EVE Spotlight: An interview with CCP's trailer team

EVE Spotlight is a new bi-weekly feature in which we interview prominent members of EVE Online's player community or development team. Every two weeks, we'll be shining the spotlight on a player or developer who has a significant impact on EVE to highlight the efforts of EVE's most influential people.

With its impressive graphics and deep-space setting, there's no doubt that EVE Online produces some stunning visuals. Players have produced some incredible videos over the years using only in-game footage and video-editing software. The official game trailers are often even more impressive, with some fantastic cinematic trailers preceding every expansion. Occasionally, CCP's trailer team pumps out an absolute gem of a trailer like The Butterfly Effect and Causality that showcases the game's sandbox nature and gives a taste of the unique things you can achieve in EVE.

With the impressive Incursion trailer still fresh in our minds and Sansha Kuvakei's impending revenge drawing ever-closer, we took the opportunity to talk to CCP's trailer team. Skip past the cut for our interview with CCP Loxy from the EVE trailer team and a behind-the-scenes video look at what goes into making EVE's epic trailers.

Several months ago, CCP released the below behind-the-scenes video looking at the EVE trailer team and how its goes about making pretty films of spaceships smashing each other to pieces. It's a really interesting look into what goes on inside CCP's film factory, and as the trailer team hasn't changed much since the video was released, it's still highly relevant. If you haven't seen it before, the video below is definitely worth a watch.



Massively: How does a trailer go from an idea in someone's head to the finished product splashed across YouTube or the big screen? Roughly what does the production cycle look like?

CCP Loxy: Very generally we have between two and three months for a big production trailer. The initial idea will either be created around an upcoming expansion or perhaps a goal of reaching out to new players. We'll hash out ideas around the team and eventually end up with a script and storyboard. From there we divide up the work between us and start creating scenes in Jessica. Meanwhile we're in contact with outsourcers to create the music and begin voice auditions.

With everything created, we edit using Adobe After Effects and do the final sound design in a studio in Atlanta, mixing in the music, voice-overs and effects. Finally the video is compressed into various formats and sizes and sent on its way via the interwebs.

Can you tell me a little about the special tools you have at your disposal to help create the epic scenes we see in EVE trailers?

A tool many EVE players have heard of but may not fully understand is "Jessica." Jessica is an in-house tool developed by CCP [that] essentially is a mix between the EVE client and a 3-D design program. We use this to arrange the scene, animate the ship models and then export the animation frame by frame. Unfortunately this is but the tip of the iceberg of what Jessica is able to do, and therefore we're unable to release this tool to the community, something [that] is often asked for. Along with Jessica we use the Adobe suite of programs to edit the trailers and add on special effects.

The EVE trailers are always very sharp and vivid. Are they rendered in a very high resolution or is this caused by something else?

Jessica allows us to export animations at any desired frame rate and resolution (within reason); generally we export our work a little larger than the final resolution and then in editing trim down to 1080p. EVE now natively supports anti-aliasing, and we run with the highest graphic settings to get the best-looking results, so most of what you see in a trailer is true to the game. In certain situations we'll use high-resolution textures, for example in a close-up shot of a ship to get some extra detail.

We're often surprised by some of the incredible videos players create. Does the official trailer team take any of its ideas from fan projects?

Some videos made by players are nothing short of stunning, especially considering the limitations that they have to work with. I can't think of any ideas we've taken from videos, but we've definitely had to make changes to trailers due to a player-made video beating us to the punch with an idea or with a use of a ship for instance.

What are your favourite fan-made videos, and have you hired any of their creators to work on the official trailers?

There are too many to list these days, but off the top of my head there's Clear Skies, Outbreak Redux, Push Eject.... All three of the video producers at CCP who work on EVE trailers are ex-players who made videos and were noticed by CCP.

In the Incursion Sansha trailer, we saw an avatar of Sansha Kuvakei standing inside the docking port of a station. We've been told that this was rendered in-engine using Incarna assets. Can we expect the same level of visual quality in stations when Incarna eventually goes live?

Firstly we should just explain that in that scene the character model is from the game engine; an artist added some special touches to make the character truly Sansha Kuvakei, but it's created with the Incarna engine. The hanger bay was created by us as there weren't any suitable assets ready. The Incarna teams have been working full-time on the characters themselves for the Incursion release, so environments were not available for the Incursion trailer. You should expect an even higher level of visual quality with the environments when Incarna is released.

In the Butterfly Effect trailer, we saw some interesting holographic UI elements emerging from a ship to display information on its fittings. Has CCP ever considered implementing things like this into the game?

Most recently the Planetary Interaction UI has taken on some of those elements as our team's Graphic Designer has been doing some prototyping for various game features. Definitely keep an eye on DUST 514 as well!

If someone wants to apply for a position on the trailer team or get noticed for his work, what should he do? What does it take to join the team?

All of the video producers working on EVE trailers are ex-players who were noticed for their own videos and brought on by CCP, and that's definitely the way to go. Keep making awesome videos -- we do watch them, and you will get noticed!

Thanks for interviewing with us!

Thanks for not asking about the EVE Movie!
This article was originally published on Massively.