Responses by Noah Harris, creative director, Elastic
Background: The piece serves two purposes. Firstly, it’s the opening titles for the new game in the Gears of War series, Gears 5, and secondly, it’s a narrative device. The title sequence depicts a dream that Kait, the game’s main protagonist, is having. The game itself starts when she wakes from the nightmare.
Reasoning: The aim was to create something that was visually beautiful, but also unsettlingly unpleasant. The whole piece takes place in the human body. We start on a macro level, and gradually expand out to reveal recognizable parts of the body, all under attack from a voracious virus. The fact that the virus includes growing crystals meant we could explore this beauty and horror juxtaposition. Rolling seas of bodily fluids were grim but the clusters of glittering, amber crystal were nice.
Challenges: It’s tricky to balance something that is visually abstract with the need to tell a story. This is a title sequence, so it needs to deliver names on screen, but it also needs to segue perfectly into the game itself. The narrative underwent quite a bit of evolution as we got further into the project. There was also a lot of research and development in how we could create the look for the different elements of the film. I wanted the virus to create a lot of heat, which blistered the flesh and allowed rot to set in. This process would then create a magma-like pus, which seeps and erupts out through the damaged tissue. Then, the crystals grow, and the body is invaded by alien tendrils. All of these ideas are complex to achieve in CG, especially when you’re going for a realistic feel.
Visual influences: Crystal growth; lava flows; flesh; blood; brains; bones; organs; surgery. I wanted to start the film as if we had shot it using electron microscopes. The opening frames are of the dormant body. Then, we pull the camera out until we culminate in the epic ribcage cavern, the beating ravaged heart hanging center over a raging sea. Heavily influenced by John Martin, I wanted this scene to feel like the body had become the depths of hell.
Anything new: This is the first piece we’ve done since I joined Elastic. So, there was quite a learning curve all around. CG often only plays a small part in the films I make, and this was full-on CG throughout. My direction, briefing and ideas may have confused the hell out of a few people, but I reckon if I whittled down my references for a shot, I have more of a chance of getting my thinking across.
Alternative approach: Something like this project needs lots of time and there is never enough. However, time also lets me dick about and change everything, which isn’t ideal for a production process! I wish I had more time, but perhaps Elastic was glad I didn’t.