The Bible's Buried Secrets

From Concept to Complete
By Rob Tinworth
Editor, "The Bible's Buried Secrets"

In addition to stunning location filming, a number of tools (and some very talented artists) were employed to bring the "The Bible's Buried Secrets" to life. The short video clip, "From Concept to Complete," offers a snapshot of some of the techniques used. In creating this clip, I wanted to let you hear the beautiful music of our composer, Ed Tomney, uninterrupted by narration. So, for more details on the techniques, please read on.

Portraying the Bible

The starting point for any investigation into the Bible is, unsurprisingly, the text of the Bible itself. One of the first challenges we faced in making the documentary was how to portray the biblical stories. Familiar artwork created useful touchstones, but much of the investigation involves closely analyzing the text itself.

The solution was to create a "3-D Bible," a combination of text and pictures that we could travel through and across. In early tests, this was conceived as a computer graphic that we could fly a virtual camera around. But the animation team from Handcranked Studios persuaded us that we could achieve a more organic feel using traditional stop-motion photography.

The shots were first mocked up using Apple's Motion, a graphics program that allowed us to puzzle out the individual elements and the camera moves before the time-consuming process of animating the real Bible. Stop-motion photography involves taking a still picture for every frame of the animation. With 24 frames per second, and animations lasting up to a minute, it could take 2-3 days to shoot each move.

The biblical text is only one part of the story. We also needed a way to visualize where the Bible and archeology converge, and also where they do not. To achieve this, we came up with the concept of a scholar's desktop. This allowed us to place maps and archeological artifacts in the same space as the Bible, a very useful way to compare the different sources.


Recreations are a helpful tool to visualize crucial parts of the story for which there simply are no pictures. Because of their expense and the controlled environment in which they are created, they are often one of the last things to be filmed in a documentary. This allows us to get the story straight and decide on exactly which recreations we need before filming them.

Storyboards are used as placeholders for early screenings, and allow us to work out the scene so that the shoot itself is more efficient.


To visualize the biblical stories themselves, we drew on famous artwork from the likes of Raphael, Caravaggio, and Doré. There are almost 100 separate pieces of art licensed for the documentary, drawn from a database of 650 images.

For certain key scenes, we used a technique sometimes called extrapolation. For this process, an image is "cut up" into several layers. For example, the figures in the foreground are separated from the background. The separate 2-D layers are then arranged in a computer program in a 3-D space, with the background placed behind the foreground. This allows us to animate a virtual camera that can travel through the layers, creating a perspective shift between each element. The result immerses the viewer in the scene, as you feel like you are traveling through the picture.

Color Correction

Color correction is the final stage of the edit, and is much as it sounds. A colorist goes through each shot of the documentary and tweaks the contrast, brightness, and color of every frame. This allows us to match two shots that may have been filmed on different days so that they look like they are part of the same scene.

Color correction can also be used to stylize sequences, such as the recreations, giving them a different look to signpost that they are representations of past events.

Color evokes an emotional reaction—yellows and golds are warm, comfortable colors, while blues and greens are cold. Subtly shifting the color towards one of these extremes can dramatically change the feel of a scene.

3-D Graphics

To visualize Jerusalem in ancient times, we commissioned a 3-D computer model. Every detail of the city was exhaustively researched to ensure accuracy with what we know from archeology. Early animatics were then created to determine the camera moves. Finally, texture and lighting were added to bring the city to life.

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Rob Tinworth

Editor Rob Tinworth, in his editing suite at Providence Pictures

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