Brad Beaumont and Eliot Connors served as the sound editors for Netflix’s Emmy-nominated animated series Arcane. Here, in an interview with Awards Daily, they discuss their history with League of Legends, the game on which Arcane is based, and how that influenced them in creating the sound. They also talk about how the production was different than most they have worked on thanks to their early involvement with the broader creative team.
Awards Daily: You have both been involved in video game sound editing as well. Elliott, you even worked on League of Legends. Did that help you with your work here?
Eliot Connors: Yeah, 100%. Brad and I started together in the game industry and we worked on a bunch of Triple A games early on with a company called Soundelux Design Music Group, and Brad transitioned to Riot Games and I transitioned into the film world. Then we reconnected on Arcane, and during my time in the film world in between schedules I would do things for Riot like skins and cinematics and other little projects. So I have been engulfed in the League world for a while and it definitely helped my thought process in how to design sounds, what feels right in that environment.
Awards Daily: Brad, had you played League of Legends before working on Arcane?
Brad Beaumont: Yes, so the company Elliot mentioned Soundelux DMG…Riot was actually a client of mine shortly after the game launched in 2009. The game blew up very quickly and I just happened to be somebody who had been playing since the first season of League of Legends. So I was a huge fan, then to bring them on as a client was amazing. Then as Elliot alluded to, he split off and went into the film world, and when Soundelux Design Music Group faded I came over to Riot full time and worked on League of Legends. I’ve been at Riot for about 9 years and served as audio director on League of Legends before moving over to the Arcane project.
Awards Daily: So two distinct noises that jumped out at me right away watching the show was Jinx’s wind up bombs and the flashes when Jinx’s mind is scattered. What was the process in creating those sounds?
Brad Beaumont: The little chomper grenades, the core sound of that was inspired by the in-game Incarnation ability. Jinx has the ability to throw a bunch of those and people can get trapped. One of the things we have done throughout the series is that if there was a representation of one of the character’s game abilities or special powers we would go back to that original design session or whatever that was in the game. In a lot of cases it was something that was seven, eight or ten years old, so we would extract the coretoneality or the earwormy and incorporate that into the design of the show, which gave it a little more full and cinematic quality. For the chomper grenades specifically it’s just a squeaky old toy ratchet marrying that with higher fidelity recordings of metal clanking. Then as far as her psychotic breaks, Eliot worked on that stuff.
Eliot Connors: When I first saw the visuals that they did it reminded me a lot of feedback so the sound there was taking a lot of instrument feedback and those high frequency sounds and making them glitch out a little bit to make them match the amazing visuals. Also there are whispers of myself and some group stuff that we did that was pitched up fast so it sounded like the little voice inside her head. The combination of the feedback and those voices told the story for us that not only is she losing it, there is something going on in there that is making her glitch out.
Awards Daily: You touched on this, but how much sound is taken from League of Legends?
Brad Beaumont: Truth be told, it is a pretty small amount. In the show itself we are seeing the origins of most of these characters if not all of them, and it predates how we would see them in League of Legends the game proper. So not until episode eight do we really get an idea about what these characters’ powers and weapons might be. In episode eight where there is back-to-back fighting is the first time we see the end game weapons used in battle. Aside from that it is taking cues from cinematics that may have existed in the past that showcase their Piltover selves. But there is not a lot of historical stuff to draw on to represent in Arcane. So we had to start from scratch and blaze our own trail in expanding out the universe.
Eliot Connors: That was the biggest challenge. We knew what League sounds like in the game and the sounds being made now in-game. But we had to go back in time a little bit to know how these sounds would start. Where would they come from? Since we didn’t want to sound futuristic and sci-fi we made a lot of sound from organic material. Be it wine glasses for hextech or a lot of vocals from animals and humans for the shimmer. Taking things that are attached to real life and how those can evolve into a new age full magic world that is League of Legends. The biggest challenge was going back in time and thinking, how did this start?
Awards Daily: How did you use wine glasses to make hextech sound?
Eliot Connors: When you rub the top of the wine glass it sings. That was processed and turned into a full library and mixed with other instruments and syncs that Brad had put together. That was a big element of it.
Awards Daily: So many sequences are music creating the mood but with action sequences of hextech weapons or bullets. How did you go about creating that balance?
