National Geographic is known for its high standards when it comes to photo reporting. And where real-world photography reaches its limits, Cinema 4D is there to help get the job done.
The National Geographic Society was founded with the aim of exploring the globe and is best known for its periodicals, which have been published continuously since 1888. The National Geographic Magazine has long since established itself as the epitome of photographic reporting for all topics related to geography. Often, complex topics cannot be illustrated well enough simply using photography, which means that informational graphics have to be added whose quality is held to the same high standards as the original photographs. A very unique case was the report about the Gebihe caves in China. One of the cave’s chambers, the Miao chamber, was scanned with a laser and Cinema 4D was used to create spectacular informational graphics for the magazine and the National Geographic website.
The Miao chamber is approximately 852 meters long and reaches heights of 190 meters, which makes it the second largest known chamber worldwide. This enormous natural phenomenon was scanned using a laser and about 15 million measuring points were generated, which were used to create a virtual cluster of points that basically reproduces the Miao chamber virtually. Using this data and the photos shot by National Geographic photographer Carsten Peter, the Berlin, Germany-based studio for professional visualization and informational graphics, ixtract, was given the job of visualizing the chamber for the National Geographic Magazine.
The fist challenge that this project presented was to create a precise model of the chamber’s spatial composition using the data supplied. When asked about the challenges faced by the ixtract team during this project, Stefan Fichtel said: “We first had to deal with the gaps in the data caused by projecting rock formations, boulders and other obstacles, which prevented the chamber from being measured in its entirety. We used Cinema 4D’s XPresso feature to create a customized Displacement object, which was placed around the object like a flexible, opaque outer skin. This object was then adapted to fit the geometry, which helped solve lighting issues later in the project.”
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