Thou shalt steal a shot

Rainmaker created a digital replica of St. Sulpice for 'Da Vinci'

Like the heroes in “The Da Vinci Code,” the artists of Rainmaker had to operate covertly, sneaking into a historic church to solve a puzzle.

Problem: A pivotal scene from the film is set in the Paris church of St. Sulpice, off-limits by order of the Catholic Church and too famous for another church to stand in for it.

Solution: a virtual set.

So last November, three Rainmaker artists posing as tourists went into the sanctuary and shot more than 1,100 high-resolution digital photos.

Then, in Rainmaker’s new London production studio, artists used the images to build a 3-D digital model of the church. Only the floor, pews, altar and the lower sections of a few columns were constructed for the physical set.

Getting the photos proved difficult. There were only four to six hours of usable light each day, and the photogs could not use tripods.

Worse, when they arrived, the church had been decorated with huge posters for a festival.

“We walked in and our hearts sank,” says Les Quinn, CG supervisor on the film. “We thought we’d have to build half of the church, then fake the other half.”

They got their images, though, when the posters were removed on the third day of photography.

In the end, Rainmaker made the digital St. Sulpice look even better than the real thing.

“At one point there was a fresco hidden by one of the pillars. We moved the painting a foot to the left and suddenly it was in the shot,” says Jason Dowdeswell, a digital production supervisor at Rainmaker.

Now that the word is out about Rainmaker’s caper, the Catholic Church may be more vigilant about photography at locations for Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons.”

But the producers aren’t taking any chances: They’ve already visited the real-life locales for the story and taken plenty of photos.

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