Gorillaz Director Pete Candeland Makes CG Music Video for Riot Games' Pentakill
Friends Electric and their big sister company Electric Theatre Collective have worked in collaboration with Riot Games to deliver a timeless animation for Mortal Reminder, the killer track from new album Pentakill II: Grasp of the Undying.
Pete Candeland, director of the seminal Gorillaz music videos, was the perfect person to lead the project, building on his unrivalled pedigree in working with both animation and music to create a unique picture that is wholly original.
From the outset, Pete believed in Pentakill’s musical chops and was delighted that the track provided him with a clear ‘leaping off point’ for the film’s narrative, building on the story that had been developed by the team at Riot. As Pete says, “I’ve always had Heavy Metal in my heart but what struck me about this track was that the more I listened to it the more it grew on me to the point where I just loved it! The more I got into the track the more I could visualize the film and this quickly provided me a clear pathway into boarding the action and forming the story with the guys."
Pete drew all the initial storyboard frames himself, working closely with creative leads from Riot Games' art team to refine, revise and deliver an editorial structure that was not only dynamic in film language but also delivered an overarching sense of levity and fun. As Pete says, “I really didn't want this to be a one-note film, loaded only with the familiar tropes of CG cinematics. I really wanted to find a tone that allowed for comedy in a way that was highly engaging to Riot’s fans but also a wider audience who might not live in the League of Legends universe”.
Over the course of the production the edit was continually refined and re-moulded in collaboration with the team at Riot as the animation developed, ensuring that the characters had chance to act and emote on screen, whilst building to an epic crescendo.
As Pete says, “For story purposes we had to create two worlds; Bandle City (which had never been seen before) and of course the Heavy Metal world that follows Pentakill’s invasion. This is a story where you progress through a constant sense of movement and build which means every shot and scene needs to be bespoke, gathering new momentum and drive. This build is what's most important in short form storytelling like this, but that often means things get bigger and more spectacular and of course this creates even more work! Controlling the escalation and the number of unique characters through the project and finding solutions to get all this done was probably the most challenging aspect of this project.”
Setting the look and art style was an important and uniquely collaborative part of the creative process. Friends Electric worked with an extended team of extraordinary designers to bring an original design language to the characters. In particular Leeroy Vanilla, artists at Painting Practice and Pete worked together in creating the character and environment concepts which would then be iterated upon and often painted over by the art team at Riot to deliver the final look.
In terms of animation Pete says, “We all made a decision early on to use mocap to give us a base layer for performance. However, it needed to be mocap that didn’t look like mocap..! We wanted to create a layer of movement that was physical and real but we also wanted to adjust this to bring more of a stylization to the performance that would support the design of the characters. We chose to heavily stylize the movements of the actors so that they would hit more striking poses than just natural realistic movement. This provided a great base from which to build. It was an awesome starting point but it was only when ETC’s animation team really got going did the life in the characters really start pouring out.
ETC's lead animator Paul Templeman continues, "Once we received mocap data, we began to bring it in to Maya to provide individual character previews for Pete.These were often over length and re timed in the edit to fit the music and or the weight & speed of each character. This was a process that continued to evolve throughout production. We had all this great movement from the mocap, except for props such as the guitars and for these the next step was to transfer the mocap data on to our guitar rig. To do this we would bake the wrists and a point on the hips of the character to Locators so we could constrain the guitar to them, inheriting the movement. Then we could constrain the hand back to the guitar and begin animating the fingers. In addition to finessing the animation we utilised inset controls and animation layers to tweak poses and push animation where needed.
Using this technique of baking animation in to different parent spaces was essential on this project. Mordekaiser for example had to walk at about half the speed of which he was playing so everything had to be baked in his COG (centre of gravity) space so we could apply a time warp through the bottom half of his body.
This technique helped to give Pentakill's musical performance the authenticity it needed. For Pete, "Pentakill are a legitimate and a great metal band and this project became something of a labour of love because of that. Over the course of the project we all developed a deep rapport with the characters; Karthus, Kayle, Mordekaiser, Sona, Yorick and Olaf… They were all such fun to work with. Everyone here and at Riot committed a hell of a lot to making this and it’s wonderful to see how the film and the album has been received by the ‘metal media’ as well as League’s core audience. We set out to make something highly original that would be met with open arms by a huge international audience and it seems we’ve done just that. The entire team really took this big beast of a project by the 'rock horns' and kicked its ass!
CREATIVE PARTNER Riot Games Inc
PRODUCTION COMPANY Friends Electric
Director: Pete Candeland
Executive Producers: Alex Webster & Belinda Blacklock
Producer: Orlaith Turner
Production Assistant: Maryam Anibaba
ANIMATION PRODUCTION Electric Theatre Collective
Creative Director: James Sindle
Producers: Sian Jenkins & Therese Mayer
Design / Art Direction: Julien Renoult aka Leeroy Vanilla, Kristian Antonelli, Dan Lambert, Mike Smith
Editor: Brian Raess
Edit Assistant: Diogo Linhares
Lead CG Artist: James Sindle
Technical Director: Neil Riley
CG Lead: Paul Tempelman
CG Artists: Julien Soulage, Annie Rowland, Steve Beck, George Savvas, Luping Shi, Kimon Matara, Sergio Morales, Ed Sherwood, Matteo Sanna, Pierre Plouzeau, Tobin Brett, Abner Marin, Rafa Zabala, Lewis Jones, Martin Aufinger, Florence Ciuccoli, Paris Marin, Pietro Cavallo, Joao Pires, Melanie Rossignol, Baptiste Roy, Benjamin Tron, Davide Doni, Corinne De Orsay, Nate Lapinski, Andre Correira, Nick Turner, Reece Weldon, Matteo Antona, Tom McCall, Max Johnson, Jordan Dunstall, Hamid Ibrahim, Hannah Bahyan, Interference Pattern, Mayama Entertainment
Compositing Lead: James Belch
Compositors: Bernardo Varela, Alex Grey, Alex Prod’Homme, Tane Welham, Chris Fraser, Courtney Pryce
Colourist: Lewis Crossfield