Moonraker VFX contributes 360 CGI shots for BBC series ‘Earth’

BBC series Earth tells the story of our planet’s four and a half billion-year history with stunning photoreal computer generated effects. 30 per cent of the final footage — 97 minutes, a feature film’s worth — of the series has been contributed by UK-based studio Moonraker VFX.

Since being first engaged by the BBC Studios’ Science Unit, nearly two years ago, over 30 VFX artists from Moonraker VFX have produced more than 13,600 individual graphic elements and 360 shots of photoreal CGI.

Scientific accuracy was always the highest priority for Earth and so Moonraker worked very closely with over 200 scientists and researchers who were employed to provide guidance on everything from palaeontology and geology to climate.

“This project was challenging,” said Moonraker VFX co-founder and creative director Simon Clarke. “How could we convincingly place the audience on a version of Earth, from earlier in its history, that may feel very familiar but look completely different from how it does now? The visual evolution of these landscapes took a lot of hard work and consideration to make sure we got every detail right. We contributed to some really demanding shots, like time-lapse scenes of geological events spanning many millions of years, which required huge attention to detail and asset creation.”

Moonraker VFX comes with an experience on working on natural history programming including for series such as National Geographic’s One Strange Rock and BBC’s Frozen Planet 2 and The Green Planet.

For Earth, the studio visualised ancient flora or fauna “that has never been imagined in 3D before,” added Clarke, paying particular attention to textural details and placing them in their natural habitats. “The scientists were astounded with what we came up with.”

“It’s been a phenomenal project and fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the talent and creativity at Moonraker VFX, but it was certainly a team effort and we’re very grateful to the BBC’s production team as well as the scientific advisers who made Earth possible,” he shared.

BBC Studios executive producer Rob Liddell said, “With Earth we wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible with VFX sequences featuring some of the planet’s most dramatic moments. The ambition was high and Moonraker has been a brilliant partner in helping us realise it. The team brought amazing flare and attention to detail to every shot, resulting in some breathtaking moments of visual drama.”

Presented by naturalist Chris Packham who calls it a “biography of our planet,” the series is showing on Monday nights in the UK on BBC Two throughout August and available for streaming on iPlayer.