— 5 April 2023 | Portrait
Together, We Are Ubisoft Québec: Akim, Capture Artist
Moving from Toronto to Québec City is one thing, but doing so in March 2020, one week before a pandemic puts the entire world on pause… that’s another!
Akim Milne, a capture artist at Ubisoft Québec for the past three years, had a bumpy start to his new life in the Capitale-Nationale, to say the least.
“So I picked up my whole life to come here, left my wife in Toronto, moved in here, did my training for three days and then was told we’re going to have to find a brand new way of working that had never been done before, because no one could be in the studio anymore. It was a pretty crazy time!” recalls the friendly Torontonian between laughs.
Akim spent his first few months as a Quebecer confined to his apartment in Old Québec, before discovering, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, all the (more or less) hidden treasures that the city holds.
“It was like an RPG! I came in at level 1 and then the map slowly unlocked up for me. Every few months, I had access to a new zone,” he laughs.
But that didn’t stop him from falling in love with the city, officially settling down with his significant other in the “basse-ville” of Québec… and quickly becoming a key player on our studio’s marketing team.
As a capture artist, Akim is the architect behind many of Ubisoft Québec’s gameplay trailers. Specifically, he captures and edits gameplay footage, much like a cinematographer who shoots footage in the field, before editing it to show it to the public.
“A good example of this, and the first major asset I worked on, is the gameplay reveal video for Immortals Fenyx Rising. That was a 10-minute gigantic piece that had some walk-through footage, it had narration, it showed off various gameplay systems, structure and combat. All of those gameplay clips were choreographed by a team, captured by me, and then edited together as a piece,” he describes.
With the return to the studio in recent months, he is also often seen with his camera in hand, documenting Ubisoft Québec’s special events, in addition to the creative process that drives our teams every day.
A fan of cinema and the artistic process that goes with it, it’s a daily life that’s almost tailor-made for Akim, who, as a child, already imagined himself making films while playing with his action figures, before multiplying amateur productions in high school.
That said, the Torontonian says he almost took a completely different career path… in medicine!
As a Bachelor of Science, Kinesiology and Exercise Science student at York University, Akim was originally destined to treat humans rather than images.
“My path was always medicine. That’s what my parents had instilled to me at a very young age, and I felt very strongly about that being my path. I had a passion for film, but when I was a kid, it never seemed like something you could profit off,” he says.
That said, when it came time to ask his professors for letters of recommendation to med schools, one of them stopped him and asked him straight out, “Akim, why do you want to be a doctor?”
“No one had really asked me this question before, and I didn’t really have a good answer. He went, ‘This is an undergrad course in fourth year and you have submitted three short film projects. I have a feeling that this might not be your path’.”
What followed was a meeting with the director of the university’s film faculty and, a master’s degree later, the rest is history.
“I was convinced that I wanted to be a doctor and it just took one really kind professor to put me on the track I’m on now. I am very grateful for him,” Akim says.
Once a Scientist, Always a Scientist
The fact remains that the scientific side of Akim’s nature has not been hidden far away. Curious and methodical, he is not the type to cut corners. He likes to get to the bottom of things and solve problems, which is a great asset for a capture artist like him.
Giving a glimpse of a game’s gameplay may seem simple on the surface, but it usually involves months of work and a lot of people. Delivering a comprehensive video of a title that is still in development requires attention to detail and resourcefulness.
“Everything we do has to have a certain level of polish and a certain level of finish, but realistically, in game development, things don’t really come together like that until very late in the game. And even when they are implemented like that, you constantly have to anticipate problems, bugs and things that are not working. So, a large part of the job is having to be creative and solving these things,” Akim says.
After that, he says that to get a trailer that will be appreciated by the audience and capture the spirit of the game, you just have to pay attention. On the one hand, pay attention to what the players want to see, and on the other, pay attention to the vision and expertise of your colleagues.
“The real kind of winning recipe is to listen to everyone on the various teams – they are really the experts – and integrate that into one cohesive vision,” asserts the capture artist.
Perfecting the Recipe… While Breaking the Mould
Akim makes no secret of the fact that he is a member of the eternal perfectionists club, whether at work or in everyday life.
One example among many: a video game enthusiast, he excelled for several years as a competitive Counter-Strike player. More recently, however, Akim has set his sights on another discipline, again with perfection in mind: cooking!
“I think a lot of people put a lot of effort into making a very grand recipe. Dishes that take you something like four days to make. And that’s incredible and it takes a lot of effort. But to me, what I like to focus on is: how can I make something very simple perfectly?,” he says.
“How can I make the perfect chicken noodle soup? The perfect chili? The perfect tourtière? Not only that, but how can I make it fast? To me, getting into cooking was not about flavours, it was about knife skills! Once I was able to cut an onion in 20 seconds, I felt like I was getting somewhere,” Akim adds.
In this sense, he sees a parallel with his work as a capture artist, where efficiency and mastery of different techniques also play a key role.
“It was the same in editing. When I finally had my shortcuts for everything and cut my editing time in half, I felt, in the same way, that I was getting somewhere. I think the more mastery you have over the techniques, the more time you can spend on being creative,” he points out. It’s such a corny thing to say, but you have to know the rules before you can break them.”
Be a great technician but be just as creative. Respect the vision of others but be bold enough to bring your own artistry to it. That, in a nutshell, is what drives Akim’s work.
That and the simple joy of seeing others appreciate his work.
“The joy I get in cooking is watching someone eat the dish. It’s the same thing in my editing. The joy I get is seeing the comments when we show the video internally. To know that I was able to capture what was in their head,” he sums up.
“That’s what makes it really worth it for me.”
Your go-to comfort food?
Kraft Dinner with hot dogs
The underrated TV series that everyone needs to discover?
Utopia, “the British version, because the American show is not good”.
The first CD you bought?
“The Shrek soundtrack, there are bangers on there!”
A person, anyone, you’d like to chat with over a drink?
Danny DeVito, “He is the perfect image of someone who has worked their entire life to master their artistry.”
The first app you open in the morning?
Ground News, a news app.
If you were not a capture artist, you would be…?
A film director
Console or PC
What do you put in your coffee?