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Pixeldust Makes Waves for NatGeo

Pixeldust Studios produces 200 animated sequences for the new National Geographic Channel five-part mini-series, “Alien Deep with Bob Ballard.”

Bethesda, MD -- Pixeldust Studios, an Emmy Award-winning digital animation, visual design, and production company with studios in Washington, D.C. and New York City, has produced 200 animated sequences that will be featured throughout the new five-part mini-series, Alien Deep with Bob Ballard, premiering September 16-17 on the National Geographic Channel.

For Alien Deep with Bob Ballard, Pixeldust Studios was charged with conceiving and producing dramatic animations depicting everything from the depths of the Earth’s deepest seas, to landscapes on Mars. Rogue waves, ancient shipwrecks, dwellings for human beings built atop oil rigs and the Hawaiian Islands emerging from the Pacific Ocean are just a few examples of these compelling animated sequences. 

“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,” comments Stephen Hunter, Executive Producer of the series for 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.”

Ricardo Andrade, Founder & Executive Creative Director of Pixeldust Studios, said, “The producers of this extraordinary mini-series presented us with an enormous wealth of data. 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 points out that especially demanding were the super complex fluid simulations they devised, which ranged from massive rogue waves in the oceans to tiny waves that appear in a teacup held by Dr. Ballard.  “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,” remarks 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,” states 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,” adds Alsup. “Then we made sure the 3D stereo version was better than the original. The shots we delivered were uniformly magnificent.”  

Source: Pixeldust Studios

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.