Friday, October 14, 2011

Dragon Age: Redemption Episode 1 Part 2

Yes, you read that right: Part 2. These episodes of Dragon Age: Redemption are so steeped with props, sets, and fx make-up that I can't even fit an entire episode in a single blog!

But that just goes to show you why Felicia Day is the queen of Internet entertainment right now. She really knows how to deliver content packed full of everything we geeks have ever dreamed about. And talk about a triumphant week! DA:R premiered, and The Guild Season 5 ends in a grand finale! How about that blimp!?! But that's another blog entry entirely...

Photo 1: We last left off at the Chantry, where we witnessed the Qunari Mage Saarebas torturing an Elvin Mage for information. The next scene brings us to Kirkwall Harbor, where a Qunari ship rocks in the gentle waves. Inside, we find Athlok (Felicia Day), an Elvin slave laborer, using her skills with a blade to butcher meat. Here, Felicia poses for a new 2012 calender, "Elvin Girls of the Galley".

Photo 2: In the original meetings, Felicia expressed that she envisioned this scene to be just a transition, and thought that we could keep everything small, close, and nondescript. But I felt that it was an important visual introduction to her world, and our first glimpse into the lifestyle of the Qunari. After reading her final script, the setting definitely grew into a ship's hold.

The set started with three walls of flats. I tried to imply that we were in the belly of a ship by curving the lower section of the longest wall. We used plywood and 1x3 to create curved "ramps", which were then covered is luan thin enough to bend in the radius.

Photo 4: "Planks" of luan were stapled over that, leaving a gap between each one so the separation would read on camera. Hollow beams were suspended over the set, and foam ribs were carved for the walls.

Photo 5: The stage we were shooting on had an annoying center row of support poles, so in order to make all of our sets fit at one time, I had to incorporate them into the design since there was no way to avoid them altogether. For the ship's hold, I boxed them off and made them look like wooden pillars.

Photo 6: The Athlok was a butcher, and the Qunari are giants, so I wanted to make sure there was plenty of meat around! It's completely impractical to use real sides of beef as set dressing, so I bit the bullet and ponied up the money to make a full scale mold.

We did some Internet research, and pulled out the animal anatomy books, although the exact species of animal is open to interpretation! An outline was drawn on a 4x8 sheet of plywood, some old cans and boxes were stacking within it to take up volume, and chicken wire was stretched over that. Then about 2 tons of WED clay was applied to form a rough side of beef.

My buddy Digger Mesch blocked out all the forms, and then Bryan Fulk and I did the final finish work.

Photo 7: Rob "The Kid" Lindores made a fiberglass matrix case over the finished sculpt, and here he attaches cardboard tubes over holes he drilled so about 20 gallons of silicone could be poured in to make a highly detailed impression of the sculpt.

Photo 7a: When the first half of the mold was done, it was flipped over (By about 10 people, and a lot of engineering! The table it was on did not survive). The filler and chicken wire were removed, and the clay inside was used to sculpt the interior of the ribs. This was then jacketed, and more rubber was poured to make the final mold.

Photo 8: When the mold was cured and cleaned, 7 fiberglass copies were pulled, patched, and painted. All the colors were applied with over the counter spray paint, and then a finishing wash of acrylic colors, like burnt umber, was used to soften the look.

Photo 9: The finished meat was coated with an acrylic gloss to make it look fresh, and we sprayed them with water during filming to keep them extra shiny. The set floor was covered in hay, and the ship's hold was ready to shoot!

Photo 10: BioWare used a lot of specific patterns in the Qunari aesthetic, and I drafted as many of them as I could into this set. I would venture to say that this is the most detailed construction of any set we built for DA:R, although it ultimately gets the least amount of screen time. John Bell helmed the overwhelming task of getting this one built.

The back of the set housed a small loft to hold dry goods, and under it sat two trouble making humans that had it in for the Athlok. The two crew members in this photo are definitely not those humans! And a good thing for them, cause Felicia had a few surprises on her chopping block...

Photo 11: Here are the Qunari cutlery Athlok uses during the fight scene. Every weapon we made had a hero copy, pictured, and a stunt copy. The stunt looked the same at first glance, but on closer inspection, you would notice rounder corners and duller edges, for safety.

All of the metal weapons were made of aircraft grade aluminum, and painstakingly hand forged by Mazin Dajani.

Photo 12: But Felicia was feisty as the Elf slave, and used more than blades for weapons. This is the leg bone she beats Thom Williams with. The one on the left is made from rigid urethane foam, the other an exact copy, but made of a soft, flexible polyfoam. Both copies were safe for stunt fighting, but the rigid looked better close up, and the softer one allowed Felicia to put more effort into the swing with no risk of hurting Tom.

But then she pulls the knife. Lucky for him, someone, or something, stops her...

