Moonraker VFX x-rays the earth in 3D for new Nat Geo series

Member News  |  06 May 2020

New seismic data used to create 3D imagery that ‘visualises the impossible’.

Moonraker, an award-winning visual effects studio based in Bristol, has collaborated with Blink Films for the new National Geographic series, X-Ray Earth. The three-part series looks deep inside the earth at the origins of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, and how their movements underground impact life on the earth’s crust.

The team at Moonraker used raw data from some of the world’s leading geologists to create 3D shots of tectonic plate movements, magma chambers, the earth’s mantle and the composition of material at the planet’s core.

“Ultimately our aim here was to visualise the impossible – how do you show a void in the earth’s core on screen for example? It might seem like a big black space, but when you get down to the detail there’s so much more to understand. The project was unusual in that there was no precedent for visualising this sort of scale.”

Graham Stott, Creative Lead at Moonraker

Moonraker worked closely with Blink Films to create shots that were faithful to the original data and designed to work in an overall series style. The VFX studio used an innovative process that blended high-end simulation modelling with an X-Ray series look to bring scientific raw data to life and creatively conceptualise what’s happening beneath the earth’s crust.

The work Moonraker produced was terrific and it lifted the show into something really special. They all went the extra mile. Taking a series of numbers from a spreadsheet and turning them into sequences that are scientifically accurate, but also relatable and engaging for the audience was a challenge that we embraced,” said Tom Downes, head of 3D at Moonraker. “The sheer scale of the subject matter is impressive, but it’s when you look closely at the geology that things start to get really interesting. Our challenge was to communicate all that creatively in 3D.”

Dan Gold, Executive Producer at Blink

The team used Fusion to create many of the final composite images, taking advantage of it’s comprehensive 3D toolset to ensure shots flowed more smoothly through the studio pipeline and retained a more consistent aesthetic.

“Fusion is a no brainer for this kind of work, it’s fast, powerful and we can use it to iterate shots quickly. For X-Ray Earth we’ve used powerful 3D VFX to turn the earth inside out and explain what’s happening beneath our feet.”

Graham Stott, Creative Lead at Moonraker

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