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david's really interesting pages | palaeoart, animation and stuff
david's really interesting pages | palaeoart, animation and stuff

cladogram style… Gabriel’s fantastic biota posters

Hi Gabriel! I did this mockup trying to clarify for myself what I dislike about the cladogram design on your otherwise fantastic posters. This is a badly colored mockup with ugly curves… just an exercise on what a cladogram should / shouldn’t do in a use case like this. It should be secondary to the creatures. It should communicate the deep time fluid relationships (what I dislike about the rigid waymarker nodes), their continued evolution or extinction, as well as the relationships of the animals to each other (wherein this mockup is not detailed enough). And it should be aesthetically pleasing. This is the subjective elephant in the room, of course… but I’ve always disliked the representation of an animal in evolutionary flux as a fruit hanging at the end of a branch. Just hoping to prod and provoke, be assured… your fantastic posters don’t really need it.

photogrammetry rocks!


Here’s a guide I made for a photographer who wanted to try out photogrammetry outdoors. Basically, try to get every surface covered from at least a few varying angles, and get sharp images avoiding blur and direct lighting.
If you’re into bones, Heinrich has got you covered!

Palaeort platform… 2

Thinking this out in more detail, where are the problematic issues involved from each participant’s point-of-view?

The art-buyer might be a larger entity such as a publication, broadcaster or institute, but might be an individual scientist, an artist-initiated digital publishing or interactive effort.

  • quick overview of visuals to be purchased, either directly in the form of a searchable library or indirectly to serve as a reference, determining the expected quality of a contracted piece
  • easily defined contractual clarity of usage rights, including potential exclusivity, time / geographic limits
  • one-stop payment (ie. transfer to one entity defining ownership, not individual members of a team)
  • pitch-visuals to promote the sale of a project

The authors are anyone involved in the content creation process. The simplest collaboration would be a one-man show, such as Mark Witton… scientist, artist and publisher in one. The more complex collaborations might be a number of scientific consultants, artists, developers and a publisher. I suppose the first doesn’t need a coordinating site like I propose, nor would a visual illustrator plus scientist collaborator. But with increasing complexity, a collaboration platform might well enable the team to become a team.

  • access to project opportunities, job generation
  • reward in form of credits and financial reimbursement
  • trust that these rewards are forthcoming and thus: transparent overview of team constitution, progress and profit
  • ideally, a course of action in cases of dispute

A missing link here might the classic role of executive or creative producer. If someone with this role is involved, they are likely to bridge both POVs.

The project’s POV is defined within a limited amount of time, with a clear-cut termination goal…  a series of illustrations with set format, resolution, content. An interactive book with game doc defining platform, content, look and performance requirements… not at all trivial to determine at the beginning of a project, but crucial to the feasibility of a successful project. I could imagine some projects being financed in advanced, but as ie. broadcasters are more likely to be a hindrance to plausible palaeovisualization, the assumption must be that financing is at least partially deferred.

  • clearly defined timeline and goal
  • project management support (transparent team roles, goals, tasks, schedules, etc.)
  • intuitive communication and remote collaboration tools
  • exploitation > sales, potentially to continue development on to further projects

Sounds simple, but there are ample conflicts-of-interest between these POVs. What if the result is an asset, which – in order to increase sales – might be offered on various establish asset sites and therefore extend beyond the scope of the collaboration platform. The promise of transparency for the authors is broken. As it likely will be upon payment, as an art-buyer will pay one entity, likely via transfer or paypal, in exchange for distribution / usage rights. All this emphasizes the role of trust in team members, which perhaps should only be able to join the platform via invite, and makes a reputation system necessary.

Support Palaeoart… via platform?

As astute as ever, Mark has called out scientists to deal with illustration. (I’ll avoid ‘art’ as that’s another discussion.) I’ll sum it up in skate-speak as “draw-tough-or-go-home”.

This overlaps with my experiences… in animation – which I’ll venture to say is a few steps more complicated (not to say mired) than illustration.  I’ve experimented in the past with integrating scientists into the visualization process with varying degrees of success (namely failure). Animation requires a massive investment in asset creation, while broadcasters only commission job-by-job, and by the time it comes to the cg artist, the deadline is tomorrow and the scientific consultant hasn’t been identified yet. The generated assets are then either half-assed or too one-offf-ish to warrant being re-used for ie. print media, so if there’s not another contract (which would just run down the same course) the potential kinda dries up.

