Paul Furminger
Paul Furminger is a director, writer, and editor. And as a creative director at Goldtooth Creative, Paul has worked on a huge library of trailers, game cinematics, and visual effects work. Over the years he has worked on projects for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Prototype 2, District 9, Ender's Game, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and many more.

Goldtooth Creative, located in Vancouver, has created an exemplary catalog of narrative and visual effects work. In our interview, Paul discusses his day-to-day process as a director, and how working within a smaller group has made for a better working experience. We also discuss the joys of creative problem solving and watching the industry develop new technologies that push the envelope.
By Bailey Kalesti
Bailey: How was your E3 this year?
Paul Furminger
Paul Furminger
Paul: It was great. It was really good having lots of stuff playing on all the different screens, so that when people ask you what you do, you can just kind of point to a screen somewhere. So, that's pretty cool. We had a trailer that we did for State of Decay 2, a trailer that we did for Sea of Thieves, and one we did for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. And I directed all the cinematics for ReCore, so we had some deliverables for the ReCore trailer. I'm also directing space cinematics for Mass Effect: Andromeda. So, we had a couple shots in that trailer as well. We also did some stuff for Forza. It was quite a bit of stuff this year.
Bailey: Yeah. For the Mass Effect stuff, you're talking about the behind-the-scenes sneak peek they showed?
Paul: Well, there was a trailer that was released and it ended with a reveal of one of the ships in space. So, we did the last couple shots leading up to that reveal.
Bailey: That's pretty cool.
Paul: It's Goldtooth and we're working with a company called CVD. So, we're doing all of the animation, lighting, and rendering. And we're kind of splitting the compositing with them because that company has been doing all of the comp for the last couple Mass Effect games.
Bailey: Did you do the Forza Horizon 3 trailer?
Paul: No, we've done a bunch of work with the Forza team doing some game capture type stuff. And we just did a couple shots, I'm not sure which trailer actually, but it was one of the Forza clips that was showing at the show.
E3 2016. Left to right: Kody Sabourin (Goldtooth), David Gratton (Work at Play), David Sanderson (Goldtooth), and Paul Furminger (Goldtooth).
Bailey: Was there anything you liked that you saw there? There were quite a few cinematics and trailers that were released from a lot of different studios.
Paul: Yeah. I didn't actually get a chance to watch that much because I was in meetings with clients. I was able to walk the floor for a couple hours. Obviously Kojima's Death Stranding piqued my curiosity.
Bailey: [laughs] Yeah I think it did for everyone.
Paul: [laughs] So weird. It was odd enough that it brings up so many questions. You can't get it out of your head. It was pretty good.
Bailey: Oh definitely. It definitely does its job as a teaser, right? "What is this?" [laughs]
Paul: Yeah, totally. We watched the whole rotation of videos on the Square Enix booth, in the Square Enix theater, mainly because maybe three videos that we worked on were in that rotation. So, we wanted to see how they played out. And while we were there, some of the Final Fantasy film clips came up and that looks pretty awesome too.
Bailey: Kingsglaive?
Paul: Yeah. The quality of the CG is pretty cool.
Bailey: Yeah. It has a very distinct Final Fantasy look to it even though it's highly realistic.
Paul: Yeah, I hope it goes well.
Bailey: So, the live action trailer that you guys worked on, The Mechanical Apartheid, did I notice that you had a cameo in that or did my eyes deceive me?
Paul: Yep, I had a cameo in there. Actually Kody, the owner of Goldtooth, directed and starred in it. He asked me to do a role in the Purity First trailer we did for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which had a similar style as this one. I make an appearance right at the end just shouting something. I'm a protester. So, he wanted my character to be the protest leader now. Like in the couple years between the two videos, I've been promoted. We actually shot a much longer scene of me shouting a whole bunch of stuff on a street corner in Vancouver, and he took a few clips of it and put it in. And that's my daughter actually in it as well. There's a girl that I pick up in the crowd because I don't want her to be around the augmented arm once we see it.
Paul holding his daughter in The Mechanical Apartheid.
Bailey: Oh cool. How was that to do? Did you have fun doing that?
