This BlizzCon 2016 report was written by Brent Allen Thale on November 10, 2016. Please do not use these pictures for any commercial purpose or post them on any web site without written consent from Brent Allen Thale, the copyright holder.
Once a year or so, fans of Blizzard Entertainment, which I believe is the longest-running, most successful computer game company anywhere, gather in Anaheim, California to celebrate old favorites and awesome new games! This year's show was November 4 and 5, 2016, at the Anaheim Convention Center. Inside the building they keep it very dark to showcase the games, so we do most of our photography work outside where the light is a little easier to deal with.
Speaking of photography work, we are the cosplay photography team of me, Brent Allen Thale, and Melissa Case, with occasional grip help from young Tobias and Jonah. Even though BlizzCon is primarily about Blizzard games, there is a very dedicated cosplay community that wears costumes based on Blizzard games at BlizzCon, it's awesome. The dedication and detail people put into their costumes is amazing, and that is the story we try to tell with our pictures. So, look elsewhere for details about who won which tournament and exactly when that expansion is coming out, this blog is about cosplay photography!
Before I get started with the blog here, here is a special note to cosplayers about our photos: Can you share your picture here on social media? Yes! Just be sure to credit me, my photo name is "Brent Allen Thale", and if possible, include a link back to the page on my site where you found your photo. We do this for love, not money, so if you don't mind clicking "Like" on this page while you're doing that, we shall be forever indebted to you! Thanks for being awesome! For other uses, please ask me.
Blizzard invests in long-term properties that people play for many years, so they don't always announce a new game at BlizzCon, and I don't think they did this year. The banners out front were World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch. This was the first year in a while that every one of the banner games was officially released, since HotS and Overwatch were in betas for a long time. I think they did announce new content for Diablo III, and a new expansion for Hearthstone, it's really hard for us to follow this kind of thing since we are busy shooting photos all day.
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We had amazing luck finding high-profile cosplayers this year, it seemed like nearly every famous cosplayer
was at BlizzCon very conveniently hanging out right outside the convention center where
we could shoot with them. We even saw cosplay superstar Jessica Nigri, who appeared incognito on Friday, and then recognizable as her Deathwing on Saturday. Unfortunately her time was consumed
by a very long Youtube interview and we couldn't wait around so we just creeped some shots during the interview and moved on. We did see the awesome Stella Chuu, Lyz Brickley, KayBear, Triple A Cosplay,
wonderful fitness guru Alicia Marie, Danielle Beaulieu, Vanity Fox, and this year's lead shot cosplayer, the beautiful and very fit Xeveria Cosplay as The Lich King! And a special shout out to a particularly awesome cosplayer, "Geeky Red",
who we shot as Party Medivh from the recent Hearthstone video.
I would have to say the most popular costume this year was Mercy from Overwatch, there were just so many of the different skins of her, Imp Mercy, Devil Mercy, Standard Mercy, Valkyrie Mercy, so much Mercy! Also Junkrat from Overwatch was popular. The winner of the costume contest was an awesome Grommash the Orc from the Warcraft movie, was totally spot on. Another interesting thing about Blizzard games is that they are global, we heard so many accents from all around the world when interviewing cosplayers!
People always ask us about our camera equipment, so I always devote a paragraph to it. This year we had two cameras, the Nikon D7100 and the Nikon D7200, I prefer these DX-format cameras since they are smaller and lighter and we are carrying a lot of gear. Speaking of which, I had a double Promedia bracket on the D7200 that held two 24-inch softboxes on either side of the lens for fill flash. The key light was a 28-inch Elinchrom octa on a paint pole, and our rim light was on a little tripod to be used as an accent or hair light. We had an extra helper this time, 15-year-old Jonah, who is Melissa's son from a previous marriage, Jonah is a big dude so he carried the heavy key light. Ten-year-old Tobias held the rim light, and Melissa devoted herself to rounding up cosplayers and doing some posing help and directing. For lenses we used the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8, the Sigma 50-100 f/1.8, and the Sigma 8-16. Our four flashes are the Godox/Cheetah 360X-II lights that use TTL metering for automatic flash setting as well as manual. They worked well except we had one major malfunction, a cable partially cracked and started sparking, it seemed dangerous so we had to stop using our rim light late Friday since I didn't have a spare cable.
This year's host for the costume and talent contest was Thomas Middleditch, star of HBO’s hit comedy series Silicon Valley. I had never heard of this person, but I'm told he is a Diablo fan and does some E-Sports himself. He seemed fine, with some jokes and banter appropriate for the crowd. Some people say he didn't have enough Blizzard cred, but he did a fine job.
E-Sports are a huge thing at BlizzCon now, most Blizzard games are played competitively by incredibly skilled and dedicated players who match their talents against other players vying for some big money prizes. I think StarCraft, HearthStone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, and WoW all had big tournaments going on.
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Since we live near San Francisco, we drove our Tesla Model S electric car down to Anaheim since we can charge it for free with the Tesla superchargers along I-5. It's a long drive, but the Tesla is a fun car to drive even though Melissa freaks out if I drive over 55. We had no big delays or incidents on the way down or back. We did stop in at the brand-new Burbank supercharger to try it out and get some extra juice for the trip back home.
One big difference with this year was the big increase in security and the burdensome restrictions on cameras. The entire front of the convention center atrium was blocked off by barriers and many private security guards that forced everyone to enter through just the few doors in front. In past years, anyone could enter through any doors in the front of the convention center even without a badge. On top of that, they had security checks that not only looked for dangerous items but also for any "professional" cameras, which inexplicably were banned from the atrium and the show floor. Blizzard, please remove this restriction, it serves no purpose other than to make the experience of Blizzcon worse for anyone with a decent camera. Many people with cell phones and "amateur" cameras were taking pictures inside, so I don't see the point of banning decent cameras.
Long-time readers of my BlizzCon blogs know that I have never been pleased with the musical guest selections for the closing concert. They always seem to be loud, mostly metal bands that appeal to a certain type of person, but they just aren't my thing. I've been calling for the musical guest to be Weird Al Yankovic for many years (go back and check previous years' blogs) since he seems like he appeals to a wider audience. Imagine my surprise when Blizzard announced a couple weeks before the show that the musical guest was none other than WEIRD AL YANKOVIC!!!! Al put on an awesome show based around his latest album and his classic older numbers, it was great. He had so many costume changes that they had to run Weird Al clips and cartoons on the overhead monitors to give him time to switch into the Fat suit, his Amish getup, a bathrobe, a Canadian Idiot suit, and many others. One nice tie-in to Blizzcon was his entrance, where he walked in from outside down hallways lined with awesome cosplayers who got some screen time! He really puts his heart into the show, dancing and jumping around and doing crazy stuff. My only critiques were I wish he talked to the audience more and did some adlibs, especially if he was Blizzard-game savvy, would have been impressive. And I was hoping for a Blizzard-specific number or at least a modified version of one of his songs for the BlizzCon audience, but it didn't happen. Anyway, thrilled to see a live Weird Al show, I've been a fan of his recorded stuff for a long time but had never seen a live show!
This year we stayed at the Desert Palms hotel across Katella Avenue from the Anaheim Convention Center. I tried to get the Hilton or Marriott hotels which are right next to the convention center, but they seemed to be sold out on the very first day of availability. Oh well, the Desert Palms is fine and only a bit farther. There were tons of BlizzCon people staying there as well.
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So BlizzCon 2016 is in the books, another awesome show as always! I heard on the video broadcast that they might expand the show to three days next year, that should really change the nature of the cosplay and force everyone to up their games for the extra day, looking forward to it if so.
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