Real-Time Simulation Puts Viewers In The Middle Of New Zealand’s Underwater Landscape

Robert Hodgin's <i>Boil Up</i> uses coding and 3D animation to bring New Zealand's dynamic waters alive.

Jun 26 2013, 10:50am

Humans have always been allured by the wonders of the deep and creating new technology to explore it. Artist Robert Hodgin (aka flight404) plays upon this idea in his new work Boil Up for the Moana, My Ocean exhibit at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland, New Zealand.

The Brooklyn-based artist was approached by Rawstorne Studio and PleasureKraft to portray New Zealand’s electric, unique underwater landscape. Using a slew of computer animation and rendering technologies, Hodgin is able to create an alternate reality simulation of the awe-inducing aquatic world below New Zealand’s waters. "The installation is one of many pieces that allow visitors to experience the oceanic wonders of New Zealand from the dynamic of the surface waters all the way down into Kermadec Trench which plunges 10,000 meters deep." writes Creative Applications

The four projector installation shows a virtual bait ball, which is common in the Hauraki Gulf. Hodgin’s baitball is based upon the real-life versions depicted in documentaries from BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic

Hodgin's initial concern was making the fish look and move realistically, but after successfully achieving this the next challenge the artist faced was inserting the larger, harder to animate animals, like dolphins, sharks, a whale, and a bird, without destroying his realistic school of fish.

Luckily, the natural actions of some of the creatures, like the shark, allow for a simpler solution than the schools to keep movements looking genuine. For others, like the diving Cape Gannet (below), he worked with 3D animators to achieve realistic renderings. 

Render of the installation

The result is a beautiful glimpse into the oceanic scene in a 270º panorama arena. Hodgin’s use of creative coding (Cinder C++ framework) and 3D animation allows visitors to step into the installation and be in the center of a bait ball. Viewers are no longer just watching footage of underwater scenes on a screen, they are in it.

Advances in simulation technology, as exhibited in Hodgin’s work, open the door for new ways for people to feed their never-ending fascination with the sea. 

Check out the final simulation below:

To read more on Boil Up, check out Robert’s step-by-step process on his blog.

[via Creative Applications Network]

Images courtesy of Robert Hodgin


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