The Green Planet

This project is an ongoing work in progress.

"The Green Planet" is showcasing locations I know and love. I imagine how they might look like entirely without any human impact. As the title suggests, this involves mainly planting a lot of (virtual) trees, since massive deforestation has been and still is, the main visible impact of human habitation worldwide.

The title can also be interpreted as a commentary on blue chip documentaries, like the "Blue Planet" series by the BBC, which spent years in the making and several million dollar budgets to depict a world that is apparently a paradise, totally devoid of human habitation and in reality non existent. Often it is just the framing that leaves the oil refinery in the background out of the picture, often it is long expensive shoots for wildlife photographers, trying to get that one convincing shot, sometimes it is postproduction wizardry and sometimes it is specialist filming locations, which are set up for well-paying film crews so they can film a jaguar "in the wild" although they can be hardly found there anymore. Either way these documentaries feed a public hungry for the natural, undisturbed world and they may have to take some responsibility for the perception by parts of the public that things are not as bad as being told by scientists, who talk of being in the "Anthropocene", and having a "Sixth Mass Extinction". In that sense the "Green Planet" can be seen as a caricature of a blue chip documentary, visually eliminating us humans even from densely populated areas for a moment. On the positive side they may also offer glimpses into a possible future that includes "re-wilding" of large areas of the planet as a tool for long term survival of the human species.

On the technical side this journey is an exploration into Unity's new High Definition Render Pipeline and what it can deliver for high quality film work. This is clearly inspired by the groundbreaking use of game engines and real time rendering in the "Mandalorian" series. So far the results have been very promising for me once a scene has been set up (which is still a very time-consuming factor). Although on my laptop I am still far away from real time rendering, in particular when doing 4K frames but the renders are done fast and efficiently, cutting a lot of overhead. For the terrain I used freely available GIS data, so if a large rock, that is familiar to you, is not there or depicted askew, then that may be attributed to the relatively low resolution satellite coverage of New Zealand terrain.

The first location, that I present here, imagines Dunedin in New Zealand, which is a very beautiful place, a travel destination and considered the"wilderness capital of New Zealand". However, the landscape we see today, is very much made by human intervention, by cutting down most of the trees, transforming the landscape into a grassland for sheep and loosing much of the topsoil as runoff, silting up the harbour in the process. My virtual clips may give an indication, how this place may have looked like before European settlement.

Next stop on the "Green Planet" journey will probably be the East coast of tropical Australia, where I am spending my time at the moment, and after that I may be ready to tackle some larger cities in Europe, Asia or the USA.

For those unfamiliar with Dunedin, here are some pictures from the web, showing how very beautiful the city and the Otago peninsula look even today.

Following this intro here are now three virtual video flyovers, showing Dunedin and the Otago peninsula how I imagine they might look like without human habitation. I recommend watching the clips not embedded, but in full screen in HD resolution (by clicking on the YouTube link, that comes up, when starting the video) and also to have the sound turned on, since the abundant bird life is a signature characteristic of the NZ wilderness. The early European settlers described the bird song back then as “deafening”.

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St. Clair to City Central

This is the first of three clips exploring the location of the city of Dunedin cand the Otoago peninsula in New Zealand/Aotearoa.

Taiaroa Head

The entrance to the Otago harbour with the albatross colony.

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Flight into Lower Portobello

For this last clip I wanted to get in closer, sweep through the bush and see the flora and fauna up close and personal. Although I was very happy with the overall result, this clip in particular shows, that the endemic flora in New Zealand needs to be better represented. I will need to do some photographing, scanning and tree building upon my return for an updated version of these shots.

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