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Riot chose a big clip over a live performance at the 2021 Worlds

With massive sets and previews of the impending Arcane animated series, this trailer is a must-see.

The Opening Ceremonies are always a highlight of the League of Legends World Championship. It has become common for Riot Games to stage a real-world extravaganza before the big game. In the past, this included everything from holographic musical performances to the appearance of a K-pop group using augmented reality. However, in 2021, things took a turn for the worse.

Riot used a series of pre-produced music videos that included huge real-world settings mixed with footage from the upcoming Arcane animated series instead of a live audience due to the constraints of COVID-19. Even though it wasn’t a live performance, it was magnificent nonetheless. “That’s really what feature films do, what Marvel does,” said Matt Kauth, production manager at London Alley Entertainment, who collaborated with Riot on the project.

It was essentially a 13-minute short film that mixed animation, music videos and physical settings premiered before the world title match. Imagine Dragons and Bea Miller performed a few songs, which were interspersed with animated thumbnails of Arcane, which premiered on Netflix tonight. The idea of ​​merging the live action and CG isn’t exactly new, but the huge real-world sets meant to appear as Zaun and Piltover, two legendary League of Legends towns, are a big part of what makes the Worlds event work so well. effectively (which feature prominently on the Netflix show).

“These are the biggest sets we’ve ever done, and it’s probably not even close,” adds Kauth, whose studio has worked on music videos for artists such as Lil Nas X and The Weeknd. “We shot this whole piece over three days in Los Angeles and three days in Birmingham, UK. It’s also the busiest he’s ever been in the production landscape right now. Both because we come out on the other side of the covid, but also because all the streaming is going on. It has never been so busy and teams are very difficult to find. The LA shoot, we were literally taking the builders out of the TV shows. And add new crew members every day to meet that deadline. “

Music videos have always been planned to be a component of the project. However, Riot had wanted to include a live component as well. Due to covid concerns, the company was forced to move the event from Shenzhen, China to Reykjavik, Iceland. “We actually always wanted there to be this integration of music videos and more cinematic performances,” says Nick Troop, executive producer of the event for Riot. “Even when Worlds was still located in Shenzhen, we were going to shoot these videos that way. This was the general plan. And part of the magic of the stadium show was going to be creating that interaction between the live show and the pre-recorded stuff, and using that to uplift what was going on in the stadium.

The emphasis on physical settings contrasts with previous worlds, where new technologies such as mixed reality were widely used. Part of the decision was based on practical considerations. With a tight deadline to complete the project, the physical sets would be less demanding on the many VFX teams involved. If the videos had been shot with a green screen, for example, it would have taken a lot longer because the backgrounds would have had to be designed from scratch. “Our goal was to make sure that we captured as much as possible behind closed doors, so that when we passed the baton to the VFX departments, they had enough to work with,” Kauth adds. (Even still, the post-production effects were packed by five separate studios and 230 people.)

However, Riot chose the IRL sets to help distinguish the opening ceremonies from the many other virtual performances that have taken place recently, especially during the pandemic. Plus, it was just plain cool. “You can feel when it’s real,” says Troop. “You live in a mostly rendered world when you interact with League of Legends. This is one of the few opportunities to bring it to life.

Large-scale film productions, like Marvel’s, are known to use large sets as well as several effects studio partners. However, Kauth says it’s rare to have abbreviated initiatives like this. He says having so many people working there not only helped make the opening ceremonies mind-blowing, but it also helped make it a more sustainable production where teams were able to avoid the crunch. “It’s a film and television approach to meet deadlines and not burn a single business,” he explains.

While the 2021 ceremony was magnificent, something was missing in the absence of an in-person crowd. It’s hard for the team to tell if viewers are engaged without the roar of a stadium crowd. This year, they will have to look elsewhere for this first wave of entries. “I’ll definitely be curious,” says Troop. “I’ll be keeping an eye on Twitter and Twitch chat.”

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