Axis wows the crowds once again with comedic but gory game trailer

Following the Dead Island trailer was a tough task. But Axis Animation makes it look easy...

Axis's original announcement trailer for the low-key game Dead Island was an unusually affecting experience. When it was released online it quickly gained 14 million YouTube plays, spawned remixes and pastiches and won Axis a range of awards, including a Cannes Gold Lions.

Now the team return to a new sunny resort for an equally original zombie teaser, replacing emotional wreckage with humour and a payoff your eagerly anticipating, the reveal animation for Dead Island 2 matches the quality of the original.

Richard Scott, executive producer at Axis Animation shares some details of the new trailer's production:

What kind of pressure were you under considering the impact the first Dead Island trailer made?

There was a whole lot of expectation on the Dead Island trailer both here at Axis and with the client and their brand team. I'll be honest we were nervous as well as being very excited about trying to create a trailer that would be distinct enough to have its own voice but also create the same impact on audiences that the first trailer did.

With improved technology on PS4 and Xbox One, will more trailers be made using game assets?

I think the short answer to that is yes! There were some stunning trailers created in-engine released this year at E3 and we are very aware of this. We've been building our experience with game engines over the last two years and plan to continue to offer our services as idea creators, storytellers and directors in this area.

A great example was our recent work on Need for Speed: Rivals where we created commercials and a trailer that utilised live action, in-game capture and CGI and we took the creative lead on all of these elements starting from storyboarding and pre-viz all the way to the final picture.

Dead Island 2

"We were nervous but very excited about trying to create a trailer that would be distinct enough to have its own voice," Scott comments

What makes a good game announcement trailer?

A great idea with a great story is what works for us. Engaging audiences via this route works in games, commercials, film, theatre, audiences want to be entertained, it isn't enough to hit them with some great looking visuals and high production values, those are pretty much a given across the entire industry. We spend a lot of time working on the ideas, looking for high level concepts that represent the games brand that we can infuse with story and character.

What was the inspiration for the Dead Island trailer?

The inspiration was essentially California, which is the new setting for the Dead Island world. We talked a lot about what makes California special and director Ben Craig was probing around for different ideas that would be good to add comedy too.

This is when the core idea appeared, Ben talked a lot about the 'vanity' of California and how that would ultimately clash with the deterioration of a zombie outbreak.

What software did you use and can you explain a key challenge of production?

The Axis workflow is built around different software packages which can be broken down into - Modo, ZBrush and Maya for modelling, Maya for rigging and animation, Houdini for Lighting and VFX, Houdini Mantra for Rendering and Digital Fusion for Compositing. These standard software packages are augmented and brought together by a range of in-house software tools including our own Shading, Hair and Rigging tools.

The key challenge on the project was probably a directorial one and we've come across it before. How do you create enough of a sense of story in what is essentially a single shot. We spent a lot of time in pre-viz working on the camera work and the choreography and timing of all the elements that happen around our hero. We even brought in a live action cinematographer to get his take on what he would do to realise the sequence armed with only a camera and a dolly.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Dean is editor of 3D World and has been writing about film, video games and digital art for over 15 years. I have the grey hair to prove it.