Brad Beaumont: We had this amazing luxury of being on the project really early and being on full time alongside composers who were also full time, which is pretty unheard of. So it was a multiple time a day conversation with composers about where we can let each other shine, when we need to pull back or push forward as far as who is taking the reins in terms of who is telling the story best. We used the metaphor a lot of passing the baton, who is going to be driving the scene? Whether it is going to be music, sound, or if we both need to get out of the way and just let the voices tell the story. It’s always the three major categories of voice, music and sound that help elicit whatever emotion the story calls for. I think that taking the mature view and taking the time to really talk with composers and writers is really the best way to get to the best end product where the story is represented.
Eliot Connors: We had weekly sync ups with our composers here, and we are able to hear frequencies in certain action sequences and are able to design our sounds while hearing the music and what it is going to do. Which does not happen very often in the film world and because of that you get a clear story. Although we have different titles, all of us are storytellers and we are all trying to make sure the viewer is engulfed in our story and has clarity. That really helps and Christian (Linke) and Alex (Yee) and their directors understand that. There is really a lot of time and effort put into that baton passing, getting dynamics into the mix and making different scenes hit you in different ways, and making them evolve as you watch the episode.
Awards Daily: Eliot, this is just a video game nerd question on my end. You worked on The Last of Us and I am a huge fan of the game. I’m curious what that was like, and were you part of the Clicker noise at all?
Eliot Connors: The stuff I did on The Last of Us was the cinematics, the in-between game play. But I do know some very close friends that were involved with the Clickers and that it was an evolving process. I think I did an iteration, but that would be a question for the team at Sony. Very cool sound though.
Awards Daily: Imagine Dragons seemed to be involved very early in the process. Was their song an influence on any of the sounds you guys did?
Brad Beaumont: It was nice that “Enemy” was available to us early in an earlier incarnation and we always knew it was going to be a player in the show in some way–whether it was the main title or made its appearance in episode five. Imagine Dragons has a really long relationship with Riot. They tell a story about almost missing the start time of a show once because they were finishing a ranked game of League of Legends backstage. So they are big League of Legends fans. Just the passion for the IP and the project speaks to how it fits and feels in the show, and in every aspect of the show people shared that passion. As far as it having any impact on how we approached sounds, probably not directly but the passion they brought to the project fed the fire of making this thing awesome.
Awards Daily: This is both of you guys’ first Emmy nominations. What has the experience been like?
Brad Beaumont: Awesome, you can’t ask for better.
Eliot Connors: Humbling.
Brad Beaumont: It is a very humbling experience. You work on a show for as long as we did and you have a sense that you are doing something cool but working on it so long you lose perspective on whether it is sounding awesome or if people are going to enjoy this. As soon as it came out the response we got was so amazing, and for it to continue for people within our profession to recognize it is very humbling.
Eliot Connors: I also think it is a unique scenario with animation being bundled into this category. Seeing Arcane along shows we have loved for years like Curb your Enthusiasm and things like that is crazy. But we are huge fans of all the shows we are nominated with so it’s very cool. If I could boil it down, I would say it is amazing.
Awards Daily: I am assuming you cannot say much, but is there anything about season two you can tell us about, or sounds we may hear?
Brad Beaumont: We are introducing a laugh track (laughing). I would say without getting into trouble, audiences are going to be really excited just to see where the show goes. That is the worst, most lame answer I can give. But I think there are a lot of twists and turns and a lot of fun stuff that I don’t think audiences will be expecting.
Eliot Connors: We are rabid consumers of all the Reddit threads and conspiracy theories about what season two may or may not be. And it is really fun and interesting to see where people are close on things or wildly off. I think the whole team at Riot and Fortiche are just having a lot of fun alongside the audience and the fans of League. Just continuing the passion for pushing the next season forward. I think it is going to show when it comes out.
Awards Daily: Any final thoughts?
Brad Beaumont: I think that we have an immense amount of gratitude for the reception the show has had. Especially for players of League of Legends and people who have been with it a long time or just a few months. We are always keen to thank the players and fans, in everything we do from games to cinematics, to now Arcane and these new expressions in larger media formats. We are just really, really grateful to players and fans because honestly we are players and fans as well of League of Legends and the universe. We are excited alongside everybody, so just a big thank you to all of them.
Eliot Connors: That was a good answer. [Laughs]