Prince and Mice: Working on Special Effects

Cornell John, the performer of the role of the Glenstorm centaur, had to master stilt jumpers, later turned on a computer into horse legs

Royal Castle or Leaning Tower of Pisa? For panoramic shooting of the castle of King Miraz with the adjacent village, the Weta Workshop studio built models of the castle on a scale of 1: 100 and thousands of village houses. When the gap between the 20-meter scale model of the castle at a scale of 1:24 and the ceiling of the studio was not enough for shooting from above, we used a special coupler mounted on the studio floor, which allowed us to tilt the model by 35 degrees towards the camera

Gnomes, griffins and centaurs The images of the gnomes Tram and Nikabrik (above) were thoroughly developed at the KNB studio. Animators paid special attention to the faces of these characters. To remove the actors flying in the claws of a griffin to storm the castle, they used a four-point pendant mount that moved the actors against the background of a blue screen (bottom left). For episodes, scenery was built in the courtyard of the castle in the premises of Barrandov Studios in Prague. Cornell John, the performer of the role of the Glenstorm centaur, had to master stilt jumpers, later turned on a computer into horse legs

Reversing the River The wooden bridge, which plays one of the battle scenes of the film, was erected on the Soka River in Slovenia. The artist Roger Ford, designing the bridge, was based on the images of the ancient crossing of the Rhine, built by the masters of Julius Caesar during the war with the Germans. To implement this project, engineers temporarily changed the course of the river. The episode of the appearance of the formidable river god in front of Lord Copespian was filmed at Barrandov Studios. For close-ups, a fragment of the bridge was built on a movable base. Actors starred in front of a blue screen. A river god made up of streams of water is the pride of Scanline. A waterfall of hair and a foaming and bubbling beard give an angry expression to the face of God

The Mouse Army The image of Ripichip was created entirely under the control of Wendy Rogers, a specialist in computer visual effects. The mouse army was born gradually: two lieutenants and nine other rodent warriors were made at the MPC studio, later propagated using a special program. During filming in Slovenia, the creative team worked with mock-ups created at KNB EFX studio and depicting mice in different poses - on four legs and on two.

The film version of the first novel of the cycle - “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” - was released three years ago and raised more than $ 745 million in world box office. Inspired by success, director Andrew Adamson took on the next novel “Prince Caspian” and turned it into a truly an epic spectacle, adding a few missing battles in the original source for greater entertainment. The heroes of the film - young Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter Pevensi - get to Narnia from the London Underground of the Second World War and, together with Crown Prince Caspian, conquer the magical land from the evil king Miraz.

Filming of the Chronicles of Narnia. Prince Caspian ”took place in New Zealand, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia. Nine studios and more than a thousand people from different countries worked on digital effects. In total, the picture turned out to be 1800 plans with computer effects. Compared to the first film, their complexity “quadrupled, ” says Dean Wright, who directed the creation of special effects.

The fine line between a rat and a man

In 90% of frames with computer effects, digital characters participated - residents of the fabulous country of Narnia. There were griffins and minotaurs, a werewolf and bear, Fat Man, squirrel Taratorka and a cute badger Borovik. It is curious that Framestore animators in search of material visited a badger reserve, where they stuffed a stick with a camera mounted on it into a badger’s den - it’s interesting what is inside. Borovik's dwelling, which appears in the finished film, was taken from these photographs.

One of the most charming characters in the picture was the battle Mouse Ripichip - a creature of small stature, but solid. “Ripichip is very cool and brave, ” says Dean Wright. “He looks nice, but when it comes time to act, he goes into battle and doesn't look ridiculous at all.”

London-based The Moving Picture Company (MPC) worked on little Ripichip for a year. The task was not easy: it was worth a little mistake, and the viewer would lose all confidence in what was happening on the screen, because a talking and fencing mouse half a meter tall was not found every day. The studio sought to preserve the mouse features in the character and not to humanize him too much. “In addition, we wanted to be absolutely sure that Ripichip wouldn’t be like a rat, ” adds animator Greg Butler. The director, who had one of his favorite characters from childhood, helped as best he could: he knew exactly what the battle Mouse should look like, and inspiredly played scenes with his participation in front of the animators. On the set, Ripichipa was replaced by a wire with an orange ball at the end, and the young actors were looking forward to seeing their partner on the screen.

