Hollywood is at the cutting edge in the art and science of visual effects (vfx), so much so that they can create whole cities from the scratch. For Tom Hanks starrer Angels & Demons, based in the heart of the Christian papacy, the filmmakers had locations that were either impractical or forbidden to shoot in. So what they did instead was relied on vfx to recreate the amazing architecture of Rome and The Vatican City – The Sistine Chapel, the Passetto, Castel Sant’Angelo and Piazza Navona – partials sets of which were built in Los Angeles.
London based MPC (Moving Picture Company) helped creating CG environments including the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and the high-tech Hadron Particle Collider in CERN, Geneva. The post-production studio completed 170 shots for the film, ranging from full CG environments and vfx sequences to complicated composites including the title sequence, a fully CG papal ring, the birth of Antimatter, CERN sequences, CG environments of Rome and Vatican, The Sistine Chapel, the Passetto, Castel Sant’Angelo and Piazza Navona.
MPC VFX supervisor Richard Stammers, who oversaw the London team, told Bollywood Hungama, “I handled most of the shoot attendance in Rome personally, and was responsible for photographing the stills used for the CG environment builds. In some cases I would send batches back to MPC overnight to be checked by our matchmove dept. so they could confirm any additional angles that may be required for image modelling.”
Here’s a shot-by-shot breakdown of the whole process.