Asian Cup 2023 - Katara Studios: The Lost Chapter of Kelileh & Demneh


Katara Studios, Asian Football Confederation


Ben Leyland


Denis Bodart


Kiri Haggart

FML Finance Manager:

Michelle Thorn

Senior Producer:

Dai Davidson


Laura Hancock

Production Coordinator:

Pauline Heuillard

Line Producer:

Tamara Kovacevic

Production Assistant:

Rosanna Morley

VFX Supervisor:

Finlay Crowther

Asset Supervisor:

Sohrab Esfehani

Lead FX TD:

Henry Medhurst


John Murphy

Pipeline TD:

Henry Medhurst


Sav Akyuz

Character Design:

Max Kostenko, Marco Castiello

3D Generalist:

Pawel Luszczak, Saskya Olsen, Olivier Pirard

Lead Animator:

Alex Alvarez

2D Animation:

Julien Becquer


Conor Ryan


Finlay Crowther, Saskya Olsen

Modelling & Texture Lead:

Gael Kerchenbaum


Bojin Shi, Antonio Esparza, Michaela Hybelova, Mahmoud Salah, Pawel Luszczak, Felipe Luiz Vieira De Andrade, Ariel Mora


Antonio Esparza, Mahmoud Salah, Pawel Luszczak, Stefan Klosterkotter, Felipe Luiz Vieira De Andrade

Groom Lead:

Sohrab Esfehani


Gio Sabadze, Kye Baranger


Danilo Pinheiro, Jonatas Ribiero, Caio Hidaka, Saul Almeida

Look Dev:

Sohrab Esefehani, Gael Kerchenbaum, Pawel Luszczak, Martin Usandizaga, Gio Sabadze, Fellipe Beckman


Hijaz Ahamed, Gerard Pasqual Gill, Gio Sabadze

Lead DMP:

Alex Holman


Saskya Olsen

Lead Rendering:

Olivier Pirard


Sohrab Esefehani, Pawel Luszczak, Fin Crowther, Margot Auclair, Pablo Otero

Lead Comp:

Alexey Vaitvud


Philip Charles-Sweeting, Adam Jackson, Andrea Tomas, Fin Crowther, Teresa Lozano, Elliott Kajdan

Outline Compositor:

Harut Harutyunyan,Areg Magoyan,Gabriel Zurabashvili, Gevorg Antonyan,Vardan Vardanyan, Tigran Khechoyan,Arshaluys Karapetyan, Armen Mailyan

Unreal ENV:

Teddy Green

Unreal ENV (NoGhost):

Kye Dorricott, Andrew Dowell, Luke Gibbard

– Chaya Pictures
VFX Supervisor:

Tatchapon Lertwirojkul

Senior Producer:

Kaewkalaya Emphandhu

Pipeline TD:

Chayakorn Yamyuent

Animation Supervisor:

Wesley P

Senior Animator:

Nataporn Meekong


Sombat Pitakmoo

Senior Lighting Artist:

Nut Tanomsampan

CG Supervisor:

Adam Abdularee

Senior Compositor:

Worrachat Kamfun, Rapeepong Mahaveeravat, Radchapong Phekasut,


Klittipol Saksupa

Tracking Supervisor:

Chawalit Jirattikansakul

Tracking Producer:

Araya Srikasetsarakul

Head of Matchmove:

Thitikorn Boontiam, Kantapon Thitinart

Matchmove Lead:

Worawut Seedangkam

Matchmove Artist:

Nawakamon Kanthajak, Supakorn Kanokpulawat, Teerapon Choktumrongsakul


Thanyamai Mektub

Group VFX


We had the opportunity to work for the Asian Football Confederation and Katara Studios to flex our VFX muscles on this absolute epic tale. Focusing on the ancient fable and shot on location in the desert, we brought the Asian continent together through iconic national animals in a key film for the opening ceremony of the 2023 Asian Cup.

