The Last of Us Part II CGI Promo was made by Moving Picture Company
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The launch film for the upcoming Naughty Dog game ‘Last of Us Part II’, set to be released on 16 June, shows the return of the character Ellie as she embarks on a relentless journey to carry out justice and find closure for her previous losses. The film, directed by MPC’s Morten Vinther, with-end to-end production from MPC including previs, motion-capture production, VFX, and grade, brings the gaming world to life entirely in CG.
The action-packed 60-second film, for the highly anticipated game, opens on a close-up of Ellie, playing guitar and singing the New Order anthem ’True Faith’. It then quickly match-cuts to Ellie running through a hospital interior, chased by her adversaries, nearly ambushed by infected humans, and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. She barely escapes the building and evading her pursuers behind a car, before dramatically confronting her enemies.
This global effort, was led out of the LA studio, spanning across our studios including London and Bangalore. Senior Producer Mark Driscoll notes, “This is the first project we’ve done of this caliber, not only technologically, but from a production stand point…It’s been incredibly powerful to work on, and I don’t think anybody’s gone to the level we’ve done before.”
Morten comments: “From the outset, our goal was to create a cinematic experience, which inherently felt authentic. Finding the right balance of emotional performance in an already established game character was a great challenge. Our quest for authenticity drove us to a series of unique choices when it came to the performance capture techniques, virtual cinematography, lensing and texture of the film – all solidly anchored in the real physical world. The combination of great performances and the thrilling camera work by Colin Watkinson has been superbly elevated by the unbelievable artistry and expertise of the MPC team, led by Dan.”
MPC’s role was integral in helping Naughty Dog achieve their vision of creating a photorealistic version of Ellie. Explaining the sheer scale of the task at hand, Visual Effects Supervisor, Dan Seddon says: “This project was very interesting in that we had to create a character that had never been seen in the real world before, that’s not based on a real human being, it was fully synthetic, although she needed to look real and believable, but we didn’t have a real world reference point.”
Animation Director, David Bryan, adds: “Our aim was to create a performance that the viewer would connect with emotionally and physically. Animating such a wide range of characters meant that we had a lot of emotions and personalities to portray. For Ellie alone, we were challenged with an expressive performance that would transition between sadness, fear, pain, despair, anger and love.”
Senior CG Character Lead, Pascual Rubio Carrera, explains: “The eyes and the face are what’s really going to capture the essence of the character, and really bring them to life.” He continues by saying, “It’s amazing how complicated the human body and face is and how hard it is to achieve something that is natural and realistic.”
To help bring a high level of authenticity to the film, MPC used motion capture to obtain some of the incredible physical performances you see in the film, that were then remapped onto a digital character. Two different types of performance capture were used, one was a four-dimensional capture, that takes a scan of a face on every single frame, providing micro-movements that wouldn’t be possible with other forms of capture.
Dan explains: “We were not able to go out and scan her head and micro skin details, but what we could do is take the asset that the game studio provided to us, refine those details, sculpt and then marry with the available libraries for micro-details that different people have in their skin. By finding someone that had a similar fit to Ellie we could take those details and enhance the Ellie asset, creating a photo-real, believable character.”
Creating Ellie was one of the most intricate parts of the post-production, it was also a huge task to create the environments that you see throughout the film. To bring the environments to life, the team researched the different types of foliage and vegetation that lie in Seattle (the locale of the game). CG Supervisor, Julian Fitzpatrick, comments: “We started developing the assets before we shot the virtual cameras. It was a big task to break out these environments and render them multiple times at 4k resolution.”
Compositing Supervisor Oliver Caiden adds: “The CG assets were of the highest quality, but if we wanted to re-render any assets, change texturing, or really get into the micro details, we would take that back into comp, where we would re-project textures and make sure that anything that was at 95% could be taken to 100%, to really get those extra few points of detail.”
One of the most challenging moments in the film was the indoor sequence, Creative Director, Anthony Bloor, explains: “In a dark corridor with little illumination from the outside and the only artificial light coming from Ellie’s flashlight, it was a creative challenge to create plausible and dramatic lighting. We were able to go way beyond what would be possible in a real shoot, even down to timing the flashlight bouncing on her dynamic shirt, would be made to hit certain items at just the right time to bounce the light back into her face.”
Morten concludes, “We felt an incredible sense of pride that Naughty Dog trusted us with what is essentially their baby, this is something that Neil and the team at Naughty Dog have been working on for the past 12 years, maybe longer. And for them to trust us with creating this beautiful film for them, and to portray Ellie in a way that the world has never seen before was a huge deal and honor for us. I’m very excited that the film is finally out there and I hope that all the fans will enjoy this unique moment in Ellie’s life.”