DID YOU READ

Interview: Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara on “L.A. Noire,” Part 3

Interview: Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara on “L.A. Noire,” Part 3 (photo)

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[Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.]

Back to making the game, you guys were in development starting in 2004. Console transition happened from PS2 and Xbox 1 to Ps3 and Xbox 360 around 2006. At what point did you have the whole hardware epiphany, in terms of what the upcoming systems could do? Or is that something that didn’t even come into play with the way your process worked?

When we first started out, we were with Sony, and we had a lot of access to what the early PS3 hardware was. To a certain extent, the early hardware was touted to be a lot more powerful than what it ended up being. Having said that, it’s still a powerful console and there’s plenty of processing room in it, too. So to a certain extent, we went for a lot more than we should have. I think that’s kind of a good thing in a way. Because, now, the game still holds up even though we’ve been working on it for a long time.

I remember one milestone in particular in terms of the tech stuff really coming together. We’d been working on this case which is for another beat desk in the precinct house, where we had a case where someone was cashing bad checks. You could go to jail for that in those days. The player has to interview a bank manager and that was the first time we ever had someone go and speak to any one character with a MotionScan head. He was talking to you and he was thinking about what you were saying. And we had your partner there, too.

And when we first got that working, we showed that to all the people at Rockstar in New York. The producer, Jeronimo Barrera, he asked us to put a camera in so you could move the camera around the scene in 3D, so you could see that it was actually the game’s real graphics engine and that you weren’t just actually looking at a video.

And what year would that have been?

Oh, probably around late 2007, early 2008. The other thing you got to remember about our development on “L.A. Noire” is that it was written almost like a text adventure in a way. The character would say things and they’d say things back to you. It’s slightly different than making the usual game because the logic of it says, I’ve talked to you but I haven’t talked to Bruce, so I have to talk to somebody else. So I have one part of the information, but I don’t have another. I haven’t picked up a clue. So I do that.

So there’s millions of logic bombs that you could possibly have in the script depending on who you talk to, and what order they talked to you, and what you found. But to a certain extent, the game had to go through all of that, and to go through all that QA testing before we could start recording. Because once you start recording in MotionScan, then you have all the usual problems of a film, in terms of continuity. We recorded Aaron, and Aaron was in there for a long time recording.

But, if we recorded him six months later again, he might have got fatter, skinnier, or changed his hair. So the whole process is slightly different to a conventional game where you can go back in and keep recording audio all the time. You need to arrange for a lot more actor availability and factor in that they might have actually changed.

Right. That’s an interesting point. Because you are using actual talent for visuals and not just voice, you’re dependent on their whole performance in a much more important way than traditional mo-cap.

Yeah. You could have a scene because we screwed up on QA’ing the dialogue. And we go in and shoot the scene again, and his sideburns are like a couple centimeters shorter. And when you’re talking to him you see that part of his hair go up and down. That’s the price of the fidelity we achieve with MotionScan.

That’s pretty awesome. But you of course can fix some of that stuff in post-production, I imagine?

No, it’s really difficult to fix. Because you’d have to go in there and change lots and lots of frames. There was a sequence which we were trying to find for ages, where he sneezed in the rig, Aaron Staton. I mean, it’s not the kind of thing you’ll use over and over again in the game, where he’s sneezing constantly. Where are we going to put that? But when he does sneeze, you can actually see his face go red for a few frames as his skin goes red. Then you can see it calm back down again. It’s pretty amazing, but that kind of thing makes it so we have to nail specific takes on the initial performance capture.

That’s intense. So talk about Aaron Staton and the casting. How did you get involved with him? Rockstar started working with celebrities–Ray Liotta in “GTA: Vice City,” for example–and then they moved away from that. What were the choices that were made about who to get for what particular roles?

Well, the idea was, we didn’t think that we needed particularly anybody who was like a huge name. We just wanted quality actors. Obviously, Hollywood is a great place for that. So we used a casting agency called Schiff/Audino. And Laura Schiff, she cast the “Mad Men” TV series. And it was just kind of by a lucky accident. Like, I didn’t even really know “Mad Men.” It had been out here but I didn’t know the series very well.

And [Rockstar exec] Dan Houser, who’s in New York, he’s a fan of the series and a fan of the writing. And he said, “There’s this guy Aaron Staton on the show. I think he could really do it and he’d be great.” And we didn’t think we could get him at the start because he was doing the show. Laura approached him and, of course, he had to read through the material. It was just the outline because the game’s got 2200 pages of script. But, he liked it and he came down to have dinner and a chat with us. And we just thought that we’d get on.

And once Aaron signed up to do it, loads of people from “Mad Men” kept ringing us up, saying, “Oh, I want to be in it. I want to be in it. Can I be in it?” Because they just heard that it was this kind of new type of video game and going to be done in an interesting way. So, we were really lucky there. We got Kartheiser and all sorts of people from “Mad Men” in the show.

That’s a pretty great package deal to get.

Yeah. We got all sorts of people who have done many different things in Hollywood. And we got John Noble as well. And John’s kind of a different story. Because John is obviously Australian. He does “Fringe.” We talked to him maybe as far back as 2005 about it and he came into Sydney and we showed him what we were trying to do.

And he thought it was kind of wild and crazy and didn’t know if we could do it or not. We stayed in touch. Whenever we were doing a test, if he was home for Christmas or something, he’d come in and do a test for us which was amazingly kind of him. And then when we finally got down to the show, he just took some days off, took a weekend off from Fringe and came down and did all his stuff in two days for us which is amazing.


So, now that you guys are kind of in the homestretch. And you’re probably eagerly waiting what the reception is going to be. Have you thought about that much?

Yeah. We are eagerly awaiting with all fingers and toes crossed. Because it is radically different to what anyone else would have played, I think. If cop show is really familiar, I think your frame of reference in terms of games is zero.

Exactly. That’s an interesting point. This is the kind of thing that we always talk about when we talk about video games as a medium. What’s the give and take between a video game and other mediums? It seems that when other mediums try to pull from video games, they get the most broad, nuance-free ideas from video games about shooting lots of dudes, and cool camera angles, and stuff.

But when video games pull from other mediums, sometimes, it’s like very basic plot structure or character motivation, and not anything a little more sophisticated. So it seem like you guys are trying to be a little bit more shaded.

Oh, yeah. And we’re trying to take games to places they haven’t been. Like I said, in this game, asking questions is as important as pulling the trigger. And who has ever done that before? It’s a totally new experience for video game audience. But if the future of games is just drive somewhere and shoot somebody, it’s not a very interesting future.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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