| 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
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.