Michiel de Ruyter VFX Breakdown by PFX
Michiel de Ruyter – You might not be familiar with Michiel de Ruyter, but in Holland, he’s a national hero. In the 17th century, he managed to defeat the English and the French at sea, becoming one of the greatest innovators of naval warfare. The film originated in Belgium and PFX was responsible for the computer graphics. Scenes that were once only shots of an empty sea are now filled with majestic, historic ships. The wind in the sails and the crew readying the cannons for their first enemy battle.
Jan Rybář – The filmmakers had one historic ship in a dry dock. They then had one larger and one smaller ship built, which they were able to set off into the sea. However, they needed over 100 ships for their film for three different world-renowned fleets. So we simply created a whole other batch of ships using CGI. We used a floating model and created an entirely different ship.
These are relatively tricky effects to create. Another issue was figuring out how to best position the computer-generated ships on an empty sea. For this we used buoys and small boats. It was quite the complicated feat. Apart from the combined shots, we also did fully computer-generated shots as well.
We had to do a huge sequence where the hero of the story, along with his fellow Dutchmen, sneaks into the estuary where the English fleet is anchored. He attacks the guard, steals the flagship of the English navy, and leaves the rest in flames.
This big scene was also our biggest task.
Obtaining materials was challenging enough on its own. We tried to do some research and find out, for example, how exactly the landscape surrounding the estuary looked back then. It was crucial that everything look as realistic as possible.
The second challenge was the fire. There’s a moment in the film when you see the entire fleet up in flames. For thousands of years, humans have had the image of fire encoded in their genetic makeup. Convincing viewers that what they are watching is real was no easy task. It required a lot of research, testing, and redoing. A shot of this scene ended up in the trailer for the film, which I consider a success.
All of the problem solving we had to do for this project really elevated our experience.
We learned a lot of new things and were even able to apply the expertise and experience that we had gained in the past- only in a new way. We also learned a staggering amount about engaging in naval warfare. It was our first big, historical film, and I have a feeling that it won’t be our last.