I worked closely with our local High Res cinematics department while working on POP3 and was very impressed with the quality of their work (see first embedded video below). Others, too, agreed, as the VES awarded one of the game's cinematics the Best Pre-Rendered Visuals in a Video Game.
If you haven't already seen it, the E3 2006 Assassins Creed (done by the same team) is even more impressive.
The team that made both of these movies are going to be creating the core of the new CGI studio, so expect to be floored. I am obviously biased, but I think Ubisoft ranks up there with Blizzard as creating some of the best high-res work in the gaming industry so I can't wait to see what this new studio creates.
Update: I realise I didn't add much in the way of my own thoughts or analysis into this post, and perhaps there might be one or two people out there interested to know what I think. So, in no particular order, some of my thoughts:
- The demand for online video is exploding and business models are maturing. For now much revenue is generated simply through add revenue on services like YouTube, but recent marriages of distribution and billing systems (Apple, Xbox Live, Google Video, etc) means content owners can charge the consumer directly. By the time Ubisoft is ready to release the first product created by this new studio, there will likely be a variety of services who will happily host (and likely feature) our content for sale.
- In addition to revenue generation, though, the digital video space has served as fertile grounds for marketers for years now. Is a truly successful viral marketing campaign worth the investment for a short 2-5 minute CGI movie? I'd bet yes.
- Several major development studios (LucasArts and Sony Pictures come to mind) have already gone on record as looking for ways to find 'synergy' (awful word I know, but it is appropriate here) between their film and game studios. With a growing trend towards Hollywood and Game convergence, it could serve Ubisoft well to start developing the expertise to create film (even if only short ones) ourselves. If nothing else, it will benefit us to have internal expertise in the world of feature length CG movies so that we'll be able to better work with movie production companies should another King-Kong type partnership come up in the future.
- Finally it seems like a brilliant way to grow our game development studio! We've reached something of a saturation point in Montreal in as far as the super rapid growth that has defined our studio for the past years. Ubisoft is aggressively exploring ways to help get new blood into the Montreal game development industry (Ubisoft school, etc) and by opening a cinematics studio we can suddenly appeal to talent that might otherwise have ignored Ubisoft because they consider themselves film animators (or modellers, or technical directors, etc). With time, though, and close collaboration between the game and cinematics studios, cross pollination between the two is sure to happen.