MPC completed 570 shots for Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe, Mark Strong and Cate Blanchett and produced by Universal Pictures. MPC’s Richard Stammers was the overall VFX Supervisor for the show, working closely with Universal’s VFX Producer Allen Maris to achieve a wide range of visual effects including CG armies, CG boats, digital environments and CG arrows.
In 13th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. And whether thief or hero, one man from humble beginnings will become an eternal symbol of freedom for his people. (Universal Pictures, 2010)
One of MPC’s main challenges was to create the invading French Armada and the ensuing battle with the English army. A CG fleet of 200 ships and 6000 soldiers were added to the 8 practical boats and 500 extras used in principal photography. MPC used Alice, its proprietary crowd generation software to simulate the rowing and disembarkation of French soldiers and horses, with all water interactions being generated using Flowline software. The defending English archers and cavalry where also replicated with CG Alice generated clips and animated digital doubles. MPC relied predominately on its existing Motion Capture library for much of Robin Hood, but a special mocap shoot was organised to gather additional motion clips of rowing, disembarking troops and horses.
MPC’s digital environment work was centered on two main locations; London and the beach setting for the French invasion and final battle.
A combination of matte painting and CG projections were 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 production 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 Ridley 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.
MPC was also responsible for creating the arrows for various sequences on the film. 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 over 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.