How Electronic Arts Destroyed San Francisco In Its Live-Action Ad For 'Mass Effect 3'

mass effect

Photo: DraftFCB

To promote the launch of Mass Effect 3, in which gamers must (again) save Earth from alien attackers, Electronic Arts hired ad agency DraftFCB to make a live-action trailer for the launch.The ad shows San Francisco, Vatican City and parts of China being destroyed by spaceships as humans panic helplessly in the streets. It’s intended to make the game feel more like a movie.

But while it’s easy to capture computer-generated scenes from a video game and edit them into a 30-second ad, it’s harder to make that look like an epic piece of cinematic storytelling that might appeal to a wider audience than sofa-bound young men.

So the agency went to lengths to make the live-action ad as real as possible, and to limit the amount of game-generated animation. Here’s how they did it.

The game is set in the year 2180.

DraftFCB chose to shoot in Prague because it has a range of old and new architecture, with neighborhoods that could double as Hong Kong and Vatican City.

In this opening scene, the man and the rooftop he's standing on are real. And that's 'real' fake snow falling on him. The cityscape behind him is computer generated, based on imagery from the game.

In the next scene, the apartment in which a frightened family watches TV was built on a stage next to the snowy rooftop.

The snow scene and the apartment were 10 feet from each other on this stage.

This riot in 'Poland' is real, including the loose horse. The billboard in the background advertises Tupari energy drink -- a product in the game.

Here's how the scene was imagined on DraftFCB's storyboard.

This is another neighbourhood in Prague dressed with signs in Chinese.

The signs say things like 'Casey's Deli' (Casey Hudson is the game's executive producer); a massage parlor has a sign that says 'Massage Effect'; and there's an ad for 'Space Hamsters,' an ongoing joke inside the game.

Although it appears that hundreds of people are fleeing the destruction in China, it's actually just a couple of dozen extras doing laps through another intersection in Prague. The background is computer generated.

This scene in which alien reaper ships destroy Vatican City is computer generated ...

But the interior is real -- it's a desanctified church just outside Prague.

The agency thought this scene might be controversial because it shows God failing to protect his flock.

The roof collapse was achieved by dropping a couple of hundred pounds of grey powder on the extras. The agency had only one chance to get this shot.

This scene was created from an actual photograph of San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge shot from the Marin Headlands.

Here's what that looks like without the aliens.

In this scene, Commander Shepard, the game hero, takes on the aliens on the streets of San Francisco.

In reality, the street was an abandoned railyard in Prague. Most of the close-up debris and explosions in the scene are real.

Here's the railyard, post-production.

The combat armour worn by the stuntman playing Shepard, and his weapon, is real -- they're made of fibreglass.

The agency says the armour is currently being kept in its San Francisco office.

The credits:

Title: Fight for Everything

Client: Electronic Arts, Mass Effect 3

Agency: Draftfcb, San Francisco

Chief Creative Officer: Chris Ford

Group Creative Director: Tony Vazquez

Group Creative Director: Colin McRae

Assoc Creative Director: Derrick Ho

Assoc Creative Director: Jake Slody

Art Director: Alyssa Collis

Copywriter: Will Decher

Senior Producer: Jeremy Arth

Production Company: Caviar Content

Director: Reynald Gresset

Executive Producer: Michael Sagol, Jasper Thomlinson

Line Producer: Louis Saint-Calbre

DOP: Patrick Duroux

Production Service: Unit+Sofa

Executive Producer: Fady Salame

Line Producer: Petra Ondrickova

Editorial: Whitehouse

Editor: Russell Icke

Assistant Editor Brandon Porter

Senior Producer: Kristin Branstetter

Visual Effects: Mill London

Executive Producer: Will Cohen

Animation Director: Jean-Claude Deguara

Finishing: Mill LA

Head of Production: Arielle Davis

Colorist: Adam Scott

Sound Design: Ren Klyce/Mit Out Sound

Audio Mix: Michael Semanick/ Skywalker Sound

Audio Mix: Rohan Young/Lime Studios

Music: Human Worldwide

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