Senior Video Editor Brian Arndt and Media Designer Robin Khamsi took some time during PAX to answer some questions about the creative process for the video trailers and armor progression videos used in Friday Updates. Read on after the jump to find out how what is involved in getting these fan favorite videos made.
We're here at PAX with two members of the BioWare Creative Services team, Brian Arndt and Robin Khamsi. There is a lot of preparation that goes into all the videos and getting them ready to show at events here. Can you speak a little bit about that process and who actually works on them?
Brian Arndt: So basically we come up with an idea, or an idea is kicked around the office like, "What's cool? What's new to show?" or "What can we reshow that is really cool and polished enough that is BioWare quality?" We go with the idea or it gets kicked around, then send it out and get the idea approved. Then we film it, edit it, and try to make sure it looks good, and that usually it takes the entire team. There are four video editors: Brandon Miletta, our newest video editor Seth Bell, along with Robin and I. We come up with a script. Our boss Rob Chestney and James Jones, the other writer on our team, will write something up and we'll edit up together, make sure it flows and it is good, and send it around for approvals. Finally, depending internal or external feedback, we'll re-edit or re-film, and Brooks Guthrie then goes through it to do an audio pass. Whatever we need to do to make sure it is super polished and awesome.
Robin Khamsi: In addition to the trailer assets, we also have the short video clips you might have seen at our panel. Those usually get chosen by designers, marketing, and community coming together and deciding what we want to reveal at this show. Usually they create a script and we basically have to illustrate it, except in terms of video and screenshots.
How does the approval process work and who is involved? How does the relationship go back and forth with LucasArts, EA, and BioWare including quality control?
BA: The game is held to a really high standard. This includes everything about the game, and everything that goes out for the game, so there are a lot of people that approve a video. There is EA, BioWare, BioWare Edmonton, Lucasarts... I mean everybody cares so much about this game that they want to make everything that comes out for it the best we can possibly do. Things will get tossed around, and if somebody finds something that is a bug or something that looks out of place, they'll bring it up. "It isn't Star Wars enough," or "It doesn't feel Star Wars." It'll get brought up and we'll re-film and address those issues. It is a working relationship between all of the companies to make sure that no matter what comes out, it is awesome.
You guys work diligently to get all those ready for the Friday Updates. Is the process similar as far as that is concerned or do you guys have to work with bigger lead times when it comes to PAX?
RK: When it comes down to convention assets, that deadline is so hard and fast sometimes we have to rush things out, but we always hold everything out to the same level of quality. When it comes to a Friday asset, we definitely have the time to really put every level of polish that we want on there.
BA: It is pretty much exactly like I said before. Everything goes through the same approval process. Everything that is ever released or shown publicly is going to go through the approval process. Everybody is going to have their opinions, and if they don't want to show it and it's not good to show, the idea won't ever get past that point. If they're not ready to show it, then we won't show it.
Can you explain how you get the footage in terms of capturing equipment? Maybe some techniques about how you actually record it?
BA: Most of the time we end up capturing with Fraps. It works really well, and we spec'd our machines to what the people that developed Fraps actually suggested, and then just beefed them up. We wanted to make sure we can film the game running the best it can possibly run. We use the in-game tools that are actually the same tools the developers use to make the game, so nothing special. We learn the tools, and we talk to the developers when we can't figure it out. We make sure we can film it the way we want to film it without giving them more work to do by developing tools for us specifically.
RK: Nothing that happens in our videos can't be done in the game engine, and we try to represent the gamer's experience as best we can. We have a very exacting eye when it comes to that; trying to make sure that every ability comes off looking exactly as the player's going to see it, but from a cinematic angle.
You guys did a bunch of highlight videos for PAX. Are those the most fun ones to do, trying to piece out what's usable and what's not?
BA: It is very tiring working the shows, and my voice is half gone right now, but they're fun to do because we actually get to interact with the fans which is a blast. After all, we're as passionate as all the fans are. We're working a Star Wars game because we want to work on a Star Wars game, not because it is a job necessarily. We're as passionate to get the game out as everybody is to get it.
RK: PAX, Gamescom, and all these shows that are aimed towards our out fans are our favorite because we love finally getting to show the game to people, getting it into their hands, and watching their reaction. Our job really, for the studio as much as the fans, is to capture that feeling of excitement and create a wrap-up video that really captures the spirit of PAX. It is a wonderful thing. I'm glad we get to come to these shows.
So this one is for the forums -- what about the Jedi Consular progression video?
BA: Well... Jedi Consulars actually do wear armor, so it exists.
RK: Everyone is clamoring for that Jedi Consular trailer. "When are we going to see the Consular?" And then we put out the Consular trailer, and then suddenly it is, "Where is the armor progression?" Maybe sometime in the future, post-launch, six months, a year. I don't know, we'll get to it.
Can you guys explain why there were two Bounty Hunter armor progression videos and the story behind that?
RK: You know the first armor progression video we did was a prototype and we made it for a convention. We wanted to expand on it to really display the Advanced Class system because it separates the visual distinction between each Advanced Class. This is especially true for the Bounty Hunter who goes between one gun and two, really powerful endurance boosting armor, and more aim and damage boosting armor. It really felt appropriate to come back and revisit it.
As for post-launch plans for your video editing staff, are you hiring more people just like Daniel Erickson is for his writing staff? Are you going to push out a lot of content post-release?
BA: I think we're probably going to take a few years off to sleep, maybe. Just kidding. I mean, it is a MMO so the day one of ship is the beginning of the game not the end of it, and so we'll probably be way busier than we thought we were ever going to be.
RK: We have some big plans under our hat. We're not going to talk about them yet obviously, but you can definitely expect some content coming out of the Creative Services department post-launch.
Would Timelines be one of those?
BA: Always a possibility.
Thanks so much for the interview and we hope you guys enjoy PAX as much as we did, and we look forward to seeing you at the next event.
RK: It is always great to talk to you guys, thanks for coming.
BA: Awesome guys.