“World of WarCraft: Wrath of the Lich King – Intro Cinematic” by Blizzard Entertainment Cinematics

  • ©Jeff Chamberlain  Blizzard Entertainment Cinematics


SIGGRAPH Video Review:




    World of WarCraft: Wrath of the Lich King - Intro Cinematic


Company / Institution / Agency:

  • Blizzard Entertainment Cinematics


    The cinematic intro for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King presented an exciting creative and technical challenge, and it marked a number of firsts for us. Early on, we decided to focus on the character of the Lich King himself, as he plays a central role in the story of the expansion, and not every World of Warcraft player knows his tale from our previous games. As a result, we departed from the “montage” style of cinematic we used to introduce World of Warcraft and its first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Our challenge was to simultaneously provide history for players unfamiliar with the Lich King’s lore, set up his return, and make it clear to players that the Lich King would be one of the greatest threats they’d yet encountered in World of Warcraft.

    This cinematic was also a test bed for many new technologies. It was the first production in which we used Maya for all of our rigging and animation, and the first in which we used a combination of Maya, RenderMan, and Nuke for lighting and compositing. We developed a rigging and animation pipeline that took advantage of Maya’s referencing system in order to automatically update character rigs, which greatly sped up the rigging and animation process. Additionally, we used RenderMan to create massive armies, hundreds of millions of particles of ice, and realistic snow using far fewer compositing tricks than before.

    The biggest challenge was learning how to use all of this new technology within a short amount of time to produce the same sort of high-quality cinematic our players have come to expect. We’re very proud of the result, and hope that players enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.


    Maya, 3ds Max, RenderMan, Mudbox, BodyPaint 3D, GeoControl, Photoshop, Nuke, Final Cut Pro, Mirage, Proprietary software

Additional Contributors:

    Director: Jeff Chamberlain

    Producer: Phillip Hillenbrand

    Additional Staff: Blizzard Entertainment’s Cinematics Team

    Production: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Animation / Video Overview: