How that stunning driving oner leading to the plane crash in ‘The Last of Us’ was previs’d

The team behind the work are from SOKRISPYMEDIA, and they’re presenting on the previs at SIGGRAPH 2023.

You probably know the SOKRISPYMEDIA team from their viral video visual effects work, including the hugely popular ‘Chalk Warfare’ videos. But another of their recent projects was previsualization for the HBO series The Last of Us.

This included several key moments in episode one, such as the dramatic oner shown from within the truck that ultimately includes a fiery plane crash–a scene that was directed referenced from the video game.

SOKRISPYMEDIA is presenting this previs work at SIGGRAPH 2023 in Los Angeles as part of the Real-Time and Pre-Vis and Games, Oh My! set of Talks.

Here at befores & afters, we got a heads-up on what they’ll be discussing at the conference, starting with the toolset they relied upon.

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“We used Unreal Engine’s real-time capabilities along with Xsens capture suits, and a Vanishing Point camera tracking system for real-time camera and performance capture,” explains SOKRISPYMEDIA’s Sam Wickert. “These tools allowed us to directly previs, in real-time, the sequences with performance in an office, showing a final result through Unreal Engine to the team at HBO. We were able to move camera, change simulated focal length / camera settings, and adjust the virtual talent blocking while seeing the scenes play out in real-time—all simulated on the computer.”

The team further utilized Epic’s Metahuman Creator beta to create the characters for the previs. “We were able to match the look of some of the key stars from the show and have rigged characters that we could immediately integrate into Unreal Engine,” adds Wickert. “We also used Unreal Engine’s Control Rig, which made animation adjustments easy and directly in the Unreal Engine sequencer, without having to leave the application. Using animation layers in sequencer also allowed us to make changes on top of motion capture that was recorded based on feedback from online meetings with the director and cinematographer.”

Other tools that came in handy was Unreal Engine’s Live Link, camera tracking and motion capture systems. Says SOKRISPYMEDIA’s Brenda Forde: “These allowed us to seamlessly film performances in real-time over Zoom video calls, to allow stakeholders of the show to provide input into the blocking, camera and performances for the previs. From there we were able to cleanup the sequences and add in additional animations and effects to deliver a final output for the show to reference.”

With so much experience in video production, notably in several areas of production–directing, producing, cinematography and visual effects–SOKRISPYMEDIA was well set up for the previs work. “We have a lot of experience taking projects entirely from start to finish,” notes Wickert. “We often say it has allowed us to become a ‘jack of all trades’ because we’re hands-on in so many areas from pre-production through final image and visual effects. The knowledge and techniques we’ve come to use for our projects through production and post production, as well as implementing game engine technologies in post production, allowed us to take on this previs work in an interesting way. We were excited to use these techniques to deliver this service in an extremely interactive and effective way for the show.”

“Working on our own original content has allowed us to work across the board in delivering a final previs that we feel helps support our client’s creative processes,” continues SOKRISPYMEDIA’s Micah Malinics. “With real-time technology rapidly advancing, previs has continued to grow as a powerful tool in any filmmaker’s belt. Since our team has so many seasoned directors, producers, VFX artists and more, we are able to implement so many of these components into our work on projects like The Last Of Us. Additionally, as we previs our own films and projects, we also have learned to see what components are more valuable than others, and what areas can help maximize decision making for the creative process that so many directors and stakeholders go through before shooting.”

More details of this particular Talks session can be found in the SIGGRAPH 2023’s program. You’ll also find in the program all the info on Production Sessions, the Electronic Theater and incredible history and retrospective sessions owing to this being the 50th anniversary of SIGGRAPH.

befores & afters is a SIGGRAPH 2023 media partner. You can register for the event here:

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