Nerdmacia recently interviewed Eric Jacobus at FestiGame in Santiago, Chile about his work as a stuntman in God of War. Below is the Google translation of the original interview.

At Festigame Coca Cola 2018, we were able to interview Eric Jacobus briefly, Kratos’ double of action in the new God Of War game. We asked him some questions related to his work and what it means to be double action, and this is what he answered.

Nerdmacia : Being double action must be a very fun job. How was it that you became one?

Eric: Uff is a long story, but very nostalgic for me. It happens that I grew up in the era in which feature films were at their peak (mid 80’s and part of 90’s), and I have fond memories of having seen very good shows on MTV and other interesting movies. I remember that I began to imitate everything they did, the pirouettes and other things. That was on my side, but in Hong Kong I had some friends who made action movies at a low price, so we finally decided to get together and started making independent films in the patio of our house. Over time we had the attention of several people for what we did, and then in the 2000’s Youtube was born, a platform that allows you to upload content for free. So I made my channel, and I started uploading the content that we generated in that place, and that was when the bomb exploded. They began to see us from many parts of the world, not only people, but also important companies. So the work began to viralize and began to have more attention, and the next thing I knew was that I was already working as a full-time action double. So eventually I came to Sony to work on the new God Of War.

Nerdmacia : Could you tell us about your experience of working in a video game?

Eric : It’s very different to work in a videogame than in a movie. I thought I was going to do more things than I actually did, but it turns out that in a video game you only do twice as much as a 3D model, it’s not that you’re really participating. In addition Kratos is played by 2 different people, on the one hand is Christopher Judge, who is the one who lends his voice and movements in general, and then I am double acting. So yes, it’s very different. In this game it only required, to give you an example, of about 8 hours working out every day, which is very exhausting, whereas in a movie it is much easier to divide the times, and it is a lighter process in the long run.

Nerdmacia : Working in videogames and traveling through fantastic worlds should be a truly unique experience. What was the first video game you worked on and how was the experience of seeing yourself in a world that does not exist?

Eric : The first video game I worked for was Mafia III from the 2K company, since fortunately I had a friend who was involved in the production and I lived a few blocks away from him at that time. Then he contacted me mainly because they needed a guy who accepted all kinds of beating haha, that is, stabbing, kicking, shooting, so my first job was capture movement and I remember being days and days and days in that and had to recreate falls and different types of pirouettes that in the movies is very rare to see, and not only for one person, but for several at the same time. In the game we see children falling, old people falling, women falling, then I had to, as I say, receive all kinds of beatings haha. It was very funny because I ended up being the laughingstock of everyone, but finally that is what led me to success. The truth is ironic.

Nerdmacia : How long does it take you to make a scene on average?

Eric: Again, it’s a totally different process in video games and movies. In a movie, a scene of fights takes a lot of minutes to shoot and if it does not go well you have to do it again and so on until someone says “I liked it” and then it’s cut and that’s what’s left. In a game like Mafia III or God Of War there are several cameras and with different angles each, then they are not even minutes. You simply do a pirouette and say “cut” and then do another and “cut” again. And in the end all those divided shots unite them, and the whole sequence appears. In movies it is longer, but by not being divided, you get to enjoy the process much more. But that’s what it’s about being double, of putting all your energy into what you do, whether it’s a lot or a little.

Nerdmacia: In an interview that we did earlier you mentioned that you had a very serious experience with one of your knees. How was that and what health measures are taken to ensure that nothing happens with the production?

Eric: Oh yes, my knee. It happened that right in the recordings of God Of War I fell badly in one of the many pirouettes, and I began to have a very sharp pain in one of my knees. I did the work, but obviously many people in production realized that I was limping, so one of them, Carlos, comes up to me and says “Hey … how’s your knee?”. Of course nobody wanted to stop the production but Carlos told me that, if necessary, we would stop it if my pain continued. The pain continued, but Carlos was very kind to me, almost an angel … he gave me some medicines and advice so that it would not happen again, and in fact he helped me a lot in those scenes so that he did not have to suffer so much. Finally the pain healed thanks to his advice and I have not had a bad experience like that again. But of course, at the time it was very scary.

