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Walking with Dinosaurs

Walking with Dinosaurs is a major CG animation series for BBC Science produced in collaboration with Framestore, as part of the BBC's flagship science programme. A series of six 30-minute documentaries covering the natural history of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. Framestore's task has been to re-create the animals of that world, and to show what it must have been like to walk amongst the great reptiles.

The design and movement of the dinosaurs has been based on the guidance of a group of paleontological experts from both sides of the Atlantic, and the resulting footage (nearly two and a half hours of photorealistic CG animation) represents two years' work from a dedicated team of CG professionals.

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Walking with Beasts

Following on from the success of Walking with Dinosaurs and beginning 15 million years after the dinosaurs became extinct, Walking with Beasts charts the rise of mammals, the Ice Ages and the arrival of man. The series of six 30-minute documentaries is assembled from more than 30 hours of computer animation footage, incorporated into 1000 special effects shots.  

Walking with Beasts is one of the largest projects undertaken by Framestore. The original award-winning Walking with Dinosaurs team was doubled in size to include seventeen additional CG artists who created more than 30 new creatures with a substantially more complex range of movements and textures than their dinosaur predecessors.

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Walking with Monsters

Walking With Monsters is the latest adventure in the amazingly successful Walking With... series that has been appearing on televisions around the world since 1999. The three 30 minute programmes form a prequel, bringing to life the bizarre beasts who roamed the Earth millions of years before dinosaurs. The new programmes, which take us back 245 to 530 million years ago, feature 29 different CG creatures - more than ever before - to be seen in nearly 600 VFX shots.

Shot in Super 16, the live action backplates (both above and under water) were filmed in locations ranging from Florida to Arizona to the Canary Islands over a 12 month period. In addition, special detailed sections of the burrows, lizard eggs, a dead tree and other elements were built and shot in the studio.

As the team has grown in confidence, their ability to take on new challenges has grown too. In Dinosaurs and Beasts, animatronics were often used for close-ups because of the limitations of computer graphics. "If you wanted to admire a creature's teeth or see blood dripping off his lips you had to use an animatronic head," says Executive Producer Tim Haines.

"We didn't use animatronics as frequently because I was determined to get as much as possible out of the CG," says producer/director Chloe Leland. "Framestore's creatures look so fantastic in close-up - the technology has advanced to the extent where the CG definitely stands up to this scrutiny. There are shots so close that you can see the pupils dilating and feel the creature breathing - they look so real."

The creatures you see are also more exposed than ever before - sitting on rocks, walking across sand. New tweaks are introduced with every project. An extra iridescence pass in the CG gave a lobster creature a sort of sub-surface glow that is both beautiful and 'right'.

This series presented a particular problem in that many of the creatures were less familiar to audiences - as well as a lot more 'fantastical' - than those in previous shows. Giant millipedes, 18 inch wide spiders - these had to look convincing, as they were that much more difficult to believe in.

The tricks and tropes (borrowed from real nature documentaries) that the team uses to sell the footage has also grown more sophisticated. Gone are the days of the medium shot T Rex moving left to right across the screen. These creatures muscle up to the camera (in the case of a Brontoscorpio, 'shattering' the lens), they are filmed at night, they are filmed with a camera that continues zooming until it is inside them. All of these tricks help foster the illusion that what the audience sees somehow actually occurred.

Awards

  • BAFTA

    Innovation Award

    Walking with Dinosaurs

  • Primetime Emmy

    Animated Programme, Special Visual Effects in TV

    Walking with Dinosaurs

  • Primetime Emmy

    Animated Programme, Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries

    Walking with Beasts

  • VES

    VFX in TV

    Walking with Monsters

  • Annie

    Technical Achievement in the Field of Animation

    Walking with Dinosaurs

  • AEAF

    Education & Training

    Walking with Dinosaurs

  • AEAF

    Best VFX in TV

    Walking with Beasts

  • LEAF

    Education and Training

    Walking with Dinosaurs

  • RTS

    Visual FX, Team Award, Design & Craft Award

    Walking with Dinosaurs

  • RTS

    Team Award

    Walking with Beasts

  • International Monitor

    Best Achievement, Best 3D Animation, Best VFX

    Walking with Dinosaurs

  • International Monitor

    Best VFX

    Walking with Beasts