Each shot of the In the Valley of Gods trailer went through a number of iterations before ending up in the final cut. The idea of this opening shot—a cramped silent film frame blooming open into a wide, dramatic desert vista—was established pretty early on in our development of the trailer. It sets the tone, it hints at the scale of our story, and it gives us a target for how we want our sweeping outdoor spaces to feel in the final game.
I started with a series of quick studies from Lawrence of Arabia to get myself in the right mindset. If anyone knows how to make a lot of sand look exceedingly dramatic, it’s cinematographer Freddie Young:
The vista for this shot draws inspiration from the wide, terraced hills above Luxor, to lead naturally into the temple facade in the next shot being nestled in the recessed limestone cliffs.
We vacillated between modeling out this vista in 3D, vs. a 2D matte painting, but in the end it made the most sense to paint it as a matte painting that we could have far more control over, and redirect Jane’s efforts to more pressing environments in the trailer. Jane modeled and lit a rough layout based on my early concepts, and from there I just painted the dang thing until it was done.
Everything behind the foreground sand-dunes is hand-painted, with additional heat shimmer and sand FX to break up the shot courtesy of Matt Wilde.
From top to bottom: Rough Storyboards, Color/Composition Studies, Final Concept, Final Shot, Lawrence of Arabia Studies, Final Shot In Motion