MPC's digital environment work focused on two main locations: London and the beach setting for the French invasion and final battle. A combination of matte painting and CG projections was used to recreate the medieval city, which featured the Tower of London and included the original St. Paul's Cathedral and old London Bridge under construction, in the city beyond. The production's football field sized set provided the starting point for MPC to extend vertically and laterally, and in post alternate digital extensions were also created to reuse the set three times as different castle locations. Each extension was a montage of existing castles chosen by Scott and production designer Arthur Max. For the beach environment, MPC had to create cliffs that surround the location, and were added to 75 shots. Once approved in concept, the cliff geometry was modeled using Maya and interchangeable cliff textures were projected depending on the lighting conditions.
"The location for the final battle was a beach in South Wales and, interestingly, the actual scripted location was supposed to be Dover," Stammers continues. "We needed to add cliffs because the white cliffs of Dover surround the location. We went through a number of concepts for this to present to Ridley and it was something that Russell Crowe was actually keen on because there was a very important story point. When the English archers reach the coast, they use the cliffs as a tactical advantage to fight the French back. The location they had planned to use in South Wales for a number of practical reasons had no cliffs. So we knew there was going to be a considerable amount of environment work. They found a practical cliff nearby and were able to achieve some in-camera shots for a point of reference for what the cliffs had to look like. We photographed that cliff as textures and built a new geometry that surrounded the beach location and projected those textures onto it. We had to cover ourselves for many, many different lighting scenarios and every possible weather condition."
A combination of matte painting and CG projections was used to recreate the medieval city, which featured the Tower of London, the original St. Paul's Cathedral and old London Bridge under construction.
MPC was also responsible for creating the crucial arrows. Practical blunt arrows were used in production where ever possible, but most shots presented safety issues so digital arrows were animated instead. Arrows were added to more than 200 shots, with 90% of these being handled by the compositing team using Shake and Nuke. MPC developed proprietary 2D and 3D arrow animation tools to assist with the volume of arrows required, which included automatically generating the correct trajectory and speed, and controls for oscillation on impact.
"My background is in compositing," Stammers adds, "and I thought the ability to achieve these in the compositing realm was a more efficient way to work rather than going down the route of having to matchmove the cameras, get an animator to animate the arrows, someone to light arrows, someone to render the arrows and then someone to composite the arrows.
The production's football field sized set provided the starting point for MPC and in post alternate digital extensions were also created to reuse the set three times as different castle locations.