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ANGELS & DEMONS

From The Eternal City...To The City Of Angels
Production resumed in Los Angeles, where Rome was resurrected on the studio lot and in nearby locations. 

"Among the locations to build, we needed a large scale version of St. Peter's Square and Piazza Navona,” says Todd Hallowell, executive producer. "I asked the location manager to use Google Earth to find a venue close to Sony. We just started drawing little circles from the studio and the first parcel of land we could see that was vacant land big enough to handle what we needed was the Hollywood Park racetrack. And so I said, ‘Well, drive over there and talk to those people. See if you can make some kind of deal. We're going to need, I don't know, twenty acres of flat parking lot.' He did and they were happy to have us and treated us very well. It was eight miles from the studio and was an ideal location.”

Fittingly, the production's replicas of St. Peter's Square and Piazza Navona sat directly across from possibly the only other faux Roman building in Los Angeles – the L.A. Forum, which resembles, of course, its ancient Italian counterpart. In addition, the production had the pleasure of recreating the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, and Castel Sant'Angelo, as well as the frescoes, fountains and statues of Michelangelo and Bernini.

The art department collected much of its research for sets and props the same way any tourist or student might – through books, the internet and a high-end digital camera. Most areas of the Vatican and Rome welcome tourists wielding cameras of all sorts, so troops from the various departments became part of the daily throng of backpack-wearing, guidebook toting visitors documenting the sites. 

From that research, Allan Cameron's art department designed and built the sets so that walls could be removed or lights and equipment could be accommodated. He worked closely with Angus Bickerton, visual effects supervisor, so that the sets would seamlessly blend with shots of the real places that could be digitally married in post-production. "When I design a set, obviously, I have to keep the camera moves in mind and just how the director might choreograph the action and blocking, so I tend to design a set around the script requirements rather than the reality of the place,” says Cameron. "For instance, the real Santa Maria Della Vittoria in Rome is quite small and the action that takes place there in the film is quite complex. So Sal, our director of photography, and Ron wanted to use camera cranes in there, so we had to enlarge the aisles and enlarge the nave and make it slightly bigger than the real one just to accommodate the action.”

The scenes there also required a raging fire and thick smoke, so the baroque church also featured swaths of blue screen, where the visual effects team would later augment the fire in post-production.

The breathtaking west coast incarnation of St. Peter's Square, rising from behind shipping containers in the sprawling parking lot at Hollywood Park, in contrast, was smaller than the real thing, mostly made of plywood and Styrofoam and accented by green screen. This reduction was no surprise – St. Peter's Square, designed by Bernini, can easily accommodate 300,000 people. The Square is partially ringed by two curved covered colonnades containing 284 Doric columns and the 140 statues of saints and martyrs stand regally on top. 

"Our version was about 2/3 the size of the real one, but it will look full-size on film because of the combination of the physical set, camera angles, the real place and visual effects,” Cameron says. "I spent a lot of time with the visual effects department and Angus, building models, going over drawings, discussing logistics of what should be real and what should later be done in the computer. In the end, we came up with an efficient way of doing it.”

One method the filmmakers used t

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