2022 - The Year from Space
Zoo VFX/Atlantic, C4 - 2022
Uncovering the extraordinary tales of 2022 through a lens of a thousand satellites
As an experienced motion designer, maps have always been one of my favorite types of graphic I make for broadcast. From my very first graphic shot for Nat Geo, I have continually created maps for TV and Film projects. So when I was approached to work on a show centered around the imagery captured by over a thousand satellites that take millions of images of Earth every day, I knew it was a perfect fit for my skills and passion.
The challenge was monumental, with a short production timeline and stories being rewritten in real-time as they unfolded in 2022. To supplement the archive-heavy show, I needed to create dynamic shots that zoomed and focused into various areas, from global reveals to pinpoint locations. However, obtaining the necessary imagery and textures was not as simple as using publicly available sources like Google or Bing, as they were licensed and watermarked, and contained other imagery that was not clearable for TV production. After exploring different options and assessing costs, I settled on using VC Orb and Geolayers plug-ins within After Effects. These tools allowed me to set up and render fast previews, crucial for the extensive scope of the project that involved over 80 VFX sequences in the style of landmark BBC productions.
To achieve seamless transitions between global curvature and flat imagery, similar to Google Earth, I created a 30K image of the Earth using NASA and other license-free data sources, and utilized AI upscaling for material passes and mattes in VC Orb. This was the maximum limit of what After Effects could handle, but it was necessary to achieve the desired zoom effects. Additionally, I built a customized seasonal layer option into my pipeline, as the stories in the show often revolved around changing environmental conditions across different seasons. This required adapting shaders to match colors and textures of the archive imagery and seasonal variations, such as sea ice and desert spread or greenery.
Another important element of the show was the satellite overhead zoom-ins, which required careful stitching and blending of images. Geolayers proved to be the best tool for this, allowing me to pull imagery from various data sources using API keys, and customize and add design elements to match seamlessly. Maptiler was chosen as the preferred vendor for their reasonably priced and high-quality imagery coverage of most parts of the globe.
various tests using different software, map API's and plugins
In addition to the VFX sequences, I was also responsible for creating the branding, design elements, and titles for the show, keeping in mind the potential for it to become a recurring series. To ensure flexibility for future modifications and expansions, I created an easy-to-use project that can be easily customized and expanded upon.
Overall, this project presented significant technical and creative challenges, from licensing constraints to seamless integration of various imagery and design elements. However, my expertise in motion design, combined with meticulous planning and innovative solutions, allowed me to deliver compelling visuals that brought the show to life, capturing the beauty and vulnerability of our planet through stunning map imagery.