Photo 13: The Qunari Warrior comes to summon the Athlock.

Photo 14: I was pretty excited about the opportunity to recreate all things Dragon Age, but when BioWare sent me this screen capture of a Qunari Warrior, it quickly rose to the top of my list.

All of the standard conversations were had in the early stages of production, trying to figure out how to create an elaborate fantasy world on a shoe string budget. What to cut, what to simplify. Ideas were presented such as keeping the Qunari as human, just in body paint, or doing simple facial appliances without horns. It was my responsibility as an Executive Producer to help Felicia navigate the difficult path between the possible and the impossible, and to be the voice of the fanboy that really wanted to see THAT screen capture come to life. I knew every counter argument I posed would ultimately mean more work for me and my team, but I believe in the quality Knights of Good stands for, and figured it was better to work twice as hard than realize half a dream. I tried my best to deliver what I thought the fans of the game expected.

Photo 15: The first thing I did after studying the 3D models BioWare sent me was a quick mock-up sculpture. Usually when designing a character make-up, I would do a full "maquette", but "designing" is a difficult word to use in terms of DA:R. I was the production designer, but in a sense, the production was already designed! My main job was to take all the elements of the game and figure out how to bring them to life. I was more like the Production Engineer!

Photo 16: After I figured out how I would accomplish the make-up, the next step was to figure out WHO would wear the make-up. Qunari are hulking beasts, hardened warriors. So many members of the Dragon Age cast were friends, but Kim Evey, Felicia, and I wondered who we knew that could play a muscular giant. J. Teddy Garces instantly came to mind. He was hilarious as Brusier in The Guild Season 3, and that guy definitely works out! He was perfect.

Photo 17: Teddy agreed to do the role, and the next day we did a full head and torso cast on him. He is so massive that I was actually able to climb INSIDE his body cast to work on the seams!

Photo 18: And then the sculpting began.

Photo 19: I'm blogging in order of appearance within the episodes, but I actually sculpted the Qunari Warrior prior to the Saarebas. I really wanted to try and capture that screen shot first, and then work backwards to the mage. I also wanted to figure out the horn placement, as Teddy's would be massive and placement would be more critical than Doug's sawed off nubs.

Photo 20: The Qunari Warrior is Felicia Day approved!

Photo 21: The horns were so big they needed extra armature to support them in clay form. They kept shifting while I was working on them, so I restrained them with a wad of plaster bandage. When the sculpt was complete, the horns needed to be cut free. For some reason, the bandage grabbed onto the pipe like it never has before, so I had to cut through the thick armature with bolt cutters. After a week of sculpting, it was a bit nerve wrecking. I thought art department coordinator Pooja was going to have a heart attack as she watched me!

Photo 22: The horns were completely removed to be molded separately, and the head got a silicone matrix mold.

Photo 23: I used everything I knew about how Rob Bottin made the Darkness horns for Ridley Scott's LEGEND to make the Qunari horns. I laid them up with a lightweight epoxy and angel hair fiberglass cloth. They were 3 feet long, but only weight ounces. They were glued onto a skullcap cast over Teddy's head, which was lined with mole skin.

Here, Red 5 tries out her airbrushing skills to apply acrylics for the base coat.

Photo 24: The finished horns, complete with animatronic eyebrows. I installed servo controlled mechanisms into the horns to get broader expressions out of the Qunari brow, since I sculpted the forehead so massive. I operated them off camera by remote control.

Photo 25: I painted the Warrior skin using the same methods I did for Saarebas.

Photo 26: This is the SPFX make-up trailer. Teddy's warrior appliance waits for him to arrive. It appears lighter here because it was coated in baby powder to protect the paint during transport and application. On set, a layer of KY jelly is applied to bring out the color and create a moist, fleshy appearance.

Photo 27: Here's Teddy in the first stages of make-up application. He's showing off his favorite snack!

Photo 28: After the face was glued down, the horns were slipped on and the foam latex mask was attached to them. The next hour was spend painting Teddy's torso, arms, and hands with PAX, and airbrushing Skin Ilustrator to match the veining pattern on the foam. Finally, Erika applied the hair as I set up the animatronics.

Photo 29: Teddy was put in full costume, and walked to set. I'm not sure if I'm telling the photographer to keep quiet, ripping a piece of tape with my mouth cause my other hand is holding the animatronic battery, or eating the world's largest string cheese in this picture.

Photo 30: Erika applies final touches before Teddy shoots.

Photo 31: The finished Qunari Warrior.

Photo 32: The Qunari release the Athlok, allowing her to once again become Tallis, a highly trained assassin. The price for her freedom? Capture the rogue Qunari mage, Saarebas.

So that's how we brought the Dragon Age giant to life, along with a peek into their world. It was great to see it on film, and I am very excited to show you more behind the scenes as new things come up during the episodes.

