The alternate version of the ‘Halo 3: Believe’ ad that fans never saw

Halo 2, launched in 2004 for the initial Xbox, assisted Microsoft to combine its track record as both a world class hardware producer and a computer game publisher. When 2007 rolled around, executives saw an even larger chance in the release of Halo 3. The franchise had actually currently recorded the attention of a whole generation of early adopters. The 3rd video game in the series was for that reason viewed as a chance to press video gaming even further into the mainstream. The technique? A legendary marketing campaign the scale of which fans had actually never ever seen prior to. It was called “Halo: Believe.”

Polygon spoke with numerous of the creatives behind the “Believe” advertising campaign, consisting of among the makers of the Halo diorama included in the advertisements. We’ve likewise revealed an alternate tv area, one that couple of beyond Microsoft have actually ever seen prior to.

The story begins with Scott Duchon, now primary imaginative officer at San Francisco-based ad agency 215 McCann. As the imaginative director of the “Believe” project, he was associated with a few of the initial pitches that landed the offer.

“We had just had some success with the Mad World ad for Gears of War,” Duchon remembers, name-dropping another of video gaming’s most remarkable advertisements of perpetuity. “No one had ever played it before, so we were setting the stage with that ad. With Halo 3, we were building off the success of Halo 1 and Halo 2, and there was this hype of how big gaming was getting and how much of the fandom already existed for Halo. We wanted to figure out, ‘How do we expand the universe?’”

“Our goal was to do something that the core [audience] would respect and they would love because they’d been on the journey [with Master Chief],” Duchon continued. “Then the new, broader audience coming into gaming would go, ‘I want in on this. I don’t care if I’ve never played 1 or 2 before. I want in on this, because this is a story and something that I could get excited by.’”

The option, Duchon stated, was to cover the Halo 3 marketing project itself into the fiction of deep space that the group at Bungie had actually currently developed. They would make a museum-quality mini screen, illustrating an imaginary fight scene from the Halo universe, and utilize it as the fulcrum for an entire series of advertisements. Supporting that physical prop would be stars representing the veterans who battled on Halo 3’s imaginary cutting edge. “Believe” was more than simply the tagline: It was the whole idea itself.

“If we believe it to be so true, and we never blink in the marketing,” Duchon stated, “then that’s how we have to approach everything […]. We have to all kind of lock hands on this, and if we do then we will make everyone else believe that this is how important gaming is.”

The important action was discovering a group of design makers that might assist to bring that vision to life. By the way, that’s likewise where things began to get a bit out of hand.

“I think it was four weeks to do everything,” stated Matthew Gratzner, among the partners at New Offer Studios, the unique impacts home that wound up putting together the last diorama. 215 McCann and Microsoft had actually currently exercised a rough digital idea of what the last diorama may appear like. Gratzner states that Stan Winston Studios, now called Tradition Impacts, had actually currently begun dealing with the in-depth human and alien figures that would be needed. A director, Rupert Sanders (who would later on go on to direct Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson), was currently lined up, and casting had actually currently started for the different stars.

A top-down view of the brute holding Master Chief by the nape of the neck.

Picture: New Offer Studios

A UNSC Marine slowly marching to his death in chest-deep mud.

Picture: Matthew Gratzner

A UNSC Marine kissing his dog tags in the background of the Halo 3: Believe diorama.

Picture: Matthew Gratzner

Now it was a footrace to build the set itself. The difficulty was that, as developed, there was absolutely nothing “mini” about this develop at all. All of it needs to do with the size of those Stan Winston figures, and the quantity of information needed for the close-up photography that 215 McCann had actually thought up. With each design standing approximately 6 inches high, that indicated developing a set that was far bigger than anybody had actually initially developed.

The hero characters were designed from scratch. The group utilized early face-scanning innovation to record the expressions of stars and team members along the method. When it comes to the remainder of the figures, Gratzner described, “What they used for background pieces were McFarlane Toys’ Operation Desert Storm figures.” Those small figures were rapidly dressed and contributed to the stock, which he stated needed almost 1,000 figures in all.

