Hello folks, and welcome to the next part of our Martha Is Dead blog series!
This time we’ll be diving into the personal diary of Luca Dalcó who is sharing his notes from over the course of creating the recent release date trailer for Martha Is Dead, and getting to grips with the exciting new Metahuman technology that was also seen in the Matrix Awakens tech demo for Unreal 5! (If you haven’t seen the trailer yet – you can see it here!)
We’ll be breaking the diary down into two posts, so keep your eyes peeled next week for the conclusion! But for now, onto the diary of Luca!
How many cooks?!
Making a trailer is something important, but I feel that my perception of it goes beyond the real importance of the trailers themselves. I love to conceive and realize trailers, but this feeling isn’t shared by the rest of the LKA team and I perfectly understand why!
Making a trailer is very time-consuming, the time required for their creation is often taken from the highly valuable development schedule and they can end up being completely time-wasting. If I was to quote from one team member who repeats this like a mantra:
“Who is right, who is wrong?” “Nobody.” “Again it depends on your point of view.”
Marketing teams look at trailers as one the most important assets in their arsenal, maybe sometimes even more important than the game itself. With small teams, the developers must spend time to make them which leads to less time to develop the actual game – and if you still have ample time to continue development it’s like stealing food from a hungry dog! … You risk your hand!
Someone out of stress, pessimism and time constraints would say that trailers are useless and may even damage the game. But what’s my point of view?
As I said, I like making trailers and I think that some of the best trailers come directly from the development team. Especially for a game like Martha Is Dead. It’s best to conceive a trailer between the hidden folds of the narrative, this is something which requires my creativity and time as I am the author of the story in the first place – it is part of my head and only in my head.
Ok, the creative part is defined.
We could make everybody happy and myself happy to conceive the trailer, by booking another company who creates it. This would certainly make the LKA team happy.
But that is not easy.
Another company can put its hand into the project by creating sequences which need extensive work and preparation. But this is way too expensive in my mind. We already have our hands on the game and we can create the required assets in a fraction of the time it would take them. Marketing people are often concerned about our excessive creative impulses that don’t always take into account their needs. This problem is never solved.
Keeping the scales balanced is almost impossible and could result in a weak trailer both commercially and artistically.
So which way do you tip the scale?
Fortunately Wired (our publisher) really appreciates the artistic aspect and believes, like us, that it’s important to communicate it with this game.
The team still curses at the thought of making a trailer, but that is always the case!
Would you think that the team is bad-tempered? …
I don’t think so, they are just aware of what making a trailer means for them! They know time is always too strict and they know that I will have some ideas during the process… we’ve worked together for almost 10 years!
Take a look at the following diary I tried to write while we were making the previous release date announcement trailer with MetaHuman tech – I think you’ll understand!
I’d like to start it with an epic sentence by our Creative Producer, Achim. The deadline was already so strict and the potential result was not clear and tough to estimate, we were only just starting the work with the new tech. In a conversation with Achim, I said that in Italy, other than saying good luck, we have a very popular superstitious gesture when it comes to talking about luck and unluck.
When I thanked him for something, he remembered that, he obviously had a laugh and wrote: “You guys are working your butts off and we are only touching balls.” …might even be a good title for this blog. (Editor – Yes, but also no)
Time was strict and we needed to make the trailer using Metahuman, and not a normal character of Metahuman. We had to find a way to modify a standard metahuman character to make it look like our main character; Giulia, and her sister Martha.
It was not easy. We were still searching for a smart solution when work had already begun on the trailer.
DAY 1 – Friday, November 12
It seems that our initial problems are solved and we’re now able to modify the model in order to make it look like Giulia. Martha needs further modifications to her mouth and ears. Lorenzo No sent some screenshots and for the first time, the model looks familiar to me… I think we are heading in the right direction.
In the meantime, Lorenzo Co and Antonio are working together to start the animations. Lorenzo Ca is trying to make Martha cry… just a little. I would like a single tear to appear in one eye, stay there for a while, almost trying to go back but then fall down, if the visuals are good enough we’ll go for a more close-up framing, otherwise, we’ll stay with the established framing we already have.
If no problems occur… I think we can do Scene 2 (without speaking) and Scene 11 with voice, I then must find something to put in between, before and after to reach one minute or so.
I don’t have a final idea yet but I feel that it would be nice to use something with Giulia’s voice, this way we can give the impression of greater use of the character, we may also not see her in a few scenes.
Tomorrow I’ll figure out “what that is”.
As for the hair, we are forced to use one of the few Metahumans options. Modifying it is taking too long. No time for that. We have three possible options (note: the model shown below is not the modified one):
This one is not good. Too puffy. This one is better, but there is something wrong.
The style doesn’t match the character nor the epoch Too polished, too ‘good girl’ for Giulia. Giulia is not like that, she’s more savage.
This is the best one in my opinion. It’s timeless and matches well with the character and her raw nature. Moreover, it looks similar to the hairstyle used for the key artwork.
We are going to work over the weekend… I promised my team a 3 day break after this 🙁 I will be joining them of course!
I’m still not optimistic out of superstition and also out of character.
Let’s see… I don’t know what else to say here, but in Italy as mentioned before, we say – in addition to fingers crossed, let’s touch our balls! So all of you please… touch your balls! – For good luck!
DAY 2 – Sunday, November 14
It rained heavily yesterday evening and the temperature has dropped… from spring to winter in a single day. It’s better this way really, as we won’t suffer so much having to stay in front of a screen for 16 hours. 😉
Antonio is working on the draft animation. A draft because he is working on a different model which he will then bring onto the final model when the animation has been reviewed and corrected.
We’re trying to set everything right, but the feeling is to have a too short blanket 🙁
The model is going on.
Lorenzo No is working to make the model as similar as possible to Giulia and also on Martha’s mouth and ears. We guess it will be finished today.
Lorenzo Ca is working with Houdini on the tear, but he is just defining the way it will work because he needs the final model in order to produce the final effect.
Unfortunately, Lorenco Co (yes, we have 3 Lorenzos!) is not with us due to personal problems and this is quite an issue because he is the one who takes care of rigging, adjustment and everything else needed to have the model in UE, ready to be animated and rendered. So right now we must wait for tomorrow to see if everything will be fine, in the meantime – Still something to reshape a bit!
At least the model is now beginning to match the original human model (her name is Livia) almost perfectly! Time to add a few extra details (and remove others!)
DAY 3 – Monday, November 15
Monday has started.
A new Channel on Discord was created a couple of hours ago, you already need more than a minute to scroll through all of the messages.
The modified model is making its trip from Maya to UE. We received very bad news – The main animator will be off until Wednesday. PANIC!
Francesco is already animating the hands and he will also do the facial animation, at least to create a draft with which we can set up the scene.
I’m waiting for a UE scene with the models in it, to work out the framing, lighting and to start testing some close-ups.
The atmosphere is tense.
Right now Lorenzo Co is pushing the SK of Martha and Giulia in the project, it will take a bit. It is the moment of truth…
Okay folks we’re gonna leave that one there for now! We’ll have part two up for you NEXT YEAR! (Editor – Don’t be dramatic, it’s only a week away)
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