Tony Robinson’s London Games Unearthed – 3D Zeus Model

Tony Robinson's London Games Unearthed - 3D Zeus Statue

Year: 2012 – Q1
Clients: WTFN AUS,
Reel Pictures

Recently released for Television, Tony Robinson’s “London Games Unearthed” is a 60 minute documentary of East London’s history and the construction of the Olympic park in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic games.

Digital Lode - Tony Robinson's London Games Unearthed

I worked with Reel Pictures to create and animate a 3D model of the 13 metre high Greek statue of Zeus, one of the ancient 7 wonders of the world. The 3D animated statue was featured in a few sections of the documentary. It was composited with live action footage of Tony Robinson and needed to be crumbled into thousands of tiny pieces when the statue was eventually destroyed by the Romans.

Tony Robinson's London Games Unearthed - Still Frame from the Zeus Sequence

The video below shows 3 sections from the 60 minute documentary that featured the 3D animated Zeus statue:

My primary role for this project was modelling, texturing and shader writing. We were required to complete this project within a very short deadline, so we used a stock 3D model as our base mesh for Zeus. I sculpted the Zeus model from this original base mesh before creating maps for Diffuse, Reflection/Specular and normal channels.

Because of the limited timeframe, the model was not retopologised – It was kept at a very high resolution after sculpting. We had no problems working with this high resolution mesh in 3DS Max. We were able to fracture and crumble it without issues and keep the render times at an optimum level!

Below is a low resolution version of the Zeus model’s Diffuse map.

3D Statue of Zeus - Diffuse Texture Map Hand-painted by Michael Wentworth-Bell

I used this diffuse map with hand-painted reflection and normal maps to create the detailed shader for the model. The shader used a Vray blend material to create the look of the 2 real-world materials required – marble and gold.

3D statue of Zeus - Tony Robinson's London Games Unearthed

Alf Kuhlmann completed a match-move of the 2 live action shots, giving an accurate camera track of the scene. Alf also worked on the lighting of the scene in order to achieve a photorealistic look for the shots that featured Tony Robinson.

3D statue of Zeus composited with Tony Robinson

I then worked with Alf on the 3 Destruction shots where the Zeus statue is reduced to a pile of dust and rubble. Working on visual effects shots like this is too much fun!

Zeus Crumble and Destruction Sequence - Tony Robinson's Olympics Documentary

I am very proud of the final product considering the tight deadline. It was a lot of fun being a part of the team of many artists that helped put the documentary’s visual effects shots together and it was great working with WTFN, who were very clear with their vision for the Zeus sequence and helped refine the sequence further!

You can read more about Tony Robinson’s London Games Unearthed on the History Channel’s official website or on the project’s dedicated page on the WTFN entertainment site.
If you are a Foxtel account holder, you can watch or download the complete 60 minute show on the Foxtel site.