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Halo TV Series

Silver Debrief: Unmasked

Debrief 002
Photo of Alex
  -  9 months ago

Welcome back, Silver Team!

Has it been a month already? Well, here we are, with a brand-new trailer, a release date, confirmation of Season 2, and more! You can look forward to seeing the Halo television series air weekly on Paramount+ from March 24, which means we’re just a month away from seeing our big green hero on the silver screen.

Before we dive into all the latest news and our trailer breakdown, let’s get an update from Kiki Wolfkill!

"It's only Debrief #2 and it feels like our first blog was just last week… time is flying! A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to read our inaugural Silver Debrief and to those of you reading now.

Having the opportunity to talk with the Halo community about some of the things that you'll see and experience in the show is such a gift for us. We know that not every decision we make will be embraced, and in some cases there will be hearty disagreement. One of the things I love about our community is how diverse the perspectives are and that we can have open debate and conversation. I know that one particularly controversial topic is that of the Master Chief removing his helmet in the television series, which we revealed in the IGN Fan Fest panel earlier this week.

I'll start by saying that the decision to remove Chief's helmet was not a decision made lightly, nor was it a foregone conclusion when we set out to make the show. That said, it was always a goal of the show to deliver a differentiated experience from the games, not a carbon copy.

In our games, you as the player inhabit the armor – that experience makes both the mystery and the understanding of who the Master Chief is very personal and sacred. I have so much respect for the fact that the Chief exists in all of our heads, a character largely defined by our own interactive experiences. With the television series, we want to take you on John's journey and let you experience, as a viewer, his story and evolution from an external, subjective viewpoint; for that, it felt important to see John outside of his armor. We have done this in the past in books and some of our extended storytelling, but this is by far the most visually rich example.

For some, the shift in perspective on Master Chief/John may feel disruptive, some may want their experience of Master Chief to be singularly in the first person and that's okay – that diversity and unique personal perspective is what makes our community so awesome. For us and the show, it felt critical to explore the human within the armor and present a deep set of character stories that gives the audience a different way to experience the Halo universe.

I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the talent and commitment of Pablo Schreiber in bringing this version of the Master Chief to life. There is no end to the respect with which he treated this role and inhabited the suit; we had a lot of conversations around what it meant for John to remove his helmet and it was a responsibility Pablo felt every bit as deeply as we do.

I very much hope you come on this journey with us and let us take you on this ride… I promise it will be a thrilling one!"


SEASON 2: OPERATION CONFIRMED

Paramount+ card that reads "HALO RENEWED FOR SEASON 2"

We may still be a month away from the debut of the Halo television series, but we are able to confirm in advance that Season 2 has already been confirmed for renewal!

David Wiener will join Season 2’s production as showrunner and executive producer, and we couldn’t be more excited to forge ever deeper into the Silver Timeline. We promise we won’t keep you waiting another ten years for this one!


IGN FAN FEST 2022

IGN’s Fan Fest 2022 event took place on February 19 and featured a Q&A panel with Pablo Schreiber (Master Chief), Natascha McElhone (Dr. Halsey), Jen Taylor (Cortana), Bokeem Woodbine (Soren-066), Natasha Culzac (Riz-028), along with Kiki Wolfkill, Steven Kane and Otto Bathurst.

Dive in to learn more about what the cast did to prepare for their roles and their perspectives on their characters, their experiences on-set with real Warthogs and practical aliens, hints at the many easter eggs that await eagle-eyed fans (#HuntTheTahoe), and more.


TRAILER BREAKDOWN

Has it really been over three weeks since we dropped our last trailer? We should drop another one soon, shouldn’t we?

Well, before we do, let’s explore some of the key points, characters, and images of the January 30 trailer...

Trailer shot of Madrigal.
It's like a postcard...

This is one of the major settlements on the colony world Madrigal, a once-rich urban hub slowly withering away due to internecine conflicts between local factions and a collapse of colonial trade due to the Covenant War.

One of the great new opportunities afforded by television as a medium is being able to see worlds in Halo, both new and familiar, as they’ve never been seen before.

Pulling back the camera for these location shots isn’t something that happens often in the games, as that feeling of scale and awe for the various locales visited across the series is typically delivered from the first-person viewpoint. You gaze out at the great floating spires of Requiem as the Master Chief, the ruined neon-lit streets of New Mombasa as the Rookie, the alien shores of Sanghelios as Jameson Locke. Even in cinematics, the scale is typically kept quite localized.

And for those who dive deep into the expanded universe’s fiction, so many places in the Halo universe live entirely within the imagination – rarely glimpsed outside of a handful of pieces of art.

In the Halo television series, the more filmic quality of epic, sweeping landscape shots – from Madrigal, to the Rubble, to Reach, and beyond – is something that feels like seeing the universe with new eyes.

Trailer still of Silver Team.
Synchronized strutting was a key part of Spartan training.

Keen-eyed fans will have clearly spotted the Brokkr Armor Mechanisms in the background here, the devices that Spartans use to assemble and remove their Mjolnir armor that was visually introduced in Halo 4.

The symbology of these devices is rooted in Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ drawing in which the polymath attempted to relate humanity to nature, which is echoed in Halo 4 through Dr. Halsey’s belief that Spartans represent the future of humanity.

The practical, on-stage Brokkrs were built using a combination of set-building knowledge and game reference, including the source hi-poly models used in Halo 4's Spartan Ops cinematics. The ‘hero’ Brokkr bay is surprisingly functional, and somewhat dangerous to be around if you don’t know how it spins!

