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Before & Afters of Ridley Scott’s Napoleon

March 18, 2024

As we ride the wave of pride and excitement following our teams’ participation in the 96th Academy Awards, where MPC’s Napoleon received a nomination for Best Visual Effects, we’re delighted to share further insights into the artistry behind the project’s visual effects.

To create as much realism as possible in this large-scale epic action film, the filmmakers filmed on location using real sets, horses and props where possible. 14 cameras captured extraordinary battle scenes with hundreds of cast, dozens of horses, real sets and props. Filming locations were chosen to represent the scale and stature of the world Napoleon inhabited and include Blenheim Palace, Petworth House and Boughton House.

Led by Production VFX Supervisor Charley Henley, MPC VFX Supervisor Luc-ewen Martin-fenouillet, MPC completed 250 shots for Director Ridley Scott’s latest tour de force. The magnitude of Napoleon’s battles had to reach epic proportions, requiring meticulous teamwork between SFX and VFX.

MPC’s biggest challenge was the recreation of The Battle of Waterloo. Shot in the beautifully dramatic English countryside, the battle was filmed entirely on location in the UK. MPC was tasked with creating environment extensions for both the French and British camps. Plate photography was enhanced with thousands of computer-generated tents, flags, stables, braseros, benches and props required to breathe life into the campaign camps. Along with the CG environment extension, MPC’s artists also recreated Napoleonic armies, of all ranks, from the drummers to the generals. In total, 60 unique costumes were recreated, using scans of actors, which allowed the wide shots to feel varied, rich and realistic. Marching and charging armies, including cavalries, were reproduced digitally to reach the epic scale the biopic required. The largest crowd shot included 70,000 soldiers, 5,000 horses, each with dynamic armor and ready-to-fire muskets. The organic look of the armies relied on hundreds of motion capture clips which captured the specific performances of soldiers in the 1800s.

The SFX team employed air mortars to generate explosions within the live battlefield, while digital cannonballs were programmed to follow accurate trajectories and create explosions upon impact. Hundreds of simulated explosions combined with elements and debris fill the frame. Muzzle flashes from thousands of muskets, and flares and smoke from cannon fire were simulated as well as widespread gore FX. A specialized FX setup replicated the effect of horses being struck and toppled by cannon fire, while VFX artists meticulously hand-animated multiple horses, riders, and their falls.

Keep reading about the visual effects MPC created for the project or contact us directly.


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