This is a show Indigo Films produced for the Travel Channel, in which our cameras got access to the Fort Knox military complex. Most famous for its gold vault, the facility also has one of the largest armored tank divisions in the country, and has a state-of-the-art Urban Assault Training facility.

But of course, what most people want to see is the inside of the gold vault. Unfortunately, cameras have only been allowed inside one time–back in the 1970s. I scrutinized what little footage there was, and amassed as many visual cues as I could, then set upon the task of creating a 3D model of the interior (and exterior, though that was far less difficult) of the gold vault.

We start by flying up to the front door of the building enclosing the gold vault. Some of the textures here were from aerial shots of the area, and some generic elements were used.
over the fences and razor wire…
past the guard positions…
…and here is a shot of the layout of Vault A.
This is a storyboard for the design of the metal detector that is known to be inside the complex. I did a fair amount of research on detectors of the type and model which may have been utilized there, but it came down to an educated guess.
The finished metal detector unit.

Another interesting part of the Fort Knox facility is the Zussman Urban Assault Training Facility. This is a collection of buildings and half-buildings that provide a representation of the various types of structures one might find in a modern city. This includes schools, office complexes, hotels, dwellings, and even an embassy. Soldiers can train in this environment and practice the tactics used when fighting is done door-to-door in an urban environment. The buildings are shown to be partially demolished in some cases, and everything is rigged for sound and pyrotechnics.

I needed to create a set depicting this complex, so I worked both from photographs taken in the field and from the site map for the complex.

We start with a fly-in of the complex. The surrounding hills are heavily wooded. The red brick building in the foreground is the school.
The water tower is actually an observation tower, and is filled with the enormous amount of machinery and computers needed to conduct the simulation. Military observers can watch the action from the ring of windows in the tower.
The school and athletic field beyond. Loudspeakers at the front of the building even broadcast the sounds of children at play (presumedly only during recess).
The green buildings are supposed to be urban dwellings (condominiums, to be exact).
That is the Hotel Zussman in the background, and what’s left of the fire station in the foreground. Some of the buildings in the complex are very damaged (simulated, of course). The lesson to be learned is that just because you make it to a building does not guarantee you are safe from hostile fire.
Here is a close-up of the school and buses.