 

I had the insane privilege of working on Santa Monica Studio’s monumental Playstation 4 game God of War doing motion capture for Kratos, and the team put together this interview about how we approached Kratos’ combat in the game.

Eric Jacobus as motion capture stuntman for Kratos in God of War

[T]hey didn’t exactly hire a UFC fighter to do the motion capture for Kratos. Instead, they turned to a YouTuber who had been, for fun, making videos where he recreates moves from fighting video games – Eric Jacobus.

Bruno Velasquez, the game’s principal animator, had seen Jacobus on YouTube years back, saw him recreating moves from Street Fighter and Tekken, and said, “That guy needs to be our Kratos. Like he’s Kratos. Look at his moves. Look at how he’s flying and doing Superman punches!”

So they pretty much just sent the guy a message on YouTube …

While the actor Chris Judge plays the voice of Kratos and does all the cinematics, it’s Jacobus’ moves you’ll see doing the occasional chokehold and unleashing a fury of fists on one of the game’s unlucky foes.

Rappler (March 19, 2018)

Eric Jacobus motion capture audition video for Kratos, God of War

I was working on the Tekken In Real Life series when Santa Monica Studio, the team behind God of War, called and asked me to audition for the Kratos role. I proposed making a move list for them, and after tinkering some more in my garage I made a 6-minute reel for the character, like the IRL videos. They called me down to the studio and I started work soon after.

And thank God, because Santa Monica Studio saved this dad and his family when we were at a real low point. As a father on the brink of failure, I channeled that frustration and swung that ax for 8 hours a day as hard as I could, dropped on my neck as many times as they wanted, and climbed and kicked and punched non-stop, and I’d have done it 8 hours more. I got to work with top-level video game directors like Mehdi Yssef, Bruno Velasquez, Dori Arazi, James Che, and Tomek Baginski, and it was a joy working alongside Jade Quon, Chris J. Alex, Thekla Hutyrova, TJ Storm, and Kelli Barksdale.

Eric Jacobus Kratos – God of War Mocap with Chris J. Alex and TJ Storm

Game creators, filmmakers, and stunt coordinators are always scouring the internet for inspiration, and that’s how they found me. If you have a skill, the hone it, film it, and put it online. And do it nonstop. Treat it like a second job. I did at least ten of these Tekken IRL videos before they called me for God of War. Work hard, and you might be doing stunts for a project like this too.

Eric Jacobus motion capture performer for Kratos in God of War

Thank you to the team at Santa Monica Studio and all the people behind Sony Playstation for this great opportunity, and Katsuhiro Harada and Bandai Namco of Tekken for helping this garage man with a GoPro chase his dreams.

We set about the difficult task of authoring a Blu-ray version of our latest film Death Grip, which you can buy on our website. They’ve been selling much faster than the DVDs because Blu-ray rocks, and I’m happy as hell we did it. I often get questions from filmmakers asking how the process went, so this very pragmatic blog post is about what to expect when replicating a small order of Blu-rays. Because it’s nowhere near as easy as replicating DVDs.

If you’re a veteran at making DVDs, move down to the Blu-ray section by clicking here.

Being of the do-it-all mentality, I always like to edit our films and put them onto DVD for direct-to-consumer (DTC) distribution. When making a DVD, you go through an “authoring” process where you take your edited product and drop it into an authoring program (DVDit, Encore, DVD Studio, etc.), where you make menus, playlists, Easter eggs, and all that fun stuff. The authoring system then takes your DVD “program” and translates it into a standard format that every DVD player can understand. Despite the occasional glitch popping up, I’m amazed that, given the diversity of DVD players on the market, these authoring systems basically have a 100% success rate at making compatible discs. If you work in software, you understand how improbable this is.

You have two options for distributing your freshly authored DVD.

  1. Burn or duplicate your own DVDs, print your own labels and sleeves, buy your own boxes, and shrinkwrap them in cellophane (or tin foil, that could be kind of charming too). They’ll be purple underneath, some of the labels will be crooked, you’ll experience compatibility issues with older players, and you’ll spend hundreds of hours. For small batches, this is a good choice.
  2. Send a DVD or an ISO (a file of the DVD) to a factory where they replicate your order onto a silver disc, print the label onto the top of that disc, and do all the packaging for you and even shrinkwrap the thing, all for roughly $0.99 a piece. If you want to make more than 100 DVDs, this is the way to go, though most replicating facilities won’t print fewer than 1000 units.

