Halo 4 'Enlist'

November 2012

The traditional TV spot is out of date, literally, when compared to the immediacy provided by the internet, but the advent of live advertising is changing that. Take the live betting adverts from bet365.com featured in the Euro Championships during the summer for example. Now McCann London is pushing the technique with the help of Framestore in this TV advert for Halo 4.

The spot isn’t about showing off the game’s graphics, it offers only the briefest of in-game glimpses, but about connecting with those playing via Xbox Live. ‘Live’ being the operative word because it will feature the number of players (or in the Halo universe, UNSC recruits) online, correct to within five minutes of broadcast. Players can also sign up through the Halo 4 Roll of Honour Facebook app for a chance to have their names and profile pictures featured.

McCann London approached Framestore to create the 20-second spot, which takes the form of a plea for more fighters, and also to handle delivery of the final masters to the stations. The eye immediately focuses on the insert graphics, but a huge amount of work has gone into the surroundings.

The abandoned spaceship environment, the robotic arm that unfolds in front of the camera and the monitor that extends from it are all completely CG, created by the New York team using Maya. The inserts themselves – which will house live data – were designed and made by Framestore in After Effects, who also directed the animation.

“It really pushes what is capable in a new-media commercial”

“What started out as a brief to model a generic screen displaying some graphics, turned into a full CG environment build” explains Framestore NY Producer, Sumer Zuberi. “The screen became quite a complex model. It was also completely transparent, meaning that we would clearly see the room and surrounding environment through it."

“With quite a short turnaround we began modelling the entire environment at the same time that the animator was developing the camera move. With only a low resolution QuickTime as our reference we had to model everything in the room, create all materials and textures from scratch, animate, light and render this 400 frame shot within a couple of weeks.”

“Having experience of other similar set-extension work, along with [CG Supervisor] Jenny Bichsel's background in architecture and design meant this was the perfect all-in-one job! The team here at Framestore relish this kind of brief. It plays to our strengths and really pushes what is capable in the new-media commercial.”

Seamless live advertising

The live elements were placed in at different times, with the 15 profile pictures of the latest ‘recruits’ inserted a few hours before transmission by Framestore, with the three best players having their names read out as well. The film was then delivered with a blank space for the total number of players online, which Red Bee Media and Channel 4 inserted moments before broadcast using Orad.

Tests were made to make sure the same look and animations were applied to the live figure, so it sits believably as part of the advert, rather than looking like it is being inserted right at the last minute. Although, technically, that’s exactly what happened!

There were 20 transmissions in total, the first going out on 9 November a few days after Halo 4’s global release. The campaign also aired in France, Germany and Spain, with Framestore managing all versioning and delivery.

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