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Behind the scenes of the epic live-action Strafe trailer

“Strafe killed my son!”

In early 2015, retro shooter Strafe got everyone’s attention with what is quite possibly the best live-action trailer ever made for a video game. Today is the final game’s launch day, and to celebrate the team at Pixel Titans have unveiled a sequel to that first trailer. Here’s how they made it.

Turns out that Pixel Titan’s co-founder Thom Glunt is an old hand at film production. He’s been working in the industry, making TV commercials and music videos, for years. Making a ‘90s-inspired trailer for his video game project was like a dream come true.

“I believe the stuff we made for Strafe to be the strongest stuff we’ve ever made,” Glunt told Polygon, “mainly because we were building on a foundation that we created, not on someone else’s product or song or something that was someone else’s art form. So, it let us make what we wanted and explore it. And there’s this beauty in the fact that we created our own brand, so we could burn it down if we marketed it poorly. There was a kind of freedom in that.”

The trailer was shot in Pittsburgh, which is seeing a lot of TV and movie activity due to aggressive tax incentives for the film industry. Glunt found a basement he could rent for just $200 a month, and went to work turning it into the LAN party and science lab sets you see in the final video.

The final shoot took just under five days, and included some fancy effects work thanks to Steve Tolin at Tolin FX. Glunt says he’s the brains behind the trailer’s judicious use of blood and gore.

“He was talking to me about this new method for making fake intestines,” Glunt said. “You take basically a bungee cord and then you have latex that you thinly put out onto a piece of kind of a wax paper, you mix in some purple food coloring to get the veins and stuff on it, and then you lay down the cord and roll it up so the intestines are rolled up 100 times, and then you just cover it up in K-Y Jelly and fake blood.”

One of the more challenging scenes to shoot were the exterior shots, which were sourced from all over downtown Pittsburgh in a long, manic night of work. The trailer’s final scene, where the main character is torn in half, was the most risky, Glunt said.

“At the end of the night we dug a hole, put Tommy in it and recorded the end sequence and we didn’t know if that would be OK or not,” Glunt said. “We had as many of the permits as we could get, and the city sent over a fire marshall and they sent over some police to help us with street closures and make sure that we aren’t breaking the law. But for this last scene, we sent everyone off to go get some pickups. Then we put a guy in a hardhat and a reflective vest, because we thought if you were wearing the correct outfit no one will ask questions. We set up a production light to light the spot very blatantly so it was like he’s not hiding, he’s drawing attention to himself, and he was able to dig the hole with no problem.”

Strafe is out today for Mac, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.

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