When the best of the best in esports comes to Shanghai for the 2020 League of Legends World Championship, it calls for a promo spot that matches the magnitude and awe of the event. LOL 出手即英雄, Director Roni Shao‘s new 90-second film does just that. Together with the TBWA Shanghai, he went all out to promote not just the event, but esports culture as a whole. The challenge? To convey emotion through ta gamer’s greatest weapon — the hand.
SHP+ chats with Roni and his longtime cinematographer Paul Morris about the shoot, the concept, the challenges, and the altercations in this project.
Director RONI SHAO 邵黎俊
Cinematographer PAUL MORRIS
SHP+: What is the main concept behind this spot? What was the original brief? 这部宣传片背后的主要概念是什么？最初的制片简报是怎样的？
Roni Shao: The creative team said, “we don’t want to see people; we want to see the hand. The hand is the hero.” I thought it was a cool concept. After all, gamers use their hands to beat the adversary. But shooting esport players is challenging. It’s not like basketball; there’s not a lot of body movement. Everything happens inside the player’s head. It’s an emotional and mental process, and that’s what we had to express.
SHP+: I know you and Paul have worked together for a while, but this seems to be the most technical spot you have done? How many of the shots in the film were storyboarded? 我们了解到你和Paul已经共事一段时间了，但这次的合作似乎是最有技术挑战的？这部宣传片中有多少片段是有做故事板的？
Roni Shao: Yes. Technically, it was one of the most challenging projects that we did together. A lot of the projects we’ve made together are pretty raw, a lot of handheld camera work, a lot of finding stuff as we shoot. This was very different because so much of it was about precision. Everything had to be designed pretty much. I’d say 90% of what we filmed we boarded. The agency was also great; they didn’t change much.
Paul Morris: Usually when we work together, we always make sure we shoot the boards but then we try and find time to shoot other things on the day that inspire us and that we think tell the story more clearly. And those always end up in the director’s cut. But as Roni said, with this project 90% of the shots that made the final spot we were executing from the boards. This one for me was much more about technically making something work.
Roni Shao: Of course, if we had shot full-bodied people with different expressions and vibes, we could have been much free-style in our approach. But when we are shooting something this specific, everything changes.
SHP+: In a way, it’s like table-top shooting? 这种拍摄手法，是不是类似桌面拍摄？
Roni Shao:It’s a little like doing products, except that the hand itself has a soul, and products don’t have a soul. It was a hook to me — to capture the subject’s emotion, rather than just shooting beautifully composed shots. Our goal was to show the gamer’s universe, including their strong desire to win, all through their hands.
SHP+: So it’s not only about promoting Leagues of Legend or the Shanghai event. There’s something bigger behind it? 所以这部影片不光是为了宣传英雄联盟和上海的赛事。这背后还有更远大的目标？
Roni Shao: Exactly. There’s a bigger concept behind it. They don’t even call it gaming; they call it esports. It’s a world-class competition. It should have a similar spirit and aesthetics to a major football competition. Nowadays, if you play a computer game, you can be a superstar. This spot celebrates gaming culture.
SHP+: We can imagine, since it’s a gaming client, they should understand technical aspects much better and, therefore, did they interfere a lot? 我们想，既然这次的客户是电竞界的，他们对于技术方面肯定更加了解，那么他们对拍摄有过多的介入吗？
Roni Shao: It’s different. When you shoot products, they look at angles; when you shoot celebrities, they analyze the face. And when you shoot celebrities with products — that’s a nightmare! For this spot, we were shooting vibes. So, they didn’t have a product or celebrity management team onset. In this sense, it was easier.
SHP+: How much in this commercial involved something new to you, something that you had never done before? 这次的宣传片带给你了多少新的体验，你之前从未做过的事情？
Paul Morris: I think this is the first spot I’ve shot where the vast majority of the images weren’t handheld or Steadicam. Most of the commercials I work on, we kind of shoot more like you would a film or a documentary; I still shoot a lot of docs and art projects. So this was different from that perspective. But in many ways it wasn’t that different. You’re still trying to make images that tell a story, or express something, a feeling, an energy etc: the question is still the same “what story are we trying to tell our audience?” Once you know that, the technical stuff is less stressful.
