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Greece: Secrets of the Past

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Matte World Digital was asked to recreate the Parthenon as it looked when completed at about 430 BC. This was an exciting opportunity to learn about ancient Greek architecture and art. Authenticity was a primary goal and much research exists about the Parthenon, including recent revelations about the colors the Greeks used to decorate the surfaces.

The IMAX format provides astonishing resolution and an immersive viewing experience. We were able to pack a fantastic amount of detail into the shot, which created heavy demands on the VFX pipeline. Our renders for Greece: Secrets of the Past were 5.5K -- close to 8 times more data than a normal theatrical film frame. Furthermore, the shot was more than 3.5 minutes long, starting with a helicopter shot of the present-day Acropilos site, transitioning to a computerized wireframe model, and back to a ground-level view of the present ruins.

The computer model of the Parthenon ruins is match-moved to a plate shot on location. The scientists in the foreground are characters in the story.

The Parthenon was damaged several times in its 2,400-year life. Restoration efforts are underway to reassemble the marble blocks.

Using a detailed model created by researchers, MWD is able to restore the structure.

The ancient Athenians did not leave the marble figures white, but gave them vivid lifelike colors, and added gold ornaments.

Behind massive bronze doors stood the true treasure of the Parthenon -- a 40-foot high statue of Athena. A water or oil reflecting pool probably filled the floor around Athena's feet. The pool reflected light up into the room, and may have also served to raise the humidity inside the temple to help preserve the statue.

MWD used global illumination techniques to simulate the effect of light bouncing around the room. Only a few windows near the entrance provide all the illmunation.

Athena's helmet and clothing were crafted of solid gold, and made this temple one of the most extravagent public expenditures in history. Ray-traced reflections in the Gold reflect a simplified version of the room to keep render times under control.

The Athenians used Ivory for Athena's skin. They had a very specific "language" for sculpture and the ratios between various dimensions of facial features, posture, and many other elements carried signifcance for the sulptor, a man named Phidias. No ruins or drawings of the statue remain. This model is based on descriptions of the statue recorded by ancient visitors.

Visitors were probably never allowed to enter the temple, but our camera makes a sweeping fly-through up to Athena's eye level. At the conclusion of the shot, the camera circles around behind the statue to show a view toward the entrance, as the scientists step into a scene that existed thousands of years ago.

Film Credits

Film Credits