We are extremely proud to have been involved in creating the award-winning documentary Sea Of Shadows.

When Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers join forces to poach the rare totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez, their deadly methods threaten to destroy virtually all marine life in the region, including the most elusive and endangered whale species on Earth, the vaquita porpoise.

Filmed and directed by award-winning director Richard Ladkani, the movie is a feature documentary thriller that follows undercover investigators, environmentalists, journalists, and the Mexican Navy on their desperate last-minute effort to rescue the Earth’s smallest whale—the vaquita—from extinction. Produced by Leonardo di Caprio, Sea of Shadows was released in theatres worldwide on July 12 2019.

Once again production company Terra Mater approached Kaiserlicht to deliver the entire graphics package for the movie, including the opening title sequence and all the graphic inserts.


Terra Mater Studios

National Geographic
Terra Mater Studios
Malaika Pictures

Felix Geremus
Alexander Siquans

Alexander Siquans
Felix Geremus
Niclas Schlapmann
Raphaela Klein
Jörn Engelke

Alexander Saum

Alexander Saum

H. Scott Salinas

Title Sequence

The brief was to create a sequence which is not only visually compelling, but also helps the viewer to better understand the complex connections between the illegal fishing of the totoaba, the Mexican drug cartels and the Chinese Traffickers. The so-called “Ghost Nets” – free floating nets which kill everything in their path – play an important part in the story. This inspired us to establish the nets as the central element which catch and thus connect the fate of the totoaba fish and the vaquita. Another important aspect was to show stylized maps to echo the process of actual totoaba swim bladder trafficking.

For several weeks we worked in close consultation with the director, to create a detailed pre-visualization. This was important to devise the seamless transitions which take us on a journey from the totoaba and his swim bladder, to highly detailed maps of the Sea of Cortez and finally a brief appearance of the vaquita.

At the same time, we set about creating photo-realistic CGI models of our hero elements. Since it’s almost impossible to get actual footage of both the endangered totoaba fish and the vaquita, it was critical to show them as realistic as possible. For the nets we created a procedural setup inside Houdini to create and simulate every single fiber in 3D. This was vital to show them from super close perspectives without loosing detail.

As usual, rendering was done at our in-house render farm using Redshift, for the first time in stunning 4k resolution.