We prepped this a lot. I have a really good Dolly Grip in Shanghai (江学春) so we built some rigs. One shot, Roni wanted a 270-degree wrap around close on a hand. Moving the camera fast in a small radius is quite technically challenging and I personally don’t like to see images speed ramped in post. It took us a long time to build something I was happy with, about eight hours in total. And then you watch it in the commercial, and it lasts less than a second. (laughs)
That is the crazy part of commercial shooting, which I kind of like. You spend hours building something, testing, building, testing etc and more hours on lighting and shooting, and the image lasts 0.5 seconds!
The shot that took 8 hours to make
Roni Shao: But that’s also what I like in commercials. You put a lot of energy into this one single shot. You’ve got to make every second count.
SHP+: Give us an example of a second that counts in this spot. 那么给我们举个例子吧，讲讲这部影片中某个精雕细琢的一秒
Roni Shao: In the opening sequence, when we show a hand starting a clock; gamers usually use their left-hand to start the clock, since they play with their right hand. But we swapped hands because we knew that one famous gamer is left-handed and starts the clock with the right hand. It’s just one second, but people who know understand the reference.
In esports, many gestures can symbolize the culture as a whole. That’s why we have this incredible amount of content inside one second. So when real gamers will watch it, hopefully they’ll notice the subtle details that will make the spot feel more authentic to them.
SHP+: That must be very rewarding for you? 这对你来说肯定很有成就感吧？
Roni Shao: Incredibly rewarding. Because I am also a gamer, I played a lot when I was younger. I understand how they behave or react to one specific moment.
SHP+: What are some good moments or surprises you had working on this project? 这部影片的制作中你收获了哪些美好的回忆或是惊喜？
Roni Shao: I want to talk about the color grading.
Paul Morris: (laughs) Really?
Roni Shao: (more laughs) Yes, well, Paul and I had a little disagreement about the film’s look because he tends to want to keep things moody, classy, and raw. So he likes it a little dark. Usually, I would go for it. But for this spot, I wanted to brighten up and show more colors. The client’s version was also brightened and colorful. We had two days of discussion, and we decided to keep the blacks but also keep the colors.
SHP+: So, Paul, what did you think? Did you like it? 那么Paul你怎么想呢？你喜欢这样吗？
Paul Morris: Yeah, it’s great. We worked with Nicola Gasperri at MPC who does really good stuff. Roni was right that we went a bit too dark in the first round of grading, but when I saw the final grade I felt we lost something of the mood we were going for. So I pushed to do one more version where we tried to keep the mood of what we had originally, but let the images breath a bit more, especially the day time scenes. We had great producers and MPC were really supportive and let us do another pass.
Paul Morris: We are like that; we fight each other, and then we say okay, you can take something from me and I can take something from you. We all have different perspectives, but we sum up our assets.
SHP+: But two positives can be dangerous; it can become a negative?! 但两个人都很强势有时候很危险，会不会“正正得负”？！
RS: Nah, we never make it negative.
Paul Morris: The space to disagree and work things out together comes from a place of familiarity and respect. Roni and I have worked together for some time, and I trust him. He’s a really talented filmmaker, he has incredible ideas and the ability to execute them. For me, it wasn’t an argument; it’s just a different way of seeing things. Roni?
Roni Shao: Nah! You are too polite. You can just say I was acting like a jerk.
Paul Morris: Ha. It’s a director’s job to push everyone out of their comfort zone, they should do that; the director should make it hard. Our job, the cinematographer, colorist, gaffer, production designer etc, is to work out how to turn their vision into reality.
Roni Shao:I would also add that Paul always give me more than visual ideas; he is not merely executing visuals for me; he also pushes me to understand why we are creating these visuals. He is always looking for reason behind what we are doing. It needs to mean something, not just for the sport; it means something for art too.
SHP+: My next interview piece will be named “Paul Morris, Philosophical Thinking Behind the Camera”….我的下一篇报道的标题就是：“Paul Morris，镜头背后的哲思”
Roni Shao: Or Philosophical Filmmaking with Paul Morris and Roni Shao….(all three laughs)
美术：任捷文/180 design studio