Just returned from the recent one day workshop hosted by the Bristol Museum in conjunction with the BBC's new Walking With Dinosaurs documentary to be aired monday.
The line up of events were as follows:
10:30 Welcome and introduction to dinosaurs - Mike Benton.
A basic introductory guide to help everyone catch up - aimed at an audience between 7 and 70 years and so was very generalised. He did however show a nice slide of the Scipionyx intestines enlarged - was, for me, more moving than the animation footage.
I caught up with Mr Benton after the lecture and he happened to mention the imminent release of a second edition to Galton Sues and Weishampel's The Dinosauria. Should be set for release in 2001-2002 by his estimates.
11:30 Showing of film 1 - Tim Haines
Attention anyone who wants to be surprised on Monday (like anything I tell you could possibly give away everything) avert your eyes: Having seen a diplodocus fart I can quite happily retire to my grave contented with my lot - it was good seeing these animals perform the smellier functions of life such as hatching, mating, defecating (1 tonne a day apparently! any refs supporting this people?) as well as all the other things you'd expect like fighting predators and of course eating. Speaking of predators, I was pleasantly surprised by the allosaurus - it shook it's shoulder girdle as a follow-through to shaking it's throat while bellowing - a piece of dynamic action I hadn't predicted. As for other stars. the brachiosaurus was surprisingly gracile for it's size and the Agnurognathus (apologies for mispelling) is very sweet.
12:00 Bones to biology: how we know how dinosaurs lived and moved - Mike Benton
Gave an overview on what we know about dinosaur locomotion, metabolism, etc,... His main reference was the work of Donald Henderson in his 1999 publication to Palaeobiology (Allen Press Ltd) Most of the time he compared mathematical techniques of rendering locomotion like this with artistic techniques as used by the Walking With Dinosaurs team.
12:30 Demonstration of dinosaur locomotion in Earth Sciences computer room - Any student that could operate the machines
To see everything we did, visit http://zeus.bris.ac.uk/~gldmh/
14:00 Computer animation creating an illusion - Mike Milne
Discussed the various techniques used to synchronize the real camera taking shots of the backdrop with the computer generated images that were supposed to move naturally within it - ie how to get the shadows falling in the right places, where the light source was, where exactly the CG foot was planted when the camera panned round etc, Mostly they used the ball and pole technique to guage exact distance on location. What ensued afterwards was a selection of edits how the additional camera crew ran around making everything move so the dinosaurs could truly interact - the result was straight out of the Monty Python archives to be sure. Also included was an animator's rendering of an allosaurid lying on it's side, grooming it's cloacca and a humerous animators day off joke with a skateboarding coelophysis with helmet.
15:00 Making the series - Tim Haines
Apparently not the most expensive documentary ever made - just the most expensive per second. Only cost about as much as your average costume drama although a costume drama lasts about twice as long. It turns out that the licensing corporation only paid 1/4 of the budget for the production of this and the rest from independant sponsors and commercial retail etc. He raised some interesting points on what he thought we as a mammalian group assumed about dinosaurs. He said that he wanted to portray diplodocus as an uncaring parent to throw people's perceptions of all things being nurturing caring parents. I feel this is (intentionally or otherwise) claiming that Horner's work et al was somehow always orthodoxy. Oh well. He made an interesting point relating to the "sauropod's long necks being so to assist in entering conifer forests for grazing where their bodies could not" thread that was recently discussed on our very own dinosaur list: He implied that when rendering the largest of the adult sauropods in giant tree environments typical to their day, he physically couldn't make them fit so he had to bring them out onto the plains. More food for thought I'm sure.
16:00 Film 2 - Tim Haines
Again, if you don't want to know how it ends, please skip now: The final episode loses it's documentary feel I think and tries to go out with a bang of special effects and wowing wizardry - in all fairness it succeeds but it is an odd jump of styles. Again nice to see they thought of the messy touches with archosaurian ecology - they even made the nostrils foam on a carbon monoxide poisoning victim. I was a little dissapointed with T-rex - in short his tongue was all too obviously unreal and his jaw hinge mechanism/lips were not as beautifully complicated - more like King of the glove puppet lizards than anything else. Other dissapointments were the flight characteristics of the pterosaurs and birds - I just didn't believe that they were manipulating the air around them. It's a shame they didn't have time to create a CG wind tunnel to test their fliers instead of just looking at what looked right. I raised a question about whether the moon's geology would have been different then - craters in different places etc. Also, I wonder about the likelihood of Dromaeosaurus trying to prey on triceratops (unless Lynxs have started killing elephants while I wasn't looking).