The Big One is a short film about a cult that throws people into volcanoes to create earthquakes. They are trying to create the eponymous "big one", an earthquake that would destroy the world.

I was tasked with creating the visual effects for sequences involving the volcano and lava pits. I utilized a variety of concept art and animatics to visualize the sequences, and built miniatures of rocks, volcanoes, and lava pits, and filmed them against a green screen for compositing.

  • Pre-visualize special effects sequences
  • Create animatics for special effects sequences
  • Build and film miniature set-pieces
Animatics & Concept Phase
My first step was to sit with the director and discuss the story and the sequences he might want to cover. I utilized animatics to give the director a sense of how the sequences would actually flow together.

Animatics in Sketchup helped the director choose angles to shoot.


Finalizing these angles helped me decide which miniatures needed to be built.


They also gave me a sense of the lighting conditions and what type of color and materials the models would need.

We settled on specific shots we wanted to achieve and I built a variety of miniatures to represent the different areas of the volcanic mountainside and lava pits. Everything was filmed on a green screen stage and composited together.

The models were built out of aluminum foil for the proper texture.


The camera was able to get very close and still hold the detail of the model.


The model sections were lightweight and could be easily rigged for dolly and crane shots.


Closeups of photo-realistic lava textures were achieved with a mix of materials.


Sections were built like pre-fab pieces, to allow for flexibility of re-arranging them.

Project Complete!