The Voice of Jonah – Interview with Earl Baylon

By on February 12, 2014 | 476 comments

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Jonah Maiava is an exceptional cook, and a very intuitive member of the endurance. Jonah has more so taken on the role of an uncle-figure to Lara, who helps her evoke her raw instincts as he and the crew rely on Lara to help them escape the island’s persistent hold.

Tomb Raiding recently got the chance to speak with Earl Baylon about his work as Jonah in the new Tomb Raider reboot!

RELATED: Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – New Screenshots!

 

What was the process like for filming Tomb Raider?

Working on Tomb Raider was quite and interesting and enlightening process. This was the first time I ever did motion capture, so there was a lot of learning to be done. This is because MoCap is different from film in a few ways. The biggest thing, of course, is that it’s on pretty much a blank soundstage, with very little to reference in terms of what your environment looks like. The good majority of your setting is in your head. Secondly, the shooting process goes a bit differently from film sets. On film shoots, you’ll film a scene through once, and they call this a master shot. Then you run bits of the same scene again to get what’s called “coverage.” They reposition the cameras and get all the close ups and medium shots to use when they edit the film together. Because the MoCap volume is a 3-dimensional space, and they’re recording you essentially from every angle at once, there’s no need to shoot coverage. So, instead of running little chunks of a scene, over and over, MoCap actors can run the scene in its entirety every take. Finally, the motion capture suit itself is definitely a thing that needs some getting used to. I mean, you’re covered in like 60-ish reflective balls, wearing a helmet with tiny cameras pointed at your face, all connected to doodads strapped to your back. Cool tech. Definitely a new experience.

I worked on the project here and there for probably about a year, so I did eventually get more used to it. Haha.

What was it like on set, working with the other cast members?

Everyone on set was great! I know every actor says that when asked about their cast members. But really, it was great hanging out with everyone between takes. Because we would go maybe months at a time between shooting dates, it was always a nice mini-reunion when we would see each other in the dressing room.

There was this one time, a few of us were hanging out in the waiting/eating area between scenes. It was toward the end of the shooting day, so the craft table had been pretty much raided. Andy, the guy who played the role of Alex, and I were standing at the table, looking for something to snack on. One of the few things left were donuts and some leftover bacon from brunch. I turned to him and said something like, “We could probably put the bacon on the donuts.” I was half joking. He looks at me, and says, “I’ll do it if you do it.”

Yes. It was tasty.

What is it like performing the role of Jonah?

It was a lot of fun being Jonah. He’s a laid back kinda guy, generally jovial. Not quick to anger, but fiercely protective of his friends. At the same time, he has a bit of a dark side, which gets alluded to if you have game completionist tendencies. IRL me does actually identify a little with Jonah. First off, we’re both cooks. I cook… like incessantly. Also, if you ever see me walking around LA, especially in the summer, I could be accused of cosplaying as Jonah. When seriously, that’s just kinda how I dress. No joke, right now… I’m wearing cargo shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. I so wish I was joking. I guess what I’m saying is that I tapped into aspects of myself and brought that to the character.

How did you get cast for Jonah and what were the auditions like?

Well, like most things, I got the audition from my agent. We actually had no idea that it was Tomb Raider, because they had it listed under a code name. Even the sides, which in an audition is usually a portion of the actual script, were all secret-y. Character names were changed, and the scene from the audition had actually been written *just* for the audition, so it wasn’t part of the script at all. I went into the initial audition, and there I met Toby Gard, whose name we all know. I guess I could have drawn a conclusion as to a possible game title, but I had been out of the gaming community for about a year, and I wasn’t knowledgable at the time about projects in development. It was a more physical audition than your regular film/tv gig, because it was motion capture, and they needed to have an idea of what you looked like in
motion. So, in addition to give a read of the sides, they had me doing some running, jumping, and shadowboxing. First time ever in an audition. I remember walking out of the building, thinking, “What the hell just happened?”

They brought me into a callback about a week later, and the next week I was squeezing my corpulent self into a skin-tight MoCap suit.

