MPC hoists Black Flag with cinematic VFX
A cinematic trailer depicting a bloodthirsty battle at sea heralds the forthcoming launch of Assassins Creed IV, Black Flag. Stink director Adam Berg teamed up with MPC for the trailer, which seamlessly blends epic live action with complex VFX techniques across the full range of disciplines within MPC.
The ambitious project harnessed impressive set builds, including a to-scale ship and a 3,000 cubic metre water tank, as well as a cast of around a hundred stunt actors. The 90-second film, conceived by Sid Lee Paris, will be released in cinemas and on television throughout multiple markets, promoting the hugely popular Ubisoft game to a global audience.
MPC’s team, led by Franck Lambertz, collaborated on planning for the three day shoot and then completed the subsequent VFX over a four week schedule. Under Berg’s direction, the ambition was to capture as much of the action in camera and then integrate bespoke VFX.
“Adam was fantastic to work with,” said Lambertz. “He really understands VFX. Adam chose us to help him create a gritty, yet realistic spot that keeps the authenticity of the game intact. The interaction of the live action footage between the CG and 2D environments is paramount in this film – and we have a high level of detail taking place in both the foreground, mid-ground and in the distance as we pan-up through the ship. The gamers really know their stuff, and they’ll have their eyes peeled for any mistakes or incorrect details.”
During pre-production MPC created a full 3D pre-vis of the ship and the concurrent camera move. This then allowed Berg more freedom to direct his mammoth cast on set.
The opening scene of an underwater environment was filmed in a tank, purpose built on set. The floating men were captured on five different plates, which were then composited together in Nuke before the scene was enhanced with light effects, debris and bubbles. The hull of the boat was created in Maya and can be seen as the camera transitions upwards.
The remaining high-action scenes above water were achieved with a clever mix of in-camera action, along with integrated shot and 2D elements. The intensity of the action required separate plates, utilising green screen and the set, which were then composited together. Matte painting was used throughout for set extensions and boat environments, while the addition of CG fog and smoke elements give the impression that the camera is in the thick of the action.
MPC’s 3D team, led by Fabian Frank, utilised specialty software Houdini to create the realistic particle and water effects from scratch. This was a brand new tool set for the London team, who employed the software for the huge amount of 3D simulated effects in the film.
The final wide shot was created by MPC’s in-house concept artists who used matte painting to create the scene, complete with burning ships, palm trees and a cloud filled sky.
For the music Stink approached Creaminal, an innovative, Paris based agency which represents an exceptional roster of labels/artists. Creaminal came forward with New York based musician Son Lux who had recently scored music for the 2012 film Looper. He had also just finished up on a project with Sufjan Stevens, releasing the efforts under the label Anticon. MPC said Son Lux was clearly inspired by the project, bringing an emotive and building piece to the film.
Credits Agency: Sid Lee Paris Executive Creative Director: Sylvain Thirache Art Director: Daniel Abensour & Martin Westberg Copywriter: Johan Jeansson Production director: Thomas Laget Managing director: Johan Delpuech Account director: Bruno Lee Project manager: Yaël Guetta Production Company: Stink Director: Adam Berg Producer UK: Ben Crocker Producer FR: Sylvaine Mella Production Coordinator: Clémentine Tatin Director of Photography: Mattias Montero Production Designer: David Mark Lee Editor: Paul Hardcastle @ Trim VFX: MPC VFX Producer: Chris Allen Line Producer: Stephanie Karim VFX Supervisors: Franck Lambertz and Fabian Frank Grade: Mark Gethin