Centaurs on stilts

Unlike Ripichip, centaurs have already appeared in the movie world of Narnia. To recreate these mythical creatures on the screen, different tricks were used - depending on what was required for each particular frame. Sometimes there was an extra on the set, and a digital horse body was added to it in post-production. Sometimes real horses participated in the filming, to which the masters in special effects drew the “human” part. And sometimes centaurs were created entirely in computer graphics, using the silhouettes of extras on the set as a starting point.

“We tried to find the perfect balance between the human body and the horse’s body, ” says director Andrew Adamson. He explains that a man riding a horse follows the movements of a horse, while a centaur, on the contrary, moves in accordance with the desires of his “human” part. During filming, the director noticed that one of the stuntmen replacing centaurs very humanly waved his hands on the run. Since then, all the "centaurs" have been given weapons - so that their hands are busy.

Centaurs are almost half a meter taller than humans, and during the filming of the first film about Narnia, extras and stuntmen depicting centaurs stood on platforms and, accordingly, practically did not move. Wendy Rogers, coordinator of special effects work at Prince Caspian, came up with an original solution to this problem: centaurs played on springy stilted jumpers (they are also called “sides” or “power blocks”; “Popular Mechanics” wrote about them in November 2007 of the year). This allowed the actors to move freely, and other characters could now pass between the centaurs without tripping over the platform. However, standing on jumpers without movement is almost impossible - you start to fall. In scenes when his centaur hero was supposed to stand still, a special assistant helped the actor Cornell John.

Dream to make up the gnome

The make-up for many fairy-tale characters of the picture - the fauns, centaurs and gnomes - was invented by the legendary master Howard Berger, who made many bloody effects for the films From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, etc., and received his first Oscar for The Chronicles of Narnia. A lion, a witch and a wardrobe. ” During the work on the new film, Berger and his forty assistants made up actors and extras 4, 600 times - in his opinion, this draws to a world record. According to Berger, work on the film was more like a puzzle. “We needed to figure out how to make up and how to make it as stable as possible, because at least 150 people in make-up remained on the set all day, ” he explains.

“My favorite inhabitants of Narnia are the Dwarves, ” says Howard Berger. “Who doesn’t want to make up the gnome?” There are two main gnomes in the film: Tram, the gnome positive (Peter Dinklage), and Nikabrik, the gnome negative (Warwick Davis). For the complex and inventive make-up of the actors, it is almost impossible to recognize. Dinklage makeup lasted three hours every day; his head was shaved and painted, latex stickers were put on his face, and a long red beard and a wig made of yak hair completed the look. The actor complained that during the summer filming in Prague he was just unbearably hot.

Small actors from the Czech Republic were recruited for episodic roles of the dwarves. “We only had seven gnomes - just like in a Disney movie, ” Berger recalls. - And you had hundreds! But we had hundreds of wigs, beards, false mustaches, ears and noses, chins and foreheads, and we changed them every day. One actor throughout the film could play thirty different gnomes. ”

Lion's share

The creators of the Chronicles of Narnia are especially proud of how quietly they manage to combine live actors and computer graphics in the same frame. If in the first film the little girl Lucy carefully touched the fairy-tale lion Aslan by the mane and hugged him lightly, then in “Prince Caspian” they hugged on the ground for half a minute. Is it necessary to add that the lion Aslan is a computer graphics product?

