November 19, 2021

MPC Teams Escalate the Realism of Battle and Medieval Life in The Last Duel

MPC Film & Episodic crafted a gritty 14th century France for director Ridley Scott’s latest epic.

Visionary filmmaker and four-time Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott brings to the screen a gripping tale of betrayal and vengeance set against the brutality of 14th century France in 20th Century Studios’ The Last Duel.

Technicolor Creative Studios’ Production Supervisors Gary Brozenich and Jessica Norman worked alongside MPC Film & Episodic VFX Supervisor Sebastien Raets, VFX Producer Skye Radies and teams in London, Montreal and Bangalore to deliver over 180 shots. An additional 220 shots were delivered by VFX Supervisor Yann Blondel, VFX Producer Kristina Prilukova and the team based in Paris.

MPC Film & Episodic artists crafted the visual effects for “the duel” and another key sequence, the Battle of Limoges. Though the original brief did not call for extensive crowd building, the pandemic would soon require new ways of working. The team quickly adapted to the new visual effects requirements, with MPC’s crowd artists enlisted to simulate both full CG crowds and crowd extensions.

The Battle of Limoges

For the Limoges battle sequence, the fundamental objective was to create an organic, photorealistic medieval environment, including field, bridge, and adjoining village. Environment artists extended the overall environment, adding trees and vegetation.

After the foundations of the village were in place, the FX team added battlefield elements, including burning huts, soldiers firing burning arrows at the bridge, and residual smoke as fires sweep through the town. They escalated the realism of battle even further by increasing the levels of bloodshed and gory injuries.

The Duel

As knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and his squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) meet in the final duel sequence, the primary goal was to create a harrowing fight with a great deal of realistic violence – including a particularly gruesome scene in which a full CG head stands in for Le Gris as a dagger is plunged into his mouth.

The Assets and Animation teams worked closely together to achieve the photorealism, dynamics, realistic movement and weight required for the scene. In addition to creating fully CG horses and enhancing the surrounding environment, they created full CG versions of the dueling actors and their armour so that they could authentically interact with the horses in a number of shots. 

Team Collaboration

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

The compositing team handled its own challenges throughout production, primarily in populating the empty walls of the duel arena with live action crowd elements to add more life and cheering fans to the shots. They also helped to better integrate CG elements and filled out shots with smoke, snow, and fog in order to reinforce the natural feeling of a hostile and cold environment. 

Visit MPC for the full story and to see more shots from The Last Duel, initially being shown exclusively in theaters.