Have you had a chance to play and complete Tomb Raider yet?

Hell yes I played and completed the game! I think I’m at 98% or something. I can’t find that last totem for the Ghost Hunter challenge, dammit. And I’m totally not into using walkthroughs unless I really, really have no idea what to do. So, what I’m saying is that I’m gonna go onto Stella’s Tomb Raider site and look for help.

While working on the project, we didn’t really get to see too much of the final product. When I finally sat down and booted up my PC to play, I was kinda blown away. Gorgeous, gorgeous game. I was popping screencaps constantly. Also, I pretty much loved the mechanics/control scheme of the cover system. It was just so damn intuitive to me. There were [times] where I actually restored to a save point previous to a fight, just so I could re-play it. For example, the stealthy part in the Coastal Forest.

I did play a couple of the old Tomb Raider games (II & III specifically) back in college. I’m not necessarily a hardcore or casual gamer, but I’m an old school one, like Atari 2600 old. And I really liked the choices that Crystal Dynamics made for the reboot. It’s a delicate thing, rebooting such a storied franchise as Tomb Raider, and I, for one, think they did an amazing job with the game.

Will you be reprising your role as Jonah in the next Tomb Raider sequel?

I’ve never really been good at speculating specifics with regards to the future story direction of franchises I enjoy, like Tomb Raider of course. In the end, I just hope that they keep on telling good stories, and if Jonah is part of that narrative, then awesome!

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Mmmm… I don’t know if I have anything else to share with you off the top of my head, other than I’m really impressed by the awesomeness of Tomb Raider’s fandom. I did quite a bit of surfing after the game came out, reading reviews and such, and just the cool photosets, cosplay, fan art, articles, and fanfics I came across really were astounding. Pretty awesome stuff.

Lara-and-Jonah-(Competition-Bow)


Connect with Earl Baylon:
Twitter | Facebook

Interested in reading more about Earl’s Tomb Raider experience?
You can check out an article he wrote about taking on the role of Jonah, here!

The Voice of Reyes: Interview with Tanya Alexander

By on January 23, 2014 | 1,040 comments

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Tomb Raiding recently got the chance to speak with Tanya Alexander about stepping into the role of Joslin Reyes in the new Tomb Raider reboot!

Everything from Motion-Capture, to the creative direction of the game, Tanya gives us an insight look into the making of the new Tomb Raider!

Interested in revisiting Lara’s adventure on Yamatai? You can pick up – Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, available now for The PS4 and Xbox One!

 

Can you tell us about Joslin Reyes, and who she is? Have you been in her boots long enough to understand her as a character?

Reyes is a police officer and single mother of a teenage daughter. Her boyfriend, Roth, and she were recruited to help Lara on her latest mission aboard the Endurance. I’ve never been in law enforcement or the military (my background is in performing arts – dance, acting, voice), but I was very attracted to the physicality of the character and her toughness. I understood that she loved strong, her man, her daughter and was not to be messed with. There was also a humor in her, which you saw briefly with her relationship with the ‘Alex’ character. Besides my voice and body, I felt I brought that bad-ass vibe to life that the character deserved. My work with the director, Toby Gard, was all about showing her courage, yet emotion – particularly when Roth dies, as well as her drive to get back safe to her daughter. The relationship she has with Lara is love/hate. She respects her as another tough lady, but feels she puts them all in danger and maybe a bit careless. Later on, when survival is key, she begins to trust and forgive Lara for the death of her man. It’s that mutual need to survive that brings them closer.

In what way was Toby Gard involved with the process of filming Tomb Raider?

Toby Gard was the director for all the scene-work between levels of play in the game. He also was in charge of casting and was the main person in the casting sessions that I attended. He was basically the go-to on set and worked very closely with all the actors. Noah Hughes was on set as well offering lots of ideas as the producer, but Toby was most certainly the hands on director. They were both awesome to work with and were very cohesive in their ideas. It was really an ideal environment for myself and the other actors, having the director and producer on one accord with the project.

