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The Team of Fortiche shared the details behind the production of the recent hit K/DA – POP/STARS. Incredible League of Legends animated video in retrospective. Most of the answers are given collectively by Arnaud Delord, Jérôme Combe, Pascal Charrue, and Hervé Dupont with Barthelemy Maunoury talking about animation.
80lv: Could you introduce yourself to us? Where are you based? What projects have you worked on? It would be awesome if you could discuss your history a bit more.
Fortiche has been created in 2009. We’re based in Paris and everything started in a living room. For many years we worked on music videos, TV ads and video games cinematic for all kind of clients and in very different styles. After some time, we developed what we could call the “Fortiche touch”, a visual mix of 2D and 3D in teens to adult tone staging. We’ve now moved to proper offices and have variable teams, from 15 to 60, depending on the projects. We have some regular artists we like to work with and more occasional freelancers who join for a specific project.
How K/DA – POP/STARS Started
80lv: K/DA is such a huge project! How did it all start? What were the main things that you wanted to do here? How did you decide to move on with the K-pop style and design?
K/DA was born in Riot team’s minds. They wanted to make a special present for their fans in Korea so they’ve created specific K-pop skins for four of their most iconic champions. They’ve also produced the entire song internally. Our main brief was to do a K-pop music video based on all the material they did. They also came with different references: classic K-pop music videos of course, but also more graphic material like Gorillaz videos for instance, which mixes cartoon characters with a realistic environment. Based on these, we came up with the global idea of the video, something a bit radical like we like to do: an on-going truck out camera with some crazy ideas here and there like the blacklight moments in the subway. We also needed to find a way to depict each girl’s special move in a cool way that melts well with our staging and our style.
80lv: Let’s discuss what were the main references here and the main stylistic decisions. It’s incredible that there’s not a single shot wasted, every millisecond is put into use. Could you tell about the main solutions in montage and design that you’ve borrowed from K-pop?
We like to be efficient in our videos and the way we produce them: we had a lot more ideas at the beginning but, bits by bits, we got rid of many of them to go radical and, yes, only produce what’s the more efficient. K-pop videos are instantly recognizable but there’s also a lot of different styles of them so it gave us some freedom to come up with fresh ideas. Popping colors and lights and dynamic edit based on the music could be the most obvious things we borrowed from the K-pop songs. And the choreography chorus of course!
80lv: How did you approach planning? Did you do sketches of every shot and early blockouts with primitive animation? We’d really like to have a look at your working process.
We drafted rough ideas with our storyboard supervisor, Simon Andriveau, to find the main intentions: environments for each girl, gestures, posing and “special moves”. Then we started previz and layout quite fast to start to work on staging within the on-going truck out camera. We also started really soon to work on the edit: first to breakdown main moments, chorus etc. and then to fine-tune the rhythm of each shot as the previz was done. For music videos, we’re always starting edit very soon and update it regularly: it becomes the blueprint for production planning and helps brief the teams with intentions, timings etc.
80lv: Could you tell us a little bit about the characters, their design, and what artistic methods you’ve used to give so much power to them in the shot?
The character design is an evolutionary process: Riot provide us with their designs, we have the first pass of adaptation from Bart Maunoury, our animation director who’s also a great character designer. Bart adapts the design to something a bit more radical, closer to the references we had for the video. We then interpret these designs in CG with Bart always in the loop in order to make sure we’ll be able to animate the girls in a very dynamic way and give them some iconic posing.
80lv: We were amazed to learn that you did most of the animations by hand, I mean, this is insane! Could you walk us through your process: timing, interesting solutions, physics influencing the little details like hair and earrings. And the dance itself is just nuts. By the way, are all of the characters moving simultaneously on one rig, or did you make slight differences in each character’s movement?
Yes, everything is keyframe animation done by hand, no mocap was used. There is no much mystery or wizardry here, only time, effort, dedication and talent from the animation team. We started with multiple dance footages provided by Riot and gathered them all in one rough animation we did of the entire choreography. Once we were all happy with it, we used that same rough animation to layout and edit the chorus part of the music video. Finally, we animated each shot separately. We didn’t have any specific technology or solution but we do have powerful rigs which allow us to transfer animation from one character to another. We used that as a first pass for our dancing shots and then added variations on the timing and the poses on each girl to enhance their personality and avoid having them look like clones. The rap section was also a challenge as we didn’t have any reference footage for that. None of us was really a rap expert but we knew we could easily fall into a cheesy/cliché aspect of it. So we did extensive research online, watching lots of rap music videos and doing some rough animation tests to come up with something we felt was right.
See the animation progression here.
80lv: This dance with the neon mask is obviously a hit. How did you envision and implement it technically? What’s the tech behind the creation of these amazing graffitis?