Paul: Yeah, it's pretty fun. On both the Purity First trailer and the most recent trailer, I would say maybe 80% of the actors were people from Goldtooth. So, the director and producer were acting in it. And a lot of artists too. Especially for quick shots, for cameos, we would just pull them out for a couple hours, get a couple shots in, and then they would go back in and keep working. And everyone, I think, has a good time. It's a good change of pace because a lot of the time, in post-production and CG production, you're just sitting in a dark room. At least it gets you outside. [laughs]
Purity First (for Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
The Mechanical Apartheid (for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided)
Bailey: Yeah, the life of a digital artist is behind a screen.
Paul: Yeah. Kody often casts me as these screaming, really angry characters. And it doesn't take me very long to get there. [laughs] I'm a pretty mild-mannered person, but as soon as I turn that switch on I can get pretty upset pretty quick. [laughs]
Bailey: Why does he cast you as those kind of people?
Paul: It think it's because I'm so patient and mild-mannered in my work-life and because of the nature of my job. For a quite a while now I've been the sole creative director of the studio and really pushing through quite a few shows, often at the same time. And working with all the different departments and vendors if we have voice-over, motion capture, or anything like that. There are so many stakeholders and supervisors so you really have to be even-keeled to get through and push the projects through to the end. And have everyone follow you through to the end, even through the tough times. I'm pretty even-keeled at work, so I think he just enjoys watching me freak out whenever he can write that into a show.
Paul protesting in The Mechanical Apartheid.
Bailey: That can be pretty taxing. How many people work at Goldtooth?
Paul: At that time we were probably about sixty people. Where we like to be is I'd say between forty and fifty, because we're a boutique-sized company with a pretty fun culture. It's kind of like a work hard, play hard culture. There's often a Harley parked in the middle of the studio floor. There's a beer fridge with a tap running at all times. It's not unusual to see some people grabbing beers early in the afternoon. It's a fun, non-corporate environment and I think that fun environment is one of the ways that we've attracted some really good talent. So, we don't want to lose that.

Back in 2011, after we'd just finished a bunch of work for Prototype 2 and we were working on the Sleeping Dogs cinematics, we were probably around seventy maybe seventy-five at our biggest. And around that size it just became a different beast. The company had to have a whole other layer of management and structure, and it just lost some of the magic. So, we scaled down after about a year or eighteen months. We were able to find that magic again, and since we've been there we've made the conscious decision to stay boutique-sized, which is under fifty. At this E3, just because we had so much work, we popped up to sixty for maybe a month, but we're back down to our boutique size right now.
Some of the people of Goldtooth Creative.
Bailey: You know, I can really respect that because I've worked at a small company and a large company, and there is a clear difference when it starts to really blow up. You have, like you said, another layer of bureaucracy that comes into play and you don't know everyone's names suddenly. It's very different.
Paul: Yeah, I think actually seventy-five is the number where you can't know everyone's name anymore. That's a break in the corporate structure. When you get there, you kind of lose that neighborhood feel or family feel. And that's one of the reasons I went to Goldtooth to begin with. I'd been working at an awesome company, Rainmaker VFX. That was a visual effects company before it combined with Mainframe to become Rainmaker Animation. And it got bought by Deluxe, this huge company. At the time, when film was still widely used, it was a very powerful company. And I just instantly felt like a number. Things started changing in the company and the company structure. I felt like all of the hard work and goodwill—all the investment that I'd put in with my direct reports that I'd been working with for the previous five years—was now lost. I was a number and I was gonna get a certain amount of a wage increase every year and have reviews at these times. It was gonna be faceless.

Whereas Kody told me that he wanted to start a company when he was at my wedding, back in 2006. He was my buddy and I said, "If you ever start a company I'll go over there and work for you for sure." So, when he started Goldtooth, I went over there. It's been great working with a group of friends and I think making new friends in that culture at Goldtooth has been a really good place to have strong bonds. Like I said, you kind of need that during a production, during the chaotic times. You need to be working with people that you like hanging out with. Because you might hang out with them twenty-four hours a day for some periods of time. [laughs]
Bailey: Oh yeah. In a very real sense you kind of live with the people you work with. You're there all day with them.
Paul: Yeah.
Bailey: That sounds like a great thing. I hadn't known very much about Goldtooth until this year and that's one of the reasons I wanted to do this and talk to you. I sounds like an intriguing place. And, of course, I like the work you guys have been making.
Paul: Thanks.
