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Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards
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How Amazon’s Promo for ‘Lost Ark’ Game Came Alive in the Czech Republic

04/04/2023
Production Services
New York, USA
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The game’s epic promo blends fantasy, incredible locations, practical effects, and VFX in one visual feast, created in partnership by Stillking Films Prague and Chromista

'Your Odyssey continues' beckons the latest instalment of Amazons Lost Ark, an action-packed role playing game. In it, the viewer is taken on a mind-bending journey into the game with the help of the protagonist who sits at his desk before hes magically transported into a fantastical medieval-adjacent world. Though the monsters are certainly not real, the cavernous terrain and the self-moving desks are, with the teams shooting on location in the Czech Republic.

For the promo, which is directed by Kasra Farahani, the Amazon team reached out to Ted Robbins, Chromistas partner and executive producer, to make the idea a reality. In turn, Ted turned to Michal Škop, executive producer at Stillking Films Prague (part of the Compass Rose network) to make it happen due to their long-standing relationship, the variety of locations on offer, and the confidence Ted has in the expertise of Stillking and the degree of craft available in the country overall.

The epic promo called for a month of pre-production prep which involved location scouting, the building of props and sets. Engineers were called in to create multiple self-driving desks and a moving wall with a 400-pound marble fireplace. One crucial scene required over 100 extras who all needed specific costumes, all under the supervision of production designer, Martin Krejzlík.

The alien terrain that appears in the promo is called Prachovské Skály, or Prachov Rocks, and only one other production has filmed there to date - The Chronicles of Narnia. The castle shots were essential to the look of Lost Ark and Zvířetice castle, situated a short distance north-east of Prague, provided the perfect look and mood for the promo.

Today, LBB speaks to Ted and Michal to learn more about the complexity of making a production like this come to life and why the Czech Republic and Stillking Prague were Teds first choice partners on a project of this scale.

 

LBB> Tell us a little bit about the brief - what was the original idea and your initial thoughts on how to make it come to life?

Ted> Amazon Games reached out to me to help create a trailer for the latest instalment of Lost Ark. The team really wanted to do something unique and special, something that made the player feel like they're part of the game, part of the fantasy that they can be immersed in. The game is very multifaceted, from the type of character class you can be to how the landscapes look – the promo needed to communicate that idea and build on it too. Alex Kaplan and Barry Katz, who are both part of the creative team, came up with this wonderful idea of how to really bring the player into that world. We decided that, like in real life, the keyboard would be the way into the fantasy, except we took that idea literally and decided to translate it on screen.

A really fun idea surfaced for the desks to be the portal that connects these worlds, the player and everyone else, since you play the game with others. Amazon Games ended up really liking the original idea. From a production standpoint, my eyes went *ding* and then I started to think about how we are going to pull it off? How do we make this amazing daydream that creative minds came up with? That was the initial challenge.

 

Photos by Petr Dobias


LBB> Why was Stillking Films and Czech Republic the right place to make the spot come to life and why was it chosen above other options? 

Ted> Right off the bat, there are two reasons. When we initially came up with the idea, there were locations that needed a castle to make the spot believable. Obviously, castles don't really exist in the States. We wanted a castle that felt old, as if it's been there for 1,000 years, and then we'd use CG to enhance it to fit with the visual style. I instantly thought of Stillking because the Czech Republic has a lot of historical architecture.

Not only that, but my relationship with Stillking is a storied one. There’s real trust between us. I knew that I needed someone that would have my back as we went on what would be a long and at times difficult production. From building the desks that have to move, specific wardrobe, specific prosthetics, specific CG enhancements, multiple locations and sets - every part of the job had a challenge. Stillking and Michal came to mind because we’ve worked together on multiple jobs in the past and always, always nailed it. Also, what I love about shooting in and around Prague is there's a diverse talent pool. If you can't find who you need, you're close to Berlin. You're not far from Amsterdam or London. So, it's just an easier city to shoot in than other places.



LBB> The sets look incredible amid all the special effects. How many locations did you shoot on? Tell us about where you shot and how you settled on the right location(s).

Ted> There was the ‘Hero Castle’ location which is called Zvířetice. It was selected because it had the perfect look we were after –looming, historic, and fantastical. We built one set on a stage, the living room at Barrandov Studios in Prague. We shot a lot on green screen at that same stage location as it was specifically designed for all the customised desks movements.

We also shot in a cave-like system called Prachov Rocks which is almost like a smaller Grand Canyon. I don't know specifically what type of natural phenomenon it is but it's an amazing place and I've never seen anything like it. But as a location, it was challenging, and I think the only other location job that shot there was the Chronicles of Narnia. God bless the art department for getting the equipment to where we had to shoot because that was its own production.

