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Framestore looks to games following DJ Hero success

Visual effects specialists keen to work on in-game assets; UK studios already giving thumbs up to ideas

Europe's largest movie visual effects company, Framestore, has told that it intends to make moves into game development, following the success of its work with Activision and FreeStyle Games on DJ Hero.

This week the company released the intro movie to the latest in Activision's music franchise, with producer Mike Woods saying that the experience of working with developer FreeStyle Games has inspired an "exciting new direction" for the BAFTA and Emmy award winning business.

"We would love to, absolutely love to," enthused Woods, when asked if Framestore could begin supplying assets for use in games. "The thing that excites me is in development pipelines and whether or not we could start supplying environments within gameplay as well as stand alone video sections."

"We've got 25 years of brilliant visual effects experience with lots of proprietary software," detailed Woods. "We're famous at Framestore for furry creatures, fur, hair, and we're also very good at things like water and things that are notoriously difficult to do in computer graphics. It's a different world for our guys to get their heads around, but as far as actually achieving looks, textures, lighting environments, that's where it's interesting."

The company has worked on major Hollywood blockbusters including the Dark Knight and the Harry Potter series, as well as acclaimed BBC documentary Walking with Dinosaurs and numerous Bond movies – accumulating a library of assets ripe for videogames.

"Our model library is insane, there are very few animate or inanimate objects that we haven't modelled at some point in the past, it's all here," said Woods. "We have the resources. All these real high-end assets have got to be useful."

Framestore already works with agencies to create advertising for Electronic Arts, Microsoft and Sony, but working on DJ Hero allowed the business to move much closer to creative talent, said Wood, an opportunity that can help both sides in the long-term.

"Because it's a new thing for a traditional visual effects post-production house to be involved in, we're very much used to a working a pipeline that's been around for 20-plus years," Woods said.

"[FreeStyle and Activision] responded really well to us sending them content for approval. We've got an approval system from working on big projects over the years - that way of working wasn't something they were used to and in a way it made it much more interesting thing for us.

"What was interesting was getting all the geeks together and seeing at what point you can share assets."

FreeStyle were also keen for Framestore and partner Warp Films to ignore videogame conventions for the intro movie – which features a giant needle terrorising a vinyl planet.

The result led to some of its strongest work, said Wood. "The bravery of the guys at FreeStyle who literally said 'we want a movie that you want to watch, it doesn't have to have anything to do with the gameplay, it can be hyper-real and crazy'... The guys at FreeStyle thought it was so insane we just had to do it.

"And fair play to Activision, they were brilliant. That kind of freedom helped us get a lot more out of our animators, they feel like they're working on something that's their own idea rather than working for 'The Man'."

With the game set for release at the end of the month, Wood hopes it will act as a calling card for future collaborations, revealing he's already in positive talks with prominent UK game developers

"We hope to do loads more – the exposure, the size, the sales of these games and the budgets – it's all there and it's not far away from feature films and TV commercials.

"We've had some really interesting chats with FreeStyle and Blitz Games - both of those are totally receptive to us in testing the water to see what's possible. It's definitely something we want to do more of," he concluded.

The DJ Hero intro movie can be seen on EGTV here.

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