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Starym

Naxxramas Trailer Creator Interview

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We've recently seen the amazing Naxxramas trailer from Hurricane and were so impressed we thought we just had to talk to the man. It's a bit of a long interview, but you're not gonna want to miss it as he not only shares his thoughts and opinions, but also some production stills and before/after pics from in-game and the trailers. He's been at it for quite a while and his latest took him over 6 months to make, but it really shows, so let's take another look at his current masterpiece and then we can get into the interview itself.


Let's get started with basics - who are you and what is your background in video making?

My name is Radim Zeifart. I'm 24 years old and I live in Prague. I'm a motion designer in the advertisement business by trade, which means I create animated characters and make them talk about the great taste of this brand new orange juice or anything else in the world. Despite how it sounds, it's actually a really fun line of work.
 

A lot of the responses to your videos are basically "Blizzard, hire this man!" and you yourself have talked about Blizzard actually approaching you in the past. Is there anything else you can tell us about your situation with Blizzard?

Unfortunately not. That's why I'm happy I can still make my own trailers, which don't belong under any kind of supervision, and are mine own and mine alone.
 

So, just to be clear, you're not currently working at or with Blizzard?

No.
 

What made you get started with this old-school trailer making business?

I was just a kid when retail vanilla was played, but even then I was able to get a glimpse of what was going on. As the years passed I felt the original WoW, or even TBC, was THE content I wanted to be a part of. I managed to make that happen through private servers. Even though it wasn't 100% as it was back then I felt what many before me did.

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A lot of your earlier videos were done for private servers but you stopped doing that, was the initial reason for doing these oldschool trailers from that or something else? And why did you stop making them for private servers?

Being young and not really well known made me think that private servers were a good platform to make my vision happen - they published my work on their sites and in return I received exposure and publicity. After I learned that the amount of retail fans is so many times bigger I decided to target my work at them as well. Furthermore, Blizzard Entertainment approached me so that was another reason to leave the private server scene and make content for everyone to enjoy.


The Naxxramas trailer really blew a lot of people away, and despite how great your previous work (especially the T5 video) was, this most recent video was far above it. How do you push yourself to put more and more into the videos to get them better and better?

Despite the scale of the project it's quite simple - me and my very good friend Nuke are people of hard logic (maybe because we've been taught a lot about machines and programming languages). It's only logical that there should be some measurable progress when it comes to my videos. Reason number two is just... I love this content.

ql4wOuV.jpg
This poster was supposed to announce the Naxx trailer,
but in the end he went with a teaser video instead.

What exactly is your process for making these? You obviously use in-game assets, but you then add in your own animations?

The one word you need to know is "datamining". I extract every single 3D model/texture and body rig animation from the game. Once that's done I assemble these pieces into a complete scene which is then heavily color graded and tweaked to look cinematic.
 

A lot of people have mentioned that you still use the older game-models in your videos, is that a stylistic choice or a mechanical one?

The old, original content consists of these (currently old) models. They may not be as visually appealing as the new ones, but... I feel I should use them anyway. Another reason (as you mentioned) is a mechanical one - using old models works just fine when it comes to body rigs/bone structure and the export process overall.

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One of the big things with these trailers is that they evoke a lot of memories for players of those eras and they hold a lot of emotion. How do you go about doing that?

I never experienced that, at least not when it was on retail servers. Most of my feelings originate from stories, pictures and videos one can find on the internet. I'd like to thank to french movie maker Jack, who's Ahn'Qiraj movie (which I've seen like 100 times) helped me understand the values on which I built my work on.


What was the very first video you made (as in with editing music etc) and do you think it still holds up today? Was it the DarkRuby one or was there something before it?

You nailed it. Don't know how you got that right, but this was the first project I strongly believed in and gave it all I had (at the time).


All of the voice lines from your trailers are from actual game characters themselves, how far back do you go to get them and how log and involved of a process is it? Do you just listen to thousands upon thousands of lines and then have the "right" one basically pick you or do you write something in advance and then look for the perfect fit?

I've had an extensive library of all WoW sounds and voice lines in the form of .ogg or .wav files for many years now (that's datamining all over again). Let's say you're working on a Tempest Keep trailer - you won't look into... I don't know...  Ragnaros voice lines. You can ignore ALMOST EVERY BOSS and go straight for the folders named "Al'ar" or "Void Reaver". And there you go. That's when you start to put all these quotes together in all sorts of ways and voila - you have your voice-over track.


