The Green Planet: Serengeti Migration

The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania has one of the largest animal migrations in the world, even today.

Professor Grzimek

In 1959 the Frankfurt Zoo director Prof. Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael published the  book  and the academy award winning film “The Serengeti Shall Not Die”. They followed the huge herds of wildebeest and zebras by plane and tried to figure out where the borders of a national park would need to be to offer best protection for the herds. As a kid I was totally fascinated. That was like Daktari in real life. Next to Jacques Cousteau the Grzimeks had probably the biggest influence on my love for nature  and my studies of biology later in life.

Tourism in the Serengeti today

Like everywhere in the world the human pressure on the last wild resources has dramatically increased here. For me that was reason enough to use it as an destination in my “The Green Planet” Series and to imagine it again without people.

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This clip was created in Unreal Engine 5.1 and rendered in 4K.

The technical challenge in this short video sequence was predominantly to find solutions for dealing with a large number of actors in a real time render situation. After all I wanted to have 1000s of wildebeest and zebras roaming the Savannah. For a long time I tried different AI solutions, attempting to let the individuals roam freely and more or less randomly, but was getting repeatedly disappointed by the still very clunky and robotic movement patterns of current AI systems that seemed impossible to overcome. At the end I settled for a  vertex render solution instead. These are shader based texture animations, which have very little overhead and can be viewed from all angles, unlike sprites or billboards, which are just projection planes in the landscape.

Another challenge was the use of hair and feathers for an upcoming project. An inquisitive hooded vulture became the driving force in this sequence.

Please consider watching the clip on YouTube by clicking on that link when it starts to play so that you can see it in HD or 4K.

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