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Method Studios Delivers Hope to Halo Reach

Method Studios announced that it has just completed work on a massive VFX-filled campaign for Halo: Reach, the two-minute theatrical featurette, “Deliver Hope.”

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Unedited press release follows:

Method Builds Sci Fi World for Halo: Reach “Deliver Hope” Short

Combines Live-action, 2D, 3D and Compositing for TV/Theatrical Featurette

LOS ANGELES–Method Studios has just completed work on a massive, VFX-filled campaign for Halo: Reach–one of the most anticipated game releases of all time. Microsoft and agencytwofifteen wanted to create an astounding sequence that could be used for this two-minute theatrical featurette, “Deliver Hope,” that could match in look and intensity the feelings that Halo’s millions of devotees receive from playing the game. They went with director Noam Murro of Biscuit Films who then brought the enormous VFX portion of the job to Method and that company’s Sr. Creative Director/VFX Supervisor Dan Glass (Batman Begins, The Matrix sequels), who oversaw the VFX portion of the job from pre-production through to delivery of the featurette and cut-downs for use as TV spots.

“The job was extremely large in scale and complexity and involved a wide variety of VFX,” says Glass, who points out that all the digital work on the more than 70 VFX shots in the piece, was done at 2K resolution for maximum effectiveness on large cinema screens. “We brought everything through our film pipeline,” adds digital effects supervisor Matt Dessero. “We worked at 2K and in log color space, which gives us more information to work with and we projected our comps in our screening room. We designed everything to work on a large movie screen.”

The job of creating the major battle scene that is the centerpiece of the featurette began with elaborate animatics that allowed Murro, Glass and their respective live-action and VFX teams to come up with a precise plan of attack. For Murro, the most important aspect of all was that the final piece not merely look like a series of cool shots but instead affect the audience on a deeper level. “It’s all about the emotional connection,” he says. “I want the viewers to feel they’re really part of a Halo battle.”

Starting with actual live-action footage was, for Glass, an important piece of the job, both from a technical standpoint and for that emotional connection. “It always makes sense to capture as much as possible in camera,” he states. “It helps you make decisions about what will work and what won’t very quickly.” Live action portions of the battle, involving actors in suits by Legacy Effects, were shot over three days in Prague, the Czech Republic, first on location in a disused Communist-era ironworks, which Glass says provided them with “bizarre, oversized forms that fit well into the otherworldly look we needed” and the third day on a large green screen stage in that country’s Studio Barandov.

From the result of this very productive shoot (90 setups in three days), the raw, edgy look for the piece was established. “We want the viewer to feel totally immersed in the chaos of battle,” Glass says, noting that this immersion is designed to bring to this motion picture the first-person feel gamers will experience.

The material was brought to Method’s LA facility where teams of 3D and 2D artists and compositors separated out the usable live-action elements and created the design elements and procedures to create the otherworldly scene. “One of the first things we did on the 3D side,” says cg supervisor Dan Seddon, “was to bring game assets from Bungie into our workflow. They were helpful but our requirements were much greater than they are for the game itself so we enhanced the detail in their appearance and their movements.”

Artists made extensive use of Autodesk Maya and Side Effects Houdini to build out the 3D environment, the cruiser and to enhance the character models, most of which were assets of the game itself and provided by Bungie. Method artists also created and manipulated elaborate matte paintings. All the work, Glass explains, “Has to give viewers a little extra something, as though they are watching a Halo feature film, without ever distracting Halo’s enormous fan base. There is a whole world of mythology and strict rules about the world of Halo that we naturally had to observe very closely.”

Autodesk Flame workstations were used for the majority of purely 2D compositing work but Method took the Foundry’s Nuke to the extremes of its capabilities, maximizing the compositing tool’s 3D capabilities to import geometry, re-project flat objects onto virtual geometric shapes and import and track 3D virtual camera movements.

Color grading was done at sister facility Company 3, Santa Monica, by Stefan Sonnenfeld, Jeremy Sawyer and Siggy Ferstl. The tight knit infrastructure of the two Ascent Media companies allowed grading and VFX work to take place concurrently.

Glass is particularly happy the final piece will be shown theatrically. “We want it to be scrutinized at that level,” he declares. “A lot of us at Method come from feature backgrounds and we’re used to doing work at that level. Even though this is essentially a ‘commercial,’ it presented us with the creative and technical challenges of a feature film.”

Agency: AgencyTwoFifteen
Client: Microsoft XBOX Halo Reach
Executive Creative Director: Scott Duchon
Executive Creative Director: John Patroulis
Art Director: Ben Wolan
Copywriter: Joe Rose
Producer: Joyce Chen
Management Supervisor: Zach Rubin
Planning Director: Nigel Tribe
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Noam Murro
Senior Executive Producer: Shawn Lacy
Executive Producer: Colleen O’Donnell
Line Producer: Jay Veal
Creative Post Supervisor: Gary Naccarato
Editorial Company: Rock Paper Scissors
Editor: Angus Wall
Editorial Assistant: Anton Capaldo-Smith
Editorial Assistant: Gabriel Britz
Executive Producer: Cassie Hulen
Executive Producer: CL Weaver
Producer: Cristina Matracia
Digital Intermediate: Company 3
Color Grading: Stefan Sonnenfeld, Jeremy Sawyer, Siggy Ferstl
Music: Human
Music Producer: Jonathan Sanford
Mix: Lime Studios
Mixer: Loren Silber
Audio Producer: Jessica Locke
Sound Designer: Brian Emrich
Visual Effects: Method
Sr. VFX Supervisor/Creative Director: Dan Glass
DFX Supervisor: Matt Dessero
CG Supervisor: Dan Seddon
Sr. Executive Producer: Gabby Gourrier
Senior VFX Producer: Stephanie Gilgar
CG Lead: Andy Boyd
FX Lead: Doug Bloom
CG Lead: Scott Metzger
Model Lead: Masa Narita
CG Lead: Jeff Willette
Comp Lead: Ryan Urban
Comp Lead: Brian Delmonico
Lead Flame Artist: Noah Caddis

About Method Studios
Based in Los Angeles, with locations in New York and London, Method Studios is a leading postproduction facility providing a full range of visual effects services including conceptual design, look development, 3D animation/CGI, matte painting, compositing and finishing. Method Studios also provides an array of services to stereoscopic film productions, including the creation of stereo 3D content. Method’s sister company, Company 3, maintains a full stereoscopic color-grading suite in the same building as Method’s Los Angeles facility, most recently used for Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.”