But like I said – it was a magical place. At the time we didn't know if we were going to give the promo more of an industrial vibe or more of a natural vibe but when we saw the location that Michal sent, it instantly had an air of fantasy we all loved.

 


LBB> So tell me a little bit about the desks. Were they designed on location? Were they put together on location? How did that come to life?

Ted> There was a multi-week process where we had to figure out some sort of a rig that would carry the weight of the desks, plus a human. It all had to be safe and radio-controlled so that the actor would be able to play the game and act with ease. In the end, we figured out that electrical wheelchairs that could carry a heavy weight would be ideal, but we had to completely deconstruct and reconfigure them. Imagine taking a wheelchair apart, and then figuring out how to do it for a whole different weight distribution within two or three weeks. I'm not an engineer, but even the way the wheels turned left and right was an engineering battle because it was designed to be only three feet by two and a half. So it was a fun challenge but the team really stepped up and pulled it off.

Michal> We had to actually create two or three versions of the desk with different movement options and capabilities to see which one was going to best perform on the variety of locations and terrains we used. It turned out to be quite a complicated toy, so the model makers and electric engineers had a really tough job, especially since we only had about two weeks to build it, test it and make it work.


LBB> How long was the pre-production and how long was the actual shoot?

Ted> I arrived before the rest of the team to scout the locations and the pre-production took a whole month before we started to shoot anything. I’m really pleased with the location that we ended up going with as it had enough room for the production and for the shoot itself. The actual shoot took three days, with one day involving hundreds of crew members and actors on set.

 

LBB>The spot blends fantasy and reality thanks to some incredible VFX. Did you have to take VFX into consideration during the shoot or was that all for post-production to deal with?

Ted> It was really, really important to consider the VFX. It came down to having a partner in post so we turned to UPP that also happens to be in Prague and they did some incredible work. Our DP, Patrick Duroux, was instrumental on this shoot and planned all the shots to perfection, taking CG into consideration and balancing it with what he captured on camera. One of the reasons why things blended so well with CG is because we had so much interactive lighting going on and Patrick really managed to create a reality between humans and the CG around them. Like when we had a giant monster coming out in the caves, he set up blue and red drone lights, and other interactive practical lighting on the walls, that the CG team later used to create the laser blasts, making it come together so seamlessly. 

 

LBB> How much of the set(s) needed to be built? What had to happen behind the scenes for the spot?

Ted> The main set that we built was for the opening scene where we meet our protagonist, and he takes us into this fantasy game world. That entire set was built from scratch - it was a large room with a hallway and the studio living room/game playing area - where every detail had to be precise and carefully calculated, from building a fly wall in front of the moving desks that would slide out down to the smallest wood carving on a door.

Michal> We also had to bring in a massive 400-pound marble fireplace which was installed on one of the feature walls of the apartment. It was a bit of a challenge because we had to be able to move the wall that the fireplace was attached to during one of the scenes.

Ted> Then at the castle, the set designers had to build an old village and make it look and feel like it was set in the 1500's with a variety of vendors stands where the player might go to buy swords, potions and other items that are part of the story in the game.


LBB> How big was the production - how many people worked on it behind the scenes?

Ted> It was massive! During the one scene we shot at the castle, we had over 100 extras, all in their unique wardrobes so what the wardrobe team alone had to pull off in such a short period of time was quite impressive. We also had a very large crew when you consider all the teams like the grip and electrics or the drone team, so it resembled a large film production at times, with probably 200-plus people working on that one day.

 

LBB> What was the highlight of working on this production?

Ted> For me, it was walking into the castle and seeing all the extras, the balloon lighting and the set itself. It was mind-blowing and looked like I had travelled back in time. Then it was watching the desks move and actually work through different terrains surrounded by all the visual elements and drone lights or the process of creating prosthetics, you’d normally see in movies like ET or Star Wars, for one of the creatures. There was just so much effort and hard work from so many people going into making our imagination come alive that it still gives me tingles now.

Michal> I think it has to be the scale of this production. There was so much going on behind the scenes with our days starting at 3am just to be able to get everything and everyone to the remote locations we were using. To see all the sets, toys, people, creatures and special effects come together over only three day shoot is definitely a proud moment and one of the biggest highlights for me.


Compass Rose’s group of service production companies consisting of: Stillking Films Prague and Cape Town, Icon Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, Entity Films Slovenia and Croatia, Spectrum Mexico and 24/7 Spain, Portugal and Chile.

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