January 18, 2013

Photorealistic Animation 'Consumed' Sees Science Destroy the Earth with Grey-Goo

Trekkie or not I'm betting that at least once after a hard days work, returning home to an empty fridge you've pondered 'why the hell hasn't someone invented those Star Trek food replicators yet?' You may want to hold that thought the next time it crops up, at least until you've seen Andreas Wannerstedt's science test gone wrong short Consumed:

As with much of his previous work, Wannerstedt applied 3D software -- in this case Cinema 4D rendered with Vray -- to create the photorealistic test space and its tasteful artworks and furnishings. The text effect was also done in that package, each letter render out and then set up in After Effects. This breakdown video reveals how the piece was built up. Without the power of a render farm at his disposal, patience was definitely called for with some of the exterior scenes ramping up to a blistering 1 frame / hour render time.

On the source of inspiration for Consumed, Wannerstedt says:

This is very similar to a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario called “Grey goo”, a term coined by molecular nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler back in 1986. He illustrates exponential growth and the dangers of self-replication is his book “Engines of Creation”:

“Imagine a replicator floating in a bottle of chemicals, making copies of itself…the first replicator assembles a copy in one thousand seconds, the two replicators then build two more in the next thousand seconds, the four build another four, and the eight build another eight. At the end of ten hours, there are not thirty-six new replicators, but over 68 billion. In less than a day, they would weigh a ton; in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth; in another four hours, they would exceed the mass of the Sun and all the planets combined — if the bottle of chemicals hadn’t run dry long before.”

Well, obviously my scenario is all science fiction, since the required technologies to create this kind of self-replicating matter won’t be invented until.. hmm.. no sooner than 2014?

Perhaps because of the slow camera moves across and through the building and photorealistic aesthetic, Consumed reminded me of Alex Roman's The Third & The Seventh in its opening moments, which it would be a sin for me to not share here on the off-chance it passed you by previously:

Anyway, back to the destruction. If the idea of seeing the world rapidly consumed by goop is something that appeals to you, along with a desire to target the epicentre of the chain reaction, then you'll be pleased to know that interactive developer Christian Wannerstedt has built a webGL project based on Consumed where you can do just that.

What do you think of the photoreal world Wannerstedt built and destroyed? Are there similar pieces you've created or seen which we should check out?


Your Comment


I don't know if I would go as far as to say that it is "photorealistic". For some of it I was well aware that it was CG. Maybe I've just been spoiled by The Third & The Seventh, for which I didn't know was CG the first 2 times I watched it. Either way, it is still an impressive piece. Well done.

January 18, 2013 at 6:53AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

James H

That "The Third and The Seventh" video was all CG!?!?! Wow. That just completely blows my mind apart. This stuff is really inspirational.

January 18, 2013 at 10:02AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I'm with James on this. While I haven't seen "The Third & the Seventh", I could tell that some of it was CGI, which may have ruined a part of it for me. However, the exteriors, garden environments and some of the research facility really had me second guessing. I like the premise of the film overall and I was blown away by the fact that some of it was rendered at a frame/sec. What patience...

January 18, 2013 at 7:43AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


If there is one only thing you do in your lifetime, then watch The Third & The Seventh. It is very inspirational from a film making perspective.

January 18, 2013 at 11:53AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

James H

I agree with James as well. Things looked overly sharp while overall the amount of detail and lighting wasn't spot-on for this.

January 18, 2013 at 12:34PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


The Third & the Seventh is awesome. I hadn't seen it before. I loved the way that most of it would pass for not-CGI, until they purposely included impossible elements toward the end. I loved the old camera models -- beautiful work there. And very inspiring -- I am drifting more and more in the CG direction myself, so it would be incredible to produce something like that one day. i suppose I don't really have a good excuse not to try, since I just spent the last few weeks building my own cheapass render farm from scratch. I bought a couple of Dell XS23-SB servers surplus for $600 each, each of which has 4 nodes with 2 quad core CPUs and 8GB RAM per node. I set it all up under Linux, with most of the nodes diskless booting via iSCSI. Rather than shelling out $$$ for an off the shelf render farm controller I wrote my own on top of the LLNL Slurm supercomputer job scheduler (which is free and open source). It's just a couple of bash scripts, but it runs Lightwave under Wine just fine. Sadly the day job is biting hard right now so I have not had time yet to use it to make something, but I am itching to start something. If it works, I will probably add a couple more servers which will take the farm up to 16 nodes. This isn't for the faint of heart -- it is big science Linux sysadmin hell, but fun if you like that kind of thing...

January 24, 2013 at 12:48PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Artemis Jaen

The Third and the Seventh left me feeling like I'd eaten a rich fluffy desert, all sweetness but no substance. A great job skills portfolio, though.

January 24, 2013 at 1:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

jon p