14 October 2014

"War Thunder: Victory is ours" mini-movie: The background of its creation

At Gaijin Entertainment we pay a lot of attention to the backstory of events in the period covered by the game. Using historical references in our game War Thunder, we also introduce our players to the key events from the Second World War, biographies of heroes, memories of veterans. Together with the Central museum of armoured vehicles in Kubinka, we are now helping restore a T-44. In addition, from time to time we produce short movies, which highlight the heroism of the participants of the Second World War. It is important to us that not only our players know and remember the valour shown, but also all viewers of our videos. In our mini-movies, we demonstrate some of the atmosphere of those times as it seems to us and reproduce it in the game.


"Victory is ours" is our third mini-move, it has recieved over 2 million views and was positively recieved by viewers from all over the world


The idea and the plot of the movie "Victory is ours," was born at the beginning of this year. Developing the idea further, on the eve of the anniversary of “Victory day” it was important for us to show the war from the inside, through the eyes of a Soviet soldier. It was therefore decided to produce a film with live actors. Whilst we were producing the film devoted to the Mediterranean theatre of war - “War Thunder Heroes” - we worked with a British studio, veterans of video trailer production. Together with them, we have created one of the most successful trailers referencing the military. But the British have their own history and their own view on the Second World War and we, the descendants of our Soviet heroes had our own war and own memories of it.


In developing the script, we assumed that the main thing from our point of view, was to express the emotions and perception of battles from the Great Patriotic War that were foremost in the minds of the descendants of those who helped win the war, therefore, it was decided that we should have the following distinctive features in the film:

 

  • The personal heroism and self-sacrifice in the name of victory and comradeship. No matter how difficult, the common cause was always paramount. Often at the cost of sacrifice or even life, the German army was stopped on the outskirts of Moscow, giving military units and elements of industry time to regroup and prepare for battle. With this, Leningrad was held. The Soviet people fought and stood firm. The protagonist of our movie, remained the sole survivor in a trench, he didn't lose spirit and rushes with a bunch of anti-tank grenades against German tanks, while he is aware that he is unlikely to survive. In the video, he also represents the entire Soviet people, battling against the invaders.

  • People fight not only with their bare hands. Starting a war with outdated and inferior machines to the Germans, Soviet industry and designers were able to not only keep pace during a severe situation from the beginning of the war, losing many important industrial centres, but were able to achieve, and then to develop excellence, ensuring future Victory. In "Victory is ours", we show vehicles from 1944, the basic and the most revealing examples of Soviet weapons at the time, received the respect and worldwide fame: the La-5FN aircraft, the IS-2 tank - vehicles demonstrating the strength of Soviet weapons, and their opponents at the time in real combat situations that were possible in reality, and in our game.

  • Victory is not achieved only by desire. War - is serious work. In war, winning is driven by the one who is not only ready to fight to the end, but is more prepared, knows the strengths and weaknesses of their enemy. Pokryshkin, Kozhedub and Emelyanov; Kolobanov and Lavrinenko - continuously improved their skills and craftsmanship of the machinery, the Germans were afraid of them for a reason. In the video, our pilot uses a perfectly executed maneuver, using the strengths of the aircraft in a dangerous situation and with a risk for his own life, he then goes on to wrest victory from the enemy.

  • War - is a collective effort. Only concerted actions make it possible to achieve victory. The German army, easily took the whole of Europe on its knees, it was a model of proficiency and coordination. Only by acting in an equally orderly manner, was it possible to beat an enemy of such skill. In the video, we have tried to show that only clear, teamwork leads to victory.

  • And finally, our victory - a victory for humanity, the triumph of right. So we tried to finish our film with joyful notes of hope and the smile of a nurse, a helping hand of an approaching soldier.


To authentically recreate battles on the Eastern Front, Ukrainian studio Postmodern were chosen for filming, they shared our common history of the Great Patriotic War and our vision of heroism and battle unity in those battles. The studio has done a great job on our proposed scenario and it was able to convey the spirit of the decisive battles for the defense of the Motherland.

