Looks like it's Kickstarter season! Today, I'm here to talk to you about another project: DinosaurChannel.TV. It's the new project from multiple award winning paleoartists, Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger! Not only do Bob and Tess produce terrific work, and know their stuff, but they're great people, and have supported me immensely in the past. It's entirely possible, that without their initial guidance, and help in getting various people at Drexel University into one room, that my own paleoart restoration of Thoracosaurus neocesariensis would have never come to fruition.
I have really fond memories of them showing me their old studio, and I always try to catch up with them to see them at various paleo-events. They are, after all, the ones who really helped kickstart my own interest in paleoart as a serious subject. Next time you're at a museum, and looking at the amazing wall murals and illustrations, remember that there are talented people behind those - people such as Bob and Tess. As an avid fan and supporter of paleoart, I can't NOT share this project with you all. I think there's a lot of potential for this, and look forward to seeing what they come up with!
What are you waiting for? Go donate! Even if it's just a few bucks, every little bit helps! There are plenty of great dino-art backer rewards too. And if you're feeling particularly generous, there is the possibility of being a part of some of their shows, and even going on a fossil hunting trip yourself!
All this is exciting stuff. You should definitely consider backing them! I know I did!
My friends at Eastern National have started a Kickstarter campaign to redesign and republish an updated edition of The Signers of the Constitution, a 1976 National Park Service biographical publication. They are a nonprofit organization who support many of the National Parks in the Eastern US. So if you are interested in the national parks, or history in general, you should consider contributing! There are some really great backer gifts as well, that history fans are sure to enjoy.
Why am I writing about this here? I don't normally do much advertising. But my friends at this organization have helped me a lot in the past. I did some work for them a while back when they were developing their Passport to Your National Parks app, and it enabled me to have the little bit of pocket money that I did when I took the jump and moved to California. They've supported me a lot so I'd like to do the same for them.
Also, I did some talking-head animation of a few founding fathers for their Kickstarter video. It was fun to caricature known historical figures, especially since I don't do caricature very often. I would have liked to have more fluid expressive animation but for the timeline they were on I think it turned out fairly well.
The video is more an intro to the history behind the project, so head over to the Kickstarter page for more details on the project itself, and to see the list of rewards, including things like poster prints and hand-blown glass objects from the Jamestown Glasshouse in Jamestown, VA.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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!
Shameless plug time! Three years ago, when I first made the move across-country to California, it was to start an internship animating on a short film. That film is finally coming out! It starts the festival circuit this week, and you should check it out if you have the opportunity.
This project means a lot to me because it is really the first time I was working on a CG project outside of school, and the first time I actually got paid to animate, and play around in CG. The people behind the film put a lot of faith in me by offering me an internship when I was some 2700 miles away, since I was willing to do character animation in Houdini (That's right, pretty much everything except for modeling was done in Houdini for this project). That internship was a HUGE step in launching me on my career path, and I couldn't thank my friends and former coworkers enough for helping me make that happen.
But enough sentiment - for the film, I was brought in essentially for character animation. I was given a lot of freedom to experiment with different animation styles before the production started. I spent a lot of time with the first few characters, particularly these two:
I did a number of animation tests helping to define and develop their movement styles and personalities (which I may post soon, if I can dig them up). I believe the final film only has one short series of shots that are my final animation, but I ultimately ended up setting up a lot of the pipeline, and designed the face rigs, since there wasn't really any out-of-the-box or established ways to work with faces in Houdini (Most if not all the rigging specific tools, including the auto rigs, are very body-centric). So I learned a heck of a lot and had a lot of fun working on this project.
Anyway, keep your eye out for it. You can find the festival schedule here, so if it's in your area, you should go see it. Also you should be sure to 'like' and 'follow' it to help get the word out there!
Hello All, this post was inspired by a bizarre moment in a dream that I had, involving vultures. But these weren't just any vultures. These were a weird, made-up species of vulture that were secondarily flightless, as they were adapted to running around on all fours. That's right, unlike most actual secondarily-flightless birds, these guys didn't just reduce their wings down to practically nothing, but actually adapted their wings to work as a set of front legs.
How most birds do it. The ridiculously small wing of the extinct Elephant Bird (Aepyornis maximus) from Madagascar.
But how could using wings as legs possibly work? You might ask. The bones in a bird's hand are fused, inflexible, and would not support weight! Well there's the short answer and the long answer. The short answer is...it's a damn dream, and dreams don't make any goddamn sense.
But, the interesting thing about the dream, is that my subconscious dream-brain was apparently trying to make sense out of it the best it could. They looked pretty much like Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus), with some modifications. The way the birds moved around, was a sort of a 'knuckle walk' on their hands. The wings were still fully feathered, but the primaries and secondaries were reduced quite a bit to allow better clearance. Their wings and legs were also both lengthened to allow for better support, and a more cursorial lifestyle, to give them better ground clearance when running. Yes that's right, in the dream they were cantering around like dogs in someone's yard.
They also behaved rather dog-like, and would run up to you like an excited puppy - but it threw me off in the dream, since they were bizarre and I wasn't expecting it (even though my brain invented it...so weird how that works). So ultimately I was fascinated by them, but got nervous when they were close, because I was unsure of if they wanted me to pet them, or if they wanted to rip my face off. And normal large birds by themselves can make one nervous, since they have such snappy movements, which make them feel unpredictable. I remember this well from that time I was filming Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae):
But anyway, toward the end of the dream, they were keeping their distance, and I was desperately trying to get my phone out to take video and document these bizarre quad-vultures. But of course, with how dreams are, I was fumbling with my phone for too long, and by the time I was up and ready, they stopped moving around and I missed my chance. When I woke up I decided to do a rough sketch of the creatures, which is where this post comes in. Here is pretty much what they looked like:
Anyway, thanks for humoring my impossible bird-ramblings. Just goes to show you that inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places I guess! :)
It's been a while since I've posted. I've been much more active these days over at 90 minute comics. I have some ideas for some interesting things brewing though, which I'm not at liberty to talk about until substantial progress has been made though.
Anyway, this is just a quick post of some fun things I've posted on my facebook page but realized never made it to here. First, since the world desperately needs more critically endangered Saiga antelopes, I spent a couple hours getting back into ZBrush and roughing one out.
(click to bigify)
I would like to get better with starting sculpts from scratch in ZBrush instead of taking the time to first do a low-res base mesh in Maya, so that's what this was an experiment in.
Next up, is just a digital sketch of a dragon I did when I didn't have any ideas for one night of 90 minute comics. This was done in Photoshop in the allotted comics time...so 90 minutes. It was fun to just make it up off the top of my head as I went. Been a while since I had such an enjoyable sketch session :)
(click to bigify)
I'll try to be more regular. Sorry about the hiatus!