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Blender and Stephen Hawking


Although the final CGI for the new Discovery Series: Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking, was created with Maya, Blender was used for pre-vis and concept tests. Nathan Williams, one of the directors, found Blender a valuable tool in creating this ambitious series.

Nathan writes:

I directed one of the episodes of the new Discovery Series: Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking - mine was the episode on Time Travel. The series was heavily reliant on CGI, created by British graphics company Red Vision (using Maya, not Blender). However, at the time I was teaching myself to use Blender in my spare time and so I started using it to create pre-vis, tests and concept graphics. (ie nothing actually on screen was Blender. Not that blender couldn't have done it!)

I found the process incredibly helpful. It allowed me to block out sequences so that we had material we could edit with before any of the "official" CGI came through. It also allowed us to try out ideas without spending money! Because this was new, the pre-vis I did wasn't properly integrated into the main CGI process. Certainly if I were doing this again, I would build the use of Blender into the pipeline from the start.

After working on this I went on to produce a history documentary where I did use Blender for the final graphics as covered previously here.

You can see a trailer of the series:

It next airs in the US on May 17, 8:00 pm

and in the UK (where it's called Stephen Hawking's Universe) it's on Sunday 16 May at 9pm

Nathan Williams


  1. woah...that looks really cool :D i love these kinds of shows, and I've watched the original "Stephen Hawking's Universe" on DVD (apparently aired in 1997, but I've watched it a bit more recently than that, lol)

    really cool :D

  2. Now if only production houses put it in their pipeline and actually use it with the other packages. Makes me wonder though how many actually do use it in their pipeline, but just won't admit it.

  3. Grandmaster B on

    At my job, i have created artwork for ten online games with Blender, two games actually had tv-spot advertising in german television and show the work made in Blender. I also hope that more professional companies try and use Blender, i especially like the excellent workflow and how Blender grows on you! There is no limit what you can do with Blender!

  4. Blender didn't quite make it into the pipeline, but this is still a good stepping stone. I wonder how different the workflow would be if they had based everything around Blender instead? I'd assume 2.5 would need to be finished for that to happen!

    On a side note, Hawking has got to be the dumbest smart person I have ever seen...

  5. agree with greyspot. blender 2.5 needs to finished in order to big studios to actually dare and use blender. the next iteration of blender is certainly at industrial quality. but i don't really agree with the statement hawkins being the dumbest person :)

  6. im watching this cause i know a lot about time travel theiries and am very interested in the whole idea but then realized it was only a trailer though i am watching that when it comes out

  7. GothicCyborg64 on

    A new documentary of the extra terrestial kind!

    It's nice to see that blender is more often beeing used by companies to prepare scenes and idea's for their work. It's like using python to prepare a c# project.

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