Eye on the Oscars: Below the Line

One of the most successful and intriguing successes on “Zero Dark Thirty” was the re-creation of Osama Bin Laden’s secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Production designer Jeremy Hindle’s goal was to reproduce the structure as accurately as possible and to scale, even though he couldn’t visit the real location.

“There’s a lot of intel on the Internet about the compound,” Hindle says, including photos from different angles and video footage. After doing his research, Hindle delivered data about the building to London vfx house Framestore (“Harry Potter,” “Sherlock Holmes”), which created 3D models of it.

“We then scouted desert locations in Jordan where we could build it and fly real Black Hawks helicopters over it, and also use these ultra-realistic mock-up Stealths, built in London and shipped out, which couldn’t actually fly but which we could hang from cranes over the compound.”

Because of the powerful down-draft from the Black Hawks, the team then engineered the compound on caissons sunk 9 feet deep “and built everything for real from scratch, to match every detail in all the videos and photos,” Hindle says. “We used real stone, real tiles, and wired up every light switch so that it worked like a real house. We even planted vegetation around it the moment we began building, so by the time we started shooting all the fields around it were green.”

Eye on the Oscars: Below the Line
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