BlizzCon 2010 Liveblog: Cinematics: Cataclysm

This is the transcript of iTZKooPA’s liveblog coverage of the Cinematics: Cataclysm panel at BlizzCon 2010.

10:30 Hello, LoreHounds. We’re gonna kick off Day 2 with the Cataclysm cinematics discussion.

10:30 Waiting for the panelists to show up. iTZKooPA here, with Mordil on my right.

10:32 Panels have started late a few times this year. Especially the Live Raid, which had technical difficulties for half an hour.

10:33 Panelists are here, getting miced up.

10:35 Day 2, the last day, is ready to begin.

10:35 There’s five panelists.

10:36 Mark Messenger is chatting up the crowd, lead cinematics dude.

10:36 Sorry, the guy next to him is Mark Messenger. Dunno who’s talking to him.

10:37 Then Seth Thompson, environment dude.

10:38 Mike Gallagher (I think) and Terrance Gregory.

10:38 World premiere of an in-game cinematic is coming!

10:39 Jeff C. is the unidentified name. He’s passed it over to Mark.

10:39 The panel is setup to show us how Blizzard goes through the creation of a cinematic. The Cataclysm cinematic started back in 2009.

10:40 Chris Metzen pumps up the team, gives them a general idea.

10:40 One of the first things they always contemplate is if a montage would fit for a trailer. It’s a good frame for what these cinematics try to showcase. Bringing the story up-to-date but pushing it forward at the same time.

10:41 The biggest question was which lands are going to break, which could be shown in the trailer.

10:42 They were doing concept art but needed it pinned down. We’re seeing the Stonetalon mountains exploding, lava pouring out of Ironforge.

10:42 They cut it down be chosing distinct places, things we’d know for sure. The other was balance, showing a fair amount of destruction to both sides. Then just coolness, Deathwing on SW, tidal wave outside BB.

10:43 The next was which races to feature. Obviously gnomes were ignored (again). As were trolls.

10:43 Because it’s Deathwing’s story, they decided to drop the inclusion of races, aside from the new ones.

10:44 They ended up working a lot on goblin and worgen storyboards. But, as we know, they didn’t make it into the trailer.

10:45 They were pruned because of Deathwing’s role.

10:45 The material that ended up being cut was absorbed into the in-game material for the new races.

10:45 The next major question was “What does Deathwing look like.”

10:46 He’s never been pictured much, he’s lore rich, but not visually rich.

10:46 Concept artists were given free reign, submit anything that fits his character.

10:46 They wanted Deathwing to be like the other dragons, Sindragosa, etc, but have his own life to mirror Deepholm.

10:47 Game team help them design the look of Deepholm. The towering columns, endless caverns that we’re seeing concept art of now.

10:48 Clicker problems…

10:48 Much of the art we’re seeing is on the concept art site, according to Mordil.

10:49 We’re seeing Deathwing’s early concept, until it was nailed by the scared, molten nature.

10:49 They didn’t feel that he had a signature look yet.

10:49 They began messing with the jaw and head armor. The jaw just kept getting bigger and more metallic.

10:50 Then they began on working on his silhouette. Body type, wings, neck length, etc.

10:50 Seth Thompson is taking the reigns now.

10:50 He’s stage shy. Apparently was a big wrestler back in his day.

10:51 Back to cinematics.

10:51 We’re gonna hear about two topics from Seth.

10:52 The team believes Deathwing is the biggest character they’ve ever undertaken.

10:52 Chung and Alvaro spearheaded the final touches.Deathwing is “bigger than the size of a football field.” Probably 2 football fields.

10:53 We’re seeing the original 3D sculpture now. The placement of wings are being moved, he’s being nipped and tucked.

10:53 Pointier tail, bigger wings.

10:54 Then they begin doing actual skins, painting the models.

10:54 They focus on key area, the eyes, head, wings, body, and make them look as awesome as possible. Many parts of him aren’t as polished, but they’re never seen in the cinematics. Optimized production.

10:55 Now we’re moving on from Deathwing’s model to his destruction of Azeroth. Starting with Darkshore first.

10:56 They added extra realism to Darkshore. Shingles on the roof instead of flat boards, barnacles on the pilings. Work closely with in-game modelers to increase the realism.

10:56 We’re shifting to Ogrimmar’s sky tower now.

10:56 They walk a fine line when adding details. Initially, the sky tower was made too real, which made it more difficult to know what it was.

10:57 The team had to go back in game, take screenshots and find the differences. It turns out they went away from the orc architecture idea, hard edges, too much.

10:58 No we’re on the damn scene, which is easily the one with most touch ups and added realism.

10:59 Time to see SW’s destruction. Making the camera react to him landing was a crucial addition. As if you were a spectator.

10:59 We’re over to Mike Kelleher, supervisor of the effects team.

11:00 The team asked them to be so much crazy stuff that the effects guys literally loled. They thought they were being Punkd.

11:00 We’re doing Thousand Needles and fire over Darkshore.

11:01 The initial wave was going to be completely different. A more towering wave that would bathtub the cavern.

11:02 We’re seeing the initial particle pass. It was a little too high, over 12.5 million particles and halfway done with the scene.

11:02 Textures weren’t working correctly. The water began to look like salt water taffy. Tasty.

