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Pixeldust Creates 'Untamed' Animations for NatGeo

Emmy Award-winning digital animation and visual design company Pixeldust Studios has produced original animations for National Geographic Channel’s upcoming mini-series event “Untamed Americas.”

Press release from Pixeldust:

Bethesda, MD --

Emmy Award-winning digital animation and visual design company Pixeldust Studios has produced original animations for National Geographic Channel’s upcoming mini-series event Untamed Americas. The show premieres June 10-11 on the National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo MUNDO.

Pixeldust Studios produced highly detailed animations depicting the geography and topography of the North and South American continents, as seen by the viewer from above. Based on detailed satellite imagery and extensive research of these continents, the work was designed to embellish the above-the-Earth photography shot by the show’s producers.

Ashley Hoppin, Executive Producer of Untamed Americas for National Geographic Channels, said, “Pixeldust’s stylistic aerials are both real and other-worldly. They make the viewer feel like he/she is flying up, down, and above the Americas, like Superman.”

“The challenge for us on this massive project was how to best recreate the vast terrain of North and South America using reference materials from satellite data and maps while  keeping it manageable in a 3d animation software,” states Ricardo Andrade, Founder/Executive Creative Director of Pixeldust Studios. “We wished to present a photorealistic look to the terrain on the Earth but didn’t want to create the look of traditional maps,” comments Andrade. “Instead, we spent a good deal of time ensuring that the true colors, and  the densities of the colors and the terrain, ranging from clouds to snow capped mountaintops to ground landscape to oceans, would match the video plates that were shot. Our CGI work had to blend in seamlessly with the actual video footage that the producers brought to us.”

“We used E-On’s Vue 10 software, which offered us billions of polygons, to depict the various elevations of the Earth’s terrain featured in this show,” adds Andrade. “We also incorporated Autodesk’s Maya 2013 software to create the camera moves as a viewer POV ‘fly-over,’ so there would be seamless transitions from the actual video plate projections,  to our CGI terrain, and then back to the outgoing video plates.”

Samar Shool, Pixeldust Studios’ Technical Director, oversaw the challenge of creating an accurate and seamless look. “We had to present high-altitude travel scenery over everything from Alaska to Patagonia, while depicting every mountain and every detail of the Earth’s actual terrain,” comments Shool. “Our goal was to recreate these details exactly, based on the satellite imagery and other materials. We delivered digital set extensions that were both technologically and artistically correct, matching the starting point and ending point using video plates that were shot on location. We took our ‘look and feel’ references, colors, tones, and densities, from the beautiful footage that was presented to us by the producers of this program.”

In other Pixeldust Studios news, the company has significantly updated much of its technology with the addition of E-On Software’s Vue 10 product and with Southpawtech’s Tactic creative management software, joining the company’s long existing Autodesk’s Maya 2013 product. Pixeldust has also integrated GameCaster True Virtual Cinematography product into its production mix to help produce natural and organic camera moves inside any 3D package. Also, a new 3D Stereo edit room has been added expanding their 3D Stereo suite of tools. In addition, Pixeldust continues to regularly increase and expand its overall render farm capacity.

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.