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Flying pterosaurs (was Re: Walking with Dinos)

 Dr Holtz writes:

> Actually, Dave Unwin (who knows MUCH more about pterosaur flight than you
> I) was one of the main consultants for the show.  I think part of the
> problem you are having is that you have only seen a few clips so far: as
> Americans, we haven't seen the full show yet.  The European Late Jurassic
> episode has a LOT of pterosaurs in it, and you get to see some variety
> there.

I don't feel that the issue is with the "pterosaurs flying like they are
pterosaurs" - to me it's more whether they are "Moving like they are
flying", thus making it an animation problem, not a consultant problem as
I'm sure Mr  Unwin gave them the best advice there was.  It's a very hard
animation to field and I think it has a lot to do with how frequent the
motion is.  As a flying creature of any species moves through the air -
particularly powered fliers - their wings are subject to varying forces of
wind, pressure, gravity.  The wing manipulation required to keep the animal
airborne is very frequent indeed, notwithstanding involuntary action such as
vibration of the wing (we are talking about a sheet of skin here after all -
one that vibrates at different tensions depending on the angle of the little
finger from the fore-arm!)  Then you have things like wing-tip vortex to
consider.  Now with a small pterosaur (probably even a large one like
quetzalcoatlus when sized down to fit your TV screen) most of these
movements would be too small to see, but would present an overall eratic
pattern... or should.  Computers are not good at erratic patterns - this is
why a keyboard flute voice does not sound like a flute, because the ears are
used to an overall steady note with many underlying fluctuations and when it
doesn't hear that it says "No human could be that steady" and writes the
sound off as computer generated.  This is what is happening in your mind
when you're watching walking with dinos - the walking is easily done - there
really isn't much random fluctuation to a steady walking pattern and best of
all - it's slow.  Although, when you saw that allosaur running through the
puddle and making that splash, didn't you just think "Well, for the size of
that splash, I'd estimate allosaurus' weight as about equal to a medium
sized stick"?  Now we're getting really picky of course, which isn't really
fair on Tim and Mike, but hey - I never critisized the old Harryhousen
techniques as heavily as I am now with WWD becasue Harryhousen didn't even
get close to what I imagined as a kid dinosaurs should look like.  WWD came
SO close it's painful and it's such a shame they missed the target after
coming this far.
Yours sincerely,
                         Samuel Barnett