We are very proud to have been involved in creating the award-winning documentary The Ivory Game.
The movie sheds light on the underground world of ivory trafficking. Prized as a status symbol among the Chinese middle classes, ivory is the object of a deeply corrupt, illegal global trading system. The Ivory Game was created by award-winning director Richard Ladkani and Academy Award®-nominated director Kief Davidson. Filming for 16 months, the two were able to reveal the terrible truth behind the increasing numbers of African elephants being poached for their ‘white gold’.
Produced by Leonardo di Caprio, the Ivory Game was released on Netflix worldwide on November 4.
Kaiserlicht delivered the entire graphics package for the movie, including the opening title sequence and all the graphic inserts.
Terra Mater Factual Studios
Anja von Harsdorf
H. Scott Salinas
When Terra Mater Factual Studios approached us to pitch for the graphics package, we set to work on developing multiple concepts and style frames.
The Ivory Game was filmed in several African and Asian countries, so one of the key requirements for the title sequence was to show maps of the various locations. Our idea of carving these maps directly into the ivory proved popular with the directors, and so we successfully won the pitch.
One of the key scenes of the movie shows giant piles of illegal ivory being burned. This inspired us to use an inside view of such a pile as the background for our title sequence. For several weeks we worked in close consultation with the directors, mainly to determine the camera moves and the arrangement of tusks as we animated a detailed pre-visualization.
Another important aspect was the order of the carved maps: the directors wanted the sequence to echo the process of actual ivory trafficking. Consequently, the first, rough tusks show the African countries in which the animals are poached. Later carvings on cleaner, more refined tusks show the Asian countries in which the ivory is sold.
At the same time, we set about creating dozens of photorealistic tusks with which to build our own, virtual pile. Once again, the gradual unfolding of the sequence meant we would need to show the tusks at the different stages of processing, from the rough, dirty raw material to the final product with ornamental carvings. The sequence culminates with an image of an intricate and (hopefully) emotionally engaging ivory sculpture of an entire elephant family, designed to emphasise the perverseness of slaughtering these magnificent beasts to create small pieces of ‘art’.
For the hero tusks showing the various country maps carved into the tusks, we handcrafted dozens of highly detailed maps for the photorealistic close-ups we see in the sequence.
As usual, rendering was done at our in-house render farm using Redshift at 2k resolution.
Besides the title sequence, we delivered various graphics to introduce the locations and characters of the movie. Designing them was an iterative process, as we wanted our solution to emphasise the thriller-like character of the movie as much as possible. In the end we delivered 22 location inserts, some with elaborate animations to give viewers a better understanding of the often complex shifts between different countries and continents. We also created 17 character inserts and carried out some minor VFX work.