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Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Shekhar Kapur directed ‘The Golden Age’, the sequel to his epic ‘Elizabeth’ for Universal Studios with all visual effects work including a digital Spanish armada and an innovative DI grade each demonstrating the Director’s vision of ‘operatic reality’ carried out by MPC.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ stars Cate Blanchett and tells the thrilling tale of an era – the story of one woman’s crusade to control love, crush enemies and secure her position as a beloved icon of the western world. As Elizabeth’s cousin Mary Stuart conspires with Philip of Spain to topple the throne, Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s trusty advisor works tirelessly to protect her from the many plots and conspiracies against her. Preparing to go to war to defend her empire, Elizabeth struggles to balance royal duties with an unexpected vulnerability in her attraction to Sir Walter Raleigh, played by Clive Owen.

MPC’s team was lead by VFX Supervisor Richard Stammers (Da Vinci code, Wimbledon), whose main task involved the creation of a digital Spanish Armada, and the English fleet. The backgrounds for each of these shots were heavily manipulated with replacement skies changing the mood of the shot rushes. Live Action Sea elements were painstakingly integrated into the sequence. Smoke and other atmospheric effects add a theatrical style to the sequences to emulate the many paintings of the age notably those by Turner and Loutherbourg. Shekhar described this impressionistic and painterly vision as ‘operatic reality’.

Shekhar Kapur
Universal Pictures
MPC VFX Supervisor
Richard Stammers

MPC also contributed to shots covering the building of the Armada, the launch from Lisbon Harbour, the approach to the English coast, the engagement by the English with the Spanish in battle and the climactic sequence involving the English attack fire ships led by Sir Walter Raleigh.

The team also created and scaled extensive digital matte paintings of the exterior and interior of Escorial Palace, where King Phillip of Spain was living at that time; these were populated with 2D crowd elements. Other matte paintings form the basis of a sequence of beacons seen lighting the coast to warn of the approaching Armada, a view of London from Whitehall Palace, the building of the Armada and devastated Spanish forests. Crowd elements also re-create the English troops seen rallied by the Queen. The drama of the shots showing the Queen watching the horizon was enhanced to evidence the historically noted storm that eventually destroys the doomed armada.

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