F-Zeroes: A Visual Development

F-Zeroes: A Visual Development

A subject that is very dear to the hearts of everyone at Cutscene Media is video games. In fact, we love them so much that when we were invited in September 2014 to submit ideas to Channel 4’s short form online content department, we decided that we wanted to make a show about video games.
The main stipulation of the brief was that the show had to be factual. A show about games? How hard could it be?

Well, for a start, we wanted it to have a lifespan beyond a couple of weeks, so not a news show and definitely not a reviews show. With this in mind, we opted to look at the culture of gaming as a whole, with each episode looking at a different aspect of gaming culture – but we still wanted it to be fun. Games are primarily about fun, so we made the decision to inject a bit of humour and energy into it.

Finally, the show had to stand out. It had to exist within a space that had hundreds of home-made shows about games all around it – some of them with view counts into the millions – but with budget and expertise, we planned for F-Zeroes to be well written, expertly performed and beautifully shot.

After an initial presentation of the idea, Channel 4 awarded us with some budget from their Alpha Fund to produce a visual development to give a small taster of what the show would be about, a short piece that looked as if it were lifted from a larger whole, presenting ideas that we could build into a larger series. We had a few weeks to put it together.

We worked as a team of six –

Richie Morgan (writer/director)
Barry Topping (writer/producer/sound design)
Ryan Macleod (writer/presenter)
Owen O’Donnell (writer/presenter)
Caitlin Watson (presenter)
Andrew Tweedie (DoP)

We got together one rainy day in the office, propped up a whiteboard and started to hammer out ideas. We started with key subjects that we could tackle, then came up with ideas about how to tackle those subjects. We came up with some good stuff, but given that we only had a minute long piece to show off what we could do, we opted for arcades.The full-length episode would have looked at the culture of arcade gaming; what it was and what it is now. During this segment we could play with the notion of nostalgia for arcades versus the reality of arcades.
Production kicked off early on a cold November morning in Nobles Amusements in Portobello, we shot Owen’s sequences here as well as a half of the b-roll. It was quiet and straightforward. We had a great opportunity to set up the C300 on the slider and capture some really great stuff.

Caitlin’s sequence was shot in the tenpin bowling alley at Fountainpark in Edinburgh. This was quite a different experience from the morning shoot. The manager was kind enough to give us permission to film, but it wasn’t the level of production that allowed us to close anything off. We had come on a week night to try avoid any madness. It seems that the magic of the arcade is still alive and well – the place was buzzing.
Thanks to some well-placed camera work, and a very patient Caitlin who had to do her lines a million times, we nailed it and got some pretty lovely b-roll shots to boot.

The following night we shot the podcast sequence at Pitt Street Photography Studio, making visual use of the studio setting and going for a shut down after-hours feel. Andy and Richie managed to craft something that visually nailed the tone in a very short and tight shooting period (just 2 hours) – this coupled with an excellent performance from Ryan gave us the visual punch and level of production quality that would separate F-Zeroes from your usual gaming show.

The piece was edited and graded back at the Cutscene offices by Richie and Barry worked on giving it a strong audio mix, choosing Grum’s ‘Heartbeats’ to convey the sort of tone he’d have gone for when scoring the actual show.

Sadly, Channel 4 were not able to commission a full series as it wasn’t the sort of thing they were looking for at the time, but we’re always looking at new ideas and maybe F-Zeroes will find life down some other avenue in some other venture.

But for now, do enjoy our short snippet into what could have been… Or what might be again.

Check out F-Zeroes, right here.

Production Details

Produced – November 2014
Shot on – Canon C300
Edited on – Adobe Premiere

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