CCP Games - Interview with the Video Production Team
Similar to the previous interview with the Software Director for CCP Games' EVE Universe properties, this interview first appeared in my blog back in September 2013. My blog no longer exists, but I feel that these are good interviews and should continue to be made available to those people that are interested, whether they are interested in CCP Games, EVE Online, or video production.
Following the interview is a link to a script, followed by the video that resulted from that script.
To start off, tell us a bit about yourselves, your CCP names (if you have one), your job at CCP Games, and your specific role in video production.
The CCP video production is split into three sections. There is the trailer team of six which makes our CG trailers, two work in EVE-TV which does all live broadcast production like our tournaments and Fanfest and finally there is the live action team with us two (CCP Loki and CCP ArnarV.) We produce the “In Development” videos which is a series of interviews with developers working on EVE and DUST, and we also do some more “CCP” videos, like the Midwinter Festival one.
Our video-specific team consists of:
CCP Loki : Producer, Writer, Director, Post
CCP ArnarV : Producer, DP, Director, Audio, Editor, Post
For the In Development series, CCP Guard has played host and worked with the team on ideas and concepts. CCP RealX has helped with Music and SoundFX throughout.
Where do the ideas for these videos come from? Who is involved in the process of nailing down the initial story that is used to introduce EVE players to new features and concepts?
CCP Loki: "One of us initially comes up with an idea to base the video on which we then start bouncing back and forth until we are happy with a certain frame to work from. I then take all those ideas and mold them into a script which we iterate and polish together. Some things then just happen on the set and a lot of good lines and ideas have been borne last minute during filming."
How long from start (conceptualization) to finish (finished product) does the process take?
CCP Loki: "The time varies depending on the video. Sometimes we get really ambitious ideas with lot of special effects and those can take more time than others. Fastest take around three days from the time we start filming but the longest ones can stretch into two weeks."
How much assistance can you normally get from other departments? Such as art? There are a number of special effects in each video, such as greenscreening, ships overhead, the dude that is run over and explodes, which I assume requires work outside of the video department itself.
CCP ArnarV: "When it comes to post work we try to do as much as we possibly can ourselves. I do all filming, sound, editing and color as well as all green-screen comps. Loki does a lot of the compositing with 3D assets and occasional editing. For complicated and time consuming shots we often draft our friends from the trailer team to help us get things done. We also sometimes get custom artwork from the Art department."
We asked the police if they were willing to chase us with lights flashing so we could film it and they said no.
How much input does CCP Guard (and the other actors) have in their roles?
CCP Loki: "It depends on what we are doing but CCP Guard often has a lot of input in his scenes and often improves and even adlibs some of his dialog."
Do you ever have difficulty getting the assistance and resources of organizations outside of CCP? (I'm recalling a video in which CCP Guard "visits" a prison.)?
CCP Loki: "People are usually very receptive of our requests. I think the small size of the community in Iceland helps us since there is always somebody who knows someone. We have been able to go on coast guard choppers and film in police stations."
How much practical filming is done? Or do you rely on stock footage? I'm thinking to the cop-chase scene in the Crimewatch video. I've never been to Reykjavik, so am not sure if we're seeing the Reykjavik skyline in those shots. Are we looking at stock video or were you able to enlist the assistance of the local police?
CCP Arnar: "We rarely use stock footage and try to do all practical filming. The police chase for the Crime Watch video is a good example of a good practical shot. We asked the police if they were willing to chase us with lights flashing so we could film it and they said no. "That sucks," we thought, and started searching for some stock footage but could not find any that was good enough. CCP Loki then came up with a great idea when he passed a police car driving home one day. He put a GoPro camera on the back of his car and loitered around the main police station in Iceland. When he saw a police car come out he placed himself in front of it and filmed the car for a while. We then added the sirens and lights in post."
The Skyward Sphere Project. Perhaps explain how that project came to be. Maybe explain the work and planning that went into the entire project before the the launch. How many videos were there leading up to launch day? What technical hurdles did you have to cross? What permissions were necessary to launch into the stratosphere.
CCP Loki: "The basic idea I believe was born with the one and only Greg Fountain who is currently the Marketing Director for World of Darkness. The idea was to send up a balloon with and iPad or something like that to celebrate the players of EVE. We played around with the idea and made some changes, for example we felt that the iPad was unfeasible and instead opted to send first a pod and later a Rifter model. The project was a cooperation with the University of Reykjavík so we had about 13 students helping us out.
"The first test flight consisted only of trackers and a Samsung Galaxy Note streaming live video, we did not use nearly enough gas so the estimated 90 minute flight lasted 5 hours and was last seen drifting between Iceland and the Faroe islands. Flight two had some problems in its windy takeoff making all video material unusable. However it flew exactly as predicted and came down less than three miles from the estimated landing site. Flight three again flew as predicted except the pod separated from the balloon somewhere along the way. Finally flight 4 was completed streaming live over the internet and this time carrying a Rifter without any major incidents.
Skyward Sphere was in cooperation with the University of Reykjavík so we had about 13 students helping us out.
"Amazingly we never ran into any problems when dealing with the civil air authorities and they gave us a green light and before each flight we would contact air traffic control and launch once the airspace was clear. The only time we had a major delay was when they were waiting for this Piper Super Cub to clear the area so we could launch but once it turned that the plane in question was the spotter plane we had Arnar filming in then we got the green light. Furthermore the Icelandic coast guard was kind enough to use one of their exercise flights to recover the kit so we got to participate in a search and rescue flying in a Super Puma over the Icelandic highlands in the middle of winter."
Perhaps you can describe the sorts of equipment you use to film the video. And the sorts of software you use to edit, composite, etc. the video?
CCP ArnarV: "We recently started using the Canon 1DC which shoots wonderful 4K footage. Prior to the 1DC we used the 5D Mk3. Filming in 4k gives great opportunity to play around with framing as well as cropping into the image. We light scenes with 4tube Kinos and 1x1 Litepanels. Audio is most often a DPA 4061 Lav over Sennheizer G3 wireless into a Roland R-26.
"For editing we use Adobe Premiere CC with the Cineform codec and for composition the almighty Adobe After Effects CC with the Magic Bullet suites, Primatte, Optical Flares and Element 3D."
What do you all do at CCP when you're not creating great videos?
CCP Loki: "I currently hold the title of producer, scrum master of triLambda which is basically the graphics department of EVE and occasional producer of “other” projects."
CCP ArnarV: "As Senior Video Producer, I rarely see a dull moment as I am also the in-house photographer, creator and caretaker of the 2000 gallon reef fish tank in the Reykjavik office as well as the game room maintenance guy where I set up and tweak arcade and pinball machines."
CCP Guard: "As Community Developer for CCP I work on a wide variety of projects, some temporary and others more persistent. I work with developers on communication to the community, I work with players on organizing and advertising gatherings, I host and help organize live streams, plan player gatherings and special events for CCP, write news and messaging pieces, act as stakeholder on one of the design team, liaise with community members and organize support for all sorts of fan projects to name a few things. These days I’m getting more involved with some of the DUST community plans, getting some cool things off the ground hopefully...or should I say...on the ground? You could say my role is that of a creative lead for the community team but my job changes a lot from week to week depending on what falls in my lap. One day I’m doing regular old stuff, the next day I’m in a helicopter with these crazy video producers or brokering a sponsorship deal with a UFC fighter :). I like not always knowing what happens next!"
Watch the Christmas 2012 EVE Online trailer. It not only describes free gifts for the players, but is also a celebration of Icelandic culture. Here is the actual script that was used, in PDF form.