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See How VFX Wizards Make Super Realistic Dinosaurs, Down to Their Bones

In an exclusive video shared with CNET, visual effects company MPC shows how it built dinosaurs from scratch for the Apple TV Plus Prehistoric Planet.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
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Erin Carson
2 min read

Behind many of the photorealistic dinosaurs of Apple TV Plus' Prehistoric Planet, there's a guy holding a cardboard cutout on a stick. 

That's one of the behind-the-scenes glimpses shared with CNET in a visual effects breakdown reel. The video, released Friday, showcases the various stages that the visual effects team at the Moving Picture Company (MPC) went through to revive creatures that haven't walked the Earth in 66 million years for the 2022 documentary series. The five episodes of Prehistoric Planet used the familiar visual language of nature documentaries to tell the stories of dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous period.

"We began this project with the aim that the show is no different than other wildlife documentaries like Planet Earth or Blue Planet," said Kirsten Hall, associate VFX supervisor, in a statement. 

The video, which lasts three and a half minutes, takes viewers through scenes in the show at different points in development. A dinosaur might start crudely as a cutout, taped together with a ball on a stick for a head, then turn into a moving, articulated skeleton, and morph further into a figure with muscles, skin and increasing layers of detail. 

The team had to insert these dinosaurs into real locations, paying attention to how the creatures might make footprints in the snow, or how the light might hit their feathers. 

All told, MPC created 95 creatures for 28 locations. Prehistoric Planet was made in collaboration with the BBC and the Natural History Unit. It's narrated by broadcaster and nature historian David Attenborough.

Correction at 12:56 p.m. PT, Feb. 3: Due to an editing error, the term VFX was temporarily incorrect in the headline.