Also, crucial question: is this you in the video?

Uhm. Yes. The first day (or one of the very first ones) I learned how to key out the background from the WoW Model Viewer footage.


How long does it usually take you for one of these videos, including the concepting stage and then the actual video work?

My limit was about a month or two. I managed to respect that until the Naxxramas Trailer. It wasn't possible to make something like that so quickly so I adjusted my daily life accordingly and stretched the process to six months. Plus I had to raise the bar once again so... take that T5 trailer!
 

Which video was the first where you really thought "Ok this is good, I can do this really well"?

Had to think about that for a moment, since I really wanna give you the right answer. This trailer was created because I just learned how to use After Effects (advanced post-production software). The program is insanely good when it comes to visual effects and that was the exact moment when I said to myself "okay let's do this". The trailer itself is stupid, colorful and over the top, but hey... that's After Effects in the hand of the beginner.


At this point I'm just going to geek-out and go through my favorite moments from the trailers themselves, feel free to comment on any behind the scenes details for them.

Starting with the Naxx trailer, there are so many little details like the animals fleeing, the actual massive size of the floating citadel compared to the heroes and more.

I believe in... how should I put this... Peripheral vision (I guess it's not exactly that but I'm gonna try to explain it). When you're looking at the video your eyes are locked in a certain place. That happens in every single shot. It's important to have a lot of detail in that particular place BUT it's also important to have something going on on the rest of the screen. That's when our little details come into play.
As for the size of the Naxxramas - the inside of the raid is HUGE. I'm talking the size of a couple of football fields. That's why I made it look much bigger than we're used to.


And then my favorite shot of the entire video - the heroes getting ported to the citadel above, shrouded in darkness as the villagers look on.

This shot was intended to make an impact on the viewers. The music in the background helped me to establish the feeling for this scene. It took a bit longer to create it since I had to put together this random village that's not even in the game. I'm really happy it made such an impact since it's difficult to nail a feeling/emotion just right. You never know if you made it until it's out there.

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Then there's the the one that will ring true for all raiders ever - "No one goes home until our job here is done" with the ghosts at the graveyard.

I found this voice line during the first days of production (that's January 2017). It made the final cut four months after that. I've waited four months till that specific moment of the trailer set foot into the production process so I could use it. The wait was worth it. That part is funny and represents the countless amount of wipes which is a "feature" that's well associated with this raid instance.

drNKm76.jpg


And from the BC video, the warp-in effect for Tempest Keep and then at the very end, the explosion in BT, which we actually never get to see in the game itself. Amazing stuff.

Warp-in of TK: In my eyes it's this super-modern ship (sorry, I'm not familiar with the lore) so it it felt appropriate to make it do something cool. And for the BT explosion, there is this breach in the outer wall of the Black Temple's facade. I figured I can build upon that fact. Back then there was this idea to make some crazy gnome rig tons of explosives to make it blow up but I had to finish the trailer very quickly so... no gnomes, just this that simple shot.


You're still working on these trailers, with your next project being Black Temple, what motivates you to continue, since it takes you so long to get these done?

I'm severely demotivated because the Naxx trailer was a bit too much even for me, but I'm extremely overmotivated (if that's an expression) because of the WoW community. Their support and appreciation for the Naxx trailer showed me that the effort is worth it.


Do you have a dream project? Something that's perhaps a little too big for you to handle right now but that you'd just love to do?

Believe it or not - I'm actually doing that right now. With steady job in the field of motion design I can spend my spare time working on machinima videos while being able to cover all my expenses. I'm living the life I wanted since I was a kid and I'm not planning to waste such an opportunity.

But if I had to pick one thing I'd really like to do it's a series of videos (up to 1 minute) which would showcase what each class represents.... For example a Warrior's showcase would demonstrate some of his abilities, gear and the mighty weapons he uses - all of that using very advanced 3D machinima, to make it look epic.

FOR THE HORDE!

 

A big thanks to Hurricane for the interview. You should also check out more of his videos on his youtube channel and we have a few production process before and after sliding images you should check out here from the Naxx video:

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