Forces of Nature

IMAX documentary film

Volcanoes & Earthquakes (designed/supervised most vfx seq)

VFX Supervisor

the Premise

We needed to show the early days of the earth, as well as visualize the interior of the earth and earthquake propagation.


This was a long production and we started while they were still shooting. Since it’s documentary there’s always followups and reshoots to get the best footage. It’s especially important with IMAX since any flaw shows up quite clearly. I did many wedge tests to find the optimum render size. Too large and we couldn’t handle it, too small and the effects were soft.

We found 4k to be enough in most cases and sometimes even 3k before you would see a difference.  It surprised me as most people will tell you 65mm film has an intrinsic detail level around 8k or more.  But the film grain also interferes with any simple equivalence like that.

part of a National Geographics television segment

The shot over the sea of lava has a moon in the sky that's quite large. This is because the moon was very close to the earth back in those days, and also red with molten rock. I hired an illustrator to make it as accurate as possible.

George Casey, the director of the film, gave me a lot of freedom to design the shots we did. There were quite a few beyond those seen in the demo clip.

Look very closely. It does move

The view at the end of the main demo clip shows an illustrated view of the layers inside our world. For this I spoke to scientists at CalTech to get accuracy. At the time this came out it was the most accurate view of the scale of elements ever done. This type of film is very difficult and expensive to create, and in fact was until recently still in rotation at imax theaters in science museums around the worldE

Even larger segments of the film were those involving earthquakes in Turkey.

early test of the forces on the Anatolian fault (the geologists loved it)

This was a pleasure to work on as the filmmakers at Graphic Films were such professionals (founded in 1941!). Les Novros, founder of Graphic Films, was one of the greats of filmmaking and at USC inspired students such as George Lucas. He made some of the first IMAX films. This one was funded through the Geographic Society, who in fact also interviewed me for their tv show.

Les Novros on Wikipedia.

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