How did you find inspiration to perform this role?

The biggest thing I did for this role was to study mothers. I know it sounds weird, but mothers are the toughest beings on the planet. The goal to get back to your child or protect those you care about is the strongest force in the world. And that’s what I used for Reyes.

What do you think about Motion Capture technology, and the way Video Games are shot?

I love Motion Capture Technology! It’s so cool to see yourself as a stick figure, then as a walking, full avatar. The first time I saw Reyes I was blown away. It was very surreal to see this computer generated person who walks and talks like you. I loved it. The mo-cap suits and head gear is really…interesting. Ha! Having a camera mounted to your head 4 inches away from your nose while dressed in a skin-tight suit with glowing balls all over it while trying to run, dodge bullets and ACT is quite a challenge, but I was more than up for it! Tomb Raider was my first mo-cap project and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more.

What are your thoughts about the new Tomb Raider as a rebooted franchise?

I think it’s great to have this new version of Tomb Raider for gamers and viewers. I don’t play video games, but I have a friend who does and I’ve seen it, and it’s so cool. I knew of the Tomb Raider games and films, but I didn’t know I was auditioning for one. Video game production is very hush-hush. I got a call from my agent about some “multi-media project” and thought I was going in for a tv show or something. The first audition was just a read with the director, and I got a callback. During the callback I was asked to jump over things and wield a gun, and it got very physical. I found out only after I booked the gig and signed a non-disclosure agreement what I was really called in for. After I signed, I got the script by zip file and was like, “Whoa! This is Tomb Raider!” It was a fantastic surprise and I felt like I was about to be a part of something big. Every actor wants that.

The-voice-of-Reyes-Interview-thumbnailHave they asked you to do another game? Will we see Reyes make an appearance in the next Tomb Raider sequel?

Well, I can’t say if Reyes will be back, but I love the fact that she was one of only a few survivors. That is awesome. All I can say is, I hope we’ll be back!

Moving forward, where do you see Reyes going in the future?

I can’t say what Crystal Dynamics has in store, but I’m sure it will be interesting! I’m hoping Reyes makes a return and remains a significant character for future games.

Connect with Tanya Alexander:
Twitter | Facebook

The Cover of Tomb Raider – Interview with Erin Johnson

By on October 3, 2013 | 541 comments

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Back in November of 2012, the Crystal Habit podcast gave us some behind the scenes insight on the making of the Tomb Raider cover.

Mentioned in the podcast by Tomb Raider’s senior art director Brian Horton, the cover is a mockup rendition pieced together by his team at Crystal Dynamics as well as their partners at Ignition & Visual Works.

So who is the the model on Tomb Raider’s cover art? Brian Horton and Ignition chose the lucky & talented model Erin Johnson to represent lady Lara Croft on the cover of Tomb Raider!

 

Transcribed from the Crystal Habit podcast, Brian Horton explains the cover’s creative process.

It started with an Ignition idea that we modified and did a sketch over. Ignition had done some proof-of-concept kind of stuff. Then we did Bren’s sketch, and then we did the shoot. Once we had the shoot and the pose locked from a photograph, we sent that over to Visual Works. They matched that pose and the lighting. In fact, Ignition sent us detailed lighting information. The temperature and position of all the lights and stuff. So Visual Works could simulate that in their environment. They did an awesome render. Then I worked with Ignition to composite some of that to get the final look that you see on the cover. It was pretty cool.

I’m happy to report is that once we got the Visual Works render back, which was originally only supposed to be the head and the hair, they gave us a full body render. I was able to get some ingredients from the Visual Works model and I’ve got them composited in.

TombRaiding spoke with Erin Johnson about what it was like to shoot with Ignition & Crystal Dynamics, and what it takes to be on the cover of Tomb Raider!

How did you learn about the casting notice that Crystal Dynamics had put out?