Bailey: When you were working at Rainmaker, you were principally doing more vfx work or were you directing stuff there?
Paul: I was head of editorial for this visual effects company which, at the time, I thought was pretty glamorous when I got the gig. I'd been doing visual effects editorial and junior comp stuff before that. But the majority of the work was visual effect editing. I'd say probably 90% or 80% of it. Then the other portion of it was editing commercials; every now and then being able to direct a cinematic or a commercial. And I just really started living for that work, for that really small percentage of work I was doing. That's where I really got fed creatively. I just enjoyed that work more.

Before I went to Goldtooth, there was an eight month period where I actually went over to Rainmaker Animation, which was starting a gaming division back in 2008—from like January to September. I was working before that in visual effects on a film called Tropic Thunder. I think we'd also done a trailer for WET around that time, maybe the year before. And at Rainmaker Animation they started working on Prototype 1. I saw there was a Prototype 1 trailer for the VGAs. It was mainly a gameplay trailer that came out in 2007. It just looked like so much fun and I realized that it wasn't worth doing 90% of less rewarding stuff just to live for that 10% of directing and editing stuff. So, I went over to Rainmaker Animation to work on the Prototype Web of Intrigue FMVs. Then Goldtooth got started in July that year so I jumped over to Goldtooth.
Goldtooth Creative was founded in 2008.
Bailey: When you were editing on the trailers and stuff, how much did music play a role in the way that you edited? I've found that trailers, in particular, are often very music-driven.
Paul: Yeah, for sure. I was about to say that. It depends on the type of work. If it's a commercial or a game trailer then it's very much music-driven. If it's something more long form like a cinematic or something with dramatic scenes, then music plays a smaller role I'd say. Especially if it's a continuous scene. I'd probably shoot it in mocap, try to get the best performances, and then lay down music afterwards. But if it's a game trailer then you basically go through a bunch of reference music and lay down some tracks that kind of hit the tone that you want to hit. Then you'll often just cut in reference material, sometimes storyboards, pre-viz, or anything like that. You cut that to the reference music just to try and fit it into that tone. Then hopefully you can license that music or recreate something that has that same tone as the reference music you found.
Bailey: What about when you guys are making a fully CG trailer but it's cut like it's just from footage? Like for both the Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided trailers.
Paul: For Human Revolution a lot of our trailers had J.J. Abrams' Star Trek as a reference. They used a lot of music by Two Steps From Hell. And so we were using a lot of that at least as initial reference or tone reference. Later on for the different versions for Human Revolution, we would go find different music references for different flavors. For example, there was a re-edit of the CGI trailer I did for the Tokyo Game Show. And for that one we used the music from the Inception trailers as reference.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Trailer (Director's Cut)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Trailer (Tokyo Game Show Cut)
Bailey: The Hans Zimmer score.
Paul: Yeah. And then for the opening credits for Human Revolution we actually received some pre-viz music from Michael McCann that we laid underneath. We started shooting stuff and creating CG and basically bringing up all the shots to a level of polish. And as the edits starting getting firmed up, we sent it back to Michael McCann. Then he re-composed that placeholder track to firm it up and make sure it was in-sync with the final imagery.
Bailey: Right. Going back and forth and massaging it towards completion.
Paul: Yeah, which is great. If you have access to the composer, and can do even one round of back and forth, the product is so much better.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Opening Titles
Bailey: Definitely. I've had the good fortune of being able to do that a couple times. So, the titles for Human Revolution must've been fun to work on.
Paul: Yeah, it was probably one my favorite projects that I've worked on in the last eight years because the brief was to make something that was so abstract. It wasn't like a lot of the very narrative-driven stuff that we're usually asked to make. Which is funny because I think at the end of the day with all the abstract imagery, and just putting it in the right order, and combining images of flashbacks of the operation, I think we ended up telling a really good narrative just through abstract imagery.
Rendered stills from the Deus Ex: Human Revolution Opening Titles.
Bailey: Yeah, it was very cinematic.
Paul: Thanks. Because it was abstract, there was so much experimentation I was able to do. I found a butcher that allowed me to purchase some pig heads at a very inexpensive cost. I think it was six dollars for a pig head. [laughs] And so we shot some of the operation footage. There was a circular saw shot that's actually a real circular saw going into a pig head.
