The high-octane live action trailer for the launch of Activision’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, was created by 72andSunny and directed by Pony Show filmmaker Peter Berg, with high-end VFX by MPC LA.
MPC was enlisted early in the process by 72andSunnys’ creative team to partner with Berg and forge a cinematic vision from a first-person point-of-view. The 90-second spot immerses viewers on a riveting experience to ‘discover your power.’
The MPC team, led by VFX Supervisor Paul O’Shea, harnessed a full range of creative disciplines to craft the ambitious film, which features superhuman athleticism as players leap and smash their way through the world of Advanced Warfare.
The journey of the POV camera, CG, extras, war vehicles, and explosions were all carefully planned to the smallest detail, so all the different elements would integrate perfectly and feel utterly realistic.
“The approach from Peter, the agency and client was to ground the spot by capturing as much of the action as possible in camera,” said Paul O’Shea. “MPC ensured the VFX served this story so that the spot gives you a visceral sense of what it would be like to play the game for real.”
“We tried to make sure we didn’t compromise the camera, stunts and pyroworks. Rather, we used the VFX to join and enhance the action, adding in the game assets to take you on this breathtaking ride. It’s so disorientating, it’s so remarkable, that you pause for a breath at the end of it to say to yourself, ‘What did I just see?’”
“If we have done our job right, you won’t know what’s live action and what’s CG,” he continued. “This spot warrants repeat viewings to really understand what you’ve done and where you’ve been. It’s a game players’ dream - to feel that incredible adrenaline without the jeopardy, but with all the action.”
“We wanted to make something with an immediacy and freshness that would distinguish it from the gameplay and the game cinematics. The result is even more impressive given the extreme nature of the camera’s journey.”
“A lot of credit for organising the project goes to Pony Show and the stunt crew. Over the first few weeks, we pre-visualised and planned out what could be achieved practically in a day’s shooting, how far we could go with a stunt performer, where we could take a camera and what sets and locations would be appropriate.“
The project spanned eight weeks and encompassed intensive pre-production planning, R&D, and five weeks of subsequent VFX work to reimagine the game as one epic mission.
Prior to the weeklong shoot, tests were required to select a camera rig that could attach to the stunt performer, withstand ratchet jumps and extreme wire work, and would still allow some control over the composition of shots.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser tested over five cameras with various frame rates and resolutions before landing on the right one, which had the most latitude, a small lightweight profile, and the capability to shoot at 6K resolution.
The practical sets and effects gave MPC a strong photographic base and lighting reference to work from. VFX artists could then look to work as invisibly as possible.
Using CG to bridge and glue it all together, a wide range of complex VFX was created, including full CG photoreal cities, war-torn bridges, explosions, bullets, hover bikes, CG soldiers and war birds.
Enhancements to the location and set extensions transformed a fantastic California desert set into the game’s ultimate destination of Lagos, Nigeria in 2059.
The grand finale of the spot brings the players onto a bridge blown out from underneath, as they launch and collapse onto a spider tank amidst an abandoned city full of bad guys, helicopters and missiles.
For this, MPC created full CG photoreal scenes in which the second player and a small bridge set piece were the only practical elements.
The performance of Taylor Kitsch was composited from six separate takes morphed together to put him at the center of the fully CG shot.
The scene of the protagonist falling out of a building and crashing onto an enemy vehicle was filmed entirely on blue screen with only a static truck as a practical build.
The environments and roads were created in CG and each sequence seamlessly bridged into the next environment.
MPC US Creative Director of Colour Mark Gethin completed the grade, reflecting the grit and action-packed realism to complement the visceral nature of the film.