In the beginning Crystal Dynamics did not hire me. I was hired by a printing company called Ignition Print in Santa Monica.  They are responsible for the cover art of movie posters, video games, etc. I had shot with them before to be a figure model for a different video game and they called me back for Tomb Raider because I resembled the character of Lara.  When it first started out, Ignition Print was trying to get hired by Crystal Dynamics to do the cover of Tomb Raider, and they ended up getting the job with the photo that actually turned out to be the shot they used for the cover!

What did the auditioning process look like?

The casting was through Ignition Print and initially it was for “a chick who can look badass holding a gun.” This to me was perfect because I always dreamt of being portrayed somehow as a badass babe!! So I went to the casting in black pants, thigh high boots, a black midriff top and my hair slicked back in kind of a faux hawk. This to me represented a “badass babe,” little did I know that that shot would help me get the quintessential badass babe of all time.

What was it like shooting the cover of Tomb Raider?

Shooting for Tomb Raider was actually a lot of hard work. They didn’t really keep me in the know or let me know exactly what we were shooting since I shot with Ignition Print about 8 times, each session lasting about 8 hours long. The shoots were incredibly endurance driven. I basically had to do yoga poses for hours at a time and the next day I wasn’t surprised if I was unable to walk because I was so sore. On top of holding poses and pulling on a real bow and arrow (which let me tell you is anything but easy), I was also constantly being sprayed with water and having a fan blowing on me full speed so I ended up also getting sick a couple of times.

I was incredibly accustomed to Lara’s outfit, it was like my second skin!! After shooting in it so much and being drenched in all that water and mud all the time the outfit would get looser and looser everytime I shot in it but they never were able to wash it because they wanted it to still look authentic. We did shoot in front of a green screen and shot one pose multiple times to make sure we got a shot from every angle.

I honestly had no idea how big this was going to be because I could never visualize exactly what my images were going to be used for and how they were going to be used.  I guess it didn’t sink in that I was representing Lara Croft, the most iconic video game character, in my eyes. I’ve always been a huge fan of Angelina Jolie and how big of an uber babe she was as Lara, even shooting for the same thing as her is an incredible honor.  But there is nothing more shocking than to see yourself internationally representing one of the biggest games of the year.

What was the best part about the photoshoot?

The best part about the shoot besides getting to play Lara was probably the things the staff had to make me do to get angry. I’m an incredibly happy/goofy person so it’s hard for me to make angry or pissed off faces because it just is out of character for me.  After a long day of shooting and I was exhausted it came a little easier and I’m guessing that’s why they had me shoot so intensley so that I could portray the expressions of being tired, weary, and angry. After a while we started playing metal so it would get me upset, instead I love metal and it makes me happy so I just pretended to be screaming the vocals and that seemed to help with my “angry face.” Fortunately for the viewers they decided to use none of the photos of me making an angry face and now you know why. Hahaha!!

Have you played the new Tomb Raider game that you’re on the cover of?

Ok here comes the part where everyone is going to hate on me. To be honest I haven’t played the game YET. First off because I would feel incredibly narcissistic, but secondly because the last gaming console I owned is N64. I used to play video games all day long as a kid but since I’ve gotten a little bit older and going to college and working and all that annoying adult stuff, I haven’t had a ton of time to keep up with video games. Once I learn how to understand new gaming consoles I definitely plan on playing the shit out of Tomb Raider, so can someone teach me please?!

Also, while in the process of shooting I was shown clips from the trailer of the game so I could get into character and try and portray Lara’s feelings, so I did get to see a lot of the graphics and get an idea for the plot of the game. I was incredibly impressed, because I was used to Mario Kart and now the design and the graphics of these new school video games are absolutely insane! The gaming world is a whole new world. I think Crystal Dynamics did an amazing job, especially since it took them over four years to make this game. It really shows and it’s incredibly impressive the imagination and creativity and talent they have for making a game so life-like.

Erin Johnson with Cut out & Bestbuy Employee

I appreciate all the love I’ve received from Tomb Raider fans around the world! If you have any Tomb Raider pictures and are on instagram or twitter please reach out to me!! Thank you and I love you! ♥

 

Connect with Erin Johnson:
Instagram | Twitter