The Making of One Strange Rock.

Nutopia and Protozoa pictures commissioned Moonraker VFX to work as a creative partner with Framestore on the series One Strange Rock for National Geographic together with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky.

  The visual effects team  at Moonraker created sequences across all 10-episodes, which revealed the relationship and inter connectiveness between the planet’s life-support systems. We created an online style guide that VFX artists and directors could reference. This was key in setting the aesthetic vision for the series and had strong input from Darren Aronofsky. As with any creative process, Moonraker, encountered several interesting challenges, the requirement to create shots without any or limited reference material and for the shots to be aesthetically pleasing yet scientifically accurate. 

The visual effects team at Moonraker created sequences across all 10-episodes, which revealed the relationship and inter connectiveness between the planet’s life-support systems. We created an online style guide that VFX artists and directors could reference. This was key in setting the aesthetic vision for the series and had strong input from Darren Aronofsky. As with any creative process, Moonraker, encountered several interesting challenges, the requirement to create shots without any or limited reference material and for the shots to be aesthetically pleasing yet scientifically accurate. 

 “Often we were asked to come up with something that was invisible or had no reference imagery. We had to come up with a visual solution which was emotive and complemented the narrative of the sequence. “This is a far more creative exercise than doing a set extension where the requirement is simply to make something look realistic”
— Graham Stott, Creative Lead at Moonraker VFX. 

The 'Shield' Episode

  In a sequence  of shots revealing the Earth's core, Moonraker analysed detailed imagery of the sun as a starting point and then developed a look that felt unique and unfamiliar. Technically these challenges were overcome by using Houdini for complex simulations of fluids and motions which depicted the intense energy generated within the centre of the earth, a bit like a huge plasma dynamo. 

In a sequence of shots revealing the Earth's core, Moonraker analysed detailed imagery of the sun as a starting point and then developed a look that felt unique and unfamiliar. Technically these challenges were overcome by using Houdini for complex simulations of fluids and motions which depicted the intense energy generated within the centre of the earth, a bit like a huge plasma dynamo. 

“As a result of collaborative teamwork we managed to create a resulting image which was an impressionistic dynamic world representing heat and light from a dynamic space.” 
— Tom Downes, Head of 3D at Moonraker.
 Finished frame showing magnetosphere around the earth.

Finished frame showing magnetosphere around the earth.

 Look development for the Earth's core.

Look development for the Earth's core.

The 'Genesis' Episode

  Shots which represented  the start of life were created by visualising the birth of the cell ‘Luca’ (into what became us – Humans).  These shots commenced with the creation of a digital sketch book: using a variety of sources as inspiration a combination of differential mesh and laplacian growth techniques in Houdini resulted in a series of organic looking shapes for the cells and cell interiors.

Shots which represented the start of life were created by visualising the birth of the cell ‘Luca’ (into what became us – Humans).  These shots commenced with the creation of a digital sketch book: using a variety of sources as inspiration a combination of differential mesh and laplacian growth techniques in Houdini resulted in a series of organic looking shapes for the cells and cell interiors.

 3D concept art for cell interior. 

3D concept art for cell interior. 

 Final image from cell destruction sequence.

Final image from cell destruction sequence.

 One Strange Rock is currently airing on  SKY  and available to download on  Amazon Prime .

One Strange Rock is currently airing on SKY and available to download on Amazon Prime.

Jon Grafton

Moonraker VFX, Oakfield Road, Bristol, England, BS8, UK