I suppose its understandable to feel puny when confronted by pieces of sauropod. Fortunately, modern technology has the answer… here, Dave descends into the bone cellar – home of said sauropod pieces – to demonstrate being both puny and huge. Good ego-preserving techniques to brush up for your next encounter with sauropods!
The DigitalFossil2012 was, for me, a surprise in that a large proportion of the speakers attended the full 3 days of presentations by their colleagues. The whole event can easily be described as intimate. Everyone seemed actively interested in each other’s techniques and from the enthusiasm with which these specialists exchanged their ideas and experiences, I suspect there was an element of liberation in finding themselves in a high-caliber think-tank of colleagues exploring digital capture, analysis and archival / distribution methods. It was certainly infectious for me as an outsider, and I’m grateful that the talks were universally presented in very accessible terms – I (prosumer-type computer graphics animator) was able to follow along and even be immersed in the concepts being presented, despite them involving things like micrometer multi-phase synchrotron thingies and doodads. Indeed, a good amount of the talks were overviews of techniques, two or three of historical background. Here some personal highlights, with the attempt to link to further sites from the speakers (please let me know if there are better ones):
Tickling incredible detail out of spineless beasties using an array of high and low tech approaches, despite ridiculous scale & material issues. I noted autoflourescence, focal sharpness stacks, photography using cross-polarized multiple light sources (among others) as well as scanned, computed and hand-modeled meshes of very interesting invertebrates. The more I explore their work, the more I encounter familiar favorites. Illustrators / animators, note the recurring theme of brilliant scientists using digital toolsets to create stunning imagery. Gulp.
Peter Falkingham, Stuart Pond, Neffra Matthews & Brent Breithaupt
The individual talks about various (and partially conflicting) approaches to photogrammetry were great. Peter Falkingham, champion of sympethetic (red: author) garage tinkling approaches, demonstrated a Kinect scanner, alternative Asus Xtion & software such as VisualSFM. Stauaart Pond talked about collecting data in the field and the advances made in speedily checking and sharing data with colleagues (as measured in minutes). Brent Breithaupt analyzed results of photgrammetry with LIDAR scanning: one is as good as the other, with minor bias for things like hardedge detection. I particularly enjoyed Neffra Matthews historical overview, which opened my eyes a good deal – including the work of Berlin architect Albrecht Meydenbauer as author of the term and process of photogrammetry. Then the first applications to documentation of track sites and fossils. Fantastic!
It got better though – because all 4 contributed to a hands-on workshop in photogrammetry. Don’t be surprised if a lot of Chirotherium tracks start popping up soon. It was great to witness such experienced and opinionated specialists accepting the potential validity of partially contradictory approaches. To sum it up: make sure you get overlap in crisp photos (66%), no matter whether you shot from the hip machine-gun style or in deliberate, planned passes. Get an overview photo so that the software can place details. Don’t move your scale bars from photo to photo. If shooting through glass, place the lense right on the glass. Peter had a great metaphor of mentally imagining the scene, but I’ve misplaced my note on it.
More of a personal note, as I’m a closet fan of all things Carboniferous. Photogrammetry. Cool stuff!
Tragicomic in one sense, as the exploration of these massive track sets are being financed by the same Autobahn construction that shall consume them. Simultaneous rejoice at what’s being done with digital collection methods and dejection at the thought that the actual fossils are then destroyed.
Times up for today, the other talks were great too. I missed the later ones because of the workshop. Feel free to add notes or corrections in the notes. This is all kind of rushed…
Here the left-out Vivian and Peter ponder whether Heinrich has properly earned his ceremonial closing beer. Conclusion? He deserves kegs!
A fantastic 3-day event, with open debate about the goals and methods of digital toolsets – sometimes in contradiction to one another, always in a constructive spirit and sometimes mind-opening. More in the coming days…
Struggling with mild burnout and simultaneously prepping some concept documents, for which I needed a Stegosaurus mount. Ended up inefficiently browsing and enjoying endless photos of Heinrich’s guided tour of the fantastic Aathal museum. Here’s my justification for about an hour of non-work.
I doubt I have to point any of my regular guests over to Heinrich’s blog, but… better safe than sorry. There’s an increasing quality of science writing among paleontologists and this series promises to continue raising the bar. The passion and spirit of exploration come across as clear as the technical explanations, thanks in part to very well laid out graphics like the one below. Click to beam on over…
I’ve had this done for some time now, but only got around to rendering just now. It’s my tried and true Kentrosaurus ala Heinrich, but now with the lessons learned from the elephant gait analysis. Can you see the difference from my old walk (from way back when)? Beside the background color?
The difference is very subtle but has the effect that while the back two legs basically biped along with 4 frame overlap, the front legs are asymmetrically shifted so that – instead of an alternating left / right stance – there is more time with three feet on the ground. Once I’ve seen both, the symmetrical one looks laughably wrong.
Brian Switek plugs Heinrich’s Kentrosaurus paper at the Smithsonian blog, and my illustration is there, front and center. Heinrich’s write-up is at Palaeontologia Electronica, again, with my illustration. It’s worth a read (as are the other papers there) and I suggest you hit the link and head over.
This illustration is a landmark for me. It’s the first full-fledged illustration that I’ve done of a dinosaur – as opposed to speed-paints, concepts and sketches. It shows what my intentions are – I want a detailed, lush imagery with science at its core, something that generates excitement without being spectacular.
Did I manage all those things? No. Stylistically, it’s a bit too ambiguous in style between realism and illustrative. And it could read better in a few parts, compositionally its too uniform in color and the main Kent’s pose could be more dramatic. Lesson learned. What I discovered is that I enjoyed the challenges of creating an environment that felt like a huge creature has been ravaging through the foliage – and feel I’ve been successful. The ravaging isn’t by the Kent, by the way… there are already young fern fronds indicative of stage one recovery. The Kents are browsing through a path previously trampled by a sauropod herd.
And that’s what I enjoyed most about making this: and where I am in fact happy with the result. The image is suggestive of a story, and the story explains the science. There’s a rearing Kent, then the foreground Kent who’s been disrupted, and an Allosaurus feigning indifference up front. That’s what makes me look forward to future projects, such as finishing this one. It’s begging to be an animation.