Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Nazgul vision sequences!

Added on by Tony de Waal.

At the mid point of my time with Digital Dimension, Monolith, the makers of Shadow of Mordor, approached us to create vision sequences for the sequel, Shadow of War. DD created the vision sequences for the first game, so it was a natural choice for us to take on sequel and build upon the great work DD had done on the first game.

Monolith was gracious enough to entrust me to direct these vision sequences, this time revolving around how the kings of men were twisted into the Nazgul, the same ringwraiths that stalk Frodo through Lord of the Rings.

Working with DD's talented art team, we took these scenes from script to final over most of 2016. I am pleased to finally be able to show off our hardwork. Congrats to everyone at DD and Monolith on the job well done.

From 0:00 to 5:55 are the scenes from Shadow of War, beyond are the scenes DD did for the first game, Shadow of Mordor.

Virtual-Reality Projects Get Hollywood Treatment

Added on by Tony de Waal.

Posted on the Wall Street Journal

Nearly a year ago I headed down to The Third Floors Los Angeles studio. One of the projects I was on was a proof of concept for Robert Stromberg creating a cinematic story orientated short for the Oculus Rift.

The piece was largely created at the TTF London office whom had some expertise creating long runtime shots(Gravity) and Unreal. However the Los Angeles studio had the, new at the time, Oculus HD prototype along with Robert being in town gearing up for the release of Maleficent.

Given I had a good amount of experience with Unreal 3 on the Mass Effect series, I needed to bridge the gap between the London team and Los Angeles. Quickly getting the basics of Unreal 4 and it's differences from Unreal 3, I worked to tune the experience to run well on the Rift learning a boat load about the "do's" and "don't" of cinematography in virtual reality.  Interfacing with Robert, gathering input and roughing in feedback for the team back in London was a small part of the job. The problem solving of standing up cinematics in a game engine was extremely handy for this project as many aspects are similar.

Where it gets tricky with VR is not being able to use the usual toolbox of tricks to deal with stuff off camera since the user can see everything all the time. A much more intense level of technical understanding was needed to deal with assets in a way that would respect the video card bottleneck, the key hardware aspect to a positive experience on the rift.

Its' great to see that this is where that project went, allowing TTF to partner up with some great directors to take this forward to the next stage.

Here's a pic of that HD prototype. :)

The HD Prototype

The Walk, Into the Woods and Unbroken

Added on by Tony de Waal.

I had started this post several months ago right before X-mas however my trusty Alienware M18x laptop decided it was a good time to die. After a couple months of trying to make it run to no avail, and getting a nice desktop computer back in the house I can finally finish this post. :) 

Early December Sony Pictures released a trailer for Robert Zemeckis's new film, The Walk. The story of French high-wire artist Phillippe Petit's attempt to cross the Twin Towers in 1974. I was brought in to work on the trailer for this film. While conceptually we started with a continuous shot for the whole trailer which the studio went away from, the final shot of the trailer I created remained intact. My work can be scene 1:35 on on. 

Christmas Day was a big movie day for me. Two feature films I had the honor of doing Previs on via The Third Floor were released. Angelina Jolie's Unbroken and Disney's Into the Woods.

For Unbroken I needed to fly to Australia on short notice (3 days) and setup a new previs team to begin work on the film at the Fox studio lot in Sydney. Training up a new team of artists, coordinating with the previs supervisor back in Los Angeles as well as doing a few shots myself. 

Summer of 2014 Disney approached us to flesh out a couple of their musical numbers for Into the Woods. While the film had already been shot, they were doing a pickup session in a few weeks and needed some previs work to figure out the sets, layout, set dressing and character movements to work with the music that had already been created. You can see our handy work when Red Riding Hood falls into the wolf's stomach, and when the Baker steels the magic beans from the Witch's Garden. 

Both of these films just came out last week so go pick them up!

The careful football handoff between Design and Cinematics

Added on by Tony de Waal.

I was recently asked to give a brain dump of knowledge I've learn over the many years of creating ingame cinematics. One area I can not stress enough importance on is how a cinematic is started during gameplay and how is gameplay returned. The smoothest flowing cinematic games spend a great deal of time looking at this one aspect and it sticks out when a production doesn't focus on this careful handoff. Here's some examples of how you can address this handoff. This is but a few examples of many possibilities but will hopefully get the gears turning on how you can solve your scenes flow with the gameplay around it.


 What comes before a scene, what comes after? What’s the game designer planning on doing around the scene? How do we trigger a scene, how do we leave it? What are we looking at before the scene starts? Is the scene on a timed start, is it player triggered, is it an area trigger, is it a trigger on an object like clicking on a door? Thinking about these questions and more will allow you to create seamless and smooth transitions from gameplay to the cinematic and back again.  




        You have a scene that follows combat. It is triggered when the last enemy has been killed off. Start into our scene as the last guy drops, mid fall to the ground. You want that tie in through the death animation. If your game is a 3rd person camera, you want to go to a camera that isn’t a medium shot and isn’t behind your character.


        Your scene is triggered as you enter a room. If you’re clicking on the door to trigger the scene, you can start the camera on the inside of the room, preferably showing the door opening and your party entering.The audience will put two and two together that what you're seeing is on the other side of the door we just clicked on. If you're running up to the door and the scene is triggered before you get to it. You may want to show the player and party approaching the door. That’s easily done through an OTS shot following your player, however if the game is a 3rd person then that will feel like a jump cut, so you need to design different shots to work your way into that room. In a case like this I might go to the designer and ask if the scene can be triggered on touching the door which is probably a straightforward change for him, and saves the cinematics team a day or two of extra shot work.


