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History of the Emirates

Atlantic TV / UAE/Nat Geo


HOTE 5x 1 hour, 3x 1 hour (international)
Appstore, 5x 3-5min VR films

Working with Atlantic Productions’s in-house VFX company, ZOO VFX, I was brought on to create map graphics and to help develop an illustrated method of depicting various scenes of the History of the Emirates. There was also an app and various VR films made, in conjunction with the series for the UAE market with Image Nation.

For the first time ever, the ancient history of the United Arab Emirates is depicted in this informative and entertaining three-part documentary series. Stretching back 125,000 years and culminating in the union in 1971, HISTORY OF THE EMIRATES profiles the ancient foundations of the modern country - exploring some of the region's most historic sites, uncovering innovations that allowed its forefathers to thrive on the land, and revealing the latest archaeological discoveries. Utilizing state-of-the-art CGI technology, 360-degree camerawork and incredible archaeological footage, the series brings to life the UAE's past unlike anything seen about the region. HISTORY OF THE EMIRATES will remind local viewers of the enduring ties that exist between the country's remarkable past and its amazing present while revealing a completely unseen civilization to viewers new to the region.

This was a landmark project, commissioned by the crown prince himself to be broadcast on the major UAE domestic channels and also to be versioned out for international markets too. There were 5 x 1-hour episodes and 3 x1 hours for the international versions. This would involve both English and Arabic versions, as well as market variations too. In total there were about 10-15 minutes of this type of graphic per episode.

Animation examples

Map examples

At the heart of my role was animating a series of commissioned illustrations by the incredibly talented Alberto Antinori which i would manipulate to be dimensionalized and brought to life. Due to cost and time constraints in filming actual reconstructions of these events, it was decided early on that these vivid blocked out animations would be a far better method of storytelling, and would avoid many of the cultural sensitivities, within the UAE and the wider Arabic world. Alberto produced photoshop scanned drawings he had made, numbering in the hundreds over the year of production. I would take the rough guide VO and assemble these sequences, often accompanied by the timeline motif used in the series. It was always a great surprise seeing what Alberto would draw up for the sequences we had planned. The director David Lee was super organized and had a clear idea of the direction of the series, which is always a good thing.

Map GFX examples

Timeline Animation examples

Another part of the series was the creation of explainer maps for the numerous places in the show. As these were all created for Imax and 4K size formats, this proved rather challenging finding high quality data to be able to zoom in and out of the area. From a global level to an almost city view. I had found an old NASA satellite image from the 80s, but of course the UAE has witnessed an explosion of growth since then and I had to add modern additions, notably of the major urban areas. This was close to a 20k pixel size image, so about the limits to which After Effects can handle and display. Also finding a lot of the places the crew had shot in was troublesome, as there are many names and spellings for the same places and the interior and historic UAE isn’t well mapped in this regard. This map was a custom creation using the free licence satellite imagery and custom textures to create a hybrid style, that i could also seamlessly match with a world texture to create global shots, involving large continental moves and these areas. This is always tricky as maps often show many layers of distortion to fit specific formats, like WGS84 which is used to wrap around a sphere and display the continent with wider distortions towards each of the poles.

On top of this, there was also numerous CGI reconstructions of the heritage sites handled by the 3D team at Zoo. I also was involved in lots of small graphic edits within the show and with a few sections of 2.5D archive too. All in all this was a fantastic project to be involved with, over the course of nearly 18 months of work for all the various cuts and deliverables.

Archive Graphics from episode 5

App animations for the 7 Wonders of the UAE

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