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Grand Theft Auto: RISE, a Live Action Short Film, Plus a Visual Effects Breakdown

12.5.12 @ 8:24PM Tags : , , ,

If you’re looking for an existing property on which to base a short with the potential to blow up online, then transposing a video game to live action is probably the most potent springboard you can find. We’ve seen Dan Trachtenberg elevate the fan film genre in Portal: No Escape, Machinima’s recent Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn be lauded a success and even SXSW get in on the act with their trippy take on Mario. The latest film to do its gaming roots justice is RISE, Russian born director Gevorg Karensky’s take on the rubber burning, dirty dealing franchise Grand Theft Auto:

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Karensky shot RISE over 6 days with a mixture of donated and college borrowed equipment which saw the film’s acquisition formats span the Canon 5D, Canon 7D and RED One. Once the footage was in the can it was time for the real work to began:

After we shot the project, I called all my post-production friends and told them that we are starting on the project. The problem was that they were spread out around the globe, so I created a pipeline and a system for the workflow that would enable anyone to work from any location on the planet, and so we began. We were mostly working on the film from Russia, Germany, Italy, Thailand and a few other places all living in a hybrid time zone.

I supervised the visual effects during the shoot and managed and path of each shot from start to the final output. To make sure the continuity and the pace of the CG vehicles worked, we created a simple animatic and that was the base of the car chase scene on the bridge. We were mostly using Maya 2010 with the default Mental Ray plugin for the lighting of all the CG elements. Instead of building complex studio rig systems for the physics of the digital cars, we found an easier way to make them work with a simple expression code. All the post production was done on regular laptops in order to move around quicker and be able to work on the shots from any point.

A live action short though RISE may be, Karensky’s decision to call back to GTA’s gameplay aesthetic — such as imitating the original’s 3rd person camera view style and displaying equipment overlays and character handles — allows you to be more forgiving of the occasions when the obstacle cars betray their 3D roots. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Matthew Wilcock’s blistering sound design kicks any doubt about the veracity of RISE’s world straight out of your head.

Here’s a making of video, although to be honest it plays more like a teaser spot peperred with BTS shots:

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However, this Visual Effects Breakdown is a little more revealing as to how the live action stunt driving and 3D elements were combined to pull off the chase scene:

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Grand Theft Auto: RISE has wracked up almost 3.7 million views over on YouTube plus a healthy 83K on Vimeo so if it was Karensky’s plan to get people to sit up and notice his work, job done. The question I (and I’m sure he) would like to see answered is how do you convert that much interest into a green light for the next project you want to helm? Feel free to provide that elusive answer in the comments.

Link: Gevorg Karensky


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  • I agree, its the sound design that makes this, really great work on that and i really liked a lot of the camera work. Although the vfx are impressive, they are a little to ambitious i think, and tended to stand out a little to much for my liking.

  • the vfx is cool, the rest was really bad i thought.

  • people must have more imagination regarding their film titles rather than just putting “RISE” after anytthing

  • taking a known property like GTA and producing a well-made short is a great first step into something bigger. In regards to your question, Mar, I believe that if Grevorg really wanted to capitalize on this short & it’s audience to help produce his next work he should have Vimeo Tips enabled and/or something like a Kickstarter campaign for his next project ready to go. With all those views I think he would have no problem raising $50k+ if he had a link before the credits asking the audience to check out his next piece.

  • I was allways wondering where people get money for projects like this?

  • Edit wise, there are a few really clumsy cuts. Also, the “jellocam” is pretty bad on some shots. But the worst sin is how boring it is. Good pacing is really important and was totally ignored here.

  • Fresno Bob on 12.6.12 @ 2:29PM

    I wonder how may of these guys around the globe doing the effects actually paid for their copies of Maya?

    I sometimes think I am the only guy out there who actually pays for his software.

    • Does paying for their copy of Maya have anything to do with the quality of this film?

    • u idiot the world is broke and every beginner gets it free or downloads a demo..

    • My advice: if you make over fifty grand a year on creative projects and use software, you should really buy the software.
      The truth is that until you are making a full time living and doing well, you likely won’t get audited. Likely. So most people just download it, but once you start making money, you better buy the software you use, or it might come back to bite you later!
      I don’t know about many other parts of the world, but in Canada some funding streams / broadcaster agreements automatically trigger an audit (if budget meets a certain amount or more). This is mostly restricted to gov’t funding streams, but is some circles it become even a regular practice (it does help enforce prudent book keeping).

  • they should have left out the vfx, not a single one looked real enough in order to not distract me from the main action, which was quite impressive otherwise.

  • how did they get those third-person shots where the camera is locked on the characters movements? Amazing, I love it.

    • I also would like to know how they did that. Love the feel it produces visually.

    • Yeah, it was like a magic floating snorri cam!

    • I assume they had it rigged to the the upper body of the actor hidden under the jacket and the arm for the cam went either above his head or between his legs. Then they deleted the rig in post. If you look closely to how the actor is moving in those shots, it seems that he is having a hard time because of the weight of the rig. He seems very stiff to me. What do you think?

      • Yeah that sounds possible for sure, considering how much VFX work was put into this short.
        I was also thinking they could have shot those scenes on a boom and used motion tracking to the actor (maybe 3 green dots on his back jacket or something) and locking the frame to him (if shot on red, the higher resolution could have helped, but the increase in camera weight would have made mounting/tracking on a boom all the more harder). This might explain the “stiff” looking movement, he might have been asked to move slowly and deliberately, so they could keep the boom as close to the right position as possible.
        However it was done, it was fun to watch, so bravo!

  • I wonder how much research has gone into the popularity of the source material vs. the popularity of the adaptation (and probably vs. the quality of the adaptation). I’ve been planning off and on a few adaptations that I think have great potential, although they aren’t as popular or as current as something like GTA or Halo.

    What do you guys think? Have there been viral adaptations of obscure source material in the past? How viable is that?

  • Everything was great, except for that chessy fake animation of the guy getting on the face by the truck. To me that ruined the whole thing. Interesting how this was done in a collective international effort.

    • Yeah, that’s what bothered me the most also. It’s the way he turns over after the truck takes him out of the car. I feel he should’ve kepto on turning in the direction the truck hit him, but instead he stops moving that way and turns the other way before he falls. That was a bad animator’s decision.

  • Heckuva DIY project. Of course it’s not blockbuster quality, but that’s hardly the point. Impressive work for something that was clearly out of pocket for the producers.

    I liked the sound design, too. I think the stiff movements by the actor for the third-person shots were to simulate video game movements. Those were stand-out shots for me – very cool effect to blend the video game/short film feel.

  • I thought it was a little boring. I like the idea of it, and it was really exciting to see some of the nuances of the game incorporated into the film, but to me it seemed like it wasn’t sure how much of that to do.

    On the major plus side, the SFX, VFX and sound design are really solid and it’s really encouraging to see what really is a GLOBAL production being done as well as it was.