Visual effects house Cinesite created over 280 shots on the new film, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which opens in cinemas tomorrow.

Based on the Ubisoft video game and is set in the mystical lands of Persia (unsurprisingly), the film follows the story of rogue Prince Dastan, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and a mysterious princess, played by Gemma Arterton. They race against dark forces to safeguard an ancient dagger capable of releasing the Sands of Time – a gift from the gods that can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world. 

Cinesite’s visual effects supervisor Sue Rowe and her team of 60 artists completed a variety of challenging and creative shots on the film which ranged from digital face replacements and set extensions through to CGI weapons and matte paintings.

Spending six weeks on location in Morocco enabled Rowe to pre-plan how Cinesite would work with the limitations of the shoot, which included small sets, varied skies and limited props. She was then able to feedback to her team who could begin previsualising the effects.

One scene that proved to be a creative challenge for Cinesite was the ‘youthening’ of the King, played by Ben Kingsley, by 30 years. Cinesite’s solution was to draw upon their in-house proprietary software Motion Analyser, which enables the faces of live action actors to be manipulated to allow for corrections such as fine lines and wrinkles, blotches, dark patches and hairs to be removed in order to enhance the look of youthfulness.

Another sequence required Cinesite to create a full CG lioness. Using Autodesk Maya, the lioness was generated to reflect a creature that looked starved and malnourished.

“We really wanted to present a lioness who was bordering on emaciated to emphasise her need to hunt,” said Rowe. “To achieve this look we graded the lioness to have washed-out coloured fur and deeply emphasised her bone structure around the rib cage and hips.”

As the hunt scene progresses the lioness is speared through the mouth by a CGI spear, which was also created using Maya.

Cinesite was additionally tasked with creating a variety of the weapons featured in the film, these included generating the Hassassins 3D whips, which had claws and blades at the end of them, and matching them with the stunt props that were used on set.

“This was a tricky effect to pull off,” commented Rowe. “It’s a fast action sequence so we had to ensure the CG whips were tracked and timed perfectly to match up with the live action footage.”

The team also created a CG city, which is the backdrop for Prince Dastan’s Avrat chase sequence. The final composite on all the shots was completed using Nuke and Shake.