It’s a shared effort from different kind of talents, something we love to do at Fortiche. Riot wanted to refer to Korean traditional arts for the dragon and Akali’s mask and sent us some references. The Dragon graffiti is done by Julien Georgel, art director on many of our videos. The graffitis on Akali’s outfit are done by Bart Maunoury. The mask animation has been done in 2D animation, by our 2D FX team, and then integrated as a texture in the CG animated character. It required some synchronization among departments to have this working efficiently.
80lv: The lighting in the video is colossal, it’s like the fifth character. Could you tell us a bit about the way you came up with these sequences at the end of the video, where the light changes along with the beat?
We wanted to play a lot with lights to add some rhythm to the staging. But the light is also a way to depict the girls’ style: flashing lights for Ahri, “staggered” lights for Kai’Sa, blacklight for Akali, and backlight for Evelyn (and shadows when she’s a demon). We had a great time designing all these lights’ effects and a great challenge to actually have them all work and melt well on screen!
The Team of Fortiche
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev
Fortiche – POP/STARS Credits
POPSTARS STUDIO MANAGEMENT
GENERAL MANAGEMENT: Pascal Charrue, Jérôme Combe
DIRECTORS & ARTISTIC MANAGEMENT
- DIRECTORS: Arnaud Delord, Jérôme Combe
- CG SUPERVISOR: Sébastien Rossi
- 1st Assistant Director: Morgane Dupré
GENERAL PRODUCTION & ADMINISTRATION
- PRODUCER: Hervé Dupont
- PROD SUPERVISOR: Isabelle Boningre
- GENERAL PRODUCTION COORDINATORS: Bleuenn Mallat, Marie-Lou Gely
- ADMINISTRATOR: Fethia Dahenane
FORTICHE IT / PIPE / R&D
- CTO: Yann Moriaud
- IT TECH: Florian Moreau
- PIPE & R&D SUPERVISOR: Charles Bouet
- PIPE & R&D COORDINATOR: Cecile Rastouil
2D PRE-PRODUCTION 2D DESIGN
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Barthelemy Maunoury
- STORYBOARD ARTIST: Simon Andriveau
- EDITOR: Arnaud Delord
- ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Roberto Fernandez
- CG ASSETS ART DIRECTOR: Pascal Charrue
- CG ASSETS SUPERVISOR: Michel Pecqueur
- CHARA/PROPS MODELING SUPERVISOR: Edouard Cellura
- CHARA/PROPS MODELING ARTISTS: Thomas Vuillier, Thibaut Granet, Alexandre Bourlet
- GROOM ARTISTS: Christophe Gigot, Camille Canonne, Tony Lebrun
- CHARA/PROPS TEXTURE SUPERVISOR: Candice Theuillon
- CHARA/PROPS TEXTURE ARTIST: Thibaut Granet
- RIG ARTISTS: Arthur Bodart, Pascal Burtin
- SHAPES ARTIST: Arthur Bodart
- CG ASSETS COORDINATOR: Morgane Dupré
CG SHOTS LAYOUT
- PREVIZ / LAYOUT ARTIST: Benjamin Tussiot
- ANIMATION DIRECTOR: Bart Maunoury
- ANIMATION SUPERVISOR & LEAD ANIM: Remy Terreaux
- LEAD ANIMATORS: Daniel Callaby, Jean-Charles Gonin
- ANIMATORS: Léa Chervet, Yann Caussat, Julianna De Lucca, Pierre Bottai, Jonathan Perez
- FIX ANIM: Steve Alves
- TD ANIM: William Loew
- PROD COORDINATOR: Brett Goodwin
BG / ENVIRONMENT
- CG BG SUPERVISOR: Jonathan Chaillot
- BG MODELING & TEXTURING: Florian Pasquier, Simon Magnan
- DRAGON MATTE PAINTING: Julien Georgel
- BG / ENV PROD COORDINATOR: Morgane Dupré
FINAL IMAGE CFX
- CFX SUPERVISOR & CLOTH SIMULATION: Matthieu Gouget de Landres
- HAIR SIMULATION LEAD: Christophe Gigot
- CFX COORDINATOR: Romane Belaisch
2D / CG FX
- 2D FX SUPERVISOR: Aurélien Ressencourt
- 2D FX ARTIST: Martin Touze
- CG FX ARTIST: William Bobant
- FX COORDINATOR: Romane Belaisch
LIGHTING / RENDERING
- LIGHTING / RENDERING SUPERVISOR: Nicolas Millecamps
- LIGHTING / RENDERING ARTISTS: Thomas Cailliez, David Musique
- COMPOSITING SUPERVISOR: Yann Leroy
- COMPOSITING LEAD: Michael Bellamy
- COMPOSITORS: Marie-Alix Hoffmann, Maxime Temple, Alexis Charles
- FINAL IMAGE PROD COORDINATOR: Marie-Lou Gely