Creative agency Mistress called on LA-based VFX company Digital Domain and its commercial production company Mothership to help produce a cinematic spot for the Ubisoft’s historical action-adventure video game, Assassin’s Creed Unity.
Directed by Digital Domain Mothership director Neil Huxley, Make History integrates the game’s Parisian backdrop with original scenes, live-action characters and CG doubles.
Featuring masterful VFX, the trailer introduces Assassin’s Creed Unity‘s new cooperative multiplayer feature, as live-action gamers converge with a painterly stylization of the game’s French Revolution setting.
“Mistress’ concept was equally artful and cinematic, which really inspired us to create something unique in the commercial-making sphere using the same caliber of VFX we apply to the feature film world,” says Neil Huxley.
Make History was shot over two days with four units at a Los Angeles sound stage. Cinematographer Ross Emery (The Wolverine) shot all of the live-action, including 25 extras in full period costumes before Digital Domain turned them into hundreds of unique CG characters.
Digital Domain created the realistic movement of the gamers by shooting plates against greenscreen and deploying stunt men in green suits — “green ninjas” — who lifted the actors in their chairs and moved them realistically.
Over a five-week post schedule, Digital Domain VFX supervisor Janelle Croshaw (Her) rendered the spot’s movie-like environment using her team’s feature film pipeline. Ubisoft provided myriad game assets which were integrated into the stylized CG palette.
Tools used included Maya, Nuke, Flame, Vray and Digital Domain’s proprietary tracking software, Track.
Huxley and his team worked closely with Mistress to incorporate the finer details of the game and its storyline, such as signature character moves, weapons, and gameplay features.
“Visually capturing all of the story beats that Mistress wanted us to hit on in essentially 38 seconds was a challenge, but we pulled it off,” says Huxley. “We needed a style to seamlessly transition between all these different moments, which we dialed in by varying the editorial pacing.”
For the trailer’s culminating fight scene, which depicts Arno, his Brotherhood of the Assassin’s brethren and four gamers descending upon Robespierre as executioner, Digital Domain built a life-sized guillotine for the scene. The template for the climactic shot was a sketch that Mistress provided. Rembrandt-like lighting of the scene’s cityscape was based on Croshaw’s own HDR reference photos of Notre Dame and Emery’s lighting on greenscreen.
“We composed and framed each CG shot like a classical painting that could stand on its own,” concludes Huxley. “The big question going in was, ‘how are we going to best blend the CG and the live-action?’ The period of the game inspired the resulting aesthetic from the outset. Atmospherics and smoke were important blending elements, and the color-grade beautifully emulates the period, giving the film a neoclassical feel. It was a conscious effort by all involved to provide a style that is faithful to the brand.”