‘Admiral’ takes local vfx to new heights

Historical epic takes advantage of Russian talent

Five years in the making, historical epic “Admiral” — the story of World War I Russian navy Admiral Alexander Kolchak, who tried to save the country from Bolshevism by heading an anti-Communist “White” army during the 1917 revolution — is rich in homegrown special effects.

Opening with a mighty naval clash between the admiral’s flagship and a German destroyer — fought on a sea awash with floating mines — the action is almost entirely computer-generated.

Many of the 24,000 frames of special effects used in the movie, produced by Anatoly Maksimov, head of production shingle Direktsiya Kino, were created by Dago, one of Russia’s leading private studios that also has a top visual effects department. Direktsiya Kino’s own inhouse team, Main Road Post, also did a lot of work, creating one of Maksimov’s favorite moments — a time shift sequence where the film’s heroine morphs from a beautiful 20-year-old to an old lady of 70.

Maksimov says that without the skills of the local vfx crew, “Admiral” could not have been made. “CGI is the ticket to the screen for Russian movies; for better or for worse, there is a strong tradition in Russia of computing genius, and without this we would have no chance to stand at the same level as international films,” Maksimov says.

Alexey Kublitsky, vfx exec producer at Bazalevs, helmer Timur Bekmambetov’s Moscow production company, says that although standards were high in Russia’s special effects community, with only 300-400 trained CGI artists, there were “not enough” people to satisfy demand.

Indeed, the degree to which Moscow’s CGI skills are valued internationally can be gauged by the extent to which Russian special effects were used for Universal’s “Wanted,” directed by Bekmambetov of f/x-heavy “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” fame.

“Admiral” employed local post houses Main Road Post, Ulitka, Post Prod., EyeScream, C.L.R. and artists from Bekmambetov’s Bazelevs in creating the film’s eye-popping visual effects.

Despite the stellar tech skills of local vfx crews, there is no concerted effort by the Russian entertainment industry to recruit and train artists, although newer studios and facilities, such as Russian World Studios, are keen to train people. India and Hong Kong look to outpace Russia in growing their post-production businesses.