Asylum Creates VFX for Box Office Topper National Treasure: Book of Secrets for Walt Disney Pictures / Jerry Bruckheimer Films

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The Brief: From opening credit roll to final scene, Los Angeles-based VFX and design company, Asylum created over 700 seamless VFX shots for Walt Disney's

National Treasure: Book of Secrets


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The Plot:

When a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces, Ben's (Nicolas Cage) great-great grandfather is suddenly implicated as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln's death. Determined to prove his ancestor's innocence, Ben follows an international chain of clues that takes him on a chase from Paris to London and ultimately back to America. This journey leads Ben and his crew not only to surprising revelations, but to the trail of the world's most treasured secrets.


Asylum handled a multitude of techniques including: photo-real CG, matte painting, compositing, and roto. The visual effects work ranged from a seamless transition from the Bruckheimer logo to the opening shot of the soldiers coming home five days after the end of the civil war to complete environment replacements for the City of Gold. Asylum's work ran the gamut from relatively simple wire removal to inventing full-blown CG environments, particularly in the sequences after Nicolas Cage's character and his team discover a hidden lake behind Mt. Rushmore. To create the lake, Asylum incorporated shots of Mt. Rushmore with shots of Sylvan Lake. The locations were 20 miles apart so matching the lighting was critical, as were some environmental cleanup. Removing all signs of civilization including roads and the crew, and adding the rocky backs of the presidents' heads.

The Giant's Causeway sequence -- inspired by the famed rock formations in Northern Ireland - proved to be ambitious as well. In the scenes, Gates' mom and dad, separated from the rest of the party, swing across a chasm to continue their journey to the center of the earth. A small portion of the environment, featuring the octagonal rock spires unique to Giant's Causeway, was built on each side of the soundstage with a rope-like vine hanging from the stage ceiling. The sequence was shot from two camera angles simultaneously as the actors performed against blue screen, where the size-to-be-determined cave would be added digitally. The end result deviated from the original idea in that Turteltaub felt that the octagonal spires took the audience out of the movie. In other words, John wanted the environment to look like it was in the same underground space as the Balance Chamber and City of Gold.

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In the Balance Chamber sequence, Asylum's challenge was to make the actors appear that they were 80 feet above the ground. Asylum produced full 3D rock wall extensions. In addition, Asylum built a replica of the 24' X 24' platform in 3D so they could manipulate the rock, roll and pitch of the platform itself as well as creating its initial collapse.

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It was the underground City of Gold, though, that turned out to be the most labor-intensive for the effects team. The Golden Necropolis was too large to fit on any existing soundstage. Instead, the filmmakers opted to physically construct the parts of the set that came into direct contact with the characters, and the rest was digitally added in post. The end result was a larger, golder and more stunning City of Gold.

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Tech Toolbox:

- Autodesk Flame

- Autodesk Maya

- Side Effects Software International's Houdini

- Autodesk Lustre

The Credits:

Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Production Company: Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Director: Jon Turteltaub
EP(s): Barry Waldman, Jerry Bruckheimer
Assoc. Producer: Pat Sandston

Asylum Credits:

Visual Effects CD: Visual Effects Supervisor: Mitchell S. Drain

Visual Effects Producer: Kathy Chasen-Hay

CG Supervisor: Jason Schugardt

Lead Modeller: Greg Stuhl

Lead Matte Painter: Tim Clark

Lead TD: Matthew Maude

General Manager: Emma McGuinness

*"Background" excerpted from exclusive LA Times article written 1.6.08 by Ron Magid*

About Asylum

Asylum is a premier visual effects and design company, handling high-profile features, commercials, music videos, and emerging media content for web and mobile platforms. Asylum created the visual effects for such films as Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (Academy Award and BAFTA nominated), Moulin Rouge, Minority Report, Phantom Of The Opera, Pirates Of The Caribbean ll & lll, Mel Gibsons's Apocalypto, Tony Scott's Déjà Vu, Man on Fire & Domino and Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down. Asylum has done spot work for brands such as Nike, Sony Playstation, Coke, BMW, Gatorade and Visa.

In addition, Asylum Design has created award winning title and graphic design work for such films as Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, X-Men I & II, The Island, Bad Boys II and XXX.

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