“We wanted this scene to look absolutely convincing, and from the very beginning we knew it would be incredibly difficult, ” says Wendy Rogers. On the set, Aslan was replaced by a model - a lion's head with a mane, made under the direction of artist Howard Berger. In the scene of the meeting with Lucy, the lion's head was worn on his shoulders by actor Shane Renji - an irreplaceable person on the set, depicting, aside from Aslan, either a bear, a werewolf, or a minotaur. “We tried to ensure that there was always a person in the frame who would serve as the starting point for the work of the animators, ” Dean Wright explains. At Framestore, the actor was carefully removed from the frame; his place was occupied by a digital lion.

A digital mock-up of a lion was made for a three-year-old movie at Rhythm & Hues Studios. According to the plot in the new picture, Aslan was supposed to become larger, so a new layout was made - with a 15% increase. Animators paid special attention to the behavior of Aslan. In this film, he almost does not have to act, and therefore he produces an effect exclusively in posture and manner of holding. “We had to be very careful and not go too far with the animation, ” says animator Kevin Spruce of Framestore. “We noticed that if Aslan moves his head too actively, he suddenly looks like an excited dog.” Of course, this is no match for a noble lion.

River liberation

Director Andrew Adamson says that most of all in this film, he is proud of the scene in which the river god raises a giant water funnel almost 40 meters high, destroys the bridge and "frees" the river. Five lines in Clive Lewis’s novel turned into a fantastic and unforgettable episode on the screen - the truth is, the episode is so time-consuming that the producers almost abandoned it.

For this scene, a real bridge was built in Slovenia made of logs tied with strong ropes; it could have 200 extras, plus crew members and heavy equipment. The local major construction company Primorje Group was hired to create this design. “They didn’t even blink an eye and did everything as we requested, ” admired production designer Frank Walsh. Moreover, for the filming it was necessary for a while to turn the course of the river - which was done with the blessing of the Slovenian government.

Nevertheless, the main work on the episode took place on the computers of the small German studio Scanline, which gained fame by making water effects for the film Poseidon. Scanline programmers have developed a very successful program for simulating Flowline water flows, for which they received an Oscar. Working on the stage for “Prince Caspian”, they sought to keep the viewer feeling that the water on the screen is an element, part of nature, no matter how rigidly directed and controlled it may be.

Castle in the Czech Republic

Almost every frame of the film underwent computer processing. Nevertheless, it turned out to be more profitable to shoot some scenes with the help of traditional movie techniques. “We decided to save our digital resources for those elements that cannot be done otherwise, ” explains Dean Wright.

So, one of the biggest sets of the film - the castle of King Miraz - was built the old fashioned way, on the open ground of the Czech studio Barrandov. Since the Czech Republic has relatively cheap labor and materials, the filmmakers were able to afford not to be shy in size and build the entire courtyard and high walls, taking the Pierrefonds castle in France as a model. 200 carpenters, sculptors and other craftsmen worked on this decoration for 15 weeks. The height of the castle walls was 18 m; subsequently, with the help of digital effects, they “increased” to 60 m.

In addition, a miniature 1:24 scale copy of the castle was built at New Zealand's Weta Workshop studio. The word "miniature", however, is not very appropriate here: it was quite possible to enter the castle without bending over. A copy was built of foam blocks, which a specially programmed machine cut with precision jewelry. “If you look at the architecture of the Middle Ages, it becomes clear that it is based on the absolute purity of form, ” explains Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop. - The slightest deviation - and everything is completely wrong. On a scale of 1:24, we could not make a mistake even a millimeter. " In addition to this, another miniature was built at the studio, on a scale of 1: 100, which included a thousand buildings - a castle and an adjacent village.

Work on special effects continued almost until the release of "Prince Caspian" for hire. It was necessary to make large-scale battles. So, in the final battle, about a thousand creatures from Narnia confront the five thousandth enemy army; while the actual actors on the screen a little more than four hundred, and everything else - computer effects. “I wanted this film to be larger than the previous one - and now I regret my decision, ” the director joked.

Critics and viewers, however, appreciated his efforts. The film raised nearly $ 387 million worldwide. On the way - adaptation of the next book of the cycle about Narnia: "Swimming 'Morning traveler'".

The article was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 10, October 2008).

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