Martian Labs Wakes Up for Pioneer Investments and BlackBox Digital

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Martian Labs, in collaboration with design and visual effects studio BlackBox Digital, recently created a photoreal cgi water environment, including ocean surfaces, cg boat wakes and cg splashes for Pioneer Investments "Imaginary Ship."

Martian Labs, in collaboration with design and visual effects studio BlackBox Digital, recently created a photoreal cgi water environment, including ocean surfaces, cg boat wakes and cg splashes for Pioneer Investments "Imaginary Ship."

The spot features scenes from five different oceans around the world with cg boat wakes and bow waves cutting through the waters, suggesting the presence of an invisible fast moving sailboat. A large yacht is finally revealed in the last ocean shot followed by the Pioneer Investments logo. The objective of the spot was to show the client's presence spanning the globe.

"It was a tall order," according to Kent Demaine, visual effects supervisor and co-owner of BlackBox Digital. "The spot called for ocean simulations which went all the way to the horizon, and since the boat was invisible, the wake itself was the hero." Adds Demaine, "We had an unbelievably tight schedule and a modest effects budget so we needed a team that knew water well."

Martian Labs principal Ivan DeWolf stated, "We used our suite of Hydrous Tools to develop the ocean surfaces." Hydrous Tools, a cutting edge ocean surface simulation software created by Martian Labs, saves production time by generating photoreal ocean and liquid surfaces without needing to run time- and processor-intensive dynamic system simulations. The custom software has been licensed to several major visual effects facilities, including Digital Domain which has employed the software for ocean surface effects on several features, including Flags of Our Fathers.

Says DeWolf, "Hydrous Tools allowed us to spend our time developing the look of the shot instead of waiting for dynamic simulations to compute. BlackBox Digital's Demaine concurs, "Using Hydrous Tools as a starting platform you already have beautiful ocean surface and photoreal water so you are polishing instead of starting from scratch." DeWolf and his team wrote displacement and surface shaders to create the varying ocean sequences, including foam trails, white caps, wakes and the lighting of moonlit to sunset waters. Instead of delivering single final 3D elements, Martian Labs delivered multiple rendered layers to BlackBox Digital to allow their compositors more freedom while compositing against the varying background plates.

Says DeWolf, "We are looking to establish alliances with clients seeking expertise for complex CG shots like those we did for BlackBox."

Martian Labs is a Hollywood based visual effects and custom software company specializing in creating photoreal effects of natural phenomenon, dynamics and procedural animation for commercials, feature film and television. Martian Labs has also recently collaborated with Furious FX, Method Studios and V-Squared Labs, providing complex 3D elements for their features and commercials, including effects for Santa Clause 3, Sony Electronics, Hummer and enhanced visual effects for Dark City: the DVD.

Martian Labs

CG Lead: Ivan DeWolf

CG Artist: Brian Knudson

VFX Producer: Sara Lee

BlackBox Digital

VFX Supervisor/Compositor: Kent Demaine

Inferno artist: Eli Jarra

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Sara Lee
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