Making the FemShep Trailer

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Today is #FemShepFriday. Beyond being a day dedicated to the lady version of Commander Shepard and her new trailer “Reinstated”, it is really a day celebrating the community. As I read glowing comments in the forums and excited tweets to help get us trending (we did it in US and Canada! Well done guys!), I noticed today was a day that brought many people together.

We discussed what makes us fans and what things made us love Mass Effect in the first place. True community is about togetherness and solidarity, and when that happens, it really is a glorious thing to be part of. I can’t describe the feeling, but it’s inspiring. No matter who our Commander Shepards are, or what aspects of the game we love the most, we’re all fans of Mass Effect!

I sat down with our post production supervisor Neel Upadhye who spearheads our trailers with his team of filmmakers and artists. A lot of people in the marketing and development teams have been working very closely on this trailer featuring female Shepard, and we have been waiting months to share it. Check out what Neel had to say!

Who are you and what do you do at BioWare?

My name’s Neel Upadhye, and I lead the team behind the trailers for Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Command & Conquer.  I manage the talents of editors Tanner Boyajian and Deji Oduntan; our motion graphics artist, Chase Boyajian; and finally, our sound designer, Charley Stauber.  Since we work remotely, we are affectionately known as “BioWare LA” within the company.


Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’m from India and I traveled a lot as a kid.  I finally set my roots down in Los Angeles when I attended the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  I love storytelling in all its forms, especially film.  It takes the best of all the popular arts that came before it – fine art, music, theater – and melds them together.  There are few things better than a well-told story.  As a filmmaker who gets to work in video games, I feel truly blessed to be with a studio that strives to tell some of the most cinematic stories available in ANY medium.


This is the first we’re seeing the new canon FemShep based on our community votes last summer. What was the thought process going into making this trailer?

Fans have been asking for a FemShep trailer for a long time so we realized that expectations would be high.  As fans of the games ourselves, we wanted to do something that would excite people who know this universe.  What makes people so jazzed about Mass Effect is that beyond the galactic war, you care about the characters.  That’s how we came to the decision to make this a cameo trailer.  We tried to fit in glimpses of some of the people you’ve fought with side by side.  I knew that if I was a fan and I saw a few frames of my romance option from ME2, I would freeze the video going  “WHOA wait, is that who I think it was??!”  That’s the effect we wanted this trailer to have.  If  “Fall of Earth,” our E3 trailer, was for people joining the fight, “Reinstated” is for those who’ve been there.


Female Shepard’s portrayed here is a bit of a renegade.  Why?

Jennifer Hale’s voice performance as Shepard is terrific, especially in her more bad-ass moments.  We thought it would be fun to make FemShep a counter to the goody two-shoes male Shepard who wants to save the day Luke Skywalker style.   It’s more than just that, however.  As players of the series know, Shepard is who you make him/her out to be.  It’s your story.  As such, Mark Meer (voice of Male Shepard) and Jennifer Hale are faced with the challenge of constructing a ”kaleidoscope” of all that a war hero could be.  I hope this trailer pays tribute to their hard work by showing a slightly different angle on the character.   On a personal note, ever since day one on this game, I’ve been dying to make a trailer about how renegade Shepard gets his/her rank stripped away and then has to claim it back.  I swear I tried to shoe-horn the line “Consider yourself reinstated, Commander!”  into at least 3 other trailers.  Finally, I got to scratch that itch 🙂


What are some challenges in making video game trailers?

From a technical standpoint, the hardest thing about our job is making trailers for a game that’s not finished.  It’s like laying the tracks down in front of the train as it comes barreling at you.  Sometimes you want to highlight a certain moment or use a certain line and the level just isn’t ready.  That’s when you have to get really creative.  From an artistic side, trailer editing is the art of the short film perfected.  You have 90, or sometimes as little as 15 seconds to tell a story.  You have to get it across quick, cool, and clear.  Unlike most movies that cut two or three trailers from 2 hours of footage, we cut closer to 10 to 20 videos from 60 hours of footage.  That gives us a lot of choice, which makes things fun.  Sometimes my job’s more akin to directing an animated film rather than cutting a trailer.  We at the studio have versions of the game that can run in slow motion, swap out models, animate amazing camera moves, break physics, etc.  If I’m missing something in my cut,  I can ask Tanner Boyajian to jump into the game, and shoot me footage of exactly what I need.  He’s captured gameplay shots that are as sexy as some of the best cinematics in the game.  It’s quite a skill!


What aspect of Shepard do you like the most?

Shepard’s a leader that was tried by fire.  He/She’s had to make a lot of tough decisions, but no matter how strongly you stand behind him/her, there’s always that nagging guilt.  In this game, some of those choices from the past start haunting Shepard.  It’s great to see that human side start peeking through.  I heard Jessica Chobot say once  that Female Shepard was the only female protagonist in any video game she’s played that felt like she could be an actual person – not a caricature, but a real, authentic, and strong person.  That’s a real testament to Mac Walter’s writing team, the amazing direction by Casey Hudson and Caroline Livingstone, and of course, the performance by Jennifer Hale.


What inspires you in your work?

The deadlines in marketing are always crazy, but it keeps things exciting.  Our team is incredibly talented and motivated.  When Chase Boyajian created that Collector’s Edition trailer, we saw a comment on the forums that said “I would buy clothespins if they had ads this cool!”  Those kinds of moments are always nice.  It’s also nice to see how my team keeps getting better and better at what we do.  Back on Dragon Age: Origins, I was a one man team, and that’s just not a good way to work.  For example, there’s just no way I’ll ever be as good a sound designer as Charley Stauber.  Having a team with diverse skill sets is crucial to putting out good work.  It also helps that these guys are just frickin’ great guys.  We have a lot of late nights, but we also have a lot of laughs.  If you’re ever at E3, Comic-Con, Gamescom, or wherever else we do our BioWare TV shows, come say “Hi!”   Feel free to chat with me on twitter @neelreel and join playing some multiplayer, March 6th.   Later folks!

Thanks so much Neel and team! We love the trailer and hope the community does too.

I should go.

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