Prime Focus, one of the world's largest visual entertainment services groups, has completed work on Universal Pictures‚ epic action-adventure Robin Hood, from director Ridley Scott. Over the course of four months, the Film VFX division in the UK delivered 150 VFX shots for Robin Hood. The film, which stars Oscar-winners Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett and is produced by Oscar-winner Brian Grazer, opened in cinemas in the US on May 14.
One of the main sequences upon which Prime Focus worked involved creating CG bees for scenes involving Friar Tuck (portrayed by Mark Addy). Tuck, who's a beekeeper in the action-adventure, uses his bees to attack enemy soldiers he's trapped in a building. The bees explode from their hives and swarm around soldiers who desperately try and swat them away.
Director Scott had very specific ideas for the scene, and the team worked closely with him and VFX producer Allen Maris to make sure the shots were up to their standards. Because the bees were swarming around, it was difficult to render them in layers, so everything was modeled in 3D and then tracked and match-moved using SynthEyes. Creating the entire environment in 3D made the rendering and compositing simpler and allowed the team to position everything correctly in the 3D space. This way Scott's vision of where the bees were placed could be realized.
The lighting and sheer number of bees also made the scene more challenging. "The general mood of these shots is quite dark but also features some stronger shafts of light within the room," said Steve Street, joint MD/senior VFX supervisor, Prime Focus Film VFX. "The difficulty was finding a happy medium where the CG was lit realistically, but where it was light enough to see the bees. As the bees had to pass through the shafts of light, the extra lighting had to be very subtle. We also had to deal with several thousand bees, so motion blur was critical. We ended up having to add a lot of hand-animated bees into the foreground...to add detail where the simulation wasn‚t good enough on its own."
Prime Focus completed a number of other shots on the film, including designing more than 40 additional bee shots, creating CG arrows and swords for battle scenes in which people were stabbed or shot, as well as crafting matte paintings, green screens, fire and other FX additions.