    Your scene ends into combat. If it’s a shooter you want to design your cinematic so that the player moves into a cover position so that he doesn’t get mowed down as gameplay resumes. Be mindful of the game camera so that your last shot isn’t an OTS. Maybe your game doesn’t cut back to gameplay, instead  it blends. Now you need to plan for that seamless move. If it blends then you want to work your camera into the game camera position in which case an OTS shot is perfect for this. Hopefully in your mocap recording you’ve matched the gameplay pose that follows. A lot of time can be eaten up working a mocap action into the correct pose.


You might have a situation where the player can be anywhere when the scene starts, it could be easily fixed by having a couple of shots without the player to start then show him/her walking into the scene. You could design the scene so that the first few shots are customized to the players location. You could also try to solve this with gameplay, working with the designer to funnel the player into a more confined location.


There could be a variable set of conditions to take into account, maybe a character featured in a scene is dead at this point due to a prior player choice. Do you play a different scene, swap in a different character, or design the scene in a way that the character isn’t necessary to the conversation (Bruce Willis in The 6th Sense)

Favorite Army of Two Scene

Added on by Tony de Waal.

I've put up m favorite scene from Army of Two The Devils Cartel. Jay Turner and myself got a bit creative with this one and wrote El Carnicero into scene to establish his presence and threat to the players. We also reintroduce a grown up Fiona, well trained to deal with the Cartel.

The grenade kick was one of those funny ideas you have when brain storming that stuck. :)

Top Dungeon & Dragon Games of all time, BioWare captures 3 of the top 5.

Added on by Tony de Waal.

Proud to have worked on these games in the early day's of my career. The Infinity Engine BioWare built for the Baldur's Gate series also powers Planescape Torment and Icewind Dale.

You can find the list here at IGN.

You can see my early work in the cinematics of the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. I also animated several of the creatures in Baldur's Gate 2; The Beholder, Earth Elementals, The Shadow Creature, and the Dragons, and the player character animation set on Neverwinter. The days of animated sprites and 3D animation that would only allow linear key frames.

Behind the scenes of Mass Effect 2

Added on by Tony de Waal.

I recently stumbled across some screen shots I created 4 years ago while on Mass Effect 2. These pictures are from BioWare's flavor of Unreal/Kismet as I worked heavily behind the scenes scripting to stand up almost 75% of the cinematics.

A fresh import from 3dsmax. 

A fresh import from 3dsmax. 

I would start with cleaning up and exporting files out of 3dsmax. Then importing the animations into Unreal and building this Matinee with automated tools we developed on the first game.  

A finished cinematic, fully wired up. 

A finished cinematic, fully wired up. 

I would then wired in characters, cameras, conditional information passed through the scene, dialog selections, as well of a slew of features that basically pause the game, starting a cinematic mode and back. Depth of Field, gun selections, lighting, vfx and audio ques are all wired in.  

A small part of the final run of the game. A matinee within each of the blue nodes.

A small part of the final run of the game. A matinee within each of the blue nodes.

Here's an example of a finished sequence of cinematics with branching scenes depending your choices throughout the game. 

Good times! :)

The Third Floor, Inc. Montreal!

Added on by Tony de Waal.

It's been nice to have the time to properly recover from a hard project. Even better that I was able to get some personal projects around the house done; basement, roof, shed, garden, but I longed for making some movies. After 4 months off it was time to get back into the fold.

I am pleased to announce I have joined Hollywood Previs studio The Third Floor, Inc.. I will be heading up their new business development here in Montreal.

We're early on but we will be building a team here in Montreal to produce the highest quality previs in the industry.

Third Floor is best known for producing previs for feature films like the Avengers, Total Recall, Iron Man 3, and many more.

Stay Tuned!


Check out our website here. http://www.thethirdfloorinc.com 

Zack Wards Short Film Experiemental, featured on Ain't It Cool News this week

Added on by Tony de Waal.

A good friend of mine, the legendary Zack Ward from A Christmas Story, Titus, Postal, and many more directed the short film, Experimental.  On a tight budget, he nailed the creepy uneasy vibe making you crave for more.

It's a great scene that I'd love to see open up into a feature film story.

I had the pleasure of working with Zack as he played Alpha in Army of Two: The Devils Cartel.

Another round of Layoffs at EA. :(

Added on by Tony de Waal.

Even more EA Layoffs.   

More friends lost there jobs last week at EA. While I can't give many details I know this most recent cuts was in the 100's. Studios in Vancouver, and a lot of remote working employees reporting into Redwood Shores got let go I hear the marketing teams have also been impacted.  My best guess puts total from when I was let go to now well over 700 people. :(

More Layoffs at EA.

Added on by Tony de Waal.

Reported at Gamasutra. Significant layoffs occurred over at EA. As you know EA shut down Visceral Games Montreal and let go most of Danger Close Games in February. 

This time I hear it's the entire 250-300 team at EA Mobiles Montreal studio along with all QA.  This only leaves BioWare Montreal left who's doing the next Mass Effect game.

I've also heard of several other studio's having some smaller cuts with this latest shutdown.

Sad to hear more former colleagues got let go. EA's clearly in a financial panic trying to cut costs. It's a shame as they will need to staff back up in a year as the next gen gaming ramps up, in the end it will cost them more.

Welcome to my new site!

Added on by Tony de Waal.

Welcome to my new website! www.tonydewaal.com  a site to promote myself, who I am, what I do, and my work. 

Bear with me as I setup the site, I am new to this. :)