Now we know who did the CGI series.
Axis Creates CGI Episodic Content For “Halo 4” Spartan Ops: Season One
The series is being directed by Axis co-founder Stuart Aitken, on the heels of other recent high-profile game-related projects, including the much-acclaimed and award-winning Dead Island announcement trailer.
Aitken and Axis Producer Debbie Ross worked hand-in-hand with Halo 4developers 343 Industries to creatively develop the content, including casting, script development, art direction, sound design, with the clear goal that eachSpartan Ops episode should be as engaging as the best feature film or television drama.
“Spartan Ops was an absolutely unique project, with a unique schedule and unique challenges,” said Frank O’Connor, Franchise Development Director at 343 Industries. “Axis stepped up to those challenges with imagination and energy, and more importantly, a wonderfully collaborative vision of the story we wanted to tell. Working with our writers, our cinematics team, and a dizzying plethora of tools and assets, they became a seamless extension of our narrative group – and we look forward to continuing our relationship and creative partnership in the future.”
“What makes this such an incredible opportunity is that this is full CGI movie-style storytelling and character development within the rich and exciting world of Halo,” said Stuart Aitken. “We’ve collaborated at every level with 343 Industries throughout the process to create a truly immersive cinematic experience.”
The team at Axis was clear that they wanted each Spartan Ops episode to be as engaging as the best feature film or television drama. To achieve this Axis built a layout and editorial team that shot and edited episodes in a way more akin to live action than typical CGI. After the motion capture was complete, Axis would create a performance edit from the reference cameras at the shoot. The layout team then shot the CG cameras providing coverage for all scenes, allowing editorial to have as much flexibility in shot selection as possible.
Director Aitken immersed himself in the “Halo” canon, taking in everything that could provide insight into previous story elements, given that Axis would be creating never-before-seen moments in the “Halo” universe.
During the project, a range of production challenges were met, including Axis’ animation department having to work with motion capture across a range of character scales from 5.5ft to 14ft. However, the most demanding task was to create convincing facial animation. In order to maintain every nuance of the actors performances when applied to the CG characters, Axis in-house rigging and animation team developed a special facial motion capture solution in conjunction with Giant studios and Cubic Motion, a world leader in solving this difficult problem. The result is some of the most realistic and expressive CGI facial animation to date.
Axis also had to deal with the daunting level of environmental detail that is evident in the “Halo” world. The studio’s shading team developed a series of procedural approaches in Side FX Houdini, which enabled them make the world feel alive and “lived in.” Additionally, the lighting team was tasked with creating lighting set ups that matched the look of “Halo 4” but also developed a tone and approach that gave a signature look to the Spartan Ops episodes. The lighting had to be quick to iterate across multiple shots and artists, whilst maintaining the highest quality being demanded by Aitken and the team at 343 Industries.
As with any cinematic project, sound is an integral part of creating a believable world. Axis turned to Savalas, a previous partner for Dead Island,for all of Spartan Ops’ sound design as well as the final mix.
Spartan Ops was on a scale unseen on any prior project for Axis. The 10 episodes will contain 45 minutes of content, more than 30 characters, 23 sets and 1200-plus shots.