Usually I sit at a desk, just a normal guy with a normal job, but for a few hours one cold December afternoon I got to be a pirate under siege, fighting for my ship and my soul. Well, mostly I pretended to be dead, a background casualty in the fight scene going on around me. But still, I had a great time serving as an extra in the video shoot for an upcoming slot from High 5 Games.
High 5 Games has a hard-earned reputation as the creator of the most beautiful content in the industry, but what’s truly amazing is that the art design of the company’s games has only gotten better in the last few years. The video shoot I attended – held at the surreal Acme Studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – shows why that’s the case. The purpose of the day’s off-site shoot is to capture live-action footage for a pirate adventure game. The footage will be used for in-game animations, a YouTube trailer, and other supplementary material. Video shoots like this are integral in creating many of H5G’s recent titles.
When I arrive at Acme around 8:30 am a few dozen people are already milling about, performing all different types of tasks. The principal actors practice their lines as they slowly transform into their characters thanks to the excellent work of makeup artists and costume designers; on the other end of the vast studio final touches to the set are applied as the day’s shots are scoped out. Mario, the art director of H5G’s 50 West studio, and Jenny, H5G’s video content producer and casting director, make sure everything is progressing according to plan.
I’ve been chosen as an extra for this shoot thanks to my neck-beard – which is normally disdained but for once respected – and by not shaving I feel like I’ve done my job for the day. I sit around picking at what’s left of the breakfast spread and talking to my fellow co-workers/extras while everyone with more pressing responsibilities bustles around. Acme Studios is stuffed with clippings of past shoots and all types of bizarre props, so it’s a great place to let your eyes wander.
After hours of preparation the shooting begins, and different combinations of actors and extras are called upon to bring the game’s story to life. The plot itself can be succinctly summarized as “pirates vs. vampires,” according to Mario.
I slip into my pirate costume, and eventually it’s my turn to sit in the makeup chair. It’s quite odd to have fake blood and dirt smeared all over my body, but I can’t deny that by the end of the process I look like I’ve spent a few months on the open sea.
Mario and Jenny must’ve sensed that I’m a horrific actor, so my on-camera duties are minimal. In addition to playing dead, I’m tasked with running behind a fight scene screaming at the top of my lungs, and fending off a vampire pirate attack. When it comes to doing anything on camera other than not moving and holding my breath, I’m more wooden than the ship on set. Around 4:30 pm I’m dismissed, although the work for more essential members of the production will not end for hours.
Walking towards the subway station, I’m blown away by everything that goes into a video shoot for an H5G slot. Dozens of people applied their time and talents to this shoot, which is just one part of the longer process of content creation. It makes me realize that top-notch games don’t appear out of thin air; they’re painstakingly created by the talented people at High 5 Games.