There have been some requests for more details about the live action shoot on the upcoming EA video game “Need For Speed:Undercover” that I produced. Especially about why we chose the RED cameras.
When the director, Joseph Hodges and I met with EA to discuss the Live Action elements in the game and how to match them to the game play, they provided extensive reference footage for the visuals. Their idea was for us to shoot it flat to be processed to match the game later in post. Joseph comes from a strong Production Design background and he felt strongly that we could create the look with the right sets and lighting. I introduced Joseph to my old friend and talented Director of Photography, Jeff Seckendorf.
We viewed the project like a 25 minute short film – narrative segments that intercut with the game. We wanted to give the project the feel of a feature film, not only with the acting, but with the lighting, camera movements and lens choices. If you visited the set and saw the size of the crew (check IMDB) and lighting package, it looked like a regular feature film production. However, because of some of the requirements for post production, including shooting at 29.97, we didn’t have film cameras, we had the RED.
I knew very little about the RED before this shoot except that we could use all the Arri acessories and film lenses which would allow us to play with the depth of field a lot more then most HD cameras. This was very important to Joseph and to all of us. The other important thing to Jeff was that it shoots RAW, which is like shooting negative film – the camera only records one color setting, one gamma setting, one contrast setting. The Red shoots an image that must be color corrected in post, exactly like negative film.
One thing I did discover in Post and it should be noted (for the sanity of your editor) is that each time you turn the camera on and off, it creates another storage file. “Bumping” the slate before or after a take doesn’t work because there is no direct data reference so the slate marking the scene is not directly before or after a scene. That is just one more reason I can’t recommend enough having an imaging technician on set to do data management and monitor output when using the RED cameras.
At the project’s conclusion, Unconventional Media’s creative partnership with Electronic Arts (EA) has led to a number of firsts. Need for Speed:Undercover will incorporate visual, structural and narrative elements making it the first fully filmic video game. It’s also the first outing for the RED One on a video game. Post-Production facility Plaster City in Los Angeles has completed over 70 RED projects, but this was the first to shoot 29.97 with multiple cameras (two were used at all times, a back up third occasionally). “It put this project in an elite class of RED projects,” Michael Cioni, Chief Officer of Plaster City, told me.
I’m excited about exploring this creative melding of gaming and feature film. No one knows yet how far cinema in gaming can go but I think the RED camera will help lead the way.
Our D.P. Jeff Seckendorf goes into more detail about his experiences with the RED camera on the project at the forum for the Red User Group, plus an article on the shoot will appear in the October issue of American Cinematographer. The video game will be released on all platforms, November 18.
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