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damnfx Creates a Monster

damnfx has delivered 12 minutes of character animation and vfx for SEA MONSTERS: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE. The large-format, stereoscopic film from National Geographic opened last Friday in a record number of IMAX, IMAX 3-D, Real D and other specialty theaters. The director is Sean MacLeod Phillips and the producers are Jini Durr, Lisa Truitt and Jack Geist.

SEA MONSTERS was an immensely challenging project, and the final result is a tribute to National Geographic's deep knowledge of large-format and stereoscopic filmmaking, and their profound understanding of, and respect for, the visual effects process, said damnfx Exec Producer Peter Skovsbo.

damnfx Visual Effects Supervisor Derek Wentworth, Art Director Mark Dubeau and their team of 70 artists and technical staff created 82 visual effects shots for the film, featuring giant monsters that lived in our oceans during the Cretaceous period. More than 60 different creatures were designed and created at damnfx (based on reference materials provided by National Geographic paleontologists), as well as all the necessary water interactions, bubbles, floating plankton and particulates and interactive lighting and light rays in the shots.

National Geographic is a brand that won't compromise on quality or accuracy, and damnfx brought a high level of both to SEA MONSTERS, added MacLeod Phillips. Most importantly to me, the studio had the animation strengths that gave me the confidence they could pull off a wide range of scenes requiring believable animal behavior. The entire team showed a high level of creativity and technical innovation in every aspect of vfx production, from design through compositing. Whether the creatures had fins, paddles, flippers or tentacles, damnfx delivered creatively and financially, on our schedule and budget.

Because of the intense technical demands of a large-format stereo film such as SEA MONSTERS (rendering a frame can take eight times longer than a comparable standard feature film, for example), damnfx invested in some significant technology upgrades for the project: a faster network, more and faster render processors and more than 27 terabytes of storage space on a state-of-the-art Blue Arc server, as well as developing new tools and techniques for its artists to help achieve the directors vision.

SEA MONSTERS really did require us drawing on almost every aspect of vfx creation to realize photoreal CG creatures, both as individuals and with thousands in frame at once, particularly to the level of detail required for a stereo large-format production, said Wentworth. With the development of in-house flocking software to create swarms of schooling fish, fluid dynamics for complex water interaction shots, custom image-based lighting rigs and with the assistance of 3-D compositing methods, we were able to bring life to our cast of prehistoric SEA MONSTERS.

damnfx is an award-winning visual effects and animation studio located in Montreal, Canada, devoted to creating high-end digital imagery for film, television and commercials. The studio currently houses a team of more than 80 artists and industry professionals, and its client/credit list includes Microsoft/Bungie, Sony Pictures, France 2, Marathon, BBC, Discovery Communications, National Geographic Society, Cirque du Soleil and Galafilm.