F/x houses made major strides with minis

Canada's Hybride faced locale pressures, accuracy issues

Effects houses needed a reality check for this year’s miniseries.

While Sci Fi’s “Taken” was a boon for f/x mavens, historical epics nominated in a variety of categories — USA’s “Helen of Troy” and A&E’s “Napoleon” — created a variety of concerns for visual artists, from historical accuracy to location logistics.

Canada’s Hybride faced locale pressures and accuracy issues — giving it the look of 18th century Europe — with “Napoleon” and received six Emmy noms as a result. The company consulted records from the French Army to determine specifically which of Napoleon’s troops were deployed during what battles.

Hybride president Pierre Raymond says director Yves Simoneau received permission from several historical sites to film — with the provision he leave everything in the frame intact. Raymond and his team had to go back and digitally erase pesky modern interlopers such as security cameras and alarm systems.

Politically correct

The company’s Sylvie Talbot was nommed for title design for the “Napoleon” introduction, which required some political editing. After all, perceptions of Napoleon’s life do vary between the English, Italians and French.

“We needed to fit a concept graphically that would work for both the American market and the European market,” Raymond says. “We studied the color scheme of Napoleon because we didn’t want to use the color that the pope was using at the time. We didn’t want to use (British) royal blue.”

To create the face that launched a thousand ships, Pasadena, Calif.-based Stargate Digital had slightly more leeway on “Helen of Troy” (nommed for Emmys), since the historical record was based on Homer’s ancient myth “The Iliad.”

The on-set model of the Trojan Horse was actually a green forklift that was later digitally erased to make way for an artist’s interpretation.

Sam Nicholson, visual effects supervisor for “Troy” and president of Stargate, says one of the hardest jobs was making the actions of the countless extras in Malta, where the series was lensed, look realistic.

“The Maltese don’t know how to shoot arrows. They never played cowboys and Indians. So we’d have these thousands of extras line up and shoot arrows in a battle scene, and they’d go about three feet. They didn’t know how to row either. So all the arrows are CG and we redid all the oars,” he said, referring to the ancient galleys.