Visitors to the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising will now be able to grasp the scale of devastation inflicted on the Polish capital by Nazi German forces in World War Two with the help of a 3D film.
Adolf Hitler brutally suppressed the 1944 uprising, reducing the once-elegant, bustling city of 1.3 million to a burning shell whose ruins sheltered fewer than 1,000 people.
The six-minute film City of Ruins simulates the flight of an allied B-25 bomber of the type that flew sorties with supplies for the insurgents during their 63 days of struggle that have become a symbol of Poland's resistance to tyranny.
Using historical images and records, it recreates a detailed city model as it was after the uprising, with bridges across the Vistula River destroyed and whole districts including the Jewish Ghetto completely leveled.
The film City of Ruins was made because we couldn't use words and black and white photographs to describe what Warsaw looked like at the beginning of 1945, said Jan Oldakowski, director of the museum.
When we met guests from abroad, we felt they don't understand, that they consider scenes from (Roman Polanski's movie) The Pianist when the pianist Szpilman walks through destroyed Warsaw as a beautiful artistic metaphor, not reality.
The release of the film, which is intended to be viewed with 3D glasses, is timed to coincide with the 66th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising on August 1, 1944.
Most of the destruction of the city resulted from the German army's revenge for the uprising against their brutal rule.
Michal Gryn, from the Platige Image studio which made the film, said it exceeds anything achieved before in 3D animation.
This is a world-scale project because even the biggest Hollywood studios haven't done anything like this, haven't created a virtual city and filmed it in one shot, he said.
There have been dozens, probably hundreds of war movies with shots of a destroyed city, but these last at most a few dozen seconds, Gryn said.
Gryn first filmed modern day Warsaw from a helicopter and later filled the pictures with detail from some 2,000 historic pictures, films and paintings from the museum archives, recreating the city building by building, street by street.
The more elements in a scene, the more buildings and rubble, the more time is needed for the computer to process it. Here we have 7,500 frames. One frame takes two hours to render. We had over 100 of the most advanced computers rendering this film for two months, Gryn added.
The museum is a major tourist attraction and drew 500,000 visitors last year.
The Soviet-backed communist regime rebuilt Warsaw virtually from scratch after the war, including its graceful Old Town of neo-classical buildings as well as apartment and office blocks in the Socialist Realism style favoured by Poland's new masters.
Today, Warsaw is again a vibrant business and administrative hub of nearly 2 million people.
(Writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Angus MacSwan)