Who was there: Ubisoft's cross-media push will yield a one-two game/live-action short film combo next year with the release of Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Ghost Recon Alpha. To speak about the connection between the two, Alpha director Francois Alaux, technical adviser Harry Humphries, and photography director Trent Opaloch joined Future Soldier producer Adrian Lacey.
What they talked about: The "Hollywood and Ghost Recon Join Forces" panel began with what Lacey called an exclusive trailer for Future Soldier, though it recycled much of the same footage shown at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo. It began with a submerged warfighter, who was apparently on a ship that was destroyed. As he fights desperately to the surface, blood-gushing bodies are shown sinking around him.
The trailer then transitions to shots of cloaked commandos taking cover while engaged in intense firefights, as well as images of other soldiers making use of the game's cloaking technology to dispatch enemies. The trailer ends with a heavily coordinated attack, which was shown at E3, where a cloaked soldier approaches four enemies surrounding an SUV. Then, all four are taken out at the same time.
Alaux, who won an Oscar for Logomora, was then given the stage to show off a teaser for his live-action, 20-minute adaptation of the Ghost Recon franchise, Alpha. Before rolling the clip, the director noted that it was still a work in progress, as it did not yet have the final special effects that will be added during postproduction.
That said, the trailer showed what appeared to be an Eastern European industrial site that had been converted into a military compound. A primary villain is shown surrounded by an entourage of gun-toting cronies, and then quick cuts are shown of various Ghost squad specialists, including a sniper and precision weapons men. With a signal, the Ghost team strikes, eliminating much of the enemy threat immediately, though the leader manages to escape in an SUV.
Following the trailers, the panel transitioned to a roundtable discussion, with Lacey first noting that the live-action film was the natural progression of the realistic Ghost Recon franchise. It is also a good way to honor the 10th anniversary of the game series, he said. Lacey also emphasized that the film and the game are two separate, but interlinked, stories, with Alpha occurring as a prequel to the game.
Lacey went on to say that while there are crossover elements between the film and game, it was important to give Alaux creative liberty to develop the film. As such, they wanted Alpha to have a story and vision that could live and breath on its own.
Humphries, who is a frequent collaborator with Michael Bay and is also working on the Megan Fox-free Transformers 3, provided the technical training to the actors in the film. He contributed to just the film, he said, training actors to be believable in their specific skill sets. He said this film was particularly enjoyable to do, as it is heavily reliant on action sequences and there is very little talking.
The discussion then shifted to the nuts and bolts of filming, and Opaloch said that he wanted to film it in such a way as to have viewers feel as if they were one of the Ghosts. As such, the camera will be right in with the Ghosts, traveling alongside them, and there aren't any close-up shots of the enemy troops.
Alaux then addressed the future technology that they were incorporating into the film, saying that the team actually had to hold back a bit so as to not give it a Star Wars feel. However, there will be such technology as cloaking and aerial drones in the film, as well as special accoutrements for weapons.
Lacey supported this answer, saying that much of the tech for the game and film was taken from actual advanced prototypes that could soon be deployed on real-world battlefields. Humphries said that this tech relies heavily on exoskeletons and nano technology, and the trick is to first show a very good basic operator and then give him the high-tech gadgets to enhance his ability to fight.
Quote: "These guys accomplish a lot with the look of an eye."--Harry Humphries, on real-world special ops and the lack of dialogue in Alpha.
Takeaway: Alpha's high production values will certainly appeal to fans of the high-action, big-explosion action film genre. It also continues to build on Ubisoft's growing track record of giving its fans entertaining ways to experience their gaming franchises beyond the gamepad.