Digital Domain's hybrid production company Mothership was tapped by Guerilla Games to create an immersive science fiction universe for the latest installment of its marquee game franchise, Killzone 3, released. The bone chilling two-minute opening cinematic directed by Mothership's Vernon Wilbert features an alternate world faced with a Third Reich-style dictatorship as it brings Killzone players up to speed on the plotline since Killzone 2.
Guerilla Games reached out to major Hollywood talent to create the title, including Wilbert, who recently helmed the TRON: Evolution game teaser, as well as the original teaser for the TRON: Legacy movie that kicked off the film's marketing at Comic-Con in 2008. For Killzone 3, Wilbert once again worked with his visual effects team at Academy Award-winning digital studio Digital Domain, the lead FX house on TRON: Legacy.
Wilbert's inspiration for the Killzone 3 cinematic came from many historical sources, including the events surrounding the establishment of the Weimar Republic, and the aesthetic of filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. "We wanted to make the opening cinematic play out with the characters, framing and pacing of a movie, with a filmic narrative," said Wilbert. "Our historical references are so imprinted into people's minds, so without using exact iconography, our color tones, palettes and compositions evoke this horrific period in history. The line we tried to walk was making the scenes of Admiral Orlock addressing his troops rousing and powerful, but extremely unsettling."
The cinematic intro features a parallel world faced with a maniacal Hitler-like dictator, the founder of the Helghan Empire, Scolar Visari (Brian Cox). The sequence opens from his POV as he's escorted through a palatial estate. The sequence introduces key characters in the game, including Admiral Orlock (Ray Winstone), Jordan Stahl, the leader of the Stahl Arms (Malcolm McDowell), and a new female character, Visari's daughter. Through a series of art vignettes, we see the rise and fall of Visari as he speaks of the rise of the Helghast from an oppressed people, to himself becoming the greatest oppressor, prefaced by a recap of the history of Killzone's plotline.
Killzone 3 is the first game for PS3 built from the ground up to take advantage of 3D gaming and thus, required a opening cinematic experience that literally puts the player into the middle of this world. Working alongside Killzone 3 Art Director Jan-Bart van Beek with creative input from Jim Sonzero, director of a majority of the game's cinematics, Wilbert and his team leveraged the production-tested stereo 3D pipeline developed for TRON: Legacy. This streamlined pipeline enabled Mothership and Digital Domain to complete the two-minute cinematic in only 12 weeks -- typically the delivery time for a standard two-dimensional :60 commercial. During this timeframe, Wilbert directed the motion capture shoot, which included working with actors Winstone and McDowell.
"Game developers are seeking increasingly complex and compelling content for their titles -- like stereo 3D -- so they're turning to companies such as Mothership and Digital Domain that have the expertise in bringing these kinds of cinematic experiences to games platforms," said Ed Ulbrich, Mothership President and Digital Domain Commercials EVP.