Behind the Scenes in World of Virtual Reality; JUST THE JOB

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK HUGHES-MORGAN

With movie blockbusters being transferred to video games, and standalone stars such as Lara Croft, the computer console business is booming. Mark Hughes-Morgan reports

VIDEO games are a serious business. In the UK, the industry is worth more than the movies, making pound sterling1.8 billion against pound sterling1.2 billion for movie box office and video/dvd rental combined. And as movies strive to stretch the boundaries of reality, so video games aim to become more lifelike, using the same computer techniques and large development teams. Getaway, a new game being developed by Sony, is set to take this to new heights, combining car-chase game action with a gangster movie story, set in a super-realistic London cityscape and featuring performances by a real cast. Three years in the making, with a budget of more than pound sterling4 million and more than 50 people on the "crew", it is due for release in the autumn.

Director/producer Brendan McNamara, 40

"I'm called the producer, but my role turned out pretty much like a director in the movies. I came up with a concept over six months with chief designer Chung Wah Kong, and once we had an idea that worked, we assembled a team of designers, writers, and programmers that would make it happen. You basically work out a budget between teams of people in different areas for a certain time. We thought it would take two years; we had a a bad afternoon where I had to ask for another year."

The game was conceived before the launch of PlayStation 2, meaning that McNamara had to take a gamble on what the technology might be capable of. "We were always pushing to be more realistic

and once we had the design photorealistic, we needed the characters to be as human as possible. We ended up getting actors to act scenes and used motion capture [actors in magnetic suits being traced by computer] and our own software that we developed to put them on screen as faithfully as possible.

No one has done it like this before "As director, you don't have to know how to do everything, but you have to know how everything works. My one regret is my maths is so crap.

Putting ideas on the screen is all about logical concepts.

You're trying to invent what

is possible. It is scary sometimes."

Training: Degree in fine arts at Sydney University; a year at film school; "a bit of computer programming in my spare time". Worked on a company programming laser shows before running a games studio bought out by Sony.

Salary: from pound sterling50,000

Production designer Simon Wood, 29 WOOD, who has worked in both movies and gaming, is responsible for the "look" of Getaway: a role that spans finding real-life locations for the game, through devising action sequences, to determining the texture of the rubbish on a London street and the placing of props "on location". "I walked 50 square kilometres of London looking for key areas to give the game its different character; we took thousands of photos on CD cameras, picked out the locations, drew them up as floor plans, built them on computer, then put on the textures using Maya, the same computer system they use in Hollywood.

"We wanted proper detail: in some games you get massive rooms with nothing in them, but we wanted lots of stuff.

Then you have to work out if a guy comes through a door, what's going to be in his way.

You have to move things around and make sure everything is lit right.

"We have taken favourite

moments from movies and incorporated them. The whole proces is just like a movie, with fewer disputes, strikes and frustrations. My last movie was Thunderbirds: we devised the concept, put in months of work, and they pulled the plug. I wouldn't want to go back."

Training: Degree in industrial design. Worked in London design consultancy.

Talked his way into stint on Star Wars Epison I: Phantom Menace. …