Anthropomorphic animals spreading a tale of strengthening friendships through diversity is right up our street, truth be told. The team really pulled out all the stops, Houdini wizardry included, to create a real milestone in FML's VFX history.


For this project we had the exciting tasks of creating 12 of the characters that appeared in the opening ceremony film. 7 of which required CG head replacements and the other 5 were full CG characters.

The aim was to get as close to photorealism as possible with the texture/ shading/ anatomy of the characters but having a level of leeway with the creative due to the fact that these creatures are bipeds with animal heads.

Eagle Closeup 01

The Asian Cup's opening ceremony involved a lot of different teams various expertise coming together around Katara Studio's vision led by the Director Ahmed.

Our role on the VFX side had to fit with the work being done with the prosthetics builds and costume design for the actors in the stadium for the ceremony.

The characters would be seen from a distance in the stadium as well as close to camera on screen which reinforced the need for collective thinking and alignment between the artists.

Due to the fact that we had a lot of characters to complete to a high level in a short amount of time due to a restricted schedule, we started with several archetype base meshes for each species of animal, for example; cats, birds and canines. We took these base meshes into Zbrush and focused on finding the form and anatomy of each character before moving through more intricate levels of detail depending on the needs of each character in the film.

Our shots were also lit inside of Houdini, and rendered with Arnold. The procedural nature of Houdini meant that we could set up a lighting master template at the start of the job meaning that we could complete a large amount of shots in a short amount of time, it also meant any freelancers coming onto the project could get up to speed with the in house developed pipeline quickly and work with us consistently throughout the project.


Lighting was mostly achieved using high quality HDRIs that were captured on set for each lighting setup and really helped to match the colour values of our renders to the plates meaning comp had to spend less time colour correcting and matching renders while comping.

Rigging was completed in Maya utilising the same rig template (something that was helped by the use of our archetype base meshes from the modelling stage) so that we could prioritise time on characters with specific demands from the animation team, only creating special features for certain characters that required them, for example wings and cloth controls.

Once our match move team had finished tracking our CG shots our Animation team went to work to really bring our CG characters to life. Adding all the subtle details like blinks, ear flicks and mouth movements that couldn’t be achieved by the prosthetic heads worn in the shoot.

Komodo02 VFX
Komodo01 VFX

After animation our pipeline moved from Maya to Houdini where the characters underwent a pass of CFX to simulate the guide curves on our groom adding movement like wind blowing to our grooms, adding that extra level of detail and realism to our final renders. FX such as dust, petals and clouds were simulated using Houdini’s powerful FX solvers.


For texturing we used Mari for skin textures, which allowed us to set up the skin texturing in a more procedural way utilising a TexturingXYZ workflow and also used Substance which was used mostly for texturing the costumes of our full CG characters. Substance is great for putting together detailed textures quickly and is also procedural meaning any model updates can be run through texturing seamlessly.

Turtle VFX

Groom and look dev was completed in Houdini. Groom required both fur and feathers for some characters, fur was achieved using the standard groom features in Houdini whilst the feathers were created used a custom tool based on Houdini’s native groom tool.

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Shaders were setup in Houdini using Arnold, the great thing about using Houdini for lookdev as well as groom is that we could utilise procedural shading like probability masks as well as the textures that came from our texture artists.

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One of the trickiest things about pulling off a convincing CG head replacement is the integration of the head with the live action, where the seam of the CG merges with the body shot in camera.

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One of the ways we tried to tackle this was during the shoot, where possible, to have our characters wear the prosthetic heads that would be used in the live opening ceremony show.


Although this meant we ended up painting out some of the prosthetic heads that were in camera, it also gave us free shadow integration in camera on the shoulders and around the neck of our characters as well as something for our match move team to match our CG heads too.

Clean plates were also captured on the shoot to help with the cleanup of the prosthetics heads in camera.

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For the teams at Feed Me Light, this project became an opportunity to push our understanding of creature work from a more realistic perspective, and develop our CG pipeline way further then we had before.

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