With Guitar Hero Live, FreeStyleGames (creators of the DJ Hero spinoff series) is striving to reinvent the original concepts that made the series so captivating in its earliest incarnations. They accomplished this not only with the new controller design, but also with the live-action background footage. Using a first-person perspective, they’ve taken a step further toward letting players experience the thrill of taking the stage.
Speaking to Polygon, Jamie Jackson, creative director and head of FreeStyleGames, explains what the new video adds to the game:
“The crowd brings a level of atmosphere with them. That was something that we thought was really cool. We wanted to bring that. We wanted to give you that live experience, the experience of stage fright. That was a phrase we had internally for a while. We wanted to give you stage fright. We wanted you to walk out on stage in front of thousands of people and play. So we thought, screw it, let’s just make a movie. Let’s film real people responding to you. Let’s have real crowds cheering along if you’re doing really well, singing the lyrics back to you, but also giving you shit if you get it wrong. So that’s what we did.”
— Jamie Jackson
The stage fright begins before the song starts. You will be shown a backstage clip where a roadie will tell you that you’re on, then you’ll walk out on stage and see a giant audience waiting for you. This audience, along with your bandmates, will react realistically to your performance. The footage was filmed with
“robot cameras” that could perfectly reproduce the same camera motions for multiple takes, allowing for near-seamless (save for a brief flash) transitions when the mood changes. This same technology was used in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. Jamie Jackson describes the experience of working with these machines:
“It was really cool. It blew our minds a little bit. We were like, ‘OK, these cameras shoot exactly the same frame every single time. We could use that, because we want to switch between a good performance and a bad performance.’ The biggest jarring thing you’ll get is if you have a few frames out. The frame’s never out on this. It’s exactly the same. The only difference is, the performance from your band members, the performance from the crowd, that changes to be either positive, and they’ll give you some good vibes, or not so positive and they’ll give you bad vibes.” — Jamie Jackson
Jackson used a virtual reality camera that allowed him to look around the stage to position the actors while in the studio. The technology used by the team
also made it possible to multiply the size of the audience as they saw fit. While the most notable changes have been made to visual presentation, the audio has also been made more immersive:
“We’ve put as much detail into the audio as we did into the visual impact. We’ve designed this 3D sound system. If I’m over playing by the drummer, I’ll hear more of the live drums coming through. If I run over into the crowd, I’ll get more of the crowd vibe coming through. If it’s in a good sense, they’ll perhaps be singing the lyrics back to me or cheering me on. If it’s in a bad sense, they could be doing anything from hurling abuse to just silence, which is almost as bad as abuse, sometimes I think. We wanted to kind of take you on a journey with each of these songs. Each crowd, each set, has been built to fit that song and feel like it’s the right one for the song.”
— Jamie Jackson
Guitar Hero Live releases late this year in a $99.99 bundle with the new guitar controller for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, and smart devices.