Kiwi company Method brings new life to extinct creatures at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

Kiwi company Method's new intallation in Melbourne
The unique animation is projected onto a 14-metre wall. Photo credit: Supplied / Method / Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

A New Zealand technology studio has created a new cutting-edge ocean animation for the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium.

Method, an Auckland-based company experienced in immersive technology including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), has drawn on its expertise to bring seldom-seen sea creatures to life.

'Dive into the Deep' is an immersive digital experience and the first of its kind in the region, the company said.

The projection-mapped animation immerses visitors into an underwater world where they'll encounter the likes of the colossal squid, a manta ray and the massive prehistoric shark, Megalodon.

Scenes are projected onto a 14-metre wall, with the installation designed to teach visitors about the deep sea, both as it is now and also in the past.

"The animation naturally progresses through the sunlight zone, the twilight zone and the midnight zone with the exhibition showcasing a vast variety of marine life," said Nick Piper, the business director at Method.

"It starts with some of the animals you might see today in the depths of our oceans and ends with prehistoric sea creatures of the past - creating a surprising and unique aquarium experience."

The aquarium screen
Photo credit: Supplied / Method / Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

The work was made more difficult as it all had to be completed remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"Method worked virtually with Sea Life to create the in-person experience," Piper said.

"Using only images, videos, maps and client references, we're proud of how we've created an incredibly tangible experience all the way from across the pond here in Auckland. It was ironic that we could create something so immersive, remotely."

The CGI animation uses a process called rotoscoping, which ensures no two scenes are exactly the same.

It allowed animators to trace the sea creatures to move just as they would in the real world, creating an experience that offers variety in action and movement, as would be expected in a real aquarium. 

Mikala Smith, head of guest experience and operations at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium, said the installation was a "magical experience" for visitors who want to know more about what lies beneath the sea.

"Method helped us turn a space that was once unassuming into a dynamic area with technology that's really revolutionary. So much so that you don't even notice the technology and are just in awe of the experience."

Visitors had been "blown away" by the experience, Smith said, which includes large sperm whales, Tiburonia jellyfish and now-extinct sea creatures like the giant Archelon turtle and the predatory Liopleurodon.