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NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS

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After the company's sojourns to the East Coast and South Dakota, it was time to return to Los Angeles for the Hollywood magicians to weave their sorcery, devising hugely scaled sets and devices for the film's complex, climactic action-adventure sequences. "We built these enormous sets in Los Angeles, upping our ante by making this picture bigger and more exciting than the first one,” notes Jerry Bruckheimer. "Every time you walked onto one of these sets, you realized the artistry of the technicians in Hollywood and this art that they've passed down since the beginning of film.”

Starting the second phase of its L.A. shoot, the company initially converted several "practical” locations into appropriate environments for the story, including the conversion of the bowels of downtown L.A.'s famed Biltmore Hotel into security areas beneath Buckingham Palace, and the vintage 1940 design of the F.E. Weymouth Treatment Plant of the Metropolitan Water District System in La Verne, California, into a high-tech conservation lab where Ben, Abigail and Riley examine the lost page from the Booth diary.

Also filmed during this stage of production was a sequence taking place on the White House lawn during the annual Easter Egg Roll. Hordes of children in holiday dress, replete with baskets and bunny ears, assembled on a large grassy area at the Huntington Hartford Gardens in San Marino, California, which was backed by a 24-foot-tall-by-180-foot-wide blue screen which would be transformed in the post-production process by visual effects supervisors Nathan McGuinness and Mitchell S. Drain by the President's domicile. "In the old days this would have been done with a traditional matte painting on glass with a locked-off camera,” notes Drain. "Today, we have the technology to allow us to move the camera around and match those movements in the computer so that we get a fully three-dimensional perspective of The White House.” Not that any of the kids working that day minded that the President's residence wasn't actually there…they were more interested in getting Nicolas Cage's autograph at the end of the work day, and he was only too happy to oblige them.

NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS required McGuinness, Drain and their huge team of artists, programmers and technicians to call upon the full range of present technology to create numerous images, including digital enhancements, model work and other magic. "The lion's share of the visual effects work is set extension,” notes Drain. "We're also rearranging some landscapes, such as giving off the illusion that there's a lake behind Mount Rushmore. If we do our job well, people who see the movie will be scratching their heads when they go to South Dakota and find out that it isn't actually there!”

On Stage 2 of The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, production designer Dominic Watkins and his team constructed not only a faithful re-creation of the wine cellar beneath Mount Vernon but, more fancifully, imagined secret catacombs and tunnels that spiral off from that, replete with fabricated but absolutely convincing twisted branches and cobwebs to give them the real patina of age. "The people at Mount Vernon allowed us to take photographs of the wine cellar, and I think we did a pretty good job of reproducing the character of that beautiful place,” notes supervising art director Drew Boughton. "We then imagined that George Washington might have had a secret escape route to save his family if they came under attack during the Revolutionary War, so we designed and created tunnels with the technology of the late 18th century. It was a lot of fun thinking up what that might be, and what mechanics might be involved.”

It was also on Disney's Stage 2 where the first of a series of cavern sets was designed and constructed. This entranceway, and the adjoining cavern called "t

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