The pig head used for the Deus Ex: Human Revolution Opening Titles.
Bailey: That's great!
Paul: And so we had some stuff like that that was fully live-action where we—through comp—were able to make it fit in with some of the CG shots. A lot of the CG shots were just one-offs. You know, we weren't going to use that model in a scene and see a bunch of different views of it. It would just be in that one shot or that one setup, which enabled us to cheat a lot more than if we were doing a scene with a bunch of different angles on the same model. So, it was just a fun project with a lot of creative freedom.
Paul on set filming shots for the Deus Ex: Human Revolution Opening Titles.
Bailey: Fun challenges like that. So, these days what's your typical day-to-day process? How are most of your days filled?
Paul: Usually I'll have dailies in the morning and go through every project in the studio. The producers are basically calling out milestones. So, if there's a milestone for animation at the end of the week for a certain project, then I'll be focusing on that and prioritizing notes. So, I'll usually do that for a couple hours and then in the middle of the day I'll have client meetings. Some clients want a daily review, so stuff that's fresh out of dailies. I might pull a few shots and then talk it through with the client. Then with other clients it might just be more of an email that I receive after sending something the night before. I'll just go through that and do that client interaction midday.

And then because I'm also the vice president of the company, there are things that I have to do like have HR meetings or finance meetings. After that, I go right into afternoon dailies, which is usually around 3:30. So, that's another two hours. Afternoon dailies involves just checking the work that was assigned to people after the morning dailies, and also seeing if anything's ready to be cut in and sent to the client that night. I'll review all the edits with the editors at the end of the day, and then we usually send stuff out between 6:30 and 8:30. In the evening, if there's any sort of creative project that hasn't been touched or maybe something that I've asked to be able to handle myself (and not to delegate it to anyone else), I'll sit in my office and either cut an animatic, write a script, or do something like that. And then go home late at night. [laughs] That's my average day.
Paul in the office at Goldtooth.
Bailey: So, it's later in the evening when you're more hands-on with something creative, like possibly making something. That's not to say that directing isn't also a creative endeavor, of course.
Paul: Right, for sure. Anything during the day is in danger of being interrupted like every fifteen minutes. Like with some sort of question, or some logistical thing that has to be figured out. But in the evenings, once everyone else has left, there are a couple of us that stay pretty late. You kind of need about two hours to get up to this level of creative momentum where you're just pushing through it now. And if you don't get those two straight hours of pre-work to get up to that creative plateau, you just keep rebuilding and redoing the same sort of thing. You never get to that level if you just keep starting and stopping every fifteen to twenty minutes. So, you really need the nighttime to just focus on that creative work.
Bailey: Yeah, I think some people call it getting into "flow." It's where you can finally lose yourself in the work for a while. It's a great place to be.
Paul: Yep. That's probably where I'm having the most fun, when I'm sitting alone in my office late at night trying to work out a problem. I think it's the most rewarding too. And it's great if you can send something in the morning and everyone is blown away by it.
Bailey: You said that for some clients you're often sending them daily updates of the progress of things. Would that be for cinematics, cuts of trailers, or something else?
Paul: I'd say it's more likely for cinematics. It's for anything that we do that's heavily integrated into the game and isn't a stand-alone piece. It just hits so many different departments on the game development side that they just need more consistent touch-bases to make sure everything's moving together. Especially because most of our clients are out of town. Previously, when there were more game studios in Vancouver, we had a lot more local clients. But more and more we're getting clients that are in England or Japan. Definitely all over the States. And so with that distance or remote work, you have to really make sure you're on the same page. More than if you're in the same city.
Bailey: And is part of that because when you guys are tasked with creating a cinematic for a game, the game itself is still going through its evolution art-wise? So, you want to make sure they're staying consistent?
Paul: Yeah. I've had projects where the script was changing as we were shooting mocap. We've been rewriting and rebuilding scenes, and we've been moving proxy geometry in an environment that was supposed to be a locked environment because the art director calls us and says that that game mechanic is no longer there so we have to change the environment. And we're just, on the fly in motion capture, trying to re-block the scene and trying to figure out a better way to do it. And I've had work where a main character will change pretty far into the process.

