Xbox Poster Brings Roman Empire to Life

August 15, 2014 6 min read

Xbox Poster Brings Roman Empire to Life

Dark and ominous, the poster delivers exactly the tone needed to whet the appetites of gamers... and even more important, potential buyers of the Xbox game.

Published on November 22, 2013, by Microsoft Studios and developed by Crytek as an Xbox One exclusive launch title, Ryse: Son of Romewas praised for its cinematic recreation of the Roman Empire. Described as “an epic tale of revenge spanning an entire lifetime,” the game’s story follows the life of Roman centurion Marius Titus, from early childhood to becoming a leader in the Roman Legion.

Through the creation of realistic characters and employment of immersive storytelling, Crytek developers artfully plunged gamers into the chaos and depravity of the late Roman Empire, from the northern reaches of Britannia to the Coliseum and the very heart of Rome. The game’s breathtaking detail and larger-than-life cinematography helped to catch the eye of SIGGRAPH judges – an annual festival celebrating and awarding excellence in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Winning the prestigious SIGGRAPH award for Best Real-Time Graphics, Ryse: Son of Romesuccessfully brought the Roman Empire to life.

In order to capture that bigger-than-life feel, the game’s promotional materials needed to set the stage, and the Ryse: Son of Romeposter, finished by Graphic Impressions NW, rose to the occasion... literally! Rich in deep, multi-level embossing, the large, lifelike image of Marius Titus thrusting his sword in battle seems to jump right off the sheet. Dark and ominous, the poster delivers exactly the tone needed to whet the appetites of gamers... and even more important, potential buyers of the Xbox game.

Setting the stage

Graphic Impressions NW (recently sold to Guided Products and now operating under the name of Graphic Impressions – a Guided Products LLC Company) has developed a long-standing relationship with its local print customer (Leatherback Publishing of 20+ years) and Xbox, dating all the way back to the first launch of Xbox’s Halo in 2007. Along with that partnership is a more than 20-year relationship with diemaker Universal Engraving, Inc., Overland Park, KS. All three combined have developed a formula for repeated success in producing the giant, lifelike collateral posters and point-of-purchase displays that, in some cases, have become collector’s items over the years.

According to past Graphic Impressions Inc. Founder/ Owner Craig Robinson (who recently retired from Graphic Impressions NW as director of operations after 36 years in the trade), “The process starts with our customer letting us review the art and provide our recommendation on what we can do to ‘trick’ it out.” In this case, the natural choice was to use a register emboss, utilizing one large, detailed, fully sculptured brass embossing die. The idea was to bring the poster to life with as much rich dimension and lifelike detail as possible. “This time around, we decided not to use foil,” said Robinson. “Foil would not have added to the piece in this design.”

Graphic Impressions is a print finisher/manufacturer offering foil stamping, embossing, diecutting, in- house CAD and graphic design, along with steel rule diemaking, from its facility in Kent, WA. The company services printers, packaging houses, designers and marketing/branding companies, as well as manufactures Guided Products’ proprietary products.

At the start of the project, printed sheets were sent to the diemaker, Universal Engraving, Inc. (UEI), to ensure the digital files would fit the printed sheets. The printer was sent a CAD file for layout, requesting a 3.25" gripper margin to help with balancing the platen tonnage and to allow room for die lock-up. Robinson stressed the importance of specifying the gripper margin, saying, “I am sure many of my fellow finishers have had jobs show up from the printer with 5/8" gripper and all the extra paper at the tail of the sheet with no thought to the emboss orientation!” This small attention to detail before the job is printed can make a world of difference when in the finishing stage.

One of the real challenges with the project was the timeframe allotted by the customer – a mere three weeks from start to finish to produce the job, which consisted of four different game titles, each requiring its own 22.25x24" brass sculptured die. “Many design- ers do not understand that making a large sculptured embossing die is not like making a printing plate,” stated Robinson.

The posters, totaling 9,500 for each design, were part of demo (or media) kits that go out to retailers prior to the launch of a product. The finisher also produces

‘King Kong’ boxes – an STE collapsible box, printed and sometimes foiled and embossed. In this case, as with all Xbox launches, the customer’s deadline was firm as it was timed with other media marketing. “UEI deserves credit for the great effort the company continually puts forth in hitting its commitment dates, thereby helping our team to meet the tight deadlines,” said Robinson.

Bringing the poster to life

The sheets were printed on 26x40" 16pt CIS on a six-color Komori and then were UV-coated off line. Next, the sheets were register embossed at Graphic Impressions on a Brausse SBL 1050 SEF, with an embossed image area of 22.25x26", and then trimmed to a final size of 22x28".

One of the greatest challenges faced when embossing large images is getting the most detail from the die without cracking the stock. Successful embossing jobs can depend on several elements, according to Robinson.

“In large part, it’s about the die and counter,” he continued. “A beautiful sculptured embossing die with intricate detail and texture must be ‘bottomed out’ to pick up all the detail of the die. If the die has some areas that are engraved deeper than the stock can handle or the die is not properly ‘ramped’ to achieve the depth, the stock will fail and crack. If you reduce the pressure in that area to stop the cracking, you also will lose the fine detail and texture.”

Capping the die with Mylar will help with cracking, but can kill all the beautiful detail and texture that the diemaker worked so hard to put in the die – if not done correctly. Robinson also explained that another issue with some large dies is that large counters are more likely to have an irregular thickness, thereby producing hot spots that require additional makeready.

Preventing this from happening requires the combination of a well-crafted die and skilled press operators. “The real trick to running that large of a die on a 40" press when you are ‘tonnage-challenged’ (300 tons is not a lot of tonnage when dealing with a very large die) is to be sure you are notusing tonnage where you don’t need it,” said Robinson. “We are very fortunate to have a very knowledgeable team of operators, several with over 26 years of experience. They are very skilled at using just the right makeready combined with just the right amount of tonnage to get the most detail out of the die.” Robinson stressed the importance of the relationship with UEI in working through the die depth issues over the many years of their partnership. He also pointed to the strong working relationship Graphic Impressions now has built with Leatherback Publishing and gave special thanks to owners Grant and Eric Cundy.

Producing eye-catching results

The company’s skilled craftsmanship is evidenced by a long history of producing superior game-launch posters for Xbox – posters that have been catching the eye of gamers across the nation and around the globe!

Besides embossing, ink over holographic foils is another popular print enhancement feature used on the promotional game posters. “Incorporating ink over foil is much more striking than the use of ink over holographic board on most images... and it’s cheaper in most cases,” stated Robinson. “However, there are times when ink over foil board is the better option, such as when vignettes are involved and there is no clear line of delineation.”

Ryse: Son of Romealso drew attention in the recent Foil and Specialty Effects Association (FSEA) Gold Leaf Awards competition where judges honored Graphic Impressions with a Gold Award in the category of Best Use of Embossing with Print. “This award means a lot to our team as it comes from our peers and fellow craftsmen,” stated Robinson. “Thank you, FSEA.”

In the end, the game’s breathtaking detail and cinematic recreation served as the perfect inspiration for the award-winning Xbox promotional poster – bringing Marcus Titus to life in realistic, three-dimensional form.

Inside Finishing Magazine Article

Credits: Inside Finishing, August/September 2014

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