Hi everyone!

I’ve received a few questions lately about the visual effects behind the commericial that I directed for ‘Savage: The Shard of Gosen’.  So, I thought I would give a little peak behind the scenes to show how some of this commercial was created. For those of you not familiar, you can watch the whole thing below:

 

The Idea

Matt Fitzgerald, the game’s creator, wanted a commercial that matched its retro style. This meant an old school barbarian, fire, smoke and of a course a skeleton army.  And it was envisioned in the style of an over the top late 80’s -early 90’s video game commercial.  How could I resist? 

Planning Ahead

This commercial relied heavily on visual effects, so every main action sequence was planned ahead of filming in detail. This was important for a couple of reasons. First, it helped to know what shots were needed to get for a sequence to make sense ahead of time. Second, it was a great reference to have so everyone involved would know what would be happening during the scene. When all an actor can see or react to is a camera or a green screen, this is an incredibly useful tool.

After we sat down and brainstormed some of the more complex sequences, Matt created some fantastic story board scenes you can see below. It’s really cool to see how close the shots matched up from concept to the final look.

Story Board

Original story board by Matt Fitzgerald

The final look

Original story board by Matt Fitzgerald

The final look

Original story board by Matt Fitzgerald

The final look

Controller hand off, Savage: The shard of goshen, escaping west lawn

 

Despite all of the planning and storyboarding, the commercial still has a number of improvised shots. One example is where Matt’s character is electrocuted by the evil wizard and morphs into a skeleton. Those shots were the result of an on set joke where someone suggested that we putt Matt’s sweater on the skeleton. It sounded too funny not to give it a try. To achieve the effect, I quickly shot some takes of Matt looking like he was being electrocuted and then replaced him with the skeleton dressed in his clothes. The results still makes me laugh.

The Film Shoot

‘Savage: The Shard of Gosen’ was filmed over two days. The vast majority of the action was filmed against a green screen.  You can see some of the before and after of the shots in the video below.

 

We filmed in a fairly small space, so one problem I ran into was a lot of bounced green light from the green screen. This can cause issues in post production when attempting to key out the green screen background. With green light bouncing back on to the characters and reflective props like swords, it can be difficult to remove or replace the green screen without distorting the characters.

Creating the Look

All of the main visual effects and compositing in this commerical were done using Adobe After Effects.  

One of the first things I did was to create rough mock-ups of some of the key shots and placed them in the edit. This helped me decide the final look for the commercial overall before I started the majority of the VFX work. 

Original Shot

Tempory mock-up 

Original Shot

Tempory mock-up 

After I decided on the look and overall color scheme, I created the backgrounds. The stormy clouds behind the player, the skeletons and the wizard that drift are all created out of still photos of clouds.  Once I layered all of the photos and blended them together to create a stormy sky, I was able to animate them individully to make them drift across the screen or flash lightning. 

Next, to make the characters match their backgrounds, I color corrected in After Effects and adjusted the lighting on the characters. 

To complete the look I composited in layers of smoke, sparks, fog, and lightning. Some of the shots were more complicated and needed added vfx, but that’s basically how the majority of the commercial was created. You can see some examples of how the layers came together in the barbarian behind the scenes video below:

After the commercial was finished, I added an overall aged look using the VHS plug-in from Red Giant. If your creating a similar look and you don’t have the budget for the Red Giant plug-in, you could do the retro look completely in After Effects. 

Stay tuned for part 2 of behind the scenes of this film shoot, where I’ll show the creation of the room the main character is in, and how we made the skeleton army come to life. Due to a large film project, that post will have to wait until June. 

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!