Spotlight

Community Spotlight | Dead Silent – a Halo 5 Machinima

The premise and goal for our Community Spotlights is simple – highlight unique and interesting creations and events from within the Xbox Community, be it amazing artwork, cool montages, user generated content and more.

For our inaugural Community Spotlight, we wanted to take a deeper look at Dead Silent, a Halo 5 Machinima that’s been in the works for a very long time.

If you don’t know what Machinima is, it’s basically using real time game play captures to emulate and ‘create’ animation. If you’re an Xbox fan, you’ll probably be familiar on some level with Rooster Teeth Productions “Red Vs. Blue” dating back to the original Halo Combat Evolved Release on the original Xbox.

Dead Silent is a staggering machinima in scope and scale – whereas things like Red Vs. Blue for the most part (at least at first) occurred within existing developer made environments that ship with a game, the team behind Dead Silent created every single prop, set, scene by hand – everything – using Halo 5’s Forge mode. The attention to detail and passion behind the project is obvious from the outset, and we wanted to sit down with the team at Last Second Films and get a feel for how much work went into this, and when Machinima fans can expect more.

Sik: Hi folks! Thanks for taking some time out to talk to us! Could you introduce your team, and what their roles were when creating Dead Silent?

I’m Charlie “Green Hygiene” Director of Dead Silent – @Green_Hygiene

I’m Eric Metzler “NightAvenger01” Lead Forger and Composer of Dead Silent – @Nightavenger01

I’m Hamish Keech “Spartan Blood 1”  Environmental Forger – @hamish_k_thefox

I’m Nick Berry “WARD0G7”   Props, Prefabs and Vehicles – @G7Ward0

Sik: Thanks – What was the inspiration behind this project? Have you always been Machinima fans, or is it movie fans first, and machinima was a good outlet for that creative spark?

Green Hygiene: I’ve only recently been into Machinima, but I’ve always been a huge film fan. From big blockbusters to indie films, I love it all. I always wanted to start making films first, but the ideas I’ve had always seemed too ambitious and expensive to make and to be quite honest, I lack a lot of experience of being on an actual set. But machinima filled that void perfectly. Although we use halo as a platform for the machinima. We treat it as its own identity, in the sense of it being its own unique story away from the Halo universe. You can also pull off some awesome camera angles that are only possible from filming in game with the ability to pause and start, by the click of a button. 

NightAvenger01: I have always wanted to work on a machinima! I had met Green Hygiene as he was working on a set for Chapter Two. I helped him out for a few hours and he sent me the video rough drafts for Chapter One and Two. We agreed that they left much to be desired to say the least! That night I rebuilt a set from Chapter One, Jet’s Hideout. Kawecki 22 and I stayed up for hours that night getting the lighting to look as good as it does in the final product. After showing it to Green Hygiene the next morning, We made the bold choice to scrap it all and rebuild every set and ditch any dev made maps. 186 maps later (including the green screen variants) Chapter One was complete, alongside Chapters Two through Five being nearly 70 to 90% completed and many sets built for Season Two! So after nearly 300 maps and counting, I would say this Machinima has been the greatest outlet for the creative spark of our Forgers and continues to be that and more!

Spartan blood 1: I’ve always been a fan of storytelling and creating worlds. as growing up a halo fan i feel a good amount of people in the community grow up watching and enjoying some form of machinima, may it be red vs blue or other halo fan just being creative, machinima is a fun and interesting art form, i like to call it virtual puppetry ha ha. But yeah I’ve always enjoyed cinema going and watching all different types of movies and watching all different types of shows. So when they asked me if i wanted to join the project i was glad to join and help out on the machinima

WARD0G7: I can’t say I was all that big into Machinima until Nightavenger01 and Green Hygiene contacted me about using some of my prefabs. They spent some time explaining the story and what my prefabs were going to be used for. The story was interesting and they seemed impressed with my forging so I asked if they wanted me to make anything for the machinima and I’ve been onboard since making props, vehicles, and some of the smaller sets.

Sik: Now I’m an avid Forger since Halo 3, so I have plenty of experience in creating maps and going through that process to making them playable. I imagine the process for making the sets used in Dead Silent was pretty similar, but you didn’t have to concern yourselves with Player containment or spawning. How did you organise creating all the different environments used, and secondly, how long did this take you?

Green Hygiene: I myself, so far, have done very little forging on this project. However, in terms of planning. We tried to make all the environments tell their own story. As each episode progresses and the characters go further North, the environment around them changes, from building designs, to the type of foliage used and even to the type of vehicles that are present.  The forgers have spent an unholy amount  of hours crafting this world to the smallest bit of detail, with great precision. I could honestly not rake up the total amount of hours they have spent so far, I’ve lost count at this point. 

