Apex Legends is the video game success story of the year. Kept impressively secret throughout its development period, Apex Legendswas surprise launched in February 2019. Within 24 hours it had over 2.5 million unique players. After a week, 25 million.

Developed by Respawn Entertainment, Apex Legends is set in the studio’s Titanfall universe. It shakes up the battle-royale genre with a cast of unique characters, squad-based gameplay, innovative mechanics and more. Mill+ collaborated with Respawn Entertainment on the launch of the game, crafting an action-packed trailer along with an immersive opening cinematic for the massive launch, co-directed by Mill+ Directors Lisha Tan and David Lawson.

ftrack was part of the squad along the way, helping to track the trailer’s production to a champion finish.

Working alongside Respawn, Mill’s directorial team created a unique ‘Moving Concept Art’ look, drawing from their different disciplines. Tan’s background is in fine-art and animation, having previously directed high-profile projects including Jay-Z ‘The Story of O.J’ and Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation ‘Losing Your Hair’. Lawson’s legacy in award-winning and complex CG includes co-directing the recent Marvel ‘Strike Force’ campaign. The ‘Moving Concept Art’ look was inspired by archive gaming concepts and the existing Titanfall universe. Mill+ applied a fresh new aesthetic approach, blending both directors’ creative visions, resulting in the illustrative painted effect.

“Very early on we found our north star for the visual look,” says Drew Stauffer, Creative Director, Marketing of Electronic Arts / Respawn Entertainment. “From there it was all about figuring out how to bring that style to life.”

Performances from the actors portraying Mirage and Wraith were shot using mocap technology. The design and CG teams worked with a vast quantity of independent elements to create the stylized world. The Mill’s Creative Technology department developed a complex texturing process, experimenting with neural networks and algorithmic solutions to give the CG assets a hand-painted, paint-brushed look.

To define flashback content and present-day narrative while maintaining a holistic vision, Lawson and Tan took the step of developing a colour script, setting a palette for each scene. Mill Colourist, Matt Osbourne, took this script and applied a final grade that separated the colours and elevated the look.”

“It was a privilege to immerse myself in a world that I already found creatively inspiring, to showcase the backstory and personality of these characters for this huge launch,” comments Tan. “The seamless creative collaboration with an extraordinary team, my background in design and illustration, and Lawson’s award-winning CG experience enabled us to create a new way of telling the complex characters’ stories, whilst honoring the legacy of the Titanfall universe.”

Apex was such a fun project to direct, it was a great script and challenge set by Respawn and also it gave myself and Leisha the chance to really express ourselves with an action-packed story,” says Lawson. “It was so amazing to have the team at The Mill, the actors and all our other creative partners pour themselves into this. Telling exciting stories with CG characters like these is always a great journey for myself and co-conspirator Lisha.”

“The collaboration between Respawn and Mill+ was incredibly smooth and fluid,” adds Stauffer. “The constant communication, honesty and trust on both sides was a key to our success.”

ftrack was glad to be there along for the ride!

Apex Legends is free to play and available right now on Origin for PC, PlayStation®4 and Xbox One.

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