you be playing this, or do you have your eyes set on some of the other games coming out soon?
DW: I actually just got my beta key and look forward to giving the game a bash very soon. Its always fun to see the other side of what weve been working on for so long, and Im a big fan of games (when I have the time to play them). Im also excited to check out The Division, which was one of the big games at E3 last year. I enjoy indie platform games as well.
Model of undead man for The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
3dt: If you were just starting out on an Elder Scrolls adventure, would you be going for strength and swordplay or guile and magic (or another tactic perhaps?)
DW: I'm a guile and magic guy.
Concept art for The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
Concept art of the scamps for The Elder Scrolls Online 'The Arrival' trailer
3dt: What are you working on at the moment or what do you have in the pipeline that you are really excited about?
DW: Weve got a lot of cool stuff going on that we cant mention just yet but were busier than ever so keep an eye out for lots of exciting new work from Blur in the near future.
The Elder Scrolls Online - The Arrival Cinematic Trailer
The Elder Scrolls Online - The Alliances Cinematic Trailer
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