Filmmaker Guy Ritchie’s dynamic take on the classic Excalibur myth, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” traces Arthur’s (Charlie Hunnam) journey from the streets to the throne. To achieve the sweeping scale, and high-intensity fight scenes of the Warner Bros.’ epic fantasy action adventure, production turned to Deluxe’s Method Studios to design and create key assets including CG cities and creatures, a climactic battle sequence and hero digital doubles, as well as significant set extensions, explosions and crowds. Method VFX Supervisor Olivier Dumont collaborated closely with production VFX Supervisor Nick Davis in honing the look and story beats for key action sequences. Keeping with Ritchie’s distinct stylized aesthetic, nearly every shot was approached as a separate and unique project.
The film’s climatic battle sequence, a massive 30-second CG shot, was one of Method’s most complex undertakings and significantly evolved throughout production. Visceral and frenetic, the scene pits Arthur against an enormous squad of Blacklegs – soldiers loyal to reigning monarch Vortigern (Jude Law). The chaotic fray features clashing swords and shields, flying arrows and hand-to-hand combat in real-time and slo-mo. Given a basic outline, Method choreographed the sequence in previs, which helped establish shot framing and acted as a guide for the motion capture shoot. Artists created a CG Arthur using body scans for reference, then brought the digital double to life with a combination of keyframe animation and mocap.
“Creatively, this scene has it all: CG hero character, environments, destruction – you name it. Arthur is so close to the camera in the final fight sequence, so the fidelity and accuracy of our digital double was crucial. Elements like CG smoke and sweat amplify the intensity, but can be challenging to art direct when switching between real-time and slo-mo. Fortunately, Nick was very accessible and open to ideas to elevate the work; having that kind of open-ended dialogue was extremely beneficial,” said Dumont.
Drawing on a rough layout provided by the art department, Method also designed establishing shots of Londinium. Artists leveraged the book “Roman Britain,” which was used by Production Designer Gemma Jackson for the set reference. Method then expanded the scale and grandeur of the buildings, composing elements to feel authentic and visually appealing.
Arthur’s first major battle wielding Excalibur against Blacklegs in a bathhouse was also created as a heavy combination of practical cinematography and digital effects. Plates were filmed on set with and without Blackleg actors; Method artists then married and augmented the practical footage, adding CG Blacklegs and dust, and relighting the scene. Ultimately, more than two thirds of the sequence is CG. Method also created magical FX such as those seen when the Mage summons a snake. While inherently fantastical, FX depicting magic were grounded in reality per Riche’s direction. Method VFX Producer Jinnie Pak, Digital Effects Supervisors Michael Cliett and Tom McHattie, and Compositing Supervisor Allan Lee supported Dumont and were key to shaping the studio’s work.
For more information on “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” visit: http://kingarthurmovie.com/