Part I: Solving a Sea of Troubles

What is Ocean Cleanup?

Caption: Great Pacific Garbage Patch with and without cleanup

Million Dollar Boyan

The Ocean Cleanup has support from various influential and well respected parties, including the Netherlands’ government and many other partners and suppliers. Just recently the foundation received an impressive 21.7 million USD in donations alone, thereby raising the foundation’s overall funding since 2013 to a hefty $31.5M (£24.4M/€28.1M). Over the years TOC has already been quite well covered by various media organisations across the globe, including TV news, websites and talk shows, so rather than obsessively rehashing everything that has already been said about TOC, from this point on we will primarily focus on the eye candy Zwart created for the project. His visuals are responsible for making strong presentations that gets the project more support. However, if you’d like to find out even more about The Ocean Cleanup, you could give Slat’s most recent presentationa watch, or if you’d rather a written summary then navigate over to their website to sea How to Better Clean the Oceans — In 10 Pictures.

The man behind the visuals


Providing the groundwork

In a surprising parallel over a generation apart, both Zwart and Slat attended the Netherlands’ architecturally unique Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) to study Aerospace Engineering. It is unlikely that Slat’s decision to leave was based on the quality of the university itself, after all the 175 year old university stands high at #20 in the engineering & technology category of the world university rankings. Slat decided to put university on pause after just 6 months in order to freely pursue TOC. A decision that came after the idea of cleaning up the ocean had been nagging at him since 2011 during a plastic-heavy Greek diving experience. While university may have helped provide Slat with an expanded knowledge base, in the end he didn’t need a degree to make something of himself.

Caption: The exterior of TU Delft’s brutalist auditorium in 1966
Caption: The TU Delft library, a bookworm’s paradise

Part II: The Power of Inspiration

The Apollo era and digital flight sims

Caption: ET found home in the Evoluon, built 1966 Eindhoven, Netherlands
Caption: subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1
Source: Youtube

Industrial Light & Magical Awesomeness

The famed VFX and animation studio, Industrial Light & Magic, founded by George Lucas in 1975 for the production of Star Wars (1977), has since provided special and visual fx for hundreds of films and franchises, including E.T. (1982); all the Back to the Future (1985–1990) and Jurassic Park (1993–2001) films; The Abyss (1989); several MCU films since Iron Man (2008); the fully CG-animated Rango’s (2011) blooming impressive photorealism; and of course every single Star Wars film, including Rogue One. It’s easy to see why Zwart has been so influenced by the rightfully multi-award winning studio.

This scene still gives me the heebie-jeebies

Retro Rendering

I had a whale of a time (sorry) with this 80s text generator
Hmmm I wonder what software this is for???

The Fabrique Group, stonebaked bread and the early internet

In 1990 the 24 y/o Zwart established his own sole proprietorship called Fabrique Computer Graphics for which he has been modelling, animating and more since the company’s very beginnings. Whilst he creates content for a variety of technical fields, Zwart’s clients primarily consist of technical innovation and product development companies, which he works with to help sell their ideas and products. Thanks to Moore’s Law, a continuous challenge for Zwart (and of course, many others) is keeping up with the technology of the time, however the potential frustration of this task is more than offset by the rewarding feeling of solving unforeseen problems and coming up with new or faster ways to finish a project, such as outsourcing the rendering of his very complex animations to a cloud based render farm.

The Amiga Imploder

A selection of Kare’s icons for the Apple MacintoshSource:
The Amiga 1000 Source:

Part III: Behind the Oceanic Photorealism

The setup

Before Zwart could create his first animation for The Ocean Cleanup in 2014, he had to be certain he would have time to actually render it, since at the time his workstation was, in his own words, a pretty standard setup; far from a hi-tech high speed rendering monster his animations might lead some to believe (myself included). The workstation consisted of a Windows 7 PC with a 6-core Intel i7 processor and a GeForce GTX680 graphics card. The good news is Zwart had already been outsourcing his most complex renders to an external render farm for several years prior, meaning he could get to work confident in the knowledge that the project would not be bogged down by long-winded render times. This collaboration didn’t just come out of nowhere, for the first seeds were planted 8 years prior to Zwart’s creation of his now-famous TEDx visuals, when he met one of the founders of the cloud based render farm GarageFarm.NET, Tomek Swidzinski over Skype when the chat app first came out. These recurring chats would eventually lead to the project’s timely completion as using the render farm was a nitro boost.


Visualizing the Cleanup with Foundry Modo®

Source: fabrique3d

Ol’ MacDonald had a (render) farm

Source: GarageFarm.NET

After the breakthrough



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