Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jack-O-Lantern Designs 2014

It's everyone's favorite time of the year! That means another halloween pumpkin contact sheet for all you fine folks to have fun carving with! (click to enGOURDge)

The same deal goes as every year: if anybody actually decides to attempt to carve any of these (like Stephanie, and Nicole did) please send me pictures at and I'll post them up here! That goes for previous years' pumpkin designs as well. You have until the end of the month! I will post them together on Halloween.

Previous designs are here:


Happy Carving!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Judge Dredd....noughtus

Over at io9, they put out a call for a Dreadnoughtus* photoshop competition, which produced some hilarious results. There is everything from Death Star Dreadnoughtus to the animal being Teddy Roosevelt's steed. It's totally hilarious and worth your time to check it out.

I thought of something that I felt was just too perfect, so decided to contribute, and sat down to bang something out real quick. I thought I'd share it here as well for my 3 adoring fans (click to enlarge):

I mean, c'mon, how did nobody else think of this? NOBODY would want to mess with him. It felt too perfect.


*Dreadnoughtus source image credit: Jenn Hall

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Skeletal Mount Makin' II

I built another specimen mount today, and thought I'd share some pictures. I got slightly more ambitious and decided to create a rig to mount the mandibles in an open position, which made it a bit more complicated. Even so, it's still a pretty simple mount. All it requires is the wooden base, some  wire, wire cutters, and an adhesive. I decided to try out some model-making cement, which is supposed to work well for wood and metal. Seems to be holding up.

The underlying structure with the mandibles mounted.

...and with the skull mounted.

Before anyone freaks out on me, no the skull isn't real, and I'm respecting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It's a cast which I got from The Bone Room. Being the huge fan of raptors that I am, I felt in necessary to have one represented in my collection. And a cast is fine by me.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dreadnoughtus schrani, from a Human's Eye view

Last Thursday was a REALLY BIG day (pun intended). If you care at all about dinosaurs, you would know that it was the day that Dr. Ken Lacovara and the rest of the Drexel University paleo-team finally introduced the world to Dreadnoughtus schrani! This super-massive Titanosaur was discovered in 2005 in the Santa Cruz Province of Argentina, and it took just about ten years to finally get out into the world. The reason for this, is because of how much material was found. Unlike most large Titanosaurs, Dreadnoughtus is about 70% complete (opposed to the typical 2-20%), so this big guy will be a staple for anyone interested in studying the biggest of sauropods, or just the limits of size in terrestrial vertebrates in general. So it was quite an adventure to get the thing out of the ground, to Philadelphia, prepared, and studied.

image credit: the ever-talented Jenn Hall

The completeness is a pretty big friggin deal, because it allowed the team to more reliably estimate the mass to 65 tons (more than a herd of Elephants, a gaggle of T. rex, or a Boeing 737-900), and estimated to have been somewhere around 85 ft long. Yeah, that's pretty big. But here's the kicker - the fossil bones showed signs that the animal was still growing! Awesome. Also, the paper is open access, so you should totally go check it out.

Ok, now that I've gotten you all acquainted with ol' 'Dread,' you may be wondering why I'm writing about him on this blog? I've never regurgitated a press release of a newly announced dinosaur before. Well, two reasons. First off, this animal holds a special place in my heart. For about two years during grad school at Drexel, I was introduced to this giant in the Paleo Lab at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. I helped open the first big field jacket (the femur, which is about as tall as me, by the way), and spent countless hours (along with many others in the army of volunteers) cleaning and repairing many parts of the skeleton; getting it ready for study.

I was first sent to volunteer there since I was starting my master's thesis project, and needed to be better acquainted with the whole science of paleontology. After many months of learning from the best, I was then brought into the newly opened fossil lab at Drexel to help train and supervise other volunteers (this was in the old cramped lab - I never actually got to work in the big beautiful lab that all the Dreadnoughtus press images showcase). Volunteering at the museum was one of the greatest things I've ever had the opportunity to do, and I've met some incredible people through there.

