(Ed note--John McLean has been in Los Angeles for the past five weeks, working on the studio production segment of Wing Commander III. He files this report on the goingson when the lights came on at the Wing III set.)
(Los Angeles) Origin's most ambitious interactive title to date, Wing Commander III, has just completed principal photography at Hayvenburst Studio in Los Angeles.
Under the direction of Chris Roberts this live action portion of the game promises to inaugurate a new era of cutting edge entertainment, both for ORIGIN and the entertainment industry as a whole.
Some 60 hours of footage were recorded on two adjacent sound stages during the 25-day shoot. What's more, for the first time in cinematic history not a single 'real' set was used in the production. Instead, every angle of every background was created from scratch on ORIGIN's own computers. The WC3 art department under the guidance of Chris Douglas and with the assistance of Silicon Graphics workstations and Alias software generated the dozens of impressive sets in which the story takes place.
The production involved more than 80 experienced film professionals who put in 12 to 18 hour days in order to realize Chris Roberts' vision of the final chapter of the Terran-Kilrathi struggle. The name talent includes the likes of Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys-Davies, Tom Wilson, Jason Bernard, Courtney Gaines and the ever popular Ginger Lynn-Allen.
Without exception, the actors were fascinated by the process of interactive moviemaking. After mastering the technical requirements of playing their roles while moving around an 'empty' stage, the talent began to take an active interest in the technology used to create Wing Commander III. This ranged from simple Hardware Envy of the formidable array of equipment the Origin team brought to LA (including an SGI Indigo, a Pentium, two Quadra 950s, two 486s and our ubiquitous lap-tops) all the way up to hands-on tinkering with our state-of-the-art AVID 1000 digital editing system.
Although always intense and frequently frustrating, the shoot progressed without any major complications thanks in part to a close monitoring of contracts, budgets and schedules by resident 'suits' in both Austin and San Mateo.
Taking advantage of a well-budgeted, live-action production is the free publicity the project attracts, and Wing Commander III was no exception. Due to the persistent effects of Origin's marketing department, the computer press turned out in force. Besides being dazzled by our technological feats of high-tech entertainment, they were visibly wowed by having the opportunity to sit down with household names such as Mark Hamill and fire off questions about the future of this new medium. But our press didn't stop there. Among other visitors to the set were representatives of the Today show, VH-1, the Los Angeles Times, Premiere, the Associated Press and USA Today. And if their reactions were any indication, the buzz on WC3 is that it's gonna be the hit software title of the year!
Meanwhile back in Austin...
Origin's programmers, led by director Frank Savage, have made rapid progress in building the backbone of the game itself. They've faced hurdles involving image compression, mission design and building a game that lives up to the hype--no mean feat.
In the weeks ahead, the live-action footage will be edited down to a tight 90-110 minutes of dramatic material. Final compositing will take place at Electronic Arts' D-suite in San Mateo and then brought back to Austin to be married with the remaining components of the game.
Look for Wing Commander III to hit retail outlets everywhere for Christmas of 1994.