I was approached by Spanish artist Karlos Gil to make CG recreations of ctenophores, marine creatures known for their unusual features, specially their luminiscent properties. These videos were included in the generative film "Peripheral", the largest exhibtion of his work to date, at Dos de Mayo Art Center in Madrid. We seeked an intersection between a high fidelity recreation and a stylized, science fiction creature. We wanted to create a point where reality meets fiction.

These creatures posed a challenge, given the very specific nature of their skin, combined with the animation the cilia, hair-like protuberances that grants ctenophores their movement, also responsible for their luminiscence. For this, I developed a physically accurate simulation, using hair physics for the movement and a custom refraction behaviour for the illumination. Several articles and scientific paperes were consulted to guarantee a high level of fidelity.

A total of 28 shots were created, taking 3:40 min, which were included in the final film, along with other footage. The film was produced by Centro de Arte dos de Mayo, 2023.

Model retopology, rigging, body animation and general consulting by Juan José de Domingo Murillo.
Special thanks to Justin Ridler

Combs and cilia rig, details, closeup shots. I created a procedural setup, hairs moving in loop, taking scientific illutrations as reference. The Snell´s law was used to calculate the refraction values of the skin. Light passes through ctenophores´skin at roughly the same speed as it does through water, giving a refraction (IOR) number of approximately 1.

Cilia movement references. Extracted from "Cilia and the life of ctenophores" (Sidney L. Tamm, 2014)

A light setup specific for the hair, they lit when they reach a certain angle and position in relation with the light source, giving the appearance of bioluminiscence.

References. From left to right, from top to bottom: 1.Chris Cunningham working in "Alien3" (Ridley Scott, 1992)      2. Active nuclear reactor   3.Space Guild ship, as seen in “Dune” (Denis Villeneuve, 1968)    4.Snells´s law formula used to calculate the values for the skin shading     5.Still from an UFO encounter video, released by the Pentagon in 2020       6.Neon lights     7.Energyzoa, online theory claiming there are jellyfish-like organic UFOs roaming the sky     8.Illustrations showcased in "Cilia and the life of ctenophores" (Sidney L. Tamm, 2014), used as reference for the ctenophore models     9."Artemide" lamp by herzog & de Meuron     10.Still from "Micocosmos" (Claude Nuridsany, Marie Perennou, 1996)     11.Juggernaut ship concept by Steve Burg for "Prometheus" (Ridley Scott, 2012)