What do Microsoft Xbox, EA, Disney Interactive, Yahoo, Mattel, and Zynga have in common? They all share a place on the impressive client list held by Ayzenberg, a full-service advertising agency with a distinctly social and agile approach.
You’ve seen its award-winning ads in game trailers, TV and online advertisements, on phones – basically on any digital device and platform. Since its founding, it has grown to be one of the largest independent advertising agencies on the US West Coast.
Ray Ferri, a member of the Ayzenberg creative team, took a moment with Artzray to describe what he does and how he got there. From musician to Game Capture Director, he has become successful in a job that he notes is “off the beaten path.”
I asked him, “What do you do? Explain that title!” Sitting down in a room full of computers perched on desks, Ray wears shorts, a t-shirt, a blue hoodie with the hood pulled up over a cap and Nike shoes. He looks more New York than L.A., but the clue that identifies him properly as an L.A. resident for 11 years is the pair of sunglasses that rest on his face while sitting inside. When he takes them off, his eyes are smart, sharp, brilliant, clear, and creative.
The Job of Creating Video Game Trailers
Ray notes a better name for his job would be “In-Game Cinematographer.” When a client comes to Ayzenberg to help launch a new video game, Ray begins the process of writing a storyboard to create a compelling narrative that brings the game to life in a video trailer (similar to a new movie trailer). He considers the stand-out features of the game and how to reveal new characters. He also constructs a shot list of scenes that he needs to capture to tell his story.
Using the computers that surround us, Ray has gamers sit in each chair and play the game. Supported by his storyboard and shot list, he directs each of the gamers on actions they need to take so he can grab the footage he needs. Like a orchestral conductor, he stands in the center of the room and commands the performance of multiple people. On a master computer, he controls an internal camera with a generic video game controller. Once he has the material recorded, the session is over and it’s time to splice together the trailer and overlay it with music.
“Instead of using just CG or live action, we actually go inside the game to capture the essence of the game experience”
Edgar Davtyan, Chief Finance Executive, explains the unique approach that Ayzenberg brings to making trailers. “Instead of using just CG or live action, we actually go inside the game to capture the essence of the game experience. Anyone can technically learn to use the tools and capture footage, but its rare to find a talent (like Ray) who’s able to tell the game’s compelling story in an emotionally driven way that expresses how players feel when they’re behind the controls.”
After seven years of working in the game space, Ray notes that he is really proud of the Evolve release trailer because of the complexity of the project. “It’s a multi-player game, and the amount of time it took to pull together, along with dying light, made it difficult. But the outcome was awesome.”
Ray’s Back Story
Expressing creativity has always been a part of Ray’s life. Growing up in New York, he played drums with his dad in his basement clad with heavy metal posters and guitars. Sometimes his sister would sound off on the bass while his mom watched from the stairs. Friends came over on the weekends and the whole lot would jam together for hours.
In high school he managed his friends’ bands all over New England. This love of music eventually translated into attending Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. He studied Recording Arts with an emphasis in Entertainment Business. On a whim after graduation, he decided to move to Los Angeles with his buddy to start laying his roots in the industry. He landed as an associate producer and after four years started to crave the freedom of independent creativity.
Through a connection, he was given the opportunity to be on a game capture team – and after a few days, he found his niche. Today Ray has the chance everyday to innovate, invent, create, produce, direct, and deliver.
How Do You Get Hired For A Job Like This?
Most people don’t know that this job exists. But Ray did have some insights on hiring. Ayzenberg uses various school programs to help recruit for young talent including University of Southern California students from the Computer Science Department and Game Development program who are looking for a way into the scene.
Ray notes that when he interviews people he looks for candidates who can keep a secret. Everyone is under NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) because all the games are pre-market, so no one can talk about the project until it has been released. Staying focused is also incredibly important since Ray says, “A lot of what I shoot relies on others following my direction and maybe having to do it over and over again until it’s correct.”
“When I interview people who want to join our team” Edgar says “I am looking for critical thinkers. People who can listen to what is going on around them. Create a point of view about it rooted in their unique personality. And share this point of view with others in a way that makes us want to listen.”
As we finished the interview, Ray was energized to return to his team and get back to work on his current project. He understands that he is filling a valuable post at Ayzenberg while being true to his artistic inclinations. Like many creatives, Ray has found there isn’t one road to success, or one clear vision to lead you where you want to go, but when you do find your path, you know.
Author Heidi Kershaw is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She covers topics on arts and education for Artzray. When she’s not interviewing and writing, she’s a marketing and communications consultant working with educational organizations throughout the greater L.A. region. She attended University of Utah for undergraduate studies and Georgetown University for graduate school.