Rendering the USS Pennsylvania for Dead In The Water
It started with a fun call: Fear The Walking Dead was doing a series of prequel episodes set aboard the nuclear missile submarine USS Pennsylvania, could I help them with some renders? At the time I'd been working on some underwater renders anyway, so this sounded great! Not to mention, once upon a time I was a pretty big naval nerd, so this got me pumped to track down the Jane's books and do some research. Beyond looking at the physical aspects of the shot, I got into which of the communications arrays and antennae should be deployed, what the screw turn rate should be, etc. I was even able to find and talk directly with a couple people who had served on Ohio-class subs to nitpick details. In the end, most of this was omitted in favor of the "rule of cool," of course -- but provided a basis in reality we could start from and refer to.
The episodes were still being edited and time was very short, so the shotlist was very minimal. The director wanted to keep all of the perspective underwater and, above all, focused on the crew. For my part, I wanted the camera to feel subtly diagetic and literally immersed. While the effect is generally subtle, I spent most of the development time iterating on the feel of a diver-cameraman who is imperfectly tracking the subject and buffeted by its size and force. The setups are pretty simple: a couple particle systems, some underwater "fog", and VDBs for the violently ejected emergency ballast.
Big thanks to director Kenneth Requa for bringing me in on this!

The full episodes
are available on YouTube.

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