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Asterix at the Olympic Games


Astérix and Obélix compete at the Olympics in order to help their friend Lovesix marry Princess Irina. Brutus also tries to win the game with his own team and get rid of his father Julius Caesar.

Frédéric Forestier, Thomas Langmann
MPC VFX Supervisor
Hugues Namur

The MPC Paris team, formerly Mikros Image, handled the stunt scenes and most of the competition-related effects for Asterix at the Olympic Games for a total of 315 VFX shots.

Our work focused on character-related visual effects, especially for competitions such as chariot racing. These scenes often involved two or more contractors. For example, the plans for the stadium were first passed to Buf for the creation of the arena and then to us for the effects on the competitors. “In general, the final composite of a given shot was done by the company that composited the closest layer to the image” says Hugues Namur, visual effects supervisor at MPC.

“We had to do actions that could not be filmed with a real actor. For example, there is a scene in which the Roman giant slaughters a Goth wrestler by grabbing him by the leg and swinging him from side to side on the floor – an image taken directly from the comic book. The scene was shot with the actor holding a fake leg in his hands. The prosthesis went up to the top of the calf and was extended by a stick with a ball attached to the end. The actor simulated the movement with this accessory in his hands. Then, Nicolas Rey’s team replaced the prop with a 3D animated character by placing his leg on the real prosthesis, and recreated the sand projections in particles.”

The shots will be made using Maya for the 3D, while the rendering (global illumination) is done in Arnold, an in-house renderer co-developed with Marcos Fajardo. Compositing is done in After Effects and Nuke.

Other major character effects include the scene where Brutus literally deflates after taking potion to build up excessive muscle. “The directors wanted a balloon effect that deflates as it flies around” explains Hugues Namur. “It was difficult to visualise because it had to be 100% comic book effect, but still believable. But when you see a human being looping on screen, propelled by the gas coming out of his own body, it’s a bit complicated to make it look realistic… There was a lot of back and forth with the directors to work out this type of shot.”

At the end of his eventful flight, Brutus lands on the banquet table set up behind Caesar. To create this shot, the team first filmed Alain Delon on location in front of a blue background, then shot a second take with a stuntman projected onto the set. The two takes were then combined by our crews, but the stuntman’s trajectory was altered so that he hit the corner of Caesar’s chair. This trick allowed the two takes to be physically associated with the image. “We also created a 3D double for José Garcia whose character was reduced to the size of a doll” says Hugues Namur. “We had to set up the enlargement effect that makes him human-sized again. At the same time, the film included a lot of shots shot on blue backgrounds because it was difficult to match the actors’ schedule with the work plan and the weather. We therefore composed on separate backgrounds the Goth team in front of their stand with Jean Todt, the three judges in their stand, Michael Schumacher and Clovis Cornillac, during the preparations for the race.”

Discover our full VFX breakdown:

The MPC Paris teams also had to create several set extensions, particularly for scenes where the action takes place at the athletes’ training site. “We started by tracking each shot, then a template of the 3D set was set in the scene to determine the placements with the directors. Then the real set was modelled in 3D or matte-painted, depending on its distance in the scene and the extent of the camera movement.” When the Samagas Palace appeared in the picture, the team used the 3D model created by Duboi for their own scenes – another example of contractors collaborating on the same shot.

One of the most unexpected effects is the creation of the anti-doping insects. The beetles are modelled by our 3D department from a static model provided by the production and then animated in Maya. “The insect death sequence required a lot of rotoscoping work,” reveals Hugues Namur. “Indeed, the action was filmed with the actors each chewing a fake beetle, but as the insect remained inert, the effect fell flat. So the production asked us to erase these immobile legs and replace them with 3D animated replicas. This was a particularly time-consuming erasure job because the background was made up of moving Romans with their long toga full of shifting folds…”

For all the artists who contributed to the visual effects, the film was a very long job. There are very few projects that require such a long production time. Alain Carsoux, for example, spent two years on it. But in the end, the film has a visual scope worthy of American productions. Let’s hope that it will be the first of many.


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