So, games are definitely just this ever evolving creature. And I think it's tough compared to the more cinematic narrative work that we specialize in. Creating a game is really about everyone trying to move in the same direction with different levels of incompletion until the very last minute; the very last 15% of the process where everything kind of gels together and is hopefully successful. Whereas the work we do is much more like building a house. Where I find that if I'm successful as a director, then you should be able to take storyboards from the animatic and compare them to final shots. Almost at a one-to-one basis. That rarely happens on projects that are heavily integrated into a game just because there are so many other factors. Like tech, for example, that are creating new, unforeseen issues down the line that cause you to change the plan and adapt.
Storyboards from the Yellow Zone trailer for Prototype 2.
Storyboard and final shot comparison from the Yellow Zone trailer for Prototype 2.
Bailey: And I think that with narrative stuff you really have to get things to a really solid place early on because later development is just so expensive time-wise. Especially if you're doing CG stuff.
Paul: Yeah, totally. [laughs] You can't change animation when you're in comp, or something like that. I mean, you can, but like you said, it costs a lot more.
Bailey: And when you're working with game developers do you have a point where you're like, "Well, it's locked so unless you want to spend a lot more money we're not going to change it." Do you have a point like that?
Paul: Well, we definitely do. And that's more of a producer and executive producer call when we've passed the drop dead on something. For myself, and for Kody, the reason that we really got hooked on what we're doing right now is because of problems like that that cause us to do creative problem solving. To come up with a new way to show the scene that steps around the issue. Like, as simple as cutting to black, but maybe you have to cut to black for a section or put a filter on it. Maybe you have to re-work it like it's through a character's point of view. So, you put a filter on it so everything is just a lot easier to change—it's more forgiving. Or maybe you might shoot something live-action and comp that into something 3D just to make a quick change.

I could think of a couple different scenarios. There's a trailer I did called Homecoming for Prototype 2. It's the Yellow Zone trailer, the first trailer that came out. We didn't have enough time to build this city that he's running through before we jump over into Manhattan. So, with any other studio, that could've been like, "Guys, we don't have enough time to hit this note to show the Yellow Zone, to set it up, to show the buildings, and the stuff that's going on over there." And instead of saying, "No, we've passed the point of no return," we shot a bunch of live-action stuff, like high-speed stuff. My daughter, who I think was six-months-old at the time, had a cameo in that, getting pulled away from her mom and screaming.

I had an editor and a game capture artist go to Radical. The environment existed in-game. So, we set the time of day and I had them basically shoot bracketed, high-resolution stills of the streets; moving down the length of the streets. And then I projected the lit game capture onto low-resolution geo. And it allowed me to do a pre-rendered CGI trailer with some live-action elements and game capture backgrounds in very little time. I think maybe that was a six-week project, maybe less. So, that's an example of coming up with creative solutions that I think very few other companies would consider. That's really where we get a lot of enjoyment out of what we do.
Animation work in progress shot from the Red Zone trailer for Prototype 2.
Bailey: That's cool. You said 'bracketed'?
Paul: Yeah, we would do a lock-off on a wall. And it would be like, this time of day, and then this time of day with no shadows, and this time of day with the normals-pass turned on. It would be like a whole bunch of different passes of that locked off camera. And then they could just turn something on and off and get a still. That just allowed us to have a bit more freedom when we were projecting the stills on the low-res geo.
Bailey: I see. Giving yourself some options there.
Paul: Yeah.
Bailey: I think that's great. That's kind of what art is. It's problem solving, essentially.
Paul: Yeah, I guess so. Actually finding those obstructions and overcoming them is probably the art that we find in the work we do.
Development shots from the Red Zone trailer for Prototype 2.
Bailey: It's super valuable. You said that sometimes you guys will blow up to sixty people and then go back down to around fifty or so. But you guys will also contract out animation to other studios, right?
Paul: I'd say we're a production studio and a creative agency. I'd say that most agencies would just have producers, creative directors, and copywriters. And then most studios don't have in-house directors or those creatives. So, we've got both. Our ideal scenario is us doing the creative and then us executing on it. Because a lot of the time we'll be able to mold the creative to work to our strengths, or to work the scope of the budget, the schedule, or whatever. But sometimes we'll get hired to come up with the creative and we'll have to outsource the animation. Or in the case of what we're doing with CVD on Mass Effect:Andromeda, we're doing the lion's share of the process and then we're outsourcing a portion of the comp to them.
