To launch Roman-era set videogame “Ryse: Son of Rome,” Microsoft, twofifteen McCann and Smuggler recently teamed with MPC LA for a unconventional new campaign. The collective wasn’t content with using a typical videogame cinematic for the project, thus the new campaign re-imagines the sword and sandal CGI opus in live-action. The campaign includes a visual effects-driven :60 commercial as well as four short films centering around the story of Marius, the game’s central character.
The collaborative effort between MPC and Smuggler director Brian Beletic focused heavily on maintaining the game’s vision of colossal scale and intense combat, utilizing several unique environments that were created from a live-action studio and location shoot in Sofia, Bulgaria. Scenes were then enhanced through adding large-scale CG architecture, digital matte paintings and Massive agents that blended seamlessly with second unit plates of warring barbarians and Roman guards.
“Brian’s vision was to create a film trailer for the game using a series of increasingly epic shots,” explained MPC LA creative director Paul O’Shea. “Our challenge was to dress the locations with believable battle atmosphere and make set extensions for the coliseum and palace that felt real but matched the unbelievable scale of the game assets.”
MPC had a large production crew that assumed duties for shooting several pick up shots, background plates and VFX elements. Beletic entrusted MPC VFX supervisor Ryan Knowles with wrangling these pick ups under a demanding shooting schedule.
“We worked directly with the stunt coordinators to design background action for some of the bigger shots,” said Knowles. “We’d present layouts for fight choreography based on each scene’s distinct creative brief. After that he’d trust us to cover the plates once the main unit wrapped.”
At the same time, MPC producer Mike Wigart covered an extensive elements shoot involving smoke, sand, fire, rose petals, coliseum extras, blood and pig flesh.
Delivering over 15 minutes of unique content required the MPC LA team to adopt a flexible approach to creating CG.
“We built our CG environments to be modular so we could allow creative flexibility to art direct certain scenes without needing to start from scratch,” explained MPC CG supervisor Ross Denner. “We generated a pipeline that allowed us to work in and between multiple platforms. This meant a lot of prep work and a heavily enforced process of defining standards.”
The creative requirements of the campaign raised several types of challenges for CG, including photo-realistic 3D environments, set extensions, interactive smoke, fire, crowd duplication, fluid simulations and building demolition. MPC supported this by employing Maya and Massive to render in Vray and Houdini to render in Mantra.
Ensuring that the Ryse campaign maintained a high level of quality required MPC LA to make use of its global resources. The team at MPC Bangalore was an essential resource for plate preparation and tracking, taking on upwards of 50 VFX shots on very tight deadlines. MPC NY put a team together to work on the Funeral short film and MPC London contributed resources for matte painting. Color grading was handled out of MPC LA as a joint effort between Mark Gethin and Ricky Gausis.