TV Documentary

Reconstructing a Roman villa that was buried in ash almost 2000 years ago.

When Impossible Factual came to us and asked if we’d be able to help them with their upcoming documentary about ancient scrolls buried in ash and the race to read the ancient text held within, we immediately imagined that our remit would be to visualise these scrolls and the words held within.

What we didn’t realise was that this journey would ultimately lead to us reconstructing the magnificent Villa dei Papyri in all its glory.

Using 3D animation to bring this building back to life (and back to death!) was a bold but very rewarding endeavour, and one we were very glad to have been asked to be involved with.

The documentary was produced for prestigious international partners WNET/PBS, France 5, SBS, ZDF Studios and aired in the UK on C5 in May 2024. Watch the trailer here!


Ancient maps, and blueprints from the excavations

Using ancient maps, and blueprints from the excavations, we began to build up the structure in 3D. We worked closely with Steve, Jon and Will at Impossible Factual who brought their wealth of historical and architectural knowledge to the table, and helped us shape and refine what we believe to be the most complete representation of the Villa dei Papyri ever constructed on film.

We opted to port the structure into Unreal for rendering and landscaping, which was a learning curve, but a decision we think has paid off in the final rendering of this magnificent dwelling.


One of the detailed maps used to faithfully reconstruct the Villa. This map showcases the original wall boundaries and locations of artefacts as they were discovered, along with the network of tunnels dug out during the excavation.

The Art of Destruction


Close attention

Close attention was paid to the Tablinum, where it is believed the scrolls would have been laid out and read by the villas wealthy owners. This involved the reconstruction of a mosaic floor and multiple frescos that adorned the walls.

The film also required some VFX shots of Vesuvius’ eruption and the pyroclastic flow that ultimately was the demise of the villa and it’s inhabitants.

Behind the Scenes

A collection of behind the scenes clips from throughout the project. 


Directed by:

Produced by: 

VFX Production:

VFX Artists:

Adam Luria

Impossible Factual and WNET Group production in association with Channel 5, the WNET Group, ZDF Studios and France Télévision

Lumiere Studios

Gavin Lester, Duncan Burch, Terry Lee, Russell Traill, Tharun Joseph, Richard Burch

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