But we're not done with Ep. 1: Tallis yet! I have yet another entry to wrap up this episode. Too much? Not enough!?! Want to know about any specific prop or art technique used in Dragon Age: Redemption? Let me know what you think of these blogs by posting a comment!

I've also added a widget below so you can easily share on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ - please share this entry if you enjoyed it!


  1. Cool pics

    Also, is this where to post for the DLC code giveaway?


    Playing on PC

  2. Incredible how much detailed work goes into a production like that. Very impressive work.


  3. Awesome blog, I love all the care and detail you put into the set design and costuming. I was really impressed with how the Qunari turned out in full motion in the episode. Keep up the great work!

    I'd also like to throw my hat in the ring for a DLC code. I play on PC, and tweet as @bond_alexander

  4. Wow, I really want to learn large scale mold making now! (I do small scale for jewelry) Gorgeous work! ...and I'm on xbox 360, @hkmouse. :)

  5. I really never realised so much work would go into a web series! It's really great so far so keep up the good work.

    And in the vain hope that I could get a DLC here's my Twitter: @MosesMRK2 (Xbox 360)

  6. Very nice and painstakingly done for realism. Looking forward to future eps!


  7. The details you put into this are amazing, I didn't even recognize J. Teddy Garces when I saw him as the Qunari. If anything, I think this production is really helping push the envelope in showing the world (or Internets) the scope of what can be done with 'just' a web series. I also think you managed to do a great job in capturing the graphics and feel of Dragon Age II - since the Quanri was spot on! (Although I'm glad I don't have to sit through several hours of make-up)

    Seriously, with all these images you have on the blog, I can't help but wonder if there will be any 'behind the scenes' features or moves released on how the web series was made. Because if there were, that would be awesome.

    (And for the DLC Code stuff -- @SarahFrisk, and I play on the xbox)

  8. The makeup and FX were amazing for this episode! I couldn't believe how real the Qunari looked. It has inspired me to do a short fantasy film for my portfolio. I can't wait to see whats to come in the next episodes!

    @lilybethfilms PS3

  9. I have to say, while I don't normally find interest production blogs, this fascinated me! It's amazing the care and attention put into all the details and I honestly thought that beef was real! (I know, I know..."Silly Kella".../headpat)

    I love the animatronic eyebrows, though... for some reason those made me giggle.

    Also, in the great pondering on duct tape vs. world's largest string cheese in that picture, I have to put my imaginary money on duct tape. ;)

    (I play these games on PS3 and my Twitter handle is @KellaKnits, btw, because I'm a sucker for Dragon Age DLC...)

  10. That's awesome! I'm excited to see where the web series goes. Not to mention seeing DA characters come to life!

    For the DLC @gamergirl27 xbox 360

  11. @Davicams

    Would love an xbox360 code :)

  12. I just love seeing behind the scenes stuff for any special effects. Awesome work all around. Can not wait for episode 2

    @mrfatlurk XBOX360

  13. When is this series going to land on Xbox Live?

    Platform: PC

  14. Great job! Very innovative way of incorporating the limitations of the space (i.e., the support pillars) into the set and turning it into a positive!

    @AngeloAlcid Xbox 360

  15. Wow! I never knew how much work was put into the modeling! But it was definitely worth it; the Quanri costume looked perfect to me. And I'm just curious what exactly was the budget? Because I had assumed it wasn't too little but you say that you didn't have much. In any case you pulled everything off so well!

    Also I love the painting in the back of picture 20. :)

    (For DLC stuff; @elibwilliams and I play on pc)

  16. Thank you for showing the step by step of this process. Your care and concern for the project really paid off. I'm a detail person, so I truly appreciate all of your hard work. Absolutely amazing. Thanks!

    @ejabagnale ps3

  17. I really enjoyed episode 1, and seeing all the process pictures was awesome! Thanks for sharing this cool stuff with us! Congrats to everyone who works/ed on this, it's looking incredible!


  18. I posted on your last blog thanking you for twittering the post. I read your post often. Love your work on Dragon Age: Redemption

    alexah12 on PC

  19. Wow. I'm always in awe of how much work can go into a single episode. In any case, it came out amazingly and I can't wait to see more.

    @gigapixels on PC

  20. Absolutely amazing work on the Quanri costume! When I was watching the episode, I was wondering how that was done. It's so lifelike that it really helped sell me on the entire scene. There are few things more dissapointing than seeing shoddy work ruin an engaging script, and your setting and costume construction allayed those fears for me. Well done!

    @weinlank Xbox 360

  21. I love seeing this behind the scenes stuff. looks like so much work went into this. Never really notice it when you just watch the video.


  22. The effects were really good - impressive especially for a webisode. I'll be curious to see where the story goes from here.

