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Ambersphere Solutions supports Guitar Hero Live

Ambersphere Solutions supports Guitar Hero Live
Ambersphere Solutions supports Guitar Hero Live

UK – The gaming market is undeniably a huge part of the 21st Century entertainment industry but, until now, the graphics nature of the format meant there was little crossover between it and the live entertainment sector. All that is about to change. Between October 2014 and March 2015, lighting designer Steven Douglas was busy lighting a live stage at the Backstage Centre in Purfleet and also at LH2 as part of the new Guitar Hero Live! game, which uses live action footage as the gameplay.

Douglas explains the process in more detail: “The game has been designed to break away from computer style graphic style music games and be the first to integrate live action footage as the gameplay. The player’s first person perspective is that of being on stage with an audience of up to 100,000 reacting to your performance. We filmed live bands with a real audience of 200-400 extras on a real stage in front of a 
green screen which is where the backgrounds, etc would be placed later in post-production. Filming took place as single take shots with a huge motion capture camera called the bolt which is capable of reproducing camera movement over and over to the nearest millimetre.
 We were able to film both positive and negative reactions from both the audience and the fellow band mates so that when you are playing well they react positively to you and if you start playing badly in the game the video swaps to the negative reaction and they start booing and abusing you. Because the camera reproduces the movement and all the bands and audience are in the same positions then it’s only the reactions that change. Rather than a big jump cut, it moves almost seamlessly from one reaction type to the other.”

From a lighting designer’s point of view, Douglas had to be constantly aware of avoiding shadows from the huge mobile camera or its track to maintain the illusion that it was actually the gamer playing on stage. Everything had to be tightly choreographed and programmed so that each and every playback was identical, shadows or reflections of the rig being seen on the drum kit would ruin the effect.

Douglas opted for a rig generously populated with Clay Paky fixtures: Sharpys, Sharpy Washes and Alpha Beams along with some B-Eye K20s for certain shots. For control, Douglas is a dedicated MA user so it was a grandMA2 that took care of the tightly programmed rig. “Each level has its own theme – indie rick, female rock, pop, metal – and the game’s director and designer were both keen to keep everything as authentic as possible, so my experience of lighting festivals came in very handy. You never know what is coming next!”

“The Sharpys, Sharpy Washes and Alpha Beams were pretty much main stays of the entire shoot. Being able to get small fixtures with loads of output was ideal as sometimes we would have to add in fixtures on the fly if something in the choreography was changed on the day. And being assured we could rig them quickly, they would do the job and be reliable made them the perfect choice.”

“Glyn, Lee and Philip from Ambersphere Solutions were a great help as always,” continues Douglas. “Philip Norfolk came on set a few times and was able to advise how best to capture all the DMX outputs, etc for the computer graphics guys to be able to reproduce my fixtures within the green screen footage so that everything matched up exactly.”

“This was a very challenging project from a lighting point of view,” concludes Douglas. “We first had to light the performance as if it were a regular show then step through adding keylights where required for band members and set using the pre-visual animatic as a guide for where the camera would be looking. Then of course there is a lot of audience lighting to be added along with always being aware that the giant camera rig had to remain invisible and without throwing any sort of shadow. So we ended up using a blend of traditional rock & roll lighting, TV audience lighting and some whole new tricks to help hide the camera shadow. The combination of great fixtures and superb control made this both an exciting and successful project.”

Ambersphere Solutions supports Guitar Hero LiveAmbersphere Solutions supports Guitar Hero Live

19th November 2015

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