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14th Century Paris Goes Medieval on Ridley Scott’s ‘The Last Duel’

MPC and Technicolor Creative Studios team to create film’s CG backdrop, set in the brutality of 1300’s France; over 400 shots were delivered from teams in London, Montreal, Bangalore, and Paris, made more complex by the challenges of COVID filmmaking.

The Last Duel, a tale of betrayal and vengeance set against the brutality of 14th century France, was brought to life by iconic filmmaker Ridley Scott, releasing in theaters last month. Technicolor Creative Studios production supervisors Gary Brozenich and Jessica Norman worked alongside MPC Film VFX supervisor Sebastien Raets, VFX producer Skye Radies, and teams in London, Montreal and Bangalore, delivering over 180 shots, and with VFX supervisor Yann Blondel, VFX producer Kristina Prilukova and the Paris-based team, delivering an additional 220 shots.

MPC Film’s artists crafted the visual effects on two sequences: the duel and the Limoges battle. The original brief did not require extensive crowd building, but as the pandemic presented new challenges, the team had to adapt the visual effects requirements; crowd simulation artists ultimately were required to simulate both full CG crowds and crowd extensions.

For the Battle of Limoges, the team created the field, the bridge, and the adjoining village. Their fundamental objective was to create an organic, photorealistic medieval environment. Environment artists extended the overall environment, adding trees and vegetation. After the foundations of the village were put in place, the FX team began to add burning huts to the battlefield, soldiers firing burning arrows at the bridge, and residual smoke as fires sweep through the town. To escalate the realism of the battle, they also increased the level of bloodshed and gory injuries.

As the film’s characters Carrouges and Le Gris meet in the final duel sequence, the primary task was to create a harrowing battle requiring a great deal of realistic violence, also including the creation of fully CG horses and enhancing the surrounding duel environment. The assets and animation teams worked closely together to achieve photorealism, dynamics, weight, and realistic movement required for the scene. The team also created full CG versions of the dueling actors and their armor so they could authentically interact with the horses for a number of shots.

In a particularly gruesome scene, which required a high level of attention to detail, a full CG head was created for Le Gris as a dagger is plunged into his mouth.

The Paris based VFX team used multiple digital techniques to reproduce the landscapes and atmosphere of 14th century Paris, from 2D matte painting to the CG creation of digital sets, including a full recreation of medieval Paris, complete with Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. This artistic collaboration corresponds, among other things, to the scenes showing the city of Paris and its surroundings, the duel arena, and the ‘Palace of the Popes’. As the story takes place in winter, each shot had to be snowed in using FX, DMP projections, CG snowdrift and fog. 

The compositing team had its own challenges to face throughout the production, primarily in populating the empty walls of the ‘Duel Arena’ with live-action crowd elements to add more life to the shots and give the duelists fans to cheer them on. In addition, the compositing team helped better integrate the CG elements, and filled out shots with smoke, snow, and fog to reinforce the feeling of a hostile and cold natural environment.

Source: MPC Film