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Planet Dinosaur

6 x 30 min Documentary series
Release Date
14th September 2011

To create an entirely CGI construction covering 24 different stories in thirteen different locations with over 50 dinosaurs from giants and lethal killers to flying and swimming monsters for prime-time BBC audiences.

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The ambition was huge – in little over a year our team at Jellyfish Pictures created 180 minutes of full CGI for a prime time BBC One audience from a standing start. The stories had to be conceived with the whole project being brought entirely in-house to facilitate the process of feedback and delivery on an incredibly tight schedule. The only way to achieve the task was to set up a feature animation pipeline, from script, storyboard and layout right through to final comp. We achieved this on a very tight TV budget with twice the amount of work of a feature animation. With over 2400 shots, there was no time or budget to shoot backplates on location as cameras and stories were required to be locked and previz complete before this would have been possible. This resulted in all environments being created entirely in CG. At the time (2010), this was a big task, and solutions both in Nuke and 3D needed to be found. The camera and action were frantic and uncompromising with herds of animals, lots of fighting and a myriad of environmental challenges including biting, water, rain, mud and ash all regular occurrences in shot.

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Combining detailed matte paintings and Nuke we could create rich habitats fast that could be changed quickly.

We would dissect the matte paintings into their constituent parts and apply them to primitive geometry, handling high-resolution images on simple geo that could be placed and moved with ease. We layered these up, which enabled us to get accurate parallax when the camera moved. Now we had our backplate, it was time to comp in the animals. These objects could be repositioned at any time, which again allowed the artist and client to make "real-time" changes to shot composition.

We took lots of reference pictures and textures of vegetation, visiting Kew Gardens to photograph their extensive ancient plants and trees. These images were the foundation for all the plant life in the backgrounds.

We also built a bespoke tool-set for all aspects of the shots from adding blood and bite marks to Dinosaur skin to dust impacts and water splashes. We took full advantage of XSI's ice system and Nukes 3D engine to create rich environments and dynamic sequences.

The sheer number of shots we had to deliver on time and on budget would not have been possible without bespoke tools and a solid infrastructure and render farm.

We achieved this task in under 18 months with a team of about 50 people. Producing 2.8 million frames in 11 months totalling 2300 shots. 3 hours including Motion GFX

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VES Awards Nomination

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or Special


Bull Dog Awards Nomination

Best Visual Effects


New York Festival Winner

Gold Medal Animation