Pixeldust Studios recently produced 200 animated sequences that will be featured throughout the new, five-part, mini-series Alien Deep with Bob Ballard, premiering Sept. 16 on the National Geographic Channel.
For Alien Deep with Bob Ballard, Pixeldust Studios was charged with conceiving and producing dramatic animations depicting a wide range of environments, including the depths of the deepest seas, landscapes on Mars, rogue waves, ancient shipwrecks, dwellings for human beings built atop oil rigs and the Hawaiian Islands emerging from the Pacific Ocean.
“Ricardo and his team at Pixeldust Studios certainly had their work cut out for them with the large number of highly complex graphics required for this series,” said Stephen Hunter, executive producer of the series for the National Geographic Channel. “Water replication is one of the most difficult things to accomplish with computer animation, so a great deal of work was involved to get everything right. The end result enhances the viewer experience of this ambitious documentary.”
“The producers of this extraordinary mini-series presented us with an enormous wealth of data,” said Ricardo Andrade, founder and executive creative director of Pixeldust Studios. “We were challenged with translating some of this data into amazing underwater landscapes. For example, we created a fly over of Hawaii with the islands emerging from the water, we recreated a number of historic shipwrecks from ancient Greek and Roman times, and we imagined futuristic dwellings on Mars in which human beings might live.”
Andrade pointed out that the complex fluid simulations were especially demanding, ranging from massive rogue ocean waves to tiny waves that appear in a teacup. “Our other animations presented geologically-correct underwater mountains, debris that appears to rain down into the water from shipwrecks above, and a variety of Earth views looking down through clouds from outer space. All in all, this project was truly a wonderfully creative challenge,” said Andrade.
Isa Alsup, a renowned 3D stereographer and visual effects artist whose credits include the 3D versions of the feature films Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Green Lantern, Conan and Dolphin Tale, worked with Pixeldust Studios on the Alien Deep episode entitled “Fires of Creation.”
“Pixeldust wanted their already beautiful work to give the audience an impact-filled 3D experience in the stereographic version for this episode,” explained Alsup. “In particular, we worked to ensure that our submarine scenes had a genuine ‘being there’ feel. We worked on our landscape and underwater flyovers to make them appear magical, with a hyper-real feel that can best be experienced using 3D animation and 3D stereo presentation. Also, having our audience flying through the clouds in 3D stereo brings a real Superman moment to the show.”
The biggest challenge facing Pixeldust was rebuilding the 2D shots as 3D stereo, throwing away all the depth of illusion tricks used by traditional VFX artists in their work. “On a really short schedule, we were able to deliver all the shots re-mastered in 3D stereo, without using 2D-to-3D conversion and with few differences,” said Alsup. “Then we made sure the 3D stereo version was better than the original.”
The five-part series premieres Sept. 16 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel (NGC).