“We built a foam maquette, a small sculpted version that was a scale version of the scale model,” Gratzner stated. “And that whole thing was maybe three feet by maybe a foot and a half.” Perched beside that mock-up was a cardboard cutout of a person, approximately the exact same size as one of the McFarlane Toys’ figurines. When agents from 215 McCann and Microsoft visited to see the maquette, they were stunned by its prospective size.

“Are you sure you want to do it this way?” Gratzner keeps in mind asking. They made sure, therefore he invested the lion’s share of a month developing out the landscape — consisting of messed up structures, lorries, surges, and more. He states the last diorama determined approximately 40 by 20 feet. The video documentary was even developed along with to record that procedure, skillfully baked into the fiction of the Halo universe itself as an extension of the “Believe” project.

“We took that maquette — that original scale version,” Gratzner stated, “did a grid, cut it all up, and then we cut it into profiles, […] then that was all transferred to giant patterns. Then we were able to build this huge plywood and one-by [wooden framework with] metal wire cloth on top, and then that was all sprayed with urethane foam. On top of that we would sculpt certain pieces, cover it with sand, and paint, and texture. It was a hell of a lot of work.”

Gratzner stated that he and his group dug deep into their bag of techniques to pull all of it off. He’s particularly pleased with the surges, which were used fresh heads of cauliflower as the base for vacuum-formed hollow plastic molds. Lit from beneath and dressed with cotton and optical fiber, the vegetable-shaped structures appeared like fuel bombs frozen in time.

A big yellow blossoms of fire, vacuu-formed using cauliflower.

A mock-up of a cauliflower surge. The can of Coca Soda pop was utilized for scale as the picture was taken prior to the extensive adoption of the banana.
Picture: Matthew Gratzner

Regrettably, Gratzner states that he was never ever genuinely pleased with how the last shoot of the “Believe” business ended up. The depth of field was deliberately really shallow, calling attention to the reasonably little scale of the end product. For several years prior, he and the group at New Offer Studios had actually dealt with minis for significant movies like The Pilot, putting in effort and time to make their minis work mix in with live-action cinematography. That indicated shooting with a lot longer depth of field. Gratzner states that Martin Scorsese picked his group so that he might shoot all the airplane crashes in The Pilot, in addition to all the outsides of Hollywood Boulevard, in mini with the exact same depth of field as the routine production. New Offer likewise worked with comparable strategies in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Gratzner’s service partner, Ian Hunter, would even go on to win an Oscar for the visual impacts in Interstellar.

With “Believe”, the objective was to make a mini that in fact appeared like a mini. While it was 215 McCann and Microsoft’s vision, Gratzner seemed like it didn’t actually display the enormous scale design’s real capacity. So, after assisting with the production of an online fly-through of the design that fans might explore online, he got approval to shoot some extra video on the diorama he assisted to make.

That production caused an entirely various, unreleased tv advertisement shot in a totally various method.

“The concept for the spot was that it’s this Marine’s recollection of what the battle was, but in a hyper-realized slow motion,” Gratzner stated. “I took all the miniature frozen moments [scattered around the diorama already] and we augmented them with digital effects, like really slow-moving particulate and that kind of stuff. Then I photographed the Marine in a frozen position. It was ridiculous! Then just did a motion control shot around him, and then [composited in a miniature of] the brute that’s firing the gun.”

A closeup showing the snorkel camera in between the brute and the halo Marine.

Picture: Matthew Gratzner

A production team huddled over the Believe diorama shooting an alternate take for Matthew Gratzner.

Picture: Matthew Gratzner

A UNSC Marine in flight against a blue backdrop. For the alternate ad Matthew Gratzner shot using the Halo 3: Believe diorama.

Picture: Matthew Gratzner

The business never ever made it to air, however it’s survived on in Gratzner’s advertising reels since.

However what about the 40-foot-wide “miniature” itself? Littles it were cannibalized throughout production, naturally. Scott Duchon states he still has the Stan Winston mini shaped with his own face. Other areas were ultimately auctioned off by Profiles in History in 2010. However the biggest staying area is still with the developers of Halo.

In 2020, the “Believe” diorama — consisting of Master Chief himself — held a location of pride at the Bungie studio in Bellevue, Washington. It was just recently taken into storage to permit a workplace relocation and associated restorations. Agents inform Polygon that it will be back on screen once again quickly.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.