Auckland has played a starring role in TV and films for decades. This week we launch a new series, revisiting places in and around the city made famous on the big and small screen.

It wasn't that long ago that you could have shot a post-apocalyptic drama in downtown Auckland on a Sunday afternoon and had quite a realistic background. No longer. The creators of teen sci-fi thriller The Cul de Sac, written and directed by Stephen Campbell, had to resort to digital manipulation to wipe signs of life from the face of the city.

In a chilling scene from episode two, survivor Rose (played by Greta Gregory) is seen walking along a motorway off-ramp above Auckland's central Spaghetti Junction, which is eerily devoid of cars. The unused ramp she is walking on has now been converted into the "pink path" cycleway, but getting rid of all the other signs of life in the scene was a bit more of a challenge, says Campbell.

"We filmed the shot on a Sunday but those roads are never really empty," he says. "We just locked the shot off and filmed, focusing on Greta, walking down the unused piece of ramp."

Then it was up to motion graphics guru Phil Brough of Vinewood to "cut and paste" sections of empty motorway to create a realistic image.


"In the shot there would be cars driving by, but there would be moments when there were clear areas of road. We'd cut that little bit out and freeze-frame it and slowly just jigsaw it together so there were no cars at all," Brough says.

"Basically it was like a huge moving jigsaw, but it was kind of easy. It was just cutting stuff out and sticking it back in.

"A lot of what we do today is a digital interpretation of how they used to do it - they used to actually cut bits of film and re-expose them as a way of doing the same thing, but it's much easier and faster and more affordable now."

Where: Spaghetti Junction without cars
As seen in: The Cul de Sac (TV2, 2016)
Starring: Greta Gregory, KJ Apa, Beulah Koale, Molly Leishman, Flynn Steward

The Cul de Sac series 1 available on TVNZ OnDemand; a second series has been confirmed.