    @starkeee Xbox 360

  23. This blog post us phenomonal! I can't wait to watch DA:R and I'm already looking forward to some of your future products. Keep up the good work greg! @rngdpnkr System:xbox360

  24. Its amazing, I love the detail. My imagination couldnt have asked for more:) thank you for pleasing my eyeballs!


    Xbox 360

  25. I bet it took a super long time to get the set ready and serrabus into costume. Looks great! Bravo!

    @aleccervi xbox360

  26. In a way seeing how the magic is made makes me sad - because I thought the first episode was way immersive. But in another more accurate way the effects that you guys pull off while staying within the budget of a web series is jaw droppingly cool.

    I echo a commenter above - maybe you should make a "behind the scenes" DAR companion episode - even time lapse photos of an actor getting in makeup, or a set being built or whatever would be super cool.

    As far as Dragon Age Redemption goes, I am really looking forward to the next installment. It's cool to see how Felicia Day goes from neurotic basketcase Codex to badass honeybadger assasin.

    (Twitter handle @bytemeorg XBox360)

    P.S. Check out this Second Life Tallis homage -

  27. Holy cow, AWESOME blog!! I did some work with casting and model making so it's always fun to see it done on such a large scale. Everything in the episode looked amazing and now there is photographic proof of the EXTREMELY hard work and crazy amount of detail you guys put into it!! I cant wait to see more of the season! And of course anything involving Felicia Day dressed as a hot elf is always a plus!! Keep rocking the episodes and we'll keep watching and supporting! Great job!!

    @Grady2184 xbox360

  28. Wow, I always forget how much works goes into a production (even web series! Too used to YouTube videos). Seeing photos like these makes me appreciate how much work there is. Excited to watch the series this weekend!

    My wife already got the DLC, unfortunately we've found that if we both want to play it we both have to purchase it =( so throwing my hat in the contest.

    @Moradeth xbox360

  29. Amazing to see so much work going into a production like this. Things sure have changed in the past few years, makes me glad I tend to work more with animation!

    Great in-depth blog post too.

    Twitter @PeriannathUK
    Platform PC

  30. I was blown away by the phenomenal work on the Qunari prosthetics & costuming-- beautifully done! Such an incredible translation to live-action. My inner-nerd thanks you for going all-out on the Qunari. :)

    I'd also like to thank you for sharing these behind-the-scenes details. Getting to read a bit about the process & efforts behind bringing this world to life is fascinating. Absolutely brilliant, amazing work & I look forward to seeing more of the series & to more of these awesome blogs. :)

    @AbsoluteLisa - PC

  31. As a huge fan of the Dragon Age games and books as well as a massive fan of the Guild I am really looking forward to this web series.

    I have to admit I was wondering why it was taking so long but after seeing this blog and seeing the work you guys are putting into the production I am now not bothered about how long it takes since I know its going to be utterly awesome!

    @GarryTibbs Xbox

  32. Like you said, I loved getting this "first glimpse" into the life of the Qunari! So much detail and effort was put into every piece of the set and the costumes. Can't wait for the next episode!

    @Kygirltaylor , Xbox360

  33. Huh, somehow in the game I didn't really notice that qunari horns are so sharp-edged. Or maybe I thought that's due to low-poly models :)

    Also, I have to say, the qunari were probably the most impressive part of the first episode for me. Worthy of an AAA-title, no less!

    (yes, I also wanna DLC, i admit :) - @_Ntony_ playing on PC)

  34. So amazed by the quality of the props. Still can't believe how awesome the makeup effects for the Qunari worked out. So lifelike! It's so cool to see the armor and props from the game replicated in real life with such detail.

    Oh, and DLC for xbox! @Ewong247

  35. Greg I always love these behind the scene looks at the work you do. I is amazing what you and the barnyard crew pull off. I never even noticed the ships hold was set. I figured you had shot it in some old ship looking place or a stable or something. Excellent job on morphing Teddy to a Qunari Warrior. I appreciate all the detail you put into the work. Now must go and re-watch Dragon Age: Redemption Ep 1 to see it in action. Will you be covering how Tallas's weaponds were made. They look AWESOME like everything else.


  36. Ok, I am super jealous of your job. Do you accept interns who live on the opposite side of the country....and can't afford to travel? bahaha.
    Glad to see more readers.

  37. I love the magic that seems to just come from Greg like water flowing down a river.

    Love all the stuff created for the Guild and Dragon Age: Redemption.

    @OMGstevechuaFTW PC

  38. hahaha. Awesome casting for the Qunari. Teddy looks awesome.


    playing on PS3

  39. More posts!

    I'm looking forward to Part III.

    I would also love to hear more about the people you work with. Sometimes I think you are your only employee. Then there will be pictures of Red 5 and Erika and I wonder how big it all gets. I also wonder if different people you work with have different specialities.

    Always interesting!