Computer Graphics World: Cinesite Builds an Empire

24 March 2014

Cinesite VFX Supervisor Richard Clarke worked closely with production VFX Supervisor John “DJ” Des Jardin to create epic 2.5D and 3D environments, including ancient Athens, Sparta, and shoreline encampment shots for the film 300: Rise of an Empire.

Athens - Before

Athens – Build

300: Rise of an Empire is a follow-up to the 2006 film  300 , although the action in the current installment takes place prior to the events in the original film.  Greek general Themistocles is battling against the Persian Army, which is under the command of Xerxes and Artemisia, to fend off an attack on Athens. His Greek army joins forces with the Spartans to defend the major cities of Greece against Xerxes’ invasion.

Some of the most beautiful shots created by Cinesite include a full-3D Sparta environment, complete with CG wheat field.  Originally planned as a digital matte painting, the finished environment utilized the fur system Yeti to create the undulating wheat, flowing in the wind. Atmospheric effects known among the crew as “ripleys” are a visual motif of Director Zack Snyder, so named because they were inspired by Ridley Scott’s film Legend. These environmental particulate effects were added to many shots in the film; in the Sparta sequence, they appear as drifting pollen caught in the sunlight.

Athens - Final

Athens – Final

Other work by Cinesite includes various encampments of the Greek army. Many were filmed with small sections of live action against greenscreen, which were massively extended to include rocky outcrops, a CG shoreline, tents, moon, sky and campfires, as well as digital armies, sea and sky. Another incarnation of the “ripley” effect was added as drifting, glowing embers from the campfires. In these night-time shots, they give a haunting, ethereal atmosphere.

Cinesite VFX Supervisor Richard Clarke says, “Working with both DJ and Zach Snyder was a great experience.  Zach Snyder had a very clear, creative vision of what he wanted. He would often sketch out exactly what he wanted by hand, and we worked very closely with his drawings to create the visual effects. The team delivered to an ambitious schedule, creating fantastic work and pulling together brilliantly.”