Ok now on to the second reason why I'm taking the time to write about this. As I've mentioned, the paper is free online for everyone to check out. As a part of this, all of the supplemental materials are also available. This also includes 3D laser scans of the entire skeleton! If you've been following this blog for a while, you should know of my interest in scanned fossils. I kind of owe a lot to them, actually.

Dreadnoughtus scan data

A lot of the press around the find has focused on the scale of the animal. You can see people posing with the bones in a lot of the press images, and see that it was indeed big:

Dr. Lacovara standing next to the femur - from here.

 But the life restorations associated with the press release are hard to get a true sense of scale from (Mark Witton also wrote a bit about this), since the late Cretaceous doesn't really have any familiar points of reference for us humans (nothing against the artists at all, I was having trouble with the same problem with my own restoration work). The same goes with the 3D data. You can tumble around and examine the bones quite nicely, but virtual space is particularly difficult to inherently understand scale.

Proxy mesh of 'me' standing next to an illuminated Dreadnoughtus "mount"

So with that thinking, having access to the data, I brought it into Autodesk Maya, and built a scale proxy model of someone my height (6'3), and parented a camera to the 'head.' I then slapped together a rough animation and some lights to visualize how big the animal would appear to me, if I were standing right next to it. I thought this was a particularly interesting point of view since next year the bones will have to be shipped back to Argentina, and there's no guarantee I'll ever be able to see them again in person. The video is not the prettiest thing in the world (I didn't bother making an environment), but I think it gives a pretty good idea of how big Dreadnoughtus was. Particularly the part where the camera looks up the neck, and sees the lone cervical vertebra floating off in the distance. If only the rest of the skeleton was there, it'd really drive the point home!

So anyway, That's what I have to say for now about this guy. Seeing the pictures after all these years was like seeing an old friend again. I'm so happy for my friends and colleagues who brought Dreadnoughtus schrani to us all, and am incredibly grateful to have had a small part in it. Congrats everyone!


Ref - Lacovara, K. J., Lamanna, M. C, Ibiricu, L. M., Poole, J. C., Schroeter, E. R., Ullmann, P. V., Voegele, K. K., Boles, Z. M., Carter, A. M., Fowler, E. K., Egerton, V. M., Moyer, A. E., Coughenour, C. L., Schein, J. P., Harris, J. D., Martínez, R. D., and Novas, F. E. (2014). A gigantic, exceptionally complete titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur from Southern Patagonia, Argentina. Scientific Reports. 4, 6196; DOI:10.1038/srep06196.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar First Look

Howdy folks! After finally posting things from my SideFX Internship that I did back in 2011, it got me thinking about how I don't really talk much on here about what I've been up to in my current job.

Well, now that some cool stuff has showed up online, it's time to post some cool things. Today we have some footage from 'Penguins of Madagascar.' It comes out this Thanksgiving. You should all totally go see it. Here's the first teaser that was released a while back:

And if that doesn't convince you, this scene was released yesterday at Comic-Con, and shows the tone of the film pretty well:

This scene is particularly exciting for me because it directly shows off a bunch of my work! I was primarily rigging faces on this movie, and set up the face of the baby seal, did some work on the wolf, and rigged all of the octopus faces, including the big baddie 'Dave' (John Malkovich). Dave's face rig is definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done, and I can't wait for everyone to see him this fall. That's all I'll say for now :)

And speaking of DreamWorks related things, I'll try to post some things I did for 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman' sometime in the near future. Stay tuned!


MONSTRO! Early Tests

Last time, I mentioned I would try to dig up some of my animation tests from the upcoming short film 'MONSTRO!'which is directed by Christopher Romano.

