Thirty Meter Telescope

Building the World’s Most Powerful Telescope

The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory is an international scientific endeavor to explore our universe’s mysteries from black holes to dark matter to life in far-off solar systems. It’s a complex undertaking in more ways than one: besides the mind-boggling technicalities that go into a project like this, integrating into the community that shares the ultimate site for such a large telescope is a similarly challenging responsibility. 

While perfect in terms of possibilities for a project where air clarity and atmospheric stability are key, the preferred site for the telescope, the Maunakea volcano in Hawai’i, is considered sacred ground by many in the Native Hawaiian community. Our client on this project, the TMT International Observatory, is committed to working with the local and Native Hawaiian communities to determine the best path forward for the telescope and the mountain. 

They turned to us to help create realistic visuals of the telescope and its environment to more clearly portray the fully-constructed observatory and convey a sense of the science awaiting its use.

Conveying complex messages in a simple way is a tricky task in and of itself, even more so when considering the hard-to-grasp features of a scientific project like this. Luckily, we are no strangers to creating 3D visuals that are convincing not just due to their photorealistic nature but their clear communication as well. 

Our goal was to create a visual package consisting of still images, virtual reality, and an animated video, aiming to both enthral and educate our audience. The first cornerstone of the workflow was to get the pictures right and work our way up from there. Thankfully, we’ve already worked on a telescope visualization project in the past so we had that experience to rely on. Still, the 3D model’s polygon count was in the tens of millions, meaning that we first had to simplify and optimize the given material to make architectural renderings viable without the help of NASA supercomputers. 

Once we were happy with the model and the captivating atmosphere of our images that showcased a sense of discovery, childlike imagination, technical prowess, and natural beauty, we could move on to the greater task at hand: creating a movie.

With the animation proving to be nearly as complex as the telescope’s 3D model itself, the scope of the task prompted us to involve an external team of professionals for the first time in our studio’s long history. The team consisted of a film director, a copywriter, an editor, a sound designer, and even a voice talent. Together, we embarked on a mission to present the idea of light refraction in layman’s terms while staying eye-catching for maximum emotional impact.

Working closely with our director, the technical storyboard was carefully adapted into an artistic concept that focused on the human eye as a metaphor for a window into the depths of the universe, with a hexagonal shape resembling the telescope’s reflecting mirrors being a central and returning motif as well. A clear direction meant that our animation operated with cinematic camera movement, an elaborate scene structure, and a unique visual identity tying every subject and theme together. 

We deliberately wanted to focus on abstraction, starting our movie out with scenes only vaguely connected to the telescope itself, capturing the attention of the viewer so much more than any traditional walkthrough could.

To achieve the uncompromised quality we were aiming for, we pushed ourselves to step out of our comfort zones even more by creating 3D scenes off-land, meaning renders among the stars with 3D planets and scenes in outer space.

Inspired by working together with other creatives on this big-scale project, we also went the extra mile to proactively create Virtual Reality assets of our rendered scenes that resulted in our client falling in love with them and displaying them in conferences and showcases. 

While we realize that visualizing telescopes is as niche of a field as it gets, the value of this project can’t be understated. Through the work done on TMT, we could go beyond client expectations, get to try our hands at new types of collaborations, experiment with a whole other form of 3D visualization, and create true storytelling through a cinematic narrative. 

We believe these experiences will prove beneficial when tackling more traditional real estate and architecture projects.




Bence Falussy
Péter Kollár
Samer Saniour
Péter Bátory
Dávid Kovács


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