 NightAvenger01: I would reference back to the rough drafts and spend some time talking to Green Hygiene about what was most important and most needed in each setting. We would rewrite parts of scenes and sometimes entire scenes. After that, Green Hygiene would give me full freedom and I feel very fortunate that he trusted me with the art style and direction of this world. It started with just me working on the maps towards the end of Oct. 2019 then by Dec. 2019 both WarDog and SpartanBbood joined.

Once they joined, I would build the groundwork for almost every set. Spartanblood and myself would layout foliage and overgrowth on the structures I built. Spartanblood built a lot of our terrain. A few of the environmental sets were built by me but were re-worked much later by Spartanblood. Sometimes the re-work were pretty extensive and sometimes they were as simple as adding some trees and bushes. After contacting Wardog to get his permission to use some of his prefabs in season two, I trusted him and his Forge abilities enough to join our team.

He was the final pillar that we needed to properly build our vision. Wardog creates some unparalleled props and prefabs. Spartanblood creates the most detailed terrain I have seen in Halo 5. Then I covered everything else and worked alongside the two of them. All three of us are learning from one another but more importantly, learning with one another. From creating a city built of 43 individual maps to a 360 degree landscape of eight maps and something as simple as a creepy swamp with thick fog for some cool visuals. Green Hygiene and I would talk about the sets and try out different visuals on each set to get the most cinematic and visually interesting shots we possibly could. Sometimes the sets we built would push us to rewrite scenes.

There have been quite a few sets that I have built then after showing them to Green Hygiene, we write scenes to fit those sets or we would find the best spots to put them into whatever Chapter they would fit into the most. The art and visual storytelling of all the sets have been treated to be just as important as the characters and the story they are creating. It’s hard to put an actual time stamp on how long it took to build Chapter One since we have been building all five chapters of season one and season two at the same time. Nonetheless though, I have been working on the project since Oct. 2019 and after the news of Halo Infinite’s delay we rebuilt almost all of Chapter One for a THIRD time!

Each of us kept getting better in our individual areas of skill. We took advantage of that and kept raising our standards for the series. We did this to make sure we are always striving to do the best we possibly can and never giving ourselves the room or excuses to fall short for even the smallest of reasons. A lot of work was scrapped or repurposed, but the Chapter became the best form of itself because of those choices. The four of us, Green Hygiene, Spartanblood, Wardog and myself are all very proud of the work we have shown you all – even more proud of the work and story you have yet to see!

Spartan blood 1: Yeah same here, I’ve been playing since halo 1, and when they released halo 3 with its forge my brother and i were always in there making something ha ha, it’s been great to see the forge evolve across the games, halo 5 has a sweet forge, I’ve made and seen some interesting maps, it allows a lot more creative freedom and I’m interested to see what halo infinite will do next, but yeah it gives a lot more freedom to just be able to focus on the art of everything, they have give me a lot of free rein on the project when comes to making the environments like landscapes terrain and plant life it’s been pretty sweet making stuff for it, at the end of the day forge and art is creating within limitations it’s just knowing what those limitations are and how to work around them, it can be fun and annoying ha ha

WARD0G7: I don’t have much experience in making playable maps, I’ve only made two and it was early on when forge was released so not that good considering what I have learned from the forgers I have been working with since I started helping with the machinima. But it is definitely a whole different ball game forging for a machinima, with the use of green screens we have almost no budget limit. That gives us a lot more freedom to build with the focus on realism, detail and cinematics.

Sik: The first episode was pretty lengthy, and obviously took a fair amount of time to create – are their plans for more, and when do you envisage them coming out for fans that are interested?

Green Hygiene: We plan on creating a total of 15 episodes. With each 5 episodes creating a theoretical mini season with their own unique theme. We’re aiming to try and release an episode by the end of every month.

NightAvenger01: There are definitely more Chapters coming! 14 more to be exact! Chapter Two is currently underway and is in a very good position! Plans are to release Chapter Two by the end of the Feb. 2021! Each Chapter is currently slated to be no less than 30 minutes a piece! With a grand total of 15 Chapters, it will be like binge watching your favorite TV series on any streaming platform! So the fans that stick with the project are in for one wild ride!

Spartan blood 1: Yeah there is definitely more episodes coming i hope everyone will enjoy them, I’ll leave the release windows to the other guys but yeah there will be more!

Sik: I understand all the music used in the film was all created specifically for it – how long did that process take, and what tools did you use to accomplish it?

Green Hygiene: All the music for episode 1 was made over the course of 51 hours. The day before we released the episode. You might say we cut it to close, and you’re probably right.

NightAvenger01: Green Hygiene and myself had discussed that we needed to release Chapter One in the first month of 2021. We gave ourselves the deadline of Jan. 29th 5pm EST.  I had been helping Green Hygiene work on some of the final story elements and shots we had left for Chapter One. He sent me a version of the final draft once we knew there were no more maps I needed to make and we knew all the shots we had left were shots that he could film on his own. That final draft was sent to me on Jan. 27th around 4pm EST…I buried myself in FL Studio until Jan. 29th 7pm EST…Roughly 51 hours straight. No sleep, just the constant drive to get the music finished in time so we would reach our goal of a January release. I do wish I had more time to work on the music but for the time I had…we are all pretty happy with the final results and so far its seems as everyone else enjoys the music as well. In the end, that’s all we can ask for.

