Articles in Expanded Cinematography®:


"Games, Cinema and Cinematography"

by GCI Co-Founder Yuri Neyman, ASC


Video games is the fastest growing multi-billion dollar industry and in the modern society it is approaching a level of the influence of other forms of art, such as films and literature. Video game plots and the demand for visual sophistication and design already requires the image creating experience from professionals who are equally knowledgeable in traditional and virtual cinematography.


Cinematography is an art, which requires mastering of a constantly evolving craft. The goal of the Global Cinematography Institute is to prepare cinematographers like postgraduate students and veteran filmmakers to take advantage of on-going advances in digital and virtual cinematography technologies.


The industry, directors, cinematographers, VFX experts, game-players – all are talking about the relations between video games and cinema, and more.


The recent article in Time magazine - “The Hollywood Cinematographer Has a New Job Path: Video Games” just moved the debate into the new field: the role of cinematographers and cinematography in the current and future of games production.


Games are now part of modern popular culture like film, comics, TV series & animation. Franchises like Call of Duty, Halo, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed have reached a modern myth status like their film or TV counterparts, Star Wars or Star Trek. Today, with the next generations of consoles, games are evolving toward a similar high-end imagery, finally very close to film imagery.


“Games Cinematography” has become an important part of our Expanded Cinematography℠ course where the traditional cinematographer’s “toolkit” such as light, color, camera, and composition are used to create an emotional interactive experience in games.


The narrative and interactive components of a video game, “game play” and “cinematics” (real time or “pre” or “post rendered”), have their own constraints, running complex imagery at 30 or 60fps on various “game engines” and hardware. The game genres: first-person shooter, adventure games, and MMO (massively multi-player online) games have a deeper impact on the visuals, presentation and cinematography than in more traditional narrative media (Film, TV, Comics, Animation).


The state of the art techniques used for high end VFX & virtual productions like the film Tin-Tin or such (performance motion capture), are more or less used daily in the game industry to create a significant larger amount of content. A game is much closer to a full TV season in terms of the amount of content produced, rather than a 90 min feature film.


It’s very interesting to see the converging trend toward the “virtual” stage, with full capture, virtual camera, real time lighting. Hi-end games & VFX blockbusters are and will be more or less “captured” the same way. Games are now color corrected like film. Game cinematography is rapidly evolving and is re-inventing, in a similar way, what film has gone though in the first part of the 20th century. Games are closer to film and TV than animation.


While Game Cinematography is a relatively new concept within the game studios, there’s now a real need for experts in imagery to push further the visual boundaries of that fast moving industry, and to start actively use achievements of the new Expanded Cinematography®


Many traditional film companies like Technicolor have announced that it has established a new high-end game art and animation team dedicated to working with Rockstar Games. “This partnership reinforces Technicolor’s strong commitment and strategy to growing its art and animation business for the video game industry and we are proud to work with cutting edge industry leaders like Rockstar Games,” said Tim Sarnoff, President of Technicolor Digital Productions.


Company 3 President and Founder Stefan Sonnenfeld worked with game developer Treyarch to color-grade Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which was released by Activision Publishing in 2012. "The creation of Company 3 Games represents a new level of collaboration between game developers as well as publishers and providers of feature-film-level post services," said Sonnenfeld.


According to Lucasfilm, “We think that computer graphics are going to be so realistic in real time computer graphics that, over the next decade, we'll start to be able to take the post out of post-production; where you'll leave a movie set and the shot is pretty much complete." Lucasfilm is confident in this concept and has been testing it in the development of a series of prototypes created with the team at Lucasfilm's motion picture visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).


For Cinematographers, it means that video games will use more and more phrases and words from the “Language of Cinematographer” and an increased use of the cinematographic language in video games.


One publication noticed, “Often, video-game directing and game play are directly inspired from memorable sequences of famous movies. Among the most plagiarized directors one can name John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator), James Cameron (Terminator 1 & 2, Aliens, Abyss), George Lucas (the Star Wars saga), John Carpenter (Escape From New York, Los Angeles 2013), Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner), Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park), etc. Many major games hint at their graphic and thematic models: Blade Runner for Omikron (PC, 99), Tim Burton's gothic aesthetic (Batman 1 & 2, Edward Scissor Hands, Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow) for MediEvil (PS, 98), Georges Romero's horror flicks (the Living Dead Trilogy) for the Resident Evil saga (PS, 96, 98, 00).”


"As cinema builds universes and stories, video games seize these and use them as canvas to create on", explains Gérard Delorme, one of the leading researchers in the field video games. "The links between cinema and video games is close to the one between literature and cinema. The latter feeds on the former. Even though video gaming might overthrow cinema's position as the most thriving entertainment industry, it will always need cinema, just like cinema needs novels to adapt".