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How Electronic Arts’ ‘Game Capture’ Team Strives for Visceral Authenticity



On the back of a newly launched trailer for Battlefield 2042, LBB’s Addison Capper speaks to Jeff Aho, game capture lead at EA, to find out about his and his team’s production process

How Electronic Arts’ ‘Game Capture’ Team Strives for Visceral Authenticity

In anticipation of the November 19th wide release of Battlefield 2042, Electronic Arts (EA) has unveiled a new trailer entitled ‘Hazard Zone’. EA’s ‘game capture’ team, a unique, unsung breed of creators, played a key role in creating the trailer, which follows the movements of six squad members in a bid to drive home the intensity of the upcoming game. According to EA, game capture artists are responsible for selecting and perfecting in-game scenes, flowing them seamlessly into scripted animations seen in trailers and screenshots. They tend to have backgrounds in photography and cinematography, graphic design, compositing, editing and coding. 

“Our process is something the team has worked diligently to refine and improve over the last couple of years,” Jeff Aho, game capture lead at EA, tells us. “Our mindset when taking these on is one of a short film, location scouting, building shot lists and planning our action and blocking for each shot deliberately.”

Before any of that even gets under way and the team begins any capture, they have a creative alignment meeting with the production, creative and editorial teams to ensure that all are synced up on the creative vision for the project. From there the game capture team begins to brainstorm with its creative and development partners on any weapons, characters and vehicles needed for the piece. Then it’s a case of building out the shot-list with the creative team, describing in detail their plan for each shot, including the specifics they gathered from the development team and how many characters they’ll need for each shot. For many multiplayer shots they bring on freelance artists to help support the four in-house leads to help build out background characters or ‘extras’ in each of the shots.

“Once we hit production full force our team follows a fairly regular flow,” Jeff adds. “The start of the day consists of communication with our dev partners to ensure we’re working off the most up-to-date build and to check on any fixes / changes that are in the works. From there our capture leads will meet to align on a plan of action for the day's shots; they’ll discuss specifics, convey any notes or direction from partners, our locations for the day's shots, what weapons / gear / vehicles are ready to be highlighted. They’ll formulate their general plan of action for the team and meet with the full group in the early afternoon to share everything with the full team online.”

Jeff and the team’s first pass of capture is nearly always what he calls a “blocking pass”. The leads will speak to each member of the team to give specifics on what their goal for each shot is. “Sometimes it is very specific: hit a mark here and shoot player X,” Jeff says. “Sometimes it’s more general: get into this area and fire around player Y. There are times we’ll get into a shot and discover what we planned doesn’t make sense in an edit, or doesn’t read right for the viewer, so we take the time while working in the shots to fine tune things as we go. This can be as little as adjusting how many characters are in a specific area or who comes through a door first to completely change a location on a map or a vehicle because it’s not working out how we planned.”

With this information the game capture artists do their best to plan as much as possible in their workflow so they can save up time for ‘capture sessions. “Our best sessions come with a plan of flexibility, meaning we have a strict plan on what we need to accomplish daily, but we know that it won’t always be exactly how we write it up. We have to be ready to adjust and change a shot on the fly when we see something isn’t working or reading the way we intended, sometimes a bug limits what we can do so we have to adjust on the fly and make the most of each day to ensure the schedule is maintained.”

Once a capture session day is done the leads will get together to review the dailies, the multiple takes for each shot that they managed to get done, and make their selections before uploading to to review with relevant partners. “Once uploaded to frame, our leads will also go through shots and mark up any capture notes we may have for their consideration, explain why shots may have been changed from the shot list and point out anything we’re adjusting for in the next pass,” Jeff says. “As we get closer to final throughout our capture we scrutinise each shot down to its most minimal detail to ensure we are reaching the quality expectation that has been set forth across our AAA titles. When everything is final we pass along our 4k raw capture to our editorial department to work the footage into the online edit for the final exports.”

Intrigued if there’s much of a difference between the two, I ask Jeff how it is working on the capture of material for an actual game vs for a commercial / trailer, such as that for Battlefield 2042. “Our approach to the two aren’t that different,” he says. “We always approach capture with the mindset of showing off the game in the best light possible, taking the time to ensure even the smallest detail is considered.” 

The differences come from the type of asset that he and the team are capturing for. “Is this a sizzle or promotional trailer where our cinematography is just as important as the action and our goal is to get the consumer interested and looking for more information? Is the asset a deep dive or informational trailer where the point is to explain a feature or mode to the consumer? When capturing for a sizzle trailer / commercial we’re not only considering the action of the shot but we’re also keenly focused on our cinematography of the shots. For the more informational assets our focus first and foremost is to explain the feature / mode clearly, the cinematography of the shot is there to help sell the information and provide the consumer with a clean and clear look at the feature / mode.”

EA’s game capture artists are also behind trailers for titles such as NHL 22, FIFA 22 and Madden Land. For EA Sports titles they watch real world sports for inspiration and sometimes try to replicate real world plays in the video game world. They play the game and build out cameras to showcase highlights, perfecting them through proper angles, framing and composing. What they do is akin to a sports photographer or cinematographer with an aim for visceral authenticity. 

“Our group is full of sports fans that watch the NFL, NHL and FIFA all the time on their own,” Jeff says. “When they see Ronaldo pull off a crazy bicycle kick in a real-life game, it usually sparks some inspiration in them and they’ll go back into work the next day to capture a shot that mimics what they saw the professional athletes do in real life. We’re always watching the real life games to draw inspiration into our work. We try to get as close to the real world as possible to help showcase the authenticity of our games.”

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Categories: Gaming, Sports and Leisure

Electronic Arts, Fri, 29 Oct 2021 14:20:02 GMT