Spartan blood 1: NightAvenger01 did a sweet job on the music, there is one song that green hygiene found and put in for the radio scene.

Sik: Obviously this had to be voice acted – did the actors here have professional experience, or was there a lot of passion and many takes to get to the high level on display here?

Green Hygiene: Despite most of the cast being new to voice acting, and having experimented with other media. They have been the most professional voice actors I’ve had the pleasure to work with. With each delivery, hitting the quality bar almost immediately, with very few redo’s. And each time I send over lines, they seem to one-up their previous work. They’re all very talented! 

NightAvenger01: The voice actors did a fantastic job! None of them currently have a professional background but I do hope that will change by the end of this project! All of the upcoming voice talent is just as impressive as what we have heard in Chapter One! I am very excited to have my voice joining them in the third season!

Spartan blood 1: All the voice actor’s have been doing a sweet job so far, I’ve really enjoyed their work on the prologue and chapter 1, I’m looking forward to people getting to see all the other actor’s and character’s to come

Sik: Some of the shots used are very cinematic and creative – did you utilise the ingame camera system in Forge, or did you hand control these with a pad? How long did a “day on set” take?

Green Hygiene: Despite the in game camera being a valid tool to use, we barely used it. Except on a few occasions where we wanted to have the camera transition between two sets perfectly, where moving a camera manually would not be so successful. We also used it to frame a few times, but very rarely. 

When we did the big filming sessions (16 people) we would go through several maps, usually taking up about an hour or two, sometimes more. But the smaller scenes were done a lot quicker. 

NightAvenger01: We rarely used the in game camera due to the Spartans only being visible in animation locations with those cameras. For green screen sets, we built our own camera rig in Forge! Grouping that camera rig to a parent object that existed on all maps that were in the green screen shots to the camera rig. Save that rig as a prefab and put it on all the corresponding maps. Green Hygiene was then able to film on each map and layer them accordingly. We utilized that camera rig the most in Chapter One’s City scene! The city consists of 43 individual maps! At one moment in the city, a total of 15 separate maps are in one shot and it looks seamless! That city took such a long time to make and required a lot of precise measurements and planning! I believe the final result shows just how good that camera rig is and shows that to this day, we can still do some pretty incredible stuff in Halo 5’s Forge that no one has really done! 

Spartan blood 1: Some of filming does take a while with the body acting and finding a work around for problems when they pop up little fixes here and there, but green hygiene is a good and fun director to work with, it helps that he is a friends

Sik: What’s next for the team at Last Second Films?

Green Hygiene: Working on finishing episode 2! Hopefully we can get it  out by the end of the month! 

NightAvenger01: After we have released Chapter 15, we would like to do a kind of documentary video of the project and really spend some time showing how we achieved what we have and give our overall feedback on the entire process! As for the next project after Dead Silent? We have been throwing around the idea of a film we would like to make in Halo Infinite. We are also waiting to see what Forge will be capable of in Infinite to see what we will be capable of. Take our time and try to push its Forge as we have pushed Halo 5’s Forge!

Spartan blood 1: Well for now we do have more chapters in the works for dead silent. but there are some other ideas on the horizon, just silhouettes of ideas for now but we will see how they form as we get closer

WARD0G7: This group works well together and I enjoy working with them to create the world and story within Dead Silent. Last Second Films has plans for a new story in Halo Infinite and I’m definitely onboard with helping out with their future machinima projects.

Sik: Really appreciate you guys taking some time to talk to us – any last shout outs you’d like to make?

Green Hygiene: Just a huge thank you to everyone who has worked on the project so far, and everyone who has shown support! 

NightAvenger01: I would like to give a shoutout to those who have taken the time to watch Chapter One. We truly hope you will come back to view the following chapters and the continuation of Dead Silent’s story! Thank you to those who helped with body acting and voice acting! Your roles are far more important than you may think! Lastly, a Huge Thank You to my fellow Forgers. What we have achieved is something we can all be proud of and it has been an absolute honor and privilege leading us through this ambitious world the Four of Us have built. We have a long way to go, but if anyone can do it.. It’s the four of us!

Spartan blood 1: I just want to say cheers to all the voice actors, body actors, family and friends and everyone who has helped and supported us so far. Thank you. It’s much appreciated.

Big thanks to the team at Last Second Films for being a part of our Community Spotlight – we hope you enjoyed reading! Don’t forget to drop by their YouTube channel and show your support for their project.

Jon "Sikamikanico" Clarke

Follow me on Twitter @_sikamikanico_ UK Based- Father of two, wishes he could play more games but real life always gets in the way. Halo is my jam.

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