Making of a KingsIsle Commercial Part II
A short while back, I wrote part one on the making of commercials here at KingsIsle which covers how we make our CGI spots. In part two, I will delve into our recent Wizard101 tournaments spot where for the first time in KingsIsle history we used live actors and a real set for a portion of the commercial.
The starting process for using live action in a commercial is almost identical to how we start a CGI commercial. We have to come up with the overall message of the spot, the storyboards and script. However, from there it gets more complicated as it is like producing two separate commercials (one CGI and one live action) that had to work together with a perfectly smooth transition.
We outlined the four Wizards we wanted to use on the “featured” team. Our goal was to use the Ice and Myth Wizards from our last CGI commercials plus two additional ones. In casting the actors it made for a fun duel process. We needed to find a male and female actor that embodied the Wizards from the previous CGI commercials. We then had to find two actors (one male and one female) that would be the foundation to model the two additional CGI Wizards, one Death and one Fire. It is a fascinating process looking at video castings of so many young actors and really trying to pick out just the right ones. I lost track of how many hours we spent looking for “perfect fits” to be the first ever live action Wizards 🙂
Getting the clothing right was another fun effort. I really wanted to make sure the actors were wearing cool clothes that you would see in the halls of any high school. However, they also had to have a close resemblance to the Wizard101 outfits that the CGI characters would wear in the arena. We knew the color combinations but it was really hard to know how it would work until the actor actually has the outfit on. The day before the commercial shoot we all got together and walked through all the details. This was also when we had each of the actors try on all of the various outfits to figure out exactly the right ones to wear.
Another thing we had to really focus on to get right was the actual location to shoot the commercial. I wanted a locker room feel but one that could just as easily be in our world or in the Spiral. This was a harder thing to find than you might think. We ended up shooting the commercial at a really cool stadium in the Dallas area that had great concrete floors and columns. We had the lockers custom built based on how we thought they might look in a real Wizard101 stadium. We also had the stone benches custom built (side note, they’re now a permanent addition to the KingsIsle offices). A lot of the employees wanted fun items in the commercial so I brought a box of items in to act as “props” on the shelves of the spot. I won’t list all of the items but some of them included Marleyben (the marketing team mascot), a bottle of Falmea hot sauce a fan had sent in, and my old school original clapping monkey from the 1950’s.
The day of the commercial shoot was a whirlwind. There was a huge crew there setting up lights and cameras, dressing the actors and getting their hair and make-up done and a whole flurry of other activity. Once everything was in place we started shooting footage. There was a cool “mist” machine that helped set the ambiance. An interesting aspect was how many shots we had to take to get the short footage actually used in the commercial. This is because there is no second chance to get another shot if we find in production we don’t have what we want. I’ll also call out at this point that I got to have my first appearance in a national commercial. Yep, I played one of the door guards for the Wizards entering the arena. I can hear what you are thinking – “Wow, that was one amazing piece of acting that you did…” 🙂
Once all the footage is captured there was still a huge amount of work to do. We had to take hours’ worth of shots and condense it down to the roughly 15 seconds you saw in the commercial. We had to make sure there was continuity to all the shots – if an actor’s hood was up in one cut, it was the same way in the next cut. Of course we also had to do all the sound effects and post production effects. Our internal KingsIsle sound team is amazing and they really did a great job with this commercial.
Truth be told, I was extremely nervous about using live actors and shooting lives scenes for a KingsIsle commercial. There were a lot of additional risks to adding live action for us. Would we pick the right actors? Would the set look appropriate and have a feel that crosses both our world as well as the world we’ve created in the spiral. Perhaps most importantly, would the live action come across with the believability we feel is so important? Overall I think we were able to navigate through all of these risks and create a commercial I was really proud of but I would love to hear your thoughts. Did you like the commercial? Should we consider using live action again in the future?
Vice President of Marketing