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Quebec firm behind visual effects of '300'

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 15, 2007 | Publication: Canadian Press | Author: editors

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MONTREAL -- Two thousands years ago, a few hundred Spartans stood against the million-strong army of Persia.

This time around, there were a few dozen of them. The blockbuster movie "300," based on the legendary Battle of Thermopylae, was actually filmed in an abandoned industrial warehouse in Montreal using a few dozen warriors battling it out in front of a "blue screen."

With the creative computer work of Quebec-based Hybride Technologies, those dozens became an invading army and the warehouse became the towering cliffs of Sparta.

"Everything was shot in front of a blue screen," Philippe Theroux, the 3D supervisor for Hybride, said in an interview.

"We had to create everything else. . . . All the landscape, everything in the background, was done by computer."

The film, directed by Zack Snyder, is based on a 1998 graphic novel by Frank Miller about the epic battle where the vastly outnumbered Spartans held off the Persian army for three days.

Needless to say, they all died, but not before the rest of the Greek army was able to retreat and rally the Hellenic forces.

The Persians, bloodied by their encounter with the Spartans, lost the ensuing battles. Greece was saved. Democracy ruled.

In the Hollywood version, actors spent three months filming in the warehouse. Only one scene, of Persian messengers on horses, was shot outdoors.

The technical wizards at Hybride then spent 16 months creating the rest.

Every golden blade of wheat that graced the fields of Sparta, every sunset and every rampaging wild beast that made up the Persian army was created digitally.

Real-life rippling abdominal muscles and chiselled, heaving chests - and there are a lot of rippling muscles and heaving chests - were seamlessly blended with digital versions.

It has been called the evolution of filmmaking, thanks largely to Hybride, which has carved out quite a niche for itself in Hollywood.

The company previously worked on "Snakes on a Plane," "Sin City" - an adaptation of another Miller novel - and "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow."

Pierre Raymond, president and visual effects producer for the film, said Hybride built its name by taking on difficult, time-consuming projects to start. Films like "The Faculty," "Spy Kids" and "Sin City" followed in short order.

But "300" is new ground even for this company.

"It's probably the first time that a film is entirely generated with CGI, environment-wise," Raymond said.

Directors are no longer constrained by locations.

"Now there's no limit," he said.

Before getting down to work, Theroux said, the Hybride crew took a close look at the original novel.

"In this movie we had to stay true to the graphic image of the comic novel," he said.

He thinks Miller fans will be pleased.

"Visually, it's stunning."

Snyder, the director, agrees.

"It's a piece of beautiful art," he said in an online diary about making the film. "Every frame is like a beautiful painting."

While "300" is firmly atop the box office, the film does have its critics and the Iranian government is among them.

Javad Shamqadri, cultural adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told the Fars news agency that the film is "plundering Iran's historic past and insulting this civilization."

The Persian army does include its fair share of hunchbacks, wild beasts and assorted freaks.

But Jim Bissell, production designer for the film, has said the crew did not set out to make a historical depiction of the event.

It's an operatic treatment, he said on the film's website.

"In that sense, we're not really married to historical truth and we're not really married to realistic filmmaking conventions," he said.


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