Arnaud-Loris Baudry, Production Designer/Senior Concept Artist at Riot Games, told us about the production process behind Arcane, explained how the city of Piltover and Zaun were made, and shared some details on the upcoming season 2.
Hi, my name is Arnaud-Loris Baudry, I have been working in the animation industry in France since the late 90s. I was attracted by 2D animation because it was a crossroad between drawing, painting, and cinematography. The animation industry was booming in France at the time. It was well structured, with great schools. I was lucky enough to join a team, learn the job, and grow to become a Lead Artist.
I worked on action-adventure shows such as Code Lyoko, Wakfu, and Funky Cops as a Background Artist. These shows usually take several years in the making and require intense work to produce all the background art. I learned how to be efficient and to adapt to various art styles and pipelines. While most of my peers were influenced by Disney, I was more attracted by Japanese animation and video games.
I was among the first Artists in the industry to work digitally while most of the industry was still using traditional paint and methods. I was always interested in finding new techniques to improve the compositing of the images and find ways to integrate 3D elements and cinematography.
With the help of a good friend of mine, Digital Composer and Motion Grapher Julien Baret, we tested methods to improve camera moves, making them more cinematographic, project painted backgrounds in 3D (Projection Mapping), and brought After Effects to modernize our compositing or create UI and Motion Graphic elements on shows like Code Lyoko.
Joining Fortiche Production
After a few years of working and experimenting with Julien Baret on shorts, advertisements, and teasers, we both joined Fortiche Production in 2013 for their first collaboration with Riot Games on "Get Jinxed".
We immediately felt at home, as the company was very small back then. It was founded by three artists – Jérôme Combe, Pascal Charrue, and Arnaud Delord – with the goal of being independent, creating their own path, and imposing their style. It was a really rich artistic partnership with Riot Games thanks to Christian Linke, Arcane's Co-Creator, who was very open to our ideas and always empowered us to trust our instincts and add value to the piece.
We were a small team of about 12 really talented, skilled, and passionate artists. I was one of the two Matte Painters, teaming up with the talented Julien Georgel who is still art directing Arcane at Fortiche today. Most of the people involved in "Get Jinxed" are still at Fortiche as Lead Artists and were key to building the studio's unique graphic style blending 2D and 3D media. I felt that this collaboration on "Get Jinxed" was the start of a dream between Fortiche founders and Christian Linke to do a longer narrative piece that would become Arcane.
I worked at Fortiche for four years on several video game teasers and music videos for Riot Games:
And on other studios' video game teasers as well:
I joined Riot Games in 2016 right after the first animation tests of Arcane were conducted. I have been working on Arcane for over eight years.
Thoughts on Riot's Cinematics
I feel that most video game companies usually create a CG piece for specific reasons, announcing a new game, or an expansion. The reference in the industry has always been Blizzard with their top-notch quality and consistent art direction.
I don't think Riot Games was trying to follow that path. There was always a variety of art styles and types of shorts – music videos, champion teasers, Worlds anthem, skin lines, competitions, etc. And the response from Riot's fans was always really positive even if the Fortiche pieces are usually the fan’s favorite, like K/DA – POP/STARS or RISE, which were made during the production of Arcane and helped refine our style and art direction
Designing Piltover and Zaun
In 2013, LoL was a recent game, done with a lot of passion but with some inconsistency in the art direction. The city of Piltover and Zaun were very different in the early concepts. Piltover looked like a modern and bright city, with brass cogs and blue energy, there was no Art Deco influence. It was Julien Georgel who followed his intuition and made a City of Progress more grounded, weathered, and with some Art Deco elements, giving the feeling that the city was lived in and had some history.
After the positive reception of Get Jinxed, the World Building team at Riot Games revisited the thematics of Piltover and defined a completely new shape language based on geometry, symmetry, and mechanical beauty that we used on Arcane.
This piece from Joon Ahn, Art Lead of the World Building team at Riot Games, was the main reference for the Piltover aesthetics and shape language:
Once we figured out the shape language of the wealthy city of Piltover, Zaun needed to be its dark mirror. We started by combining Victorian architectural pieces and some old industrial elements and added some asymmetrical flourish ornaments made from handcrafted upcycled pieces. The idea was to bring some organic beauty to the poor and toxic undercity.
Everyone at Riot Games trusted the artistic talent of the Fortiche artists. We had the support of the World Building team with some artists who are experts in those factions. Most of the feedback was on the technology advancement and vehicles compared to the other factions of our IP.
We based all the creative work of Arcane on guides to make sure our story is consistent with the rest of the IP, but we needed to make a few changes or invent elements in order for the story to happen. We needed to create a Council, a Prison, and an Airship harbor for the show. My role as a Production Designer was to make sure we don't negatively impact other teams at Riot Games and contribute to adding value and enriching the worldbuilding of those cities.
One of the big challenges in animation is to convey the illusion of life, we wanted the city to feel lived in, condensed, and visually interesting. We created a dozen landmarks to give visual cues to the audience. Some of those landmarks ended up being important to the story like the Progress Bridge which will be the set of several impactful scenes. We finalized the design of the bridge adding imposing statues with the idea that they would be the silent witness of dramatic events, bringing emotional weight to this location.
A team of Concept Artists built a visual library of set design elements, props, buildings, and stores so every street could feel unique but unified with the art direction and the shape language of the city.
The story of Arcane takes place over several years, and we wanted to show visually how the two cities would be impacted by the invention of Hextech or the rise of Silco. Some buildings are being built, and some streets are completely transformed during the first half of the show. The events of the story have a visual impact on the look of Piltover and Zaun.
It's always very rewarding to work on a League of Legends project because as soon as it's released, the hype is intense, and we get so much good feedback from our fans. They always pay so much attention to every detail and easter eggs. It feels like it was worth the hard work. We want to be generous and deliver the best to our fans.
We are working hard on season 2 with the same mindset. Our main goal was to show the potential of our very rich IP, starting with a handful of Champions from the game and keeping the story inside the two cities. It was important to have the show feel like it was part of something much bigger. We are unveiling a small portion of Runeterra, and it's a pretty big world, there is much more to explore.