11:03 So that’s why the shot was changed. We moved closer, camera is low on the ground (as if it was a person).

11:03 They don’t have to worry about misting or the skirt of the wave from the new angle.

11:03 He believes it ended up being a better shot.

11:04 They developed new tech to do a better wave. More realistic waterfall. We’re doing a shot breakdown now. Layer by layer is being added. A really cool way to see all the extra details.

11:05 “”Why have one title wave when you can have two?”

11:05 We’re seeing the same layer-by-layer reveal of it. Apparently, they gave up on getting the foam right and just took pictures from the coast and stitched them on.

11:06 Now on to Deathwing and him destroying Darkshore. He’s 1200 feet wide and he flies over a mile in distance in the shot.

11:06 The trail of fire was off, it looked like he was spreading “sunshine and rainbows.”

11:07 They added a “fluid sim.” A very commonly used technic for fire. The fluid sim looks far more realistic.

11:07 The fluid sim made the shot 40 GB PER FRAME when finalized.

11:08 We’re seeing the layer-by-layer presentation again.

11:09 Terran Gregor is going to show us the in-game model team. We’re going to look at some other in-game cinematics. Joeyray Hall has been the in-game modeler for 19 years.

11:09 He brought in community machinma people to help out. The ambition of these cinematics just kept getting more and more crazy.

11:10 With the goblins and worgens cut form the in-game, the material was sent to them to make a 1-5, 6-10 gap.

11:10 World Premiere of the Worgen cutscene coming.

11:11 I am sure it’ll be online in no time.

11:11 We’re seeing a trapped worgen being told that he’s a monster. He’s still alive because some think he can be saved.

11:12 The worgen is angry.

11:12 Short and sweet.

11:13 Time to see the goblin and worgen storyboards. Starting with the goblins. They kept with their ideals, explosions, bickering, panic, etc.

11:13 Worgens focused on the caged monster, bold silhouettes, dreary landscapes and the moon and werewolf movie cliches.

11:14 When doing the in-game cutscenes they recycle as much material as possible, they took Ozzie’s glasses, Tyrion’s face, and Arthas’ cloak. Changed as needed, of course.

11:15 The cage was created because none existed in the game. Assets from the area were used to construct the cage.

11:15 They had too many photo realistic effects initially. They went back and re-tweaked the particles to keep it cohesive.

11:16 Animation time. They tend to use the actually emotes to get a basis, then tweak them to be smoother. A lot of real life material is taken as reference, to build on.

11:18 We’re seeing a side-by-side of in-game and the final cutscene. There’s a lot of detail that they add. But they never supersede the actual in-game footage.

11:18 Add rain, some extra lighting, fire, nothing you wouldn’t already see.

11:18 Terran was the Director on the Demon Hunter piece we saw yesterday. *crowd claps*

11:18 Ramping up for a few minutes of Q&A now.

11:19 If Blizz had never come up with WoW, we’d have had WC4. Are there some moments you’d like to craft cinematically that would have been done in WC4 but haven’t because they were shown in WoW?

11:20 Absolutely, but’s it’s a collaborative effort.

11:20 There are tons of scenarios that we’d love to spend ages on.

11:21 I was wondering if you guys have a dedicated lightning/positoring team.

11:21 They do have a dedicated lighting and positing team, roughly 20 strong.

11:21 I loved Wrathgate. There was no cinematic for the battle of Gilneas. Will there be one?

11:22 We have to chose wisely what we decide to do. We have two shipping with the game at the moment.

11:22 You added hubs were people could see cutscenes in Wrath. Are we going to get that in Cata too?

11:22 Good question, that would have to be asked to the devs though.

11:23 Can you walk us thru Deathwing’s path of travel from the beginning to the end?

11:23 It’s not a linear path, it’s a montage. We wanted to show a darkening, hot areas to dark areas.

11:23 It wouldn’t make sense if you pathed it, but it was an artistic choice to highlight those ideas.

11:24 One of the most fascinating aspects for me is the weather effects. How are the merged into cinematics?

11:24 It’s actually a lot more complex than you may realize. Wind is a crazy one, wind blowling left, yet hair is going the opposite way. How does cloth react, especially for known characters? Tough choices.

11:25 Was it an intentional choice to leave out races?

11:25 Yes, we didn’t want to make them seem small, like a 70s disaster movie, people jumping off docks or out of buildings.

11:26 And there’s the choices of choosing who to show, who to ignore. But Deathwing was the main component.

11:26 1 or 2 more questions.

11:27 Did you go over the shading procedurally? Then some technical question that I didn’t catch.

11:27 They don’t do it procedurally. They adjust everything as needed, often by hand.

11:27 Renderman is the app they’ve been using for the last few years now. Getting much better with it.

11:28 Another student with a very tech question. Asking for a comparison between the apps.

11:28 The effects team doesn’t use one package, they use all of the apps he just listed.

11:29 They’ll use anything to get the shot they want.

11:29 And we’re done with Q&A, panel is closed.

[Comment From Insomnial]
Thanks for doing this guys, you rock!

11:29 No problem! Okay, time to run around the show floor a bit.

11:30 iTZKooPA out, Mordil going to get some footage too.

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