BlizzCon 2016 Overwatch Animated Shorts Panel Transcript

This is a full transcript of the BlizzCon 2016 Overwatch Animated Shorts Panel. Among the panelists were the following game developers:

  • Kevin Vanderjagt (senior producer)
  • Ben Dai (director)
  • Shimon Cohen (CG supervisor)
  • Corey Pelton (senior in-game animation artist)
  • Bill La Barge (FX lead)
  • Dan Cox (lightning supervisor)

 

BlizzCon 2016 Overwatch Animated Shorts Panel Transcript

Kevin: Welcome everybody to the BlizzCon 2016 panel for the Overwatch animated shorts. How is everybody doing? Thanks for coming out. I’m Kevin Vanderjagt, producer for the animated shorts; and with me today is Ben Dai, director of Recall, Dragons, and The Last Bastion, Shimon Cohen: overall CG supervisor for the episodes, Corey Pelton: animation lead for Alive, Hero and Infiltration: Bill La Barge: our effects lead for RECALL, DRAGONS and also INFILTRATION; and Dan Cox, the overall lighting supervisor for the episodes.

 

Just 2 years ago to the day, Blizzard Entertainment announced Overwatch; and for that announcement the team here at Blizzard Animation produced an absolutely stunning 6 minutes cinematic trailer that not only introduced us to the world, but also some of its most iconic heroes, villains, and it really set the stage for what fans can expect from the franchise going forward.

What many of you may not realize is that that cinematic took over 12 months of preproduction and production from start to finish, and required over 300 man months of artist labor. Regardless of the cost, it was really clear from the community reaction that the fans wanted more, and when Blizzard got together with the heads of the department, they had one simple question: “How do we tell more stories?” The answer, unfortunately, is never as simple; and the road we took to get from there to get to here is predominantly what we will be talking about in today’s panel.

Now in order to accomplish that goal: to tell more stories, it was going to require us to produce the same amount of content as the cinematic trailer, but in a quarter of the amount of time, and with less than half the artist resources per episode; and that meant at any stage we have as many as three episodes in production simultaneously.

So to release 6 episodes in the last year meant we were really going to have to change not only our production process, but also the technology that we used under the hood to accomplish that goal. But before we get too far into all that, it’s probably best we start where every episode starts: the process of creating great story; and no one is better suited to that than one of our very own directors: Ben Dai.

Pre-Production & Story

BEN: So story, let’s talk about how we make these stories. For the episodes, we did something a little different. We did a whole lot of collaboration with the game team; we identified a bunch of stakeholders from the game team which included Jeff Kaplan, Arnold Tsang, Bill Petras, and Michael Chu; and they will come over to our part of the building maybe two times a week, meeting to try and break the story, and figure out what we will try to do. On our side we have Chris Metzen, James Waugh, and Jeff Chamberlain (all the episode directors and writers).

Overwatch Animated Shorts

 

Every story came from an idea or a theme, and anybody in that brain-trust can pitch an idea. Once we have the idea, we go on to the storybeats; and the storybeats basically are sequence of events that supports the story, and sometimes we even go as far as drawing some of these beats out in storyboards that we call beatboards. I will get to that later.

Once we have all the beats in a proven way to go the writer would start writing the script for all the episodes. Basically, they take all the beats, putting them in sequential order, flesh out all the dialogue and VO (voice over), and making sure that the story is entertaining to read on paper.

 

Now that we have a script approved we start our preproduction, and the first stage of preproduction usually involves concept drawings. We start with a blue sky concept period.

 

Basically, the director will pitch the story idea to a group of extremely talented concept artists, and they will just go draw.

 

There are no wrong or bad ideas. All these drawings are super inspirational, and some of these drawings or paintings that you see might end up being inspiration for the actual shots.

 

Once we have a number of blue sky drawings we start our next phase of concept, which are production concepts.

 

Next: Production Concept

BLIZZCON 2016 OVERWATCH ANIMATED SHORT PANEL TRANSCRIPT
StoryProduction Concept3D ModelingAnimationFX TeamTechnology
LightningSound Design

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003. I post news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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