Tag Archives: Rumble VFX

Lost Cities Revealed – 3D Builds of Past Civilisations

In 2023 I was brought in to Rumble VFX as a lead 3D artist on Raw TV’s documentary series, Lost Cities Revealed.

Each episode covers a different location where up to date archaeological methods have revealed settlements to be larger and of greater importance than previously thought.

The VFX task was to create a big moment at the end of each of the six episodes, the current landscape altering to show how things may have looked in the heyday of each civilisation.

The Scottish episode focussed on Pictic Celts, a civilisation a few of us had experience recreating together for Britannia many moons ago. In a sense that made it easiest to make it look convincingly real. It probably helped I holidayed in the Highlands immediately prior to working on the series too! Little circular huts, wooden fences, fires, smoke, a suggestion of farming all helped to set the scene and give atmosphere.

Oman’s episode focusses on the first ever trade post at an oasis, an area of water-fed rich soil in an otherwise desert landscape. For this one I had to create buildings based on a few drawings and the excellent feedback from the director. The actual archaeologists on the ground had moved on to another project and didn’t have ready access to comms. Having made a generic square hut with a procedural redshift material for the mud walls, I laid out a city based on a map of the area, featuring irrigation and date palms.

Each episode came with a LiDar scan of the site, produced by industry specialists, Visual Skies. The Oman one really helped as the 2nd shot transpired to not be wide enough to fit in the oasis itself during the reveal. I replaced it with an entirely CG shot, recreating the camera move, only higher and wider.

As with all documentary work I’ve undertaken there’s a strong element of artistic license, be that in the layout of the cities, the overall look of buildings compared to each other or colours used by civilisations. In short, research is key when working on scientific or historical stuff, but where evidence is lacking, artistic expression helps.

The video above also contains shots from Sudan and Mexico.

Lost Cities Revealed is on Nat Geo and Disney Plus.
I’ve done a lot of documentary work. To see more, take a look through the Projects page!