SCARLETT XBOX DEVELOPER KIT
In June 2019, Xbox announced "Project Scarlett" - the development kit for game makers to develop game titles for the Xbox Series X|S. Details of technical specifications were not released until later that year at the annual Xbox developer-focused event, Xfest.
Working with producers and managers in ATG (Advanced Technology Group) the goal was to create a set of entertaining animation designs to reveal the tech specs of the dev kit to game developers at Xfest. We agreed we wanted the video to be informational, look good, and have a consistent design to the actual hardware.
I worked with Jason Ronald (Director of Program Management for Xbox Series X, Xbox) and Clint Woon (Principal Program Manager, Xbox) from a provided storyboard to create the basis of where the video design should be taken.
The storyboard included a voice over script. The desire was to get Jason to voice the script. I drew inspiration from the "Project Scarlett" reveal video from June and wanted to expand on the creative scope for filming Jason instead of just getting his voice. This would add another layer of style and momentum to the video.
The idea was to have the talking head shots match many of the 3D model shots in terms of tone, camera movement, and lighting. I started with testing shots and began designing some of the elements, like the name plate.
Test shoot with different lighting rigs to match camera and light in the 3D rendered animations.
An animated template for what would have been the lower third.
Because of timing and schedule conflicts, filming Jason in the studio ended up not being an option. After a few edited iterations with his voice, the voice track was also removed. However, the goals hadn't changed: information shown in a cool way. And I intended on achieving that.
THE SOC (SYSTEM ON A CHIP)
A main focus feature is the SOC (system on the chip), a significant feature in the dev kit. The very start of the video needed to highlight that first. Using inspiration from previous videos and marketing designs, a few variations were tried out while also establishing other elements of the video.
Example of the SOC - In person (left) and in a rendered animation (right).
Early, rough animations with varying designs and movement.
After eventually abandoning the X-ray idea, I went a more imaginative direction. I made the Xbox logo appear to power up and spread its power outward. Going into the next few shots made more sense for text placement and camera moves.
During the X-ray idea phase I also worked on presenting the information. To get an accurate representation of the layout, that would require having access to the blueprints. I spoke with one of the designers and was was given a low level version of the board where the SOC and other important components would live.
The X-ray view didn't take. Without indicating what was on the board, which would be far too many words on the screen at once, it was a confusing image. And the information on the screen was not interesting or engaging. Further simplifying the design was needed. Spreading the information out over time was the best approach for this.
Since I was not using the name plate to indicate who was speaking, I repurposed the design for all the tech info.
Simpler text spread out made readability easier and more enjoyable to watch.
After solidifying the animated text, it was a matter of finding shots that would fit with the text in a pleasing composition. Finding a through-line with camera movement was important for this to work.
CREATING THE DEV KIT MODEL
The biggest challenge was acquiring the designs of the dev kit. To avoid any remote possibility of potential leaks, that info was kept to only people who absolutely needed it. Since this particular video was not going to be made public (for developers only), there was virtually no collaboration with Marketing Communications at Xbox. I followed basic branding guidelines to ensure continuity and integrity of the brand.
Unfortunately, this meant that getting a 3D render, or even just the model, of the new product was not possible. Instead, I improvised the 3D look by using the provided 2D images that were rendered at high resolutions.
The Front Display Panel was designed and animated by Rodney Brunet (Senior Visual Designer, MediaLab) based on prototype builds of the dev kit.
Giving the camera a shallow focus helped in solidifying it as something living in a 3D space.
A lot of time went into developing the look of the video and examining what could be done with the given time and resources. And details about the hardware's performance were constantly shifting. Because of this, a final version of the video was not completed until a couple hours before it was shown at Xfest.
While only a fraction of my ideas ended up in the video, I am still proud of how this came out. If anything, because of the constant walls I found myself hitting, and getting past them nonetheless. Having multiple back-up plans for each element in this project proved to be the most useful approach.
The result was an informative video showcasing the beauty of the Scarlett Dev Kit and successfully leading viewers into thinking the faux model was a 3D rendered asset.
Clint received questions from people in his organization how we obtained the 3D models.
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Premiere Pro
Producer | Clint Woon (Executive Producer/Principal PM, Xbox)
Producer | Jason Ronald (Director of Program Management for Xbox Series X, Xbox)
3D animation, edit, sound | Kyle Culver (Video Editor, MediaLab/Formosa Interactive)
2D vector animation | Rodney Brunet (Senior Visual Designer, MediaLab)
Additional motion graphics consulting | Kristian Tonnessen (Motion Graphics/Designer, MediaLab)
Additional thanks | Chris Rock (Technical Art Director, World's Edge)