Oscar FX: Building a Better Rome

To create a sweeping panorama of flames and carnage, the filmmakers shot live-action footage of the battle with a locked-off camera, then repositioned people and props for additional footage. The three static shots were then scanned into a computer, lens distortion from each frame was removed, and additional elements (such as hundreds of flaming arrows and firepots) were digitally inserted. Finally, the strung-together (or tiled) plates were used to generate a long camera pan across the raging battlefield, thereby making up for what the actual location lacked in size and danger.

The most unusual use of CGI came following the unfortunate circumstances of Oliver Reed's passing. The veteran actor, who played Proximo, died during shooting in Malta, with scenes left unshot. Some computer wizardry saved the show and helped rescue what was one of Reed's most notable performances.

"Pietro Scalia, the editor, pulled out performances of Oliver that he liked that we could sort of write a story around," Nelson said. "Those shots were used for the front-on closeups of Oliver. But we had to change his clothes, take him out of scenes, relight him, change his hair and even shave his beard, and then we put him in new backgrounds. And then for the wide shots we shot with the body double. In the big mix of what we did, it wasn't our most difficult work, but it was very important to the movie.

"Oliver was giving such a great performance," Nelson said. "All we did is really help him finish it."

Part Two: The Perfect Storm

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