Ancient Earth is a three-part documentary series developed and produced by Pixeldust as an example of a complete set of capabilities the studio has to offer. Created for CuriosityStream, Ancient Earth takes viewers on a journey through time from earth’s earliest forms of life, through three major mass extinction events that occurred during the era of dinosaurs. A story about life, death, and life reborn – Ancient Earth serves as a showcase of Pixeldust’s 3D creature animation, environment design, CGI, and storytelling techniques.
Director: Ricardo Andrade
Production: Elizabeth Andrade, Chad Cohen
CG Supervisor: Samar Shool
Lead Animator: Andy Hencken
Editor: Mark Andrade, Rico Andrade
Animator: Jordan Chedalavada, Jason Starbird-Tierney, Henry Bernstein
To create an immersive CGI environment, Pixeldust digitally sculpted and textured these wonderful beasts using ratified prehistoric references. With over a decade of experience in working with dinosaurs, the team improved past creature creations and added more photoreal detail. Zbrush and MARI proved critical for enhancing the close up details on the models and Maya was used for rigging the creatures with intuitive control for all their motions.
It was key that these creatures belonged to the era they lived in with accurate environments, so Pixeldust assembled critical reference imagery and illustrations from various approved scientific sources. Pixeldust used the power of various world-building systems in Maya to populate large scenery and integrated Quixel’s amazing assets to add realism of the vegetation and ground. Maya’s particle systems were used to fill empty underwater terrains with thousands of corals and algae. In addition, Pixeldust added fiery asteroids, giant tsunamis, volcanic explosions, and raining meteorites to the mix!
THE PERMIAN PERIOD
TRIASSIC AND JURASSIC PERIODS
THE CRETACEOUS PERIOD
THE FINAL LOOK AND FEEL
These shots needed to look absolutely photoreal, so Pixeldust made some brilliant choices available at the time with Solid Angle Arnold in Maya and Nuke to add boost to the pipeline. Using Arnold and a robust render farm pipeline in 2017, allowed the team to assemble multiple shots quickly.
Dynamic camera moves allow the viewer to ride along in a dinosaur chase and scurry away from giant explosions, and alluring matte paintings extended the scenes into infinity. The shading and the sub-surface in Arnold and the fine intricate 3d compositing of Nuke helped the creatures pop and blend into nature seamlessly.