The feature film Medieval directed by Petr Jakl marks one of the largest and most ambitious projects the Prague-based studio PFX has had the pleasure to work on. The epic historical action drama, which has reached Netflix Top 10 in more than 50 countries, tells the story of Jan Zizka, the fifteenth century Czech icon and warlord, who defeated armies of the Holy Roman Empire.

To bring Zizka’s story to life, the director assembled a strong international team, including the two-time Oscar winning actor Michael Caine and the Oscar nominated editor Steven Rosenblum. PFX provided a full range of post-production services. Over 650 visual effects shots and color grading were the core of their work; PFX was also responsible for data processing and complete editorial services.

Watch the new VFX breakdown, which highlights some of the most complex visual effects PFX created for the film:

No animals were harmed in the making of this film

The pivotal sequence of the film features a lion, whose encounter with the main character creates one of the film’s climactic moments. For this complex scene, PFX created an elaborate realistic CGI lion including millions of its hairs, a CGI cage and an entire simulation of a dusty environment. Horses also frequently appear throughout the film – the most complicated action shots featured live actors on figurines, which were then replaced by a full CGI animal.

Making the buildings look the part

Czechia has many historical castles which were founded in the 13th and 14th century – and the filmmakers had the unique opportunity to shoot in these special places. Through the centuries, those buildings have, however, undergone massive changes, and it was PFX’s job to make them “look the part”. Set extension was therefore a crucial part of the post-production process. PFX created a 3D model of a medieval village and transformed Zvikov, one of the most famous Czech castles, into its 15th century appearance. Throughout the whole process of building transformations photogrammetry was heavily used.

Realistic fighting sequences

One of PFX’s main goals was to create action-packed, realistic fighting sequences. „Maximum believability was always our priority“, says Tomas Srovnal from PFX. To achieve this, the team hand-modeled 3D characters and added them not only to the backgrounds, but also to the foreground. In one scene, Jan Zizka proves his unique tactical skills by setting hay bales on fire – creating a wall of smoke and confusing the enemy. This complex sequence includes 3D smoke simulation, CGI soldiers, rocks and other CGI elements.

Conveying the bleakness of middle age

What was life in the 15th century like? Bleak and difficult most of the time, no doubt. The visual part of the film needed to convey this feeling. Colorists Tomas Chudomel and Daniel Martínez Gallego spent a lot of time getting the visual style of the film just right. „We wanted the viewer to feel the coldness and pessimism of that time, but we didn’t want the film to feel over-stylized. So it was all about balance,“ they say.

Medieval is now showing worldwide on Netflix.

Tanya Combrinck
Author: Tanya Combrinck

Tanya is a writer covering art, design, and visual effects. She has 15 years of experience as a magazine journalist and has written for publications including 3D World, 3D Artist, Computer Arts, net magazine, and Creative Bloq.