An impressive 4 minute ride of unrelenting action, Warsaw based Writer/Director Tomek Suwalski’s cinematic CGI short Artyom’s Nightmare for 4A Games and Deep Silver, opens up the world of the Metro video game series from its familiar confined tunnels, to a post-apocalyptic Russia where danger lurks across all its varied environments. DN caught up with Tomek to discover how he exercised the creative freedom afforded to him in order to remain true to the tone of Metro Exodus, whilst not slavishly following the events of the new playable narrative.
How do the events we see in this trailer expand upon or set up the playable narrative of Metro Exodus?
The events depicted in the trailer are unrelated story-wise to the playable narrative of the game. It’s a self-contained short story that serves as a teaser of mood and scope of the game and has its own closed storyline.
When taking on a project for a game such as Metro Exodus what type of restrictions do you have to work within with regards to the property the trailer promotes and the goals of the commissioning company?
I work based on the briefs and sometimes they’re very detailed and restricting, but in the case of Exodus, it was very open and liberating. The main point was that in Exodus we travel outside the metro tunnels and witness a post-apocalyptic Russia during all four seasons. Artyom and Anna are very well described both in novels and games and of course, I need to take into consideration who they are as characters. The essence was to capture the unique feeling of Metro and expand it beyond the claustrophobic tunnels while telling a personal story of the protagonist.
I think of cameras, acting and lighting the same as if we were doing it on set.
How does your approach as a director change when crafting cinematic game trailers as compared to your live action work in shorts and music videos?
It doesn’t change at all. My process is pretty much the same and I treat animation the same way as live action. I take all the same pre-production steps and prepare myself extensively. I think of cameras, acting and lighting the same as if we were doing it on set. The only difference is I can tinker with most of the elements till the very end, which in live-action is only possible with re-shoots and you want to avoid re-shoots at all cost.
Could you walk us through the preparatory steps you went through on Artyom’s Nightmare to ensure that CGI processes would be as streamlined as possible whilst limiting the amount of work which would end up on the cutting room floor?
Extensive storyboarding and shot design diagrams for camera angles, characters movement and frame composition. Stillomatics and animatics to get a sense of pace and timing. Previs blocking and proxy environments in preparation for mocap sessions. Precise character and prop mocap with shot variations to be able to juggle things at the editing table. Basically getting the whole framework clear as early in the process as possible and then focusing on the details.
Were there any particularly challenging aspects you came up against in this multi-technique production?
In CGI production there are so many intricacies and things affecting each other, that it sometimes becomes a maze of dependencies. Technical and artistic aspects clash together and we need to overcome those challenges every day. Can’t think of any one particular, it’s pretty much all very challenging.
What are you working on next?
Unfortunately, due to extremely restricting NDAs I can’t answer that.
Artyom’s Nightmare is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.