If you sell your DVDs for $10/pop, that’s a hefty profit. For anyone hoping to sell their film to more than 100 people, I recommend option 2. It’s easy, and there are companies everywhere that will do it for you.

What about piracy protection? No problem. Replication plants offer CSS (Content Scramble System) for a small fee, which is usually bundled with the overall cost. All CSS keys are encrypted exactly the same, so the replication plant has no hurdles to jump through. This has its disadvantages, obviously, since CSS is easy to crack and was cracked within 2 years of its creation. Turns out the US Gov. wouldn’t let its authors encrypt with more than 40 bits. If you have an odd fascination with stuff like this the way I do, you can read more here. It’s a sad, but hardly surprising, example of government being far behind the curve of innovation.

When making Death Grip, I assumed making a Blu-ray disc (BD) would be the same process. Run the authoring software, burn a disc, deliver to a replication facility and get a thousand made.

The authoring part was the same as making a DVD. More options are available, since Blu-Ray machines have a standard operating system that can do more complex processes than DVD players. Moving menus, picture-in-picture, etc. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole since our timeline basically gave me 24 hours to author the entire disc, so I just authored the same menu structure as our DVD, burned a BD out, and it worked on the first try. Great. Now just deliver it to the replication plant and we’re done.

Not so fast… there are two new acronyms to worry about. One is called BDCMF (the file format), the other is called AACS (the encryption standard).

Here’s what you don’t know about replicating your BD: you can’t send the BD to a replication facility and have them replicate 1000 of them. They require it in a format called BDCMF, which is basically the Blu-ray disc in a folder, except formatted uniquely. You put that folder on a hard drive and send it to them. Odds are, your authoring software doesn’t export your BD to BDCMF. Encore CS5.5 and CS6 and DVD Studio will not do it. These and most authoring programs simply don’t have the licensing rights to export this proprietary file structure made by Sony, which is required by the licensed replicators that can only read this proprietary file structure. In fact, I’ve found only three programs can do it:

  • Rivergate makes one called BluStreak Tracer. It’s $600. The programmer emailed me after buying it to ask if I had any questions about how to use it. Good customer service. It’s also fast, and you just import your ISO, click “make BDCMF” and let it go. It worked for me on the first try.
  • Sony has a program called DoStudio Indie. Cute huh? It’s $3,000. That’s the entire budget of Immortal.
  • There’s a third option that’s $1000, but I won’t even bother with a link. Just get Rivergate.

The other hurdle is AACS, Advanced Access Content System. Unlike CSS, every BD disc has a unique encryption key supplied by the AACS Licensing Distributor. You pay a fee for it, and you can’t replicate a Blu-ray without an AACS key. (DVDs may be similar with regards to CSS, but the hurdle is far smaller.) This is a bureaucratic step, so you’ll need to budget another couple days so this can be done. Your BD replicating facility deals with it all and wraps it into the cost of the replication. Sony, BD players, and studios came up with this hurdle because of piracy concerns. Blame whoever you want, the fact is this is the reason AACS Keys are now a necessary step toward getting your BDs made.

There’s one more issue to consider: the number of Blu-ray replication facilities is extremely small. We had a hard time finding one, and they could only do single-layer BDs (maxing out at around 2 hours of content). Perhaps in higher quantities they would’ve done dual-layer, but not for us. They even required the sleeve printing be done at an external facility. Due to all the costs of going HD and making a BD, major studios and distributors are the only ones utilizing these replication facilities, and the standard Blu-ray replication job is on the order of 50,000 units. Ours was 1,000 units, so you can imagine the excitement of the sales rep when she had to walk me through every step I’ve just outlined.

It’s simply not worth replication plants’ effort to do your crummy order of 1,000 Blu-rays, unless you do it perfectly and require no further attention after sending them your hard drive. We went through hours of troubleshooting, multiple overnight FedEx deliveries, and a lot of wasted authoring time because the information simply wasn’t out there.

Even in making 1000 BDs, we’re still considered very small fish, and we don’t know jack because nobody’s really done this stuff yet. Hopefully this helps you.