Mass Effect: Andromeda - EA Play 2016 (Goldtooth worked on some of the space shots near the end)
And I think it's getting more and more common for more complex projects to have multiple vendors or outsource companies working on even the same shots. Like the stuff that we did for District 9, for example. For all of the holograms in District 9 we did the holograms themselves but the comps were done at Image Engine. For the Ender's Game holograms that we did there was a vendor that was supplying the CG for the ships, we were supplying the holograms, and Digital Domain was taking all of the elements and comping them together.
District 9 holograms.
Bailey: You're basically just giving them the animations in the package, or as a file, and they're making it work in the scene.
Paul: Exactly. We would give them the animations rendered out through the camera that's been provided by their compositing department. So, when they bring in the rendered-out elements, it hooks up to the camera so they're able to treat it and layer it properly.
Bailey: When they send you the cameras for that project, would they be tweaking the cameras or was that stuff always pretty locked by the time it got to you?
Paul: Well, because there were green screen live-action plates in it, the cameras were pretty much locked by the time they were passed to us.
Bailey: It wasn't fully CG.
Paul: Yeah. It was the stuff where, especially like in the space battle sequence at the end of Ender's Game, there'll be a bunch of people in a war room using the graphical interface to interact with the space battle that's happening on a huge green screen across from them. So, we had live-action plates that we were locked to (that were provided to us), and then we would create the motion graphics elements according to the performance of the live-action plates.
Bailey: For those, since we're talking about the holograms, I know of at least one freelance artist who worked on designs for that stuff. Were you guys working with a designer, or were you also designing what the individual elements looked like?
Paul: For District 9 I think we designed a lot more stuff based in the world and according to a bible. And in Ender's Game, just because it had a very long production process, all the designs were provided to us by Ash Thorp. Then there was the team that was doing graphics and they were also doing motion graphics. Gladys Tong was our main contact there. They were also creating some designs. So, there was a lot of stuff that was pre-designed for that. But then, at the same time, there were actors that were performing finger moves, or whatever, on a green screen set with no relation to those designs. In certain sequences we had to basically take the designs that were provided to us as reference to match, and then re-imagine some of the layout of it. Or even some of the elements that were being shown because certain story points weren't coming across. So, we had notes to change the designs of the elements of it so those story points could come out better.
Ender's Game Reel
Bailey: Through that interpretation you have to make some changes.
Paul: Yeah, totally. [laughs] Especially if an actor is just kind of waving their fingers in the air. You have to really figure out exactly how that wavy finger movement would trigger a series of controls and then actually release the ship, the fire, or whatever the actor was doing in the show.
Bailey: Right. You said that you enjoyed working on the titles for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Were there any shots, projects or shows from your career that were particularly difficult for you? Something that stands out in memory?
Paul: Hmm. Just recently on State of Decay 2 for the E3 trailer that we did, everyone really liked the idea of doing one long shot. I think there are maybe five CG shots in that trailer with some game capture in the middle. But the second shot of that trailer is like a forty-five second shot I think. Just being able to push that shot through all of the different departments. And then you make a change, like you change one of the zombies or you change elements of the environment, and then that has to get kicked back into layout and then go through all of the different departments again. Just trying to be rendered in time for E3, I think that was a particularly hard shot.
State of Decay 2 - E3 2016 Trailer
Actually, in the same vein, the Sea of Thieves trailer that we did recently was only five sequences. Kind of like a frozen moment flying through five different sequences inside the game. Just trying to make a cohesive feeling of a single camera flying through five different scenes, with nothing moving, was extremely difficult. I think just because when everything is frozen and nothing is moving at all, you really pick up pops or camera hitches or other issues.
Sea of Thieves - E3 2016 Trailer
I'd say, not so much video game related but still gaming related, we did a trailer a year ago for Dungeons and Dragons. It was a trailer that came out for PAX in 2015. We had a whole bunch of different monsters that were being revealed from the Underdark. To that point, a lot of the monsters had just been in monster books where there might just be one 2D graphic of them. One piece of concept art and a description of them. There was absolutely no reference for how they move, how their effects move, or how any of that translates from 2D to 3D. So, I think all of that trailer was particularly challenging. You're trying to create monsters that people have lived with for maybe twenty years. They've been in the lore of the game. You're bringing it to life and it kind of has to hold up to everyone's different interpretation of what that monster would look like and how it would move in 3D space. That was pretty difficult as well.
