Matrix FX chief on managing the movie-game divide

Will the film and game industries ever learn to work in unison? John DesJardin takes attendees into the belly of the beast.

SAN JOSE--As the visual effects supervisor for Matrix: Reloaded and Matrix: Revolutions, John DesJardin knows more than a little bit about the art and science of special effects. As the man in charge of getting visual effects assets to the Enter the Matrix game development team, he also knows some of the ins and outs of meshing film and game production schedules. His keynote address for the GDC's visual arts track, "Workflow Convergence: How Motion Picture Pipelines are Merging with Game Development," addressed some of these issues.

One key disconnect lies in different production methods. From a filmmaker's point of view, it's acceptable for special effects shots to be delivered at the end of the production cycle. But game developers need these shots much earlier in the process. DesJardin admitted that at the beginning of the project, he "didn't know what a gold disc deadline was," and was surprised to find that the game developers wanted final assets in January for a May launch.

In some cases, the film crew hadn't completed final versions of necessary shots. Though DesJardin felt that cutting scenes from the game was a possibility, in the end, they found another way to deal with these shots. In many cases, they delivered nonfinal assets. DesJardin admitted that in some cases these shots were "very different from what was used in the film" but felt that this was an acceptable compromise in the effort to release the game on schedule.

Another potential stumbling block DesJardin mentioned was control issues. Directors want to have input on games based on their properties. "It's how they maintain brand consistency and protect the franchise," said DesJardin. But filmmakers' unfamiliarity with game development can make this very difficult. DesJardin pointed out that this highlighted the need for a way to give filmmakers information about games under development in a way that they understand.

In closing, DesJardin pointed out that despite significant remaining differences, motion picture pipelines and game development are growing closer and closer. He believes that this may be the time for the two industries to make an explicit attempt to share production techniques, thus setting the stage for closer collaboration in the future.

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