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Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Postmortem

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At this years Game Developers Conference, 343 Industries spoke about the challenges of creating Forward Unto Dawn; the unique live action series that tied in to the release of Halo 4.

Synopsis: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is a live-action story created in the Halo universe, 90 minute web series, with episodes preimering for 5 weeks leading up to launch. The story wasn't directly related, but had crossover elements and was bundled as part of Limited Edition.

The story took place 30 years before Halo 4, at the beginning of Human-Covenant war. The characters meet John-117. One of the main characters, Thomas Lasky is showcased as a new cadet, before growing into a commander on UNSC Infinity. He would appear in game for Halo 4.

Details

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"What are the narrative goals? What is the tone of the universe?"

5 weeks of shooting in Vancouver, a 343 Industries representative was present at all times.

There are culture differences between game development and Hollywood. This meant that knowing how to communicate between these two realms was very important.

Passion for the project counted for very much. The budget was relatively meager, and working with the passions of the cast and crew allowed for the project to grow into something very impressive.

Lessons

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Biggest lesson: You have to have the right friends to make it work.

Do not underestimate a project like this, and the work it can entail over the course of the production, if it's delivering models, delivering sound effects that can be as time consuming as filming itself.

Learn when to not panic while the shot is getting taken, it sometimes won't look like in the final product.

Cast your performers, cast your crew. Critical balance on a shorter timeline.

Identifying who to work with, the right experts, finding a great director, supervisor, and producer.

Everything matters in the universe, everything counts.

What can be done on a practical set vs. effects. Knowing when to utilize each during a scene, and how to best approach them.

It was important to make sure things right in terms of the feel of universe, including seeing the Elite, making Chief's interaction fit into his character mold.

Struggles

It was a difficult project to  sell at the beginning, since it fell outside the realm of pure game, pure marketing, or pure visual storytelling.

We are close to the IP, that sitting on set was a blessing and a curse. It could become difficult to be objective about your decisions, and how well these things are being translated to the viewer.

Fighting through the immense workload.

Creating a situation for flexibility, allowing other artists to create off something prior. Since this time period in the Halo timeline was rather separate from other media elements, the story had to be created in a manner that would allow for proper expansion into the lore, storyline, and world of the Halo series.

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