CGI Interview: The Making of Wrath of the Lich King Cinematic Trailer

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, BlizzPlanet Articles, Interviews, World of Warcraft News

I am glad I subscribed to a few CGI Animation and 3D community newsletters back in the days when I used to promote and recruit staff for the Starcraft Chronicles unofficial fan CGI film, a few years ago.  CGChannel has announced their latest interview with Blizzard Entertainment’s CGI Artists Jeff Chamberlain and Fausto De Martini to talk about the making of the Wrath of the Lich King Cinematic Trailer. This three-pages interview contains four never-seen-before pre-rendered footage video clips. The interview covers which techniques and software tools were used to create the Sindragosa frostwyrm, Arthas, Frostmourne and the special effects of Arthas sweeping away the snow to reveal the ice floor.

This interview can be a dream for those who are CGI students or aficionados, and to those who would love to join the Blizzard team at one point. It will help you know how the different teams work the pipeline. Read the full interview. Help others find this awesome interview by commenting at N4G.

Blizzard cinematics are popular in part because of the excellent animation of characters, effects and camera work. Does Blizzard use Motion Capture or other technologies to achieve this level of animation?

We’ve built a team of really strong keyframe animators, and we have always keyframed our animation—and we prefer it that way. As I said, we strive for a hyper-realistic look, so our characters proportions are way augmented from what they would be in real life. As a result, they would tend to look a bit odd if they moved like someone with normal proportions would. Keyframed animation allows us to move our characters in a stylized way that fits the overall look. Also, there’s something about the level of quality you can get from a keyframed animation compared to a motion-captured one.

We have used motion capture a lot for getting a realistic handheld feel in our cameras, and in the interest of creating more and better content, we’ve looked into using motion capture as a tool during previsualization. Having the ability to quickly try out different angles and layouts for a shot by utilizing the speed of motion capture is very compelling from a director’s viewpoint. As far as the final frames go, we plan on sticking with our stylized keyframed animation.

The reanimated corpse dragon in the Lich King cinematic is beautifully executed in its design, modeling, effects and animation. Can you tell us a little bit about the tools and techniques used in those sequences?

We approached the sequence in which Arthas raises the frost wyrm in exactly the same manner as we approach all of our projects. We start with a loose script written by a few cinematics guys: Blizzard Entertainment’s vice president of creative development Chris Metzen; and the leads from the game team. The idea then moves to storyboarding and 2D concepting. Once that’s done, we start pre-visualizing the sequence. Modeling, animation, and production tech tend to then take over for a while, generating the meat of the project. Finally, finishing (lighting and compositing), effects, and matte painting take it all home.

Wrath of the Lich King was a project with a lot of firsts in our pipeline. It was the first time we used Maya to animate and lay out every shot, the first time we rendered every shot in Renderman, and the first time we used Nuke to composite. Some other products we use are 3ds Max and Mudbox for modeling, Mirage for storyboarding, and anything we can get our hands on for effects and matte painting.

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