Trailer still of a close-up shot of a Sangheili.
(Grumpy worting)

We decided to use the ‘classic’ Sangheili anatomy very early on, and it was serendipitous that Halo Infinite also followed suit with its design. The most immediate comparison evoked here is to the Halo 2 Anniversary models.

As should be immediately apparent, we did explore a new style of combat harness design that would mesh better with the motion capture and lighting system used on the sets. You will see other variants in the show, though the art direction led us to tone down a lot of the bright primary colors that are so useful in the video game world for differentiating between ranks during moment-to-moment gameplay – something that obviously doesn’t translate to television.

The mandibles proved to be quite complicated to animate and look good next to human actors, but we did take this opportunity to have experts examine the Elites, and then create a more robust and complete Sangheili language which reflected their actual physiology.

Trailer still of Master Chief in a Forerunner cave.
This cave is not a natural formation...

The Forerunner legacy is, in many ways, the fulcrum of the Halo universe – it was, after all, their construction, the gun pointed at the head of the universe, and the galaxy-defining actions over 100,000 years ago that gave the series its name. The same very much goes for the television series as well.

In core canon, much more is known about the Forerunners by the time Halo Infinite takes place, both from the number of installations we’ve come across and sources that have pulled back the veil on some of their ancient past. In the show, we pick up at a point where little-to-nothing is known about the Forerunners by humanity, allowing us to effectively discover them all over again through new circumstances.

I won’t reveal any spoilers, but there are some fun nods to the Halo 2 Anniversary maps Warlord and Shrine in this particular set, calling back to when we have previously seen the veins of Forerunner technology within weathered structures. This design motif makes you wonder where the alien construct begins and the natural formation ends and such a union conveys a more ancient feeling for Forerunner environments at this early stage, which will undoubtedly be contrasted strongly by the eventual appearance of their more active technology.

Trailer still of Cortana.
Quick! Somebody hide Doisac!

Based on the likeness of Natascha McElhone (who portrays Dr. Halsey in the flesh) and voiced by Jen Taylor, Cortana will indeed be a part of the Halo television series with a unique take on her role that builds on some established – but perhaps less explored – ideas from core canon.

We’ve certainly made no secret of the fact that this series will have the SPARTAN-II program as a central focus, and Cortana is another lens through which that story is explored. The AI we’ve come to know and love over the last two decades was not, in fact, originally created to be the companion and friend that she ended up being to the Master Chief – just as the Spartans themselves aren’t quite yet the heroes they would come to be seen as at the time the show picks up.

Cortana began her journey as a tool, a means to maintain the Master Chief’s efficacy as a killing machine for the UNSC. Indeed, the circumstances of Cortana’s own creation violated a key law around artificial intelligence, and that is something the show will explore to a greater degree as well. As such, there will be a little more distance between the viewer and Cortana to reflect some of the sharper edges of her origins and the Chief’s mistrust, which is rooted in his concerns from their initial meeting in the foundational Halo: The Fall of Reach (which many of you may have seen familiar echoes of in the campaign of Halo Infinite).

“Ma’am, my priority will be to complete this mission. This AI – Cortana – may have conflicting directives.”

“There is no need to worry, Master Chief. Cortana has the same mission parameters as you do. She will do anything necessary to make sure that your mission is accomplished. Even if that means sacrificing herself – or you – to accomplish it.”

Halo: The Fall of Reach

The Spartans, the Master Chief, Cortana – these were created and utilized as a means of control, but gradually come to develop a burgeoning sense of awareness and independence. Those same themes of humanity, identity, loyalty, self-discovery, and the relationship between man and machine are things which the television series will explore from some exciting new angles.

Every version of Cortana has been representative in many ways of the vision for the creative and art direction of the experience, moving the needle to various points as to how ‘human’ she is and even what color she presents herself with. In the show, we’ve explored what a hologram can look like in a live-action world when interacting with real people. The full context and performance from Jen Taylor and how she plays off the familiar-yet-new cast is going to be a delight to see!

Trailer still of UNSC and Covenant corvette.
We are gonna need a bigger boat...

The UNSC’s Gladius-class heavy corvette first appeared in Halo: Warfleet (go check that out!), and a cinematic quality model was built for the show. This is a ship class built for interdiction, patrol, and security, relying on its relatively small size and low sensor profile to avoid engagements that might be deemed unwinnable.

The Covenant SDV should be familiar to players of Halo: Reach, as well as those who remember that harrowing orbital elevator sequence in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn as the Covenant arrived in force at Corbulo Military Academy.

It’s become a ship that needs no introduction and heralds terrible things to come. And while it is ‘small’ by Covenant ship standards, keep in mind it’s still almost a kilometer long!

Trailer still of Makee and Lekgolo worms holding UNSC Marines.
Makee worms her way into the spotlight.

Here you see Makee directing a swarm of Lekgolo, the eel-like creatures that many will know from facing the Hunters in the games.

We don’t see the Hunters in this particular form in-game much. There are a few occasions in Halo 5: Guardians which show them forming into Mgalekgolo (during the missions Blue Team and Battle of Sunaion), but the Thanolekgolo swarms in Halo: Nightfall are perhaps a more visually familiar comparison.

One of the advantages of working on a famous IP is that many of the actors and extras were familiar with Halo, but as this is ‘deep-lore’ it did result in quite a few questions and raised eyebrows – particularly with the awesome stunt crew who had Lekgolo wrapped around them all day.


END OF DEBRIEF

And that’s a wrap on our second Silver Debrief, so it’s back to waiting those last few excruciating weeks until release. As a masterful drummer (whose notes may be familiar from the last trailer) once said: The hurt doesn't show, but the pain still grows. It's no stranger to you or me.

We’ll be back before you know it!