An idea…
a platform that garners and coordinates coordination between the involved parties in creating visual media. Probably overkill for illustration alone, but this is in anticipation of a bright new world in which cg technologies are used to create interactive and thus much more widely accessible scientific literature.
It would basically be a team of interested specialists synching up with each other and investing enough trust as to join together in a team in order to create a clearly defined asset… say a pose-able creature (Archosaur X). A private forum helps them discuss, plan and schedule their efforts, including agreeing to a participation percentage. Then the work is (ideally) done and they have generated assets… Archosaur X, as a sequence of images, a pose-able model (animation-ready even) and a limited 3D interactive viewer. ArtBuyers (broadcasters, publishers, scientists) can shop for existing assets, commission new work and vote on quality. Upon purchase, the team members are reimbursed in accordance with their percentage. The platform makes it into a community, with reputation-building and communication platforms… is author M reliable? Does team B make good shit? Does ArtBuyer G follow up on commissions?

Just a thought exercise for now, as I don’t see any movement on this from publishers, broadcasters or us wee individuals. Interested? Comment!

gorgonopsian wip… teeth

so… questions to Rubidgeinae teeth: Christian, if you could clarify?
Here are quick paint-overs… do these guys have palatal teeth? Your paper shows them, would just like to make sure before modeling them in. Also… what do we know about the teeth on the jaw? I only have other illustrations to go on for them, they are absent in the papers I’ve seen. And if there are no molar-type teeth for crushing towards the back of the mouth where forces would make that feasible, does this mean they tore off and swallowed flesh? No processing of bones, etc? Were those massive skulls muscled only for attack / demobilization with primarily front portion of snout? (Would perhaps explain that somewhat unique ‘chin’.)


Also made a quick sketch of what the open mouth would look like:


gorgonopsian wip


biomodel: generic gorgonopsian

So I’m modeling a gorgonopsid for Christian Kammerer. A bunch of them, actually. And I’ve started with a biomechanical model. Not a skeleton. Skeletons are a lot of work, but there are more convincing arguments to come up with an abstracted model of the skeleton… we often do not have skeletons, or they have to be reconstructed from shards, from deformed shapes, etc. So I want a model that communicates that this is an abstracted form, and let’s me get on to work.

My plan is to then create a generic base gorgonopsid ‘meat’ mesh, and adapt that for each of the species. Of course, I’m not very knowledgeable about therapsids, so… questions:

  • is this halfway reasonable? It would be good to get any critique of generic pose, limb sprawl, proportions etc now or early.
  • The limbs are really hacked, but are they acceptable? Are these guys plantigrade?
  • I’d like to show the mouth somehow, not for RAWR, but because we only really have the heads of these guys and they are bizarre. Did they really have palatal teeth?
  • Which is your favorite? Dinogorgon and Smilesaurus are badass, but I’m thinking I’ll start with a more plain vanilla Rubidgeinae

Feedback welcome!


Aptychi – updated

The grandmother’s hypothesis generated some interest, so here’s an updated version with at least a mildly slicker overall appearance. Feel free to use this, please link to this blog and nudge me if you’re writing something about this topic.

I’ve stumbled over a fantastic reconstruction here by Leif Beckmann under Günter Knittel’s direction. These look much more plausible to me, so I’m taking this in that direction. The site is only in German for now… we’ll see what we ca do about that.

the grandmother hypothesis…

After some research into the surprisingly obscure role of the ammonite aptychus and some very helpful feedback from Robert Lemanis. So, apparently, aptychus are homologous to the lower beak in squids and octopuses. In ammonites, they are suspiciously similar in size and shape to the shell opening on ammonites they’ve been found with. The vision of a creature pushing it’s jaw out and up over it’s head made me think of a cute little grandma playing with her dentures, and so I began to call it the grandma hypothesis.  I know not everyone will like this interpretation of it’s function, but it should have at least one animated representation out there I think, and it definitely sets ammonites apart from nautiloids. So, we’ll see how the animation ends up looking…

I’ll also try to get a full list of references for this reconstruction up, but for the most part, it’s Christian Klug and researchers he’s worked with.

Protoceratops wip, because… Ornithischian