Buckle up! The Mill Pilots VFX for High Octane Call of Duty: Ghosts “Epic Night Out”
Activision's new teaser for Call of Duty: Ghosts once again
lives up to its theme "There's a soldier in all of us." 72andSunny
enlisted Aero Film director James Mangold (The Wolverine, Walk the
Line) who transports us to a besieged Vegas (and other exotic
locales, including outer space!) with four buddies battling
snipers, tanks and choppers. Called "Epic Night Out," this teaser
merges intense firepower from Megan Fox, a Sinatra soundtrack and
theatrical visual effects from The Mill.
Artists at The Mill point to the open and collaborative creative
process with 72andSunny and storied director Mangold as essential
to bringing the entertaining teaser to life. With only five weeks
prep before beginning work on 63 shots, The Mill's team laid the
groundwork for VFX from day one. "We created concepts for every
environment, previs'd the more complex sequences, built assets and
fine-tuned the pipeline," explains Robert Sethi, Creative Director,
The Mill. "We improved our color workflow, worked on our simulation
pipeline, created more accurate lighting models for FX and improved
our workflow for digital cities, to note just a few tasks. During
the shoot, we shot HDRIs and grey and chrome sphere for lighting
references, and LiDAR scanned the bigger sets or hero props."
"Epic Night Out" filmed over seven days at locations ranging
from the Warner Bros. lot and a blue screen stage, to Burbank
Airport and a hotel lobby dressed like a casino; The Mill delivered
63 shots in just two-and-a-half weeks.
Chris Knight, The Mill's Co-Lead 2D Artist and a Shoot
Supervisor says that Flame and Nuke platforms were utilized for
extensive compositing by the eight-person 2D team. Rotoscoping was
done concurrently as shots were prepped working closely with the CG
team to ensure an efficient workflow. Each compositor worked on a
different sequence yielding a consistent look and feel, which
greatly sped up the compositing process. Daniel Thuresson, Co-Lead
2D Artist with Knight, adds: "Our main focus was creating a
workflow that would be as seamless as possible and optimized what
would ultimately be on the screen.
Among the VFX sequences highlights, the opening of "Epic Night
Out" features a destroyed Sin City shot on an empty parking lot at
Burbank Airport. "We cut out the car, tracked the scene and
recreated the entry to a destroyed Las Vegas environment," Sethi
explains. "We used a combination of matte painting and CG assets.
If you look closely you can find many fun details, maybe even a
"Another highlight is the battlefield of Caracas, this was shot
on a sound stage with a blue screen. We created a digital Caracas
based on game references for every shot. The CG assets were highly
detailed and we used an in-house shader to create all the windows;
only the very far background was a matte painting. We added
simulated fireworks to the shots, an exploding drone and an entire
floor of a skyscraper exploding."
A favorite scene among the The Mill artists depicts the heroes
in outer space. The sequence was a combination of actors on a blue
screen stage-whose performance included bouncing on a see-saw to
simulate floating in space, full CG shots digital doubles and
combinations of CG doubles and limb replacement and real
Sethi continues "Once we finished previs-ing the sequence, we
analyzed the shots to prioritize which to shoot live action and
which to create CG. For CG, we carried our assets straight over
from previs into full CG animation. We had scanned all the suits
and the actors' faces, and created assets that would work for
close-ups. This gave us plenty of flexibility to capture the shots
that needed live-action performance, while action-filled shots
could be executed fully CG.
"Of the VFX shots, almost all had a digital background or
heavily augmented plates; many also needed CG explosions, fire,
smoke, digital doubles or vehicles.
Knight adds: "Each shot also had various levels of compositing
work involved, from total background replacement with CG and matte
painting to adding exploding helicopters and planes, destroyed
walls with bullet holes, fire and smoke and muzzle flashes."
Adam Scott, Head of Telecine for The Mill's Los Angeles studio,
set an initial look on the raw shots working closely with
72andSunny Producer Eric Rasco and CD/Designer Rey Andrade, as 2D
and 3D teams worked on the raw shots and applied the initial grade
while compositing. Scott then conferred with director Mangold, his
director of photography Kramer Morgenthau and 72andSunny's creative
team to set a final look for various scenes.
Scott explains: "As the effects work completed we refined the
grade, enhancing the natural feel of each scene-the warm late
afternoon sun of the opening, the moody depths of the night time
rooftop, the contrasty starkness in space, the bright coolness of
the ice and back to the warmth of the late sun in the ending. It
was important to retain the detail in all the images and effects
while maintaining strong contrast and impact."
Finally Sethi adds, "This was a huge undertaking with a very
tight schedule, and an incredibly exciting challenge. Everyone
worked very hard, but had a lot of fun, it was great to see the
passion and dedication from all of the The Mill's team as well as
having the amazing experience of working with James Mangold and, as