 

“We devoted special attention to the heroes of our film.”  - says director Dmitriy Ovcharenko. ”We tried to show them in the way in which they came to our minds from the words of our relatives and from Soviet films about the war. As a prototype of archetype of the protagonist we took Sergei Tsvetaeva - an artilleryman from the movie "Liberation". This great role played by the famous Soviet actor Nikolai Olyalin. It was his focus, simultaneous detachment and fatalism, and unconditional willingness to die at any moment that did not leave us indifferent.

 

We all remember the Soviet pilots from the masterpiece of Soviet cinema "Only Old Men Are Going to Battle" with a handsome Leonid Bykov in the main role. We pictured our pilots exactly like this - young, provocative, for whom war was not only a duty, but also a gamble with life and death.

 

Ordinary engineers were becoming a tankers, they knew how to handle the equipment, so a tank commander in our case was not a typical hero, but an straightforward mechanic, who was never parted from his family. And, with all his mediocrity in appearance, he is a real hero, like many others who fought in the Great Patriotic War.”

 

The first version of our script was almost unchanged as embodied in the movie, which you can see now. The whole team accepted it all at once.

 

In comparison with the first variation, there were only two changes in the film. Initially, the German plane that was shot down by our pilot was a Junkers (and the camera was to follow the bomb from a German attacker aircraft), but it was replaced with a Messerschmitt, and a beautiful scene of aerial combat with a hammerhead turn was added. This scene more accurately reflected the idea of ​​the importance of a level of training required for victory, and much better suited to our chosen song.

 

The second change - was the final scene. Initially it was assumed that by the time the story returns to the main character, he has, of course, already thrown the grenade, and leaping out of the trench, to throw another cluster of grenades, a projectile flies past him, then an enemy injures him and throws him back into the trench. However, the "loop-of time" and a return to the same scene proposed by “Postmodern” studio, seemed a very successful move to us, and it made the story more intense without losing the inherent idea in the script.

 

Complex production filming was carried out in a record two day shoot, half of a day was spent at the studio stage. Such a short time was possible due to the fact that the entire movie was pre-visualised and made ​​in a 3D sketch. Therefore, all members of the crew clearly understood the result that was required to be achieved.

 

The shooting took place near Kiev, where almost 10 metres of trenches were dug up, these were then prepared by artists and set decorators. Pyrotechnics and decorators had to burn the ground around the trenches to make it look real, they then churned the earth and ashes with tractors. A real anti-aircraft gun was expertly restored specifically for the filming, all the traversing mechanisms were restored. Pyrotechnics even had to fire it using a gunpowder charge at the filming. There were other tough scenes as well, some of them were not easy to prepare for future linking with CGI whilst at the same time, achieve the reality of the situation, we will tell you more about these in our future “making of” article.

 

After receiving the material, the main task was to create a 3D environment and the merging of it with the film-making material. Dozens of concepts were made, the 3D area around the trenches with the soldiers were restored. One of the most difficult stages was integration, for this we had to work very carefully and painstakingly to restore the trajectory of motion of the filming camera and transfer it to the virtual camera. Frames with flights from location to location were also difficult, for these several types of materials were used - shots with a moving camera, which were then connected with the film-making material made ​​by octocopter, then connected with the 3D scene.

 

Air battles are a forte of “Postmodern” studio and the game War Thunder. The dogfight in the movie was based on the confrontation between the two pairs of fighters. Initially, the idea was to show the "dogfight", but in the dynamic assembly and limited stage, the main characters were lost in the mass and it was decided to concentrate only on the main opposition. The process of filming was special by itself. With the help of a specialized crane an "artificial sun" was recreated, which moved in accordance with the movement of the sun in the frame to get realistic lighting for the pilots when combined with CGI.

 

One of the central elements in the video were the IS-2 tanks. For the realism of it being displayed in the video, besides additional work on the 3D model itself, a whole number of special physical simulations were created, like dirt on the tracks, dust that flies off the tank during the shot. “Filming” the ground also went through major processing, it had to be brought to the correct state of the battlefield.


