Anatomy of a Scene Series: Editing Duo on Riot Games Animated Series, Arcane

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Riot Games flagship animated series based on the global game phenomenon League of Legends, Arcane, came together thanks to the work of editing duo, Lawrence Gan + Ernesto Matamoros-Cox

Lawrence also has credits as director including on the award winning feature film Love Arcadia, and as editor on Space Jam 2, among others. Ernesto has many notable credits, two of which have earned him Annie nominations - DreamWorks Dragons and GKIDS Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.

In our latest Anatomy of a Scene interview series, we asked Lawrence and Ernesto to discuss their favorite scene in-depth. 

PH: Let's talk about your favorite scene to work on in Arcane. 

Lawrence: The ending of episode 3 is hands down our favorite. Everything from the death of Mylo and Claggor to the final interaction between Vi and Powder, these moments really ended up defining the show for us.

Ernesto: Episode 3 really sets the tone for the rest of the show. “Ever wonder what it’s like to drown?” That line will grab anyone who hears it. Little insider tidbit, the drowning sequence was at one point the opening sequence of the entire series.

Powder killing her family at the end of the episode is heartbreaking! “I only wanted to help, I only wanted to help, I only wanted to help!” Everything from the voice acting, animation, to the music and sound effects, brings pure raw emotion to the surface of the scene. You feel for Powder, she's lost everything, her family, her sister, and her mind! It finally answers the question, “What happened that made Jinx go crazy?” It will break fans hearts, but in a beautifully crafted and satisfying way.

PH: What's the significance of this scene and how does it play a critical role in the rest of Arcane? 

Ernesto: It all changes here. If Powder had just stayed home, If she had just listened to Vi, maybe her family would have escaped. It’s the domino effect. Jinx toy bomb works for the first time! She accidentally kills her family, Vander sacrifices himself to save Vi, in a moment of rage Powder is abandoned by her sister, Silco takes her in as an adopted daughter and helps create Jinx! It all stems from that moment, that one choice. It’s poetic.

Lawrence: This was the moment, both as creatives and as fans, that we knew this show was going to be different. The death of children and the psychological anguish that we inflict on Powder were elements that elevated this story above your typical animated series . This was now something that was real, unwavering, and heart wrenching.

PH: What tools, plugins, or instruments did you use in your production of this scene?

Lawrence: We started off cutting the episode with Avid Media Composer. However, Animation Editors being the nexus of production, we actually linked up with a great deal of other artists and their tools. For example, certain animatic shots were brought into After Effects for compositing, which helped us convey a more effective and informative animatic reel. We had extensive relationships with recording studios around the world as we captured the voices of our characters live-in-person or sometimes even over ISDN.

Ernesto: We eventually moved to Adobe Premiere as the preferred method at Fortiche. We worked closely with our French counterparts and made sure the process went smoothly.

Lawrence: Another popular instrument we used while working in Paris was wine.

Ernesto: Really good wine. Those boys know their stuff, and I don't just mean animation.

PH: You can never go wrong with a good wine! Let's talk about technical challenges. Which ones did you encounter while working on this scene?

Lawrence: One of the most challenging things about this scene was capturing the raw emotion, especially in the vocal performances. Hailee Steinfeld and Mia Sinclair Jenness brought the emotional rawness of seasoned veterans and gave us the building blocks for the pained and gut wrenching scene between Powder and Vi. From there it was our job to plus the moments where we could, get out of the way when the moment demanded it, and have the experience to know the difference.

Ernesto: We have experienced many different voice recording sessions, but we’ve never teared up at one before. Mia’s performance was outstanding. When she cries out “Why did you leave me!?” we all in the room felt it. The writing was so strong, the acting needed to be on point, and they all brought their A game. David Lylery, our Voice Director and Casting Director, did an amazing job with all the actors, especially the kids. He made sure that they felt safe and comfortable to be able to tap into those emotions that made episode 3 so incredible. I’ll never forget the records on this show.

PH: What was the dialogue like between you and Arcane’s director or showrunner regarding this scene?

Lawrence: This was the scene that was going to set up the rest of the series. And while other aspects of episode 03 changed during the course of production, this moment has always remained intact.

We wanted to make sure that audiences could feel the betrayal on both sides of Vi and Powder, making the tragedy of their misunderstanding the fuel for the rest of the season. This would only be possible if we could strike a very delicate balance in perspective, which I’m proud to say I think we did quite well.

Ernesto: So many ideas were discussed early in production, but Lawrence is right, this moment was always the same. Maintaining its beauty was paramount. We all spoke in great detail about Powder and her mistake, and what the best way to portray this blunder should be. We remember receiving the first storyboards for the warehouse scene, they were stunning! It was hard to believe that we could tap into so many different emotions in just one sequence. When you have a showrunner like Christian Linke who has a strong music background, you better believe this was discussed really early on. There was a temp version of “GOODBYE” that was used as a placeholder for a bit until it was finaled. I must have played that thing on loop for days! It was dark, sad, and heartfelt. “Where is my home?I don't recognize the faces anymore. Where is my friend? The one I've known since I was just a kid. I think it’s time to say GOODBYE.”

When the track was being worked on, this was the first lyric one would hear, and I gotta tell ya, it got us every single time.

Lawrence: I’m still crying.

Ernesto: Is that you? I thought it was just raining.

 

 

Lawrence Gan


Lawrence is an east coast native that moved to Los Angeles to pursue his Hollywood dreams. He has since worked on various television series and feature films at studios such as Warner Bros., Paramount, Disney, CBS and NBC. He directed the award winning feature films "Love Arcadia" and edited his first animated feature, "MK Reloaded" at the age of 26. Most recently, he is best known for editing on "Space Jam 2" and on Riot Games's animated series, "Arcane".

Ernesto Matamoros-Cox

An LA native, Ernesto Matamoros Cox has had a lifelong passion for editing and storytelling. He began working professionally at the age of 18 as an editor on commercials, documentaries, and music videos. Ernesto was later hired as an Editor for the DreamWorks television series "Dragons: Defenders of Berk," (which he received his first Annie nomination "Best Editing in an Animated Television/ Broadcast Production") and quickly began working on high profile projects such as "Arcane" Riot Games flagship animated series based on the global game phenomenon League of Legends, "Alien X-Mas" a stop motion animated holiday special on Netflix produced by Jon Favreau, "Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet" (which he received his second Annie nomination "Best Editing for an Independent Animated Feature), and the upcoming "Lord of the West" an Animated Feature produced by BASE Animation.

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