D&D Rage of Demons Launch Trailer
Bailey: Was that just trying a lot of different things?
Paul: Yeah, it was like coming up with analogies with animals that exist. Doing animation reference for different animals. Like for the Demogorgon, which is this creature that appears right at the end and it's like a two-headed ape creature with huge tentacles and it kind of has chicken feet. [laughs] So, you have to figure out how this strange creature would move. You just kind of look through a bunch of different nature videos and try and find creatures that have some similar traits that you're able to translate for that creature.
Development shots of the Demogorgon.
Bailey: Makes sense. Figuring out what the heck is this gonna look like.
Paul: And then we'd go and work with Wizards of the Coast. They're just down in Washington state, so I'd just drive down a couple times and do a review. And they have these lore masters that just know everything about certain characters or certain monsters, or even effects. So, we'd show them our tests and then they would let us know if it was still working within the canon.
Bailey: Were they writers who worked there?
Paul: Yeah, writers.
Bailey: So, what are you trying to learn more of these days? Or to put it another way, what's exciting you these days?
Paul: To me what's really exciting is the detail that I'm starting to see from facial performance capture. When I can get a cinematic where the environment is set so I can create a bunch of real world proxy objects and I can cast actors who work both for the voice and for the physical traits, then I'm able to shoot cinematics with a virtual camera in a virtual set with all of the actors playing themselves and recording the voices at the same time. That, to me, is really exciting because it's got the immediacy of live-action filmmaking, but it also has the ability to make these really fantastical scenes or action scenes which you can only do in CG film production. So, it's like a cool combo of both.
On the mocap stage for the Red Zone trailer for Prototype 2.
Bailey: Yeah, it's like a play but you can put the camera wherever you want.
Paul: Yeah, and you can make one of those actors jump twenty feet in the air and shoot out a bunch of arrows, which you couldn't do in a play. So, it's pretty cool.
Bailey: [laughs] It's really great. Do you guys have a mocap stage that you rent out, or do you have one that you own?
Paul: No, we usually work with Animatrik, who are a mocap studio in town. But we've also worked with The Capture Lab at EA in the past. And also just depending on the developer or the game publisher we're working with, they might have studios that they often work with. We've done lots of shoots around the world. In the last couple years we've done shoots in England, and I shot all the stuff for Just Cause 3 in Brooklyn. I shot some of the ReCore stuff in Vancouver and some of it in LA. So, we've done it all over.
Bailey: I know that in a lot of the games that are coming out right now, the subtleties of the facial animations during the cinematics has been improving quite a lot. Like the in-game stuff, even.
Paul: Yeah, the in-game stuff is starting to come up, which is great. We're starting to be able to have different techniques of showing emotion which weren't available before. It's pretty cool.
Bailey: Yeah, kind of in a similar vein, I recently had the opportunity to try out a VR headset, the HTC Vive. Have you tried it?
Paul: Yeah, I have on a game. I can't remember what it was called. Starseed or something like that. But we did a demo of it here. It's pretty cool because it's got the hand controls too.
Bailey: I know that it's really rudimentary still, but I was totally blown away by it. The reason I bring it up is because I'm really looking forward to when we can have immersive cinematic experiences. It should be pretty fun.
Paul: Yeah, I am too. I'm really excited by exploring storytelling. How you would direct people's attention in an immersive environment because you can't do it through close-ups and cuts anymore. It's gotta be something else. It's gotta be audio cues, or maybe eye-trace with different lighting scenarios, or I don't know what. So, there's like a cool level of unknown there, for sure.
Bailey: Definitely a frontier. Have you or Goldtooth starting thinking about that kind of stuff?
Paul: We're developing a few things right now with some partners that I think will allow us to do VR cinematics in the near future.
Bailey: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for chatting today. It's been really nice talking to you!
Paul: Yeah, you too.
The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the people in this interview and do not necessarily reflect the views of their employers.
Paul's Cinematic Credits
DE: Human Revolution Trailer
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
DE: Mankind Divided Trailer
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
DE: Human Revolution Trailer
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
DE: Mankind Divided Trailer
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
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