[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

"The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt"



Below is part of the press release for "The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt."  If 
anything at all is wrong with the rendering of the dinosaurs, we can blame 
Josh Smith.

Mary
mkirkaldy@aol.com
_____

Rainbow Studios Helps Dinosaurs Roam The Earth, Again, On The A&E Network

Leading Digital Entertainment Production Studio Uses HD And 3D To Breathe New 
Life Into The A&E Network's Upcoming Special ``The Lost Dinosaurs Of Egypt''

PHOENIX, AZ--(INTERNET WIRE)--Aug 08, 2001-- Rainbow(TM) Studios, the largest 
digital entertainment studio in the Southwest, announced today it has 
digitally cloned and animated 3D dinosaurs for MPH Entertainment in HD for 
the upcoming A&E Network special "The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt," premiering 
this fall. ***Preview a sampling of dinosaurs in HD from "The Lost Dinosaurs 
of Egypt" at BOXX Technologies (booth #1059) during SIGGRAPH 2001, August 
14-16.***Perhaps the only thing more exciting than finding a new dinosaur 
would be the chance to see that dinosaur come to life. Although this isn't 
really possible, renowned paleontological restoration illustrator Robert 
Walters believes that the digital animation experts at Rainbow Studios have 
done the next best thing. During six minutes of animation in the upcoming A&E 
Network special "The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt," Walters says Rainbow artists 
"have brought a lost world to life. This sort of work is as close to cloning 
as we'll ever come."For this Phoenix-based animation house, turning fossils 
into creatures through CG was as complex as the science fictional cloning 
techniques in "Jurassic Park." The CG process of creation took a lot of 
attention to detail, artistic know how, and even more scientific input."We 
did a lot of things different on this project," explains Director Jim Milio 
of MPH Entertainment, the production company that--along with Cosmos--helped 
fund both the recent dig that uncovered the new genus and species of large 
dinosaur, Paralititan stromeri, and the documentary recording that event. 
"Because we heard so many stories from scientists about how inaccurately 
dinosaurs have been depicted, that some of the most famous dinosaur imagery 
has been filled with misinformation and f! alsehoods such as wrongly shaped 
bodies, heads and behaviors, I promised to keep the scientists closely 
involved."Keeping the scientists involved, however, meant that every aspect 
of CG dinosaur creation--down to the placement of a foot or blink of an eye 
was critiqued to the nth degree. "The scientists said things like, 'He's 
blinking way too much. He wouldn't blink that much,' " says Milio.Rainbow 
Producer and Vice President Nicholas Napp agrees that this attention to 
detail was, at times, very intense. "There definitely were a lot of little 
things we had to pay attention to, which were compounded by the resolution of 
the final render for 1080/30 hi-def. Fortunately, we are used to overbuilding 
our models to meet these kinds of demands."It was this over-the-top attitude 
that helped land the job for Rainbow. Says Milio, "This was my first time 
doing CGI, so I was pretty nervous because of all the horror stories you hear 
about budget over-runs. In fact, we met with a half dozen companies, three of 
which went out of business during the bidding process, which added to my 
nerves. Columbia TriStar recommended Rainbow and they basically promised to 
make me happy. They hadn't done dinosaur work before, but I could tell they 
could. They had that sort of tenacity."Rainbow's exercise in tenacity began 
in the Everglades of Florida. Recreating the world unearthed by the 
paleotological team led by University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. candidate Josh 
Smith required a tidal backdrop similar to the mangrove jungles of the 
Sunshine State. Rainbow modeler and animator Adam Schimpf, along with several 
paleontologists, was along for the ride as the film crew shot background 
plates."It was cool to see the environment through the eyes of the 
scientists," says Schimpf, who explains that long days spent together in a 
flat-bottom boat gave him plenty of time to learn about the lifestyles of the 
dinosaurs he would animate. "It was definitely hot, but it was also very 
beautiful. That whole area outside of Everglade City i! s submerged in water 
except for a few hours at low tide. But it's all very shallow. We'd be 
cruising along and all of the sudden hit ground. That gave us a unique 
perspective on the dinosaurs. You quickly got the idea that because of their 
size, they wouldn't have any trouble walking through water."Schimpf also 
learned a lot about the "look" of this lost world, how unexpected 
creatures--like dolphins he witnessed from the Gulf--could suddenly appear 
and then disappear through the maze of water-soaked vegetation. Yet, before 
he or the rest of the Rainbow Team could begin to animate, digital models had 
