How are movie scenes shot in large cities, with numerous extras and buildings?

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How are movie scenes shot in large cities, with numerous extras and buildings?

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Depends on the movie. Sometimes they use real locations and people, sometimes they are entirely computer generated, or sometimes it is both. Some real locations or extras, with distinct features for the setting of the film added in, or masses of people added in if there’s large armies and things.

If it is a real, one-site location, they’ll usually block off traffic in order to facilitate filming. The famous “I’m walking here.” like from Midnight Cowboys happened specifically because someone ignored that. An actual cab driver drove through the set of the film, and Dustin Hoffman improvised that line when it happened.

If you see clips from sets of the Marvel movies for instance, the ENTIRE set is often one big green set to allow for all the effects and stuff to happen.

Though not in a big city, the Lord of the Rings movies are a good example of the middle ground. They had an actual number of extras, then digitally padded numbers to fluff up the armies.

To add another example to the above comment, some scenes that have to be filmed in a real location rather than a set are filmed bit by bit over the course of a few days and at certain times in order to cause the least disruption possible.

The best example of this I can think of is the scene in 28 Days Later where Cillian Murphy’s character comes out of the hospital and walks across a deserted Westminster Bridge. Even though it’s more about a lack of extras than having huge crowds on city streets, a similar amount of planning goes into shooting something so ambitious.

Since it’s impossible to close off one of London’s busiest bridges for even 15-20 minutes during the day, the crew worked in the least disruptive way possible – the scene was shot early on a summer morning (when there’s the least amount of traffic and people on the streets in daylight) and was split across very short bursts of filming on multiple days (usually only a few minutes at a time before the bridge had to be reopened). You can actually see evidence of this in the film, as the time on Big Ben keeps changing between shots.

So, often, what might appear to be a city scene set in the middle of the day might actually be just after sunrise on a summer morning.