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Braving the Elements in 4K: Hell Below Season 2

Kerosene Visual Effects was once again tasked by Parallax Films with creating high-end CG visuals for the WWII submarine warfare event-based series “Hell Below”. With scenarios ranging from ships cruising in the open ocean, to underwater maneuvers and explosive vessel destruction, Kerosene built upon and exceeded what had been created for season one.

The request came early on to deliver this second season in 4K, which has challenges over working in HD. Four times the amount of pixels on screen means more scrutiny of the smallest details, therefore all aspects of shot creation needed to be examined. New vessels unique to this season’s episodes had to be created with this call for more detail in mind, and assets previously built for season one were revisited to ensure they would hold up to the increased resolution when needed.

Boosting the pixel output also affected how Kerosene approached the ever time consuming and data hungry water simulations. Fortunately, new features in Maya 2017 - Bifrost gave the ability to better specify and control these simulations, where detail was required, and resulted in visibly higher quality results.

Increasing the resolution this season from HD to 4K would also mean substantially higher render times of 3D animation layers. To better handle the escalation, Kerosene made a fundamental shift in this area of it’s pipeline, by switching from traditional CPU rendering, to GPU rendering using Redshift renderer and NVIDIA powered graphics cards. With this upgrade in software and hardware, Kerosene was able to increase the 3D render output by a factor of 5 to 10 times compared to previous setups.

Bringing all of this together and compositing in 4K was completed using Adobe After Effects. High resolution stock footage and custom particle effects were used to enhance the water simulations and add environmental material. Additional practical effects filmed in studio by Kerosene were used to help create the various underwater explosions.

Artist ingenuity combined with strategic infrastructure upgrades gave Kerosene the ability to create and deliver high quality 4K animation for another six exciting episodes in this series. Hell Below 2 pushed the envelope in terms of large scale simulated effects at Kerosene, with the end result raising the bar over the inaugural season.

Hell Below airs on Smithsonian Channel, with an alternate branding WW2 Hell Under the Sea internationally on National Geographic Channel.


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