Garena Free Fire is one of the most played video games in the world—in August of last year it set a record with over 150 million daily active users globally. In their new music video utilizing multiple KB3D Kits, live action characters morph into digital heroes amidst extreme sports sequences, epic combat, and rhythmic dance-offs to the game’s “BEATz Go Boom” theme song. For the tight-knit team of skilled artisans at Amsterdam-based Post Panic—the in-house VFX studio at The Panics—the making of Garena Free Fire's music video for the international battle royale phenomenon required developing highly stylized characters, vehicles, and environments and seamlessly meshing digital elements with photoreal plates.
To get a better understanding of the work that went into the project we interviewed Creative Partner and Head of Post Production, Ivor Goldberg where we learned how the team leveraged KitBash3D's premium 3D assets to build immersive environments. To really understand the making of the Garena Free Fire video, you have to watch the breakdown. See if you can pick out which Kits they used!
Thanks so much for talking with us today, Ivor. With the new breakdown video just releasing it’s clear to see the project was multi-faceted; tell us a bit about your team’s scope of work.
The sheer range of work on this project was complete lunacy and required bringing together so many different production elements. For the main climax of the music video, we were tasked with creating a city environment in a Neo-Tokyo style reminiscent of a graphic novel, while also maintaining a high enough level of photoreal detail to match live action plates. The entire city needed to be visible from an aerial point of view for establishing shots, as well as at street level for shots zoomed in on the action.
In conjunction with this, we also needed to develop the hero game characters and enemy opponents, which required both digital head replacements for live actors and creating fully CG characters. The characters were designed in the same graphic novel style as the cityscape, with enough detail and realism for seamless integration into the CG environments and live action plates. The characters also needed to emit smoke, fire, electricity, and even crystals when fired up.
Additionally, we were tasked with creating CG monster trucks, explosions, mopeds that morphed into stylistic hyperbikes, rockets, grenades, crowds of charging enemies, disintegrating characters, collapsing buildings and environment destruction, parachuting, abseiling, and—of course—a healthy amount of dancing.
Can you discuss more about your creative workflow for the project?
The first step was conceptualization to flesh out the overall feel and style of the cinematic world, in addition to the development of the hero characters. For the characters, we needed to figure out how to make the stylized heads work with live action and CG bodies, as well as with live action plates and digital environments. For the environments, our focus was on achieving a graphic novel style while still retaining a perfect arena to place our game characters and live action actors for the epic battle-sequence finale.
We were able to use existing assets for some of the game characters, which were simultaneously in development at Garena. While this was a starting point, we needed to rebuild the models and shaders to suit the level of detail and realism of our production. The challenge here was that the character designs were still in development and changing as we were in the process of building our models.
For the cityscape environments, we used KitBash3D premium model Kits to flesh out the streets, alleyways, and buildings, which enabled us to quickly create the scenes that we needed. This allowed us to focus on the visual aspects of the style, and then, ultimately, on the detailing needed once we put in our cameras.
We quickly discovered that the key to creating the project’s style was to have the high level of detail and realism fall off with distance, becoming more graphic and undefined the further elements were from the camera. To achieve this, we had these details swallowed up in a graphic fog effect, which was a pinnacle component of the project’s look.
From the breakdown it’s clear to see you used our Warzone and Future Slums Kits, but what creative tools did you use and how was it to work with the Kits and these tools?
We used a combination of Houdini, Maya, and Blender on the 3D side of it, with everything coming together in Nuke. Redshift was the glue that kept the 3D packages together. The KitBash3D Kits were so easy to bring into any of the tools and get started right away. We primarily used Blender at the concepting stages, and we were simply able to import the KitBash3D assets, update or tweak the shaders wherever necessary to achieve our desired look, and then adjust the geometry to match the style and composition. For final look development, we had to convert the KitBash3D model shaders into Redshift shaders and then add all the details in the textures, shaders, and geometry so that they’d hold up for the close shots and overall visual style. Working with KitBash3D assets provided us with the perfect base for every shot.
What was the biggest benefit or advantage that using KitBash3D provided your team on the project?
It was a huge head start. We were able to block out our virtual sets with the Kits and then effectively go on a 3D location scout with Director Mischa Rozema to create the shots that we needed. This allowed us to spend so much more of our time on the creative aspects of production and the final look, ultimately, where it counts the most.
What was the biggest challenge on the project?
The sheer scope and range of the project, along with the seemingly contradictory contrast in visual aesthetics between highly stylized and photorealism that had to seamlessly work together. Pair that with a shrinking production timeline, and it was a daunting undertaking. Despite the scale of the project, with the help of KitBash3D, we were able to flesh out the worlds quickly, which ensured this project was genuinely fun from beginning to end.
With the continuing content boom and increasing demand for projects, do you see the industry’s overall attitude toward using premade assets evolving?
For me personally, I have never questioned using premade assets. When my team is hired to create striking and unique pieces, we are able to use premade models as the initial building blocks that we customize to suit the client brief. By using high-end assets like KitBash3D, we’re able to use our time and budget more wisely and get to the final image in the fastest and most efficient way. Rather than building every single element, we’re able to customize and focus our time on making the end result look great.
What industry trends are you following?
The power of real-time game engine technology is really interesting for VFX pipelines and virtual production workflows with live action elements. At Post Panic, we’ve been using Unreal for a while now as a previsualization and concepting tool and in our VFX pipeline. Real-time engines, plus the growth of AI technology in the industry, helps simplify workflows so artists can focus on creating amazing artistry.
What do you enjoy the most about the work that you do?
The variety and range of work and opportunity to view beautiful worlds created by talented artists is part of it. But ultimately–as was the case on this project–who wouldn’t want to work on a shot of a “Mad Max” style monster truck, spewing fire and smoke, comically loaded with missiles, rockets, and grenades, and chasing a game character on a stunt bike that started off as a moped?
Thanks very much to Ivor, Post Panic and Garena Free fire for making this breakdown and interview possible. For more information, visit Post Panic's site.