To announce the arrival of the latest installment of legendary video game franchise Ninja Gaiden Z, our friends at Spark Unlimited asked us to design a series of short videos depicting the game's back story.
Working with illustrators in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle, we built four cut-scenes in two distinct styles.
The first style, inspired by Japanese Sumi art, was used to show the past life of the protagonist Yaiba. The second style was a cel shade used to represent Yaiba in the present.
The task of turning still images into moving animation was tricky and required a multifaceted system and a sizable team of VFX experts. First we had to cut each image into separate pieces to be able to move each element individually from one another.
Simultaneously, various artists built additional elements to populate the backgrounds our characters interacted with. Everything from a flaming runaway train to a busted factory was intricately built in After Effects.
With everything in place, the team then had to "direct" the characters through their various scenes. We decided to use dramatic camera moves to create motion rather than having the actual characters move through frame. That meant our team had to build each graphical element in a fully realized manner so no matter where the camera went the world was still present.
Once we finished the animation we brought in actors to voice the various characters and a composer to score the scenes.
The final versions debuted at the mecca of gaming conventions - E3.