Ocean Empires

Project: Broadcast TV | Client : Digital Dimensions / Watermark Films | Year: 1998

Ocean Empires tells the story of oceanic voyagers before man. It visualises the journey of coral larvae and other planktonic travellers on their incredible journey to found reefs in the remotest corners of tropical seas.

I have always been "really impressed" by how the fragile appearance of corals belies their ecological robustness in time and space. Not only did larval dispersal let them roll with the punches of a restless Earth but along the way they built atolls - the stepping stones for other travellers like the Polynesians.

In 1998 we really pushed the technology of the time for the animation and compositing sequences. Back then twin 200Mhz render computers required bank loans and individual animation shots would take days to render - badly.

Ocean Empires title sequence

"The Pacific. The great seafarers of antiquity were not the first to conquer this ocean. They were to use the stepping stones laid down for them boy other, planktonic travellers..."

Ocean Empires was the conceptual book-end to the film Sex on the Reef with animated sequences designed to illustrate what happens to coral larvae (and other organisms) during and after dispersal. In the series of animated sequences this film illustrates for the first time the dramatic world of the plankton and the role of planktonic larvae that pass temporarily through this realm - as the "inter-stellar voyagers of inner space”. In these sequences background video layers of streaming particles underlay 3D animated plankton models. This is the story of how planktonic coral larvae cross oceans to find or found reefs.

Zac Hogg animator, clever green screen bits Richard Fitzpatrick; concept, research, purple prose, directed and produced by Russell Kelley. Note the bioluminescent “lightning” in the background and the cackling fruit bats as atmos courtesy of sound designer and composer Ashton Ward.

The Plankton

Larval crash landing and the cloning

Just where do reefs get their energy from? The clip below takes us from the surface of the sun to inside the tentacle of a coral polyp to reveal an evolutionary secret.

There is really nothing quite so intoxicating as starting with a blank piece of paper and arriving, 18 months later, at stuff like this.

Voyage inside the Polyp