LOS ANGELES, LONDON — Creative studio Mill+, the concept, design and animation arm of renowned VFX company The Mill, has contributed visually stunning cinematics to Activision’s blockbuster Call of Duty: Ghosts, the new installment in the global phenomenon Call of Duty game series.
Led by Cinematics specialists at Infinity Ward, Mill+ collaborated with teams of elite designers and visual effects artists in both their Los Angeles and London studios to create the cinematics players started seeing in early November.
The team at Infinity Ward had a vision for how cinematics could further help to bring the new narrative to life. Developing the look in collaboration with The Mill led to a new and unique level of cinematics that is sure to captivate and immerse players into the experience.
“We had to define a new look from scratch and wanted it to be very different from what we’d already done,” Doreau says. “It was a big departure for the franchise. I came back to Mill+ after our initial pitch meeting and was shown 10 different versions of the original idea. I was totally blown away by the variety and depth and I realized I could trust the team to push the look. And they did a great job of defining that look.”
The highly-stylized look was created from scratch but reads as a hybrid of live-action and CG. High contrast, sharp shard-like shapes distinguish enemy Federation forces from the light and smoke elements that characterize the underdog Ghosts. Each cinematic delivers a story, with "Loki," for example, depicting a clinical and clean outer space vista using reflections, lights, flare and spills of light, while "Legends Never Die" uses explosions, fire, smoke and fog, looking down at South America, then at city level in Caracas after the demise of the continent.
Mill+ Creative Director/Director Paul Mitchell, based in Los Angeles, drew upon over a decade's worth of experience in design and visual effects. "The most intriguing aspect of Ghosts was the opportunity to combine storytelling with design and visual effects," Mitchell says. "We created something unique to each based on the story Infinity Ward wanted to tell. Through the overall process, we made sure there was a cohesive look and feel."
The biggest challenge, Mitchell adds, was the sheer volume of work produced in a short window of time: 17 load-in movies to create, each averaging around 40 seconds, with only two-and-a-half months to complete them in.
“Utilizing the scale of The Mill was a defining factor,” explains Stephen Venning, Executive Director, Mill+. “With the timeline being so tight and the creative bar being set so high, we were able to assemble the very best team of Mill and Mill+ CGI and VFX artists, easily enabling us to share the films across The Mill Group. We
worked round the clock and spread the rendering across our two studios, allowing The Mill the ability to deliver the project to such a high creative benchmark within the fast turnaround.”
“The Art Department in our Los Angeles office was the backbone of the project from start to finish, even sharing some of the compositing,” says London-based
Suraj Harrington-Odedra, Mill+ Lead 3D Artist
. “The 60 style frames were painted by a small group of artists under the watchful eye of Design Director Eugene Gauran. They were cornerstones for each film, and we made sure that we referred to them at all times. This is essentially how we retained the continuity of style across our two studios.”
“Technically this project was a huge challenge,” adds London-based Hugo Guerra, Mill+ Joint Lead 2D Artist. “In terms of file size we are talking about Terabytes of CGI multi-pass EXR's, dozens of 2D layers per shot and very, very long ‘one shot’ sequences. Also, we needed an unprecedented level of creative input from 3D and 2D to make sure the ‘look’ matched the beautiful treatments that our Mill+ Los Angeles Art Department made for Ghosts. Because the job was fully CGI it was easier to control everything—from the animation to the lighting, 2D layout and camera point of view.”
"This project owes so much to Infinity Ward's vision and desire to raise the level of creative aesthetic," says Stephen Venning, executive director, Mill+. "The team wanted contemporary, unique graphics that would reflect the sophisticated storytelling. Working with his lead designers Ed Laag and Eugene Gauran, Mill+'s Mitchell built style frames and narratives that are comparable to anything you would see in a movie."
Call of Duty: Ghosts is available now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and Windows PC, and will also be available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this month.
View Call of Duty: Ghosts Cinematic.