Swain | Champion Teaser - League of Legends

This is the final video created by our amazing scrappy team, I will walk you trough the story of how it happened.

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Swain deserved some kind of teaser video for his VGU relaunch.
Laurie, (the narrative editor ) wanted to try out something with an actor's VO. David ( VO supervisor) also joined the project.

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It all started with the 3 of us in a room jamming around pairing visuals with a narrative message. This sort of visual storytelling is my favorite thing to do!
The initial idea was to showcase all of Swain's themes trough transitions / visual symbols.

We had very limited resources, so I created this test in Blender in one evening to see if it would be possible to create an entire video with 1 or 2 artists.

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The next step was putting together a sort of storyboard incorporating the elements, VO, SFX and timing.
As you can see I was very enthusiastic and this was way out of scope compared to what was doable by 2 artists in 3 weeks. Initial duration : 1 minute

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Concept art for a reverse shot of the balcony Swain is standing on. This one ended up getting cut for scope reasons ( Banners, soldier heads, etc ), but also because the one-shot version had more impact in the end.

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Sometimes the animatics can look REALLY rough.
At this stage we were really just looking for timing and feel.

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The image of Swain standing like an emperor, overlooking the troops of Noxus was really important.
Given more time, we probably would have wanted to have the crowd be a particle simulation.
SCOPE SOLUTION : the crowd was hinted at trough SFX.

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This is a concept of what the wings R (ultimate) moment could look like. It's a departure from ingame animations, but I made sure to keep the same explosive and powerful feel.

Now Jason ( 3D animator) and Matt ( creative lead) joined the project.
The three of us played around with animation and timing, with Matt focusing on the interaction between sound and visual to give the piece more impact.

I was gradually replacing the assets with better iterations that matched Noxian architecture better. At this stage I started working on shaders in Maya and Redshift, (Notice how at first it's really janky and the glossiness is inconsistent on materials).

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Time was really limited, but opportunistically, Gabriel Yeganyan already painted this background of Noxus and the immortal bastion for the World-Building team.
Re-purposing existing assets was the only way I could get it all done in 3 weeks.

This is just a breakdown to show how after painting over and relighting the painting, I broke it down to layers and projected it onto cards in Blender. I could do it in After effects but I dislike the process of camera projection.

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This is what I'm talking about : After effects doesn't natively support cards with geometry, even though it is super useful to be able to project on simple geo.

A lot of work went into the VFX, I had help from Adam Olivera who created an amazing animated texture for the wings and Andru Phoenic on comp and atmosphere. Medhi (2D animator) created hair and lightning.
2D hair was cut ( it clashed with the style).

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Here's a closer look at the texture created by Adam. I mapped it onto the wings geometry in Blender as an animated texture. At first we had issues because the animation was very jiggly and of course the smoke was not a simulation. We tweaked the animation

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To gain speed, I reused the in-game model created by lol character artists, but it needed a couple of tweaks. That's because the lol characters are often modelled for top down 3/4 view, while this teaser was an over-the-shoulder type camera shot.

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Here you can see the geometry tweaks that makes this model look a lot better when shaded.

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Another thing, lol chars are very stylized, actually most of the time the diffuse texture is hand painted.
I started from the diffuse base to create 4 PBR textures. ( I didn't have too much fancy tools so I just painted it in photoshop )

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Actually I DID have fancy tools, somehow I had to move so fast I forgot about substance painter. I used it to bake a normal from a highres I sculpted, and make the arm a lot more detailed.

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For about 2 hours, I was Swain's official hairdresser. I painted this texture sheet to break the silhouette of the hair. While I didn't have the time to go into hair simulation, I still didn't want the jagged edges of the lowpoly hair.

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Here you can see how the head has hair cards with alpha, ( it looks like crap here but it's just the viewport ).
James Marcus ( 3D artist ) worked on cloth FX to make Swain's iconic coat look badass.

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At this point Jason was done with the animation and I had to carry the visuals to the end based on feedback from Matt and the promo team.
Everyone pitched in to help to coordinate the effort to translate the VO in 19 different languages, wow !

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Around this time the music ( created by Kole ) and SFX (created by Sean) was added. There was a lot of feedback rounds to make all those elements fit into a cohesive whole.

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I hope you enjoyed this little breakdown ! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions :)
I might go more into detail on compositing on my blog if anyone is interested.

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Thanks for reading !

Teaser for the VGU ( visual game-play update) of Swain ( League of Legends)
This project took 2 months ( 1 month of preparation, 1 month for production).
It was really intense, fun and challenging. I always joked around that I'm "a CG generalist who happens to draw", but this was an opportunity to actually proof it out. I was involved from the story pitches, to working on VO with the actors, all the way to the final delivery to the editor for localisation into all the 19 languages.
This took a lot of effort to establish a hybrid style where the stylized 3D model would blend well with PBR shaders and raytracing, while not clashing against 2.5D effects and hand-painted matte paintings. ( If anyone is interested, I might go more into detail about this on my blog ).

Shout out to everyone involved in the project ! Couldn't have done this without everyone's support.
Credit goes to the champ team for creating the character of Swain and original model.

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