Well I've went ahead and done exactly that! Below are some early and rough animation tests I did when exploring our Houdini pipeline. I was figuring out how to best set up shots, as well as doing some major rig-wrecking. None of these are particularly incredible, and as you will see I didn't even have clothed models or textures to work with yet, but it was a fun exploratory time. If nothing else, it will help give you an idea of how I spent most of my internship a number of years ago. Well...most of it, anyway.

First up, we have the first animation test done for 'MONSTRO!' I was exploring the process of animating characters in Houdini while also assessing the first pass of the body rig, which was based on the Houdini auto rigging tools. There wasn't a face system yet, which I ended up having to develop later. I was also making sure to test out ways of having characters interact with props and the environment in Houdini. This test was animated in 12 fps to test a stop-motion style look, which was being explored for the film:

Next, we have a lipsync test. This was done to test out the first pass of the face rig I developed. I was seeing how far I could get with extremely limited controls, and to get a better idea of what necessities were still needed in the system. The face rig was a limited blend-shape based rig, using CHOPs expressions to mimic a 'set-driven-key' type of behavior (for those familiar with Maya), and some fancy SHOP network magic to add in some asymmetry. The audio is Pappy O'Daniel from 'O Brother Where Art Thou?'

After that, I thought I'd post this weird cloth sim animation test. It was created to have something to test parameters on, for a first-pass DOPs/CHOPs based cloth rig system. Obviously these particular settings don't work very well, but I also should have expected that due to how pushed the animation was :) It was fun to go really goofy with it.

And finally, after getting a working body rig, and developing and improving the face rig system, I went ahead and did a full body dialogue test to see how well the character would hold up when acting.
The rig is pretty limited, so this test was more to see how far I could push it, and to explore ways to get some more traditional animation concepts in there. The goal was to make it convincing despite the limitations. The audio is Ray Stantz from 'Ghostbusters.'

Welp, I hope you've enjoyed these goofy little tests. For more, be sure to check out the MONSTRO! channel on vimeo. Also keep your eye open for when 'MONSTRO!' comes to a town near you! You can also keep up with the film on facebook and twitter, if you so desire.

This is probably it from me on this subject, at least until the final film appears online, which I will be sure to post when it is released publicly.


Saturday, July 19, 2014


Today I went with a bunch of friends to the California Academy of Science's "Skulls" exhibit in San Francisco. If you know anything about me (which I'm hoping you do if you're reading this blog), then you know that I'm fascinated with animals and their anatomy. Bones in particular I've always found fascinating, and since I've always gravitated toward doing art related to faces and facial expressions, skulls are kind of my favorite.

Mule Deer  (Odocoileus hemionus with ridiculous antler/skull pathologies

While there, a bunch of us did some sketching. I'm not particularly happy with any of the sketches I came out with but it was a lot of fun just sort of roughly block stuff out. I was enjoying the process a lot, which is nice.

The exhibit was fantastic. There was a large variety of things, and they  put many diverse animals right next to each other to hammer home just how much variety can be seen in the same basic layout. There were mostly mammals, but plenty of birds, reptiles, and fish as well. I was basically like an ADD kid in a candy shop, overstimulated by the amount of stuff they had in there; constantly getting distracted from the cool thing I was looking at by another equally cool thing that I caught out of the corner of my eye (this is also what I will blame my lackluster sketches on  - I was too excited by the plethora of things to really focus on any one subject). Overall lots of neat things! I highly recommend it! :D

Here are some bonus images:

Tapir and Sea Otter. Best of friends?

My old pal, Alces alces

Dwarf Sperm Whale and Duck-billed Platypus

The ever-popular B. rex, with his Spoonbill, hornbill and toucan friends

One of those crazy four horned sheep

You should ALL go if you can! There is PLENTY of things I haven't spoiled here, like Elephants, and a WALL of sea-lion skulls, that challenges you to use your comparative anatomy skills to pick out the non sea-lions. Oh, and the rest of the museum is really pretty great too. But don't take my word for it! BA-DUM-BUM!