The final moments of the opening ceremonies for the 2022 League of Legends World Championship featured star performer Lil Nas X seemingly lifted into the air by the hand of a giant mech while a championship trophy floated around him. It was an impressive display of artistic vision and technical expertise — and it’s also the reason Carrie Dunn, creative director for Riot esports, has been a little stressed of late. “Any time you hoist a cultural superstar in the air for your finale,” she says, “there’s anxiety in that.”
🔴 👉 𝐂𝐋𝐈𝐂𝐊 𝐇𝐄𝐑𝐄 𝐓𝐎 𝐆𝐄𝐓 𝐍𝐎𝐖 𝐅𝐑𝐄𝐄
🔴 👉 𝐂𝐋𝐈𝐂𝐊 𝐇𝐄𝐑𝐄 𝐓𝐎 𝐆𝐄𝐓 𝐍𝐎𝐖 𝐅𝐑𝐄𝐄
Worlds is the highlight of League’s competitive calendar, with the finals pitting two teams against each other who have worked all year for a chance at the trophy. This year’s edition featured the return of the legendary Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok — known by the incredible nickname the “unkillable demon king” — and his team T1 facing off against fellow Korean side DRX. But as appealing as the actual games are, often, the opening ceremony steals the show.
In the past, League developer Riot has employed holograms and augmented reality for its live events. Over the last few years, with covid-related restrictions in place, the team has had to get a little more creative. 2020 featured a mixed reality stage to make the crowd-free competition feel more exciting, while last year eschewed a live show altogether for a gigantic music video tied to the release of Arcane on Netflix.
This year, with the promise of a return to a packed arena at the Chase Center in San Francisco, the team wanted to create a spectacle that would work both for those in the audience and fans watching at home. That ruled out AR, which is only really cool when you’re staring at a screen. Instead, they decided to utilize multiple technologies, including a massive jumbotron-style display at ground level and a stage covered with thousands of LED tiles. Arguably the highlight, though, is the impressively huge holograms.
In 2019, Riot utilized a technology called a 3D Holonet, essentially a high-tech gauze that images can be projected onto to create a holographic effect. That’s how the members of the fictional hip-hop group True Damage were able to perform on stage in Paris. This year, the team is using the same tools but on a much larger scale. There are three Holonet panels, which stretch as tall as 48 feet, which is how they were able to pull off the massive mech moment.
But it was also utilized for much smaller and more complex moments. At one point during the opening ceremony, League character Pyke showed up and appeared to use his trademark move, the “bone skewer,” to pull a real person toward him. It was an effect that required multiple elements: a hologram to bring Pyke to life, precise lighting cues to create a sense of movement, and multiple performers capable of hitting those cues perfectly. “The technical complexity and ambition this year is, in my experience, a new peak,” executive producer Nick Troop explains.
In addition to all of the holographic mesh and LED stage, pulling off this year’s ceremony required 55 cameras, a nine-story-tall lighting truss, 24 30K projectors, and a media center setup “capable of driving up to 600 million pixels,” according to Troop. All told, more than 470,000 pounds of equipment were required for the event. “That is more than double our last Worlds final in an arena,” explains Troop.
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