to be constructed. Using Newtek's Lightwave 3D, Discreet's 3D Studio Max and 
Nichimen's Mirai software packages Rainbow creatives formed digital 
sculptures of four dinosaurs: two enormous Brontosaurus-like plant-eaters and 
two T.Rex sized carnivores.By far the most difficult creature to model and 
animate was the crocodile-like Spinosaurus. "The Spinosaur has a sail that 
runs along the length of his back that was very complicated to model," 
explains modeler Boyd Lake. "The scientists told us that sail was really an 
extension of its spine, but that sort of skeletal set-up made the model very 
difficult to flex and move smoothly. Inside Alias|Wavefront's Maya we set-up 
a custom muscle object to help the sail compress as the creature arched it's 
back and expand as it lengthened its spine forward."Once the models were 
completed, the animators had to envision how these extinct creatures might 
have moved through their ancient tidal world. Walters supplied much of this 
information, suggesting that the enormous Paralititan might have moved with 
the lumbering elegance of an elephant, and the Spinosaurus in particular with 
the strange grace of a large Komodo Dragon. Says Walters, "The anatomy of the 
Paralititan is similar to an elephant. An elephant's legs are graviportal in 
that they can support a tremendous amount of weight. Their legs are like 
hinged-columns and when they move they place their feet very carefu! lly. 
>From track waves [fossilized footprints] we can tell that these dinosaurs 
moved in the same manner."Yet combining scientific fact with animation art 
was not always a straightforward process. Schmipf explains that his digital 
recreations, animated in Maya, often required adjustments between the 
possible realities of science and the actual realities of what looked right 
on the screen. "We were asked to create a walk that was somewhere between the 
footprint patterns of several dinosaurs and several elephants. But the length 
of these strides appeared to put too much stress on the legs. It made our 
models look like they were going to break. So, we had to take all this 
complex information and find compromises that looked real."While the 
animation was created, color mappers designed the look of the digital 
dinosaurs' skins. "That's actually where we had the most freedom to create," 
explains Lake. "The scientists gave us some direction, but let us roam free 
based on their hints. They had some speculations on the color of the 
Spinosaur's sail, that it was either used to dissipate heat or attract mates. 
They even said it might be brightly colored like a peacock and we actually 
started to go in that direction, but based on our thoughts internally we 
toned that down. We believed that since it was a predator that sail probably 
wouldn't be so bright. It would need to camouflage with the 
vegetation."Overall, the artists stuck with fairly conservative choices for 
all the dinosaurs' color patterns, agreeing with the scientists that most 
likely the larger the animal the more subdued its coloration. Texture maps 
for the dinosaurs hides were based on the size and shapes of scales found in 
fossil remains.As if all this complexity weren't enough to drive up the 
render times of these clips, Napp explains that the entire documentary was 
shot in High Definition and edited on BOXX Technologies' HDBOXX. "That meant 
we had to rely on some really fast equipment. We chose BOXX Technologies for 
its outstanding track rec! ord of reliable system technology. Their helpful 
support technicians helped us create a solution for getting the Hi Def 
background files into LightWave 3D, which streamlined production immensely. 
That whole pipeline was an interesting challenge because, ultimately we were 
handling frames that were between four and six megabytes each."Lake adds that 
work in Hi Def meant "the attention to detail was definitely cranked way up. 
We were more than quadrupling the pixel counts on all our frames. Because Hi 
Res shows up every little mistake, you have to intensely scrutinize 
everything; your textures, your shadows, your lighting."Intense scientific 
scrutiny combined with artistic flair has already paid off for Rainbow. The 
moment the paper detailing the importance of the new dinosaur find was 
released in Science magazine, images from Rainbow's CG creations began to hit 
the media. A frenzy ensued that won't let up until the air-date for "The Lost 
Dinosaurs of Egypt" this Fall.Both Schimpf and Lake agree that this sort of 
hype is an unusual reward for hours and hours of painstaking work. Says Lake, 
"It's a big pay-off for guys like us, to have our work be so visible and 
talked about." Even with all the back-and-forth between science and art, adds 
Schimpf, "the dinosaurs were still really fun to animate."Napp adds, "We are 
proud to have participated in the creation of the documentary "The Lost 
Dinosaurs of Egypt." Cosmos Studios and MPH Entertainment have given us a 
fantastic opportunity to showcase our artistic talents. Transforming great 
work into fantastic work is a strong story, and "Lost Dinosaurs" delivers it 
by the ton."