Soundtrack choice was also a challenge. A countless number of different songs were reviewed. We wanted to find a song that had not been used for films about the war, but at the same time , we wanted it to have a double meaning - lyrical and tragic. "After listening to "Do not hurry" by Anna German, we realized that this was the song we needed. Unfortunately, the original arrangement of the song, for all its merits, is not very well laid under dynamic visuals (although we did not rule out this option until the very end, and acquired the rights to the original song from the "Melody") and the technical quality of the recording, alas, it did not keep pace with our standards; and we decided to specifically record a cover version of the creation for the new movie. We appealed to the group "Murakami" for this new version. We also added the orchestral arrangements to the beginning and the end of the piece, which helped to combine it with the video on the whole. Dmitry Kuzmenko and Gregory Zheryakov of Strategic Music helped us with this, they also recorded the soundtrack for War Thunder for us”, - says Pavel Stebakov, head of the sound department at Gaijin Entertainment.

 

Comments by Dilara Vagapova (Vocals of Murakami):

"You hurry... you hurry," find the song with which the heart beats in a single rhythm. Hurry to find those people who will tell you where to find it.

Hurry to learn about those who remember and honour the memory of our brave soldiers who died in the Great Patriotic War ...

These thoughts raced through my mind when I first heard about the intention to "re-write anew" the song "Don’t hurry" (by Babajanyan and Yevtushenko)

I will be honest here, I hadn't listened to the lyrics of this song before, I did not try to understand the meaning, somehow it did not touch "my soul", as they say ... but I discovered it again, and not only me, we all did in the group of Murakami. There was no desire at first to change anything, but the guys from the Gaijin Entertainment company have said that this is the essence - to look from the eyes of the present to see the days of the past ... on melody and harmony, on the recording and music assembly, on the words and the accents and to take all of this into consideration to bring it to our modern sound... We were very worried, as the bar was very high in responsibility for such a large-scale action - to write the arrangement to put it all into a mini-movie about the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. Each of the musicians tried to bring something of their own, and most importantly - love and soul. Recording the demo took place in our rehearsal room, where loud discussions and disputes were suddenly stopped by the piano sound of our keyboardist Anton. At that moment it was as if the magic worked. "This is it!" - We all thought at the same time and the music flowed out itself, we only had time to follow the music and it quickly flowed by itself. We had to write the vocals a few times, though. There wasn't any specific honesty the first time, in my opinion, there was no compassion, and there was no involvement with all of that, so after I listened to the recent recording at home, I decided to come to the studio the next day and to look at it from an other way... Maybe that is why some listeners are not able to recognise my vocal from the first notes in this song. Thanks to Gaijin Entertainment, who introduced us to a whole new world of games that we never had the time for, and thank you that the song "Don’t hurry" will always live in our hearts and the hearts of others!"

 


Work on the film was long and laborious, there were a large number of CGI and visual effects, difficult work with colour correction was necessary to align the real and computer created scenes, multiple careful view of the video frame by frame. The guys in “Postmodern” were considerate to all tens and hundreds of critical comments about the movie - we all wanted to make the world's best trailer.

 

We did the final montage in our studio, the work on the dubbing and music continued until October - we tried various options to effectively combine the sound and meaning of the song, the music and video finally synchronising perfectly. There was a total of 5 "final" clean copies, from 2 minutes to more than 4 minutes (and that is not counting the options with the performance of the song by Anna German). In the end, we settled on the one that you see - even if not all the scenes with CGI were included in the movie, but, in our opinion, this option made the most powerful and harmonious impression we were trying to achieve.

 

We are delighted that our new mini-movie was appreciated by users not only from Russia, but throughout the world. It is important for us to see that the valour of the Soviet people is known far outside of our country.

 

We are pleased to announce that we are preparing a detailed history of the creation (making of), and the studio “Postmodern” has prepared a beautiful art book dedicated to this movie, which will also be released soon.