How the team behind ‘Far Cry 6’ ended a game on lockdown

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In March 2020, game makers at Ubisoft’s Toronto studio had just completed the ‘first moments’ of Far cry 6scenes with breaking Badthe villain of Giancarlo Esposito and cocoof the young dreamer Anthony Gonzalez when the Covid-19 became very real, very quickly. The borders between the United States and Canada were on the verge of closing, and the team was eager to put together the footage they needed before they got the American actors safely and quickly on a plane home.

The first-person shooter was based on the performances of leading actors, Esposito and Gonzalez, who play Anton and Diego Castillo, a president-dictator and his son of Yara, “a tropical paradise frozen in time”. Esposito and Gonzalez left Canada just before the first lockdown, but Ubisoft still faced a dilemma. The game was scheduled for release in less than a year, and the entire opening scene – arguably the most important sequence in the entire game – had yet to be shot. The game had already been in the works for five years and there was a lot at stake to understand.

Only a few Ubisoft employees were allowed to return to the office the following Monday to retrieve the footage they had just captured, and it was shocking to see the studio, including a 12,000 square foot soundstage, empty. “It looked like the scene of a crime or a zombie apocalypse,” says Navid Khavari, Far cry 6narrative director of. Everyone had left their coffee on their desks as they ran out. Khavari and his team knew they needed to get the edit over to the animators ASAP, but the big question was how they were going to wrap up the rest of the game during a pandemic.

No free pass

Capturing video game motion requires precision, a lot of time and patience. After all, the length of a game’s filming and dialogue can be the equivalent of five or six seasons of a TV show. It also requires the collaboration of large teams working in close proximity. So how do you translate this during a pandemic?

At first, the team had an idea that relied on motion capture techniques 15 to 20 years old, where things like facial expressions were only crudely animated. But they quickly canceled that plan. “We just knew it wouldn’t work,” says Grant Harvey, the game’s cinematics director, also known as the director on set. “It’s a triple A game coming out in 2021, and it has to look like that. People will not give us passes. So we started to figure out how to shoot.

By June, the blockages had been lifted to the point that the production team could allow 10 people on set, albeit with extensive health and safety protocols. But when you’re dealing with a pre-pandemic number of 30-50 people on set at a time, including the crew, directors, hosts, and cast, something had to give. The production team decided that the best option was to start filming with four actors at a time. But of course, many scenes – from a crowded smugglers boat to a bloody street protest – involved well over four actors. In addition, some of the actors were now stuck in the United States or different cities in Canada and could not travel. So how did the team manage to do this?

Make remote work a reality

Ubisoft Toronto’s huge performance capture studio would typically be filled with cameras and engineers, but during the pandemic, only one actor and one cameraman could work at a time.

Photography: Ubisoft

Everything that could be done at home had to be done now. Those not needed on set watched remotely via 10 different video streams. Performance capture director Tony Lomonaco believes this is a change that has worked in favor of the team members, to the point where he expects even after the end of the pandemic, people will continue to work from home, including quality assurance (QA) engineers, who could suddenly take part much earlier in the process. “It was great because you could actually have people who don’t normally come to the shoot now be involved,” he says.

Many audio recordings could also be made at home, provided the actors are well equipped, trained and supported throughout the process, says audio director Eduardo Vaisman. In modern video games, there are both narrative lines and AI-based dialogue that emerge in the gameplay. In the case of Far cry, suppose you have a soldier or an NPC (non-player character), saying “reloading!” Or “run for cover!” – these parts are easier to record because they are not synchronized with a specific facial image or animation, and all actors must contribute. Once the company developed an in-house tool to check in people remotely over an encrypted internet connection, it turned out to be a smart solution.

Even in remote audio sessions, the dynamics of the steering did not change. During the recording, the actors – working in Canada or the United States – were in a simultaneous video meeting with the directors, receiving comments like, “Now you’re on fire. Aaaaah! Now you are no longer on fire! AAAAAAH! “



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