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Re: For the artists: RIP
My 2c... ditto what Colin said. Seems an unwieldily way to do things,
especially for a 'static' magazine - I can see how it makes sense for a
film like JP or recreation style documentary like "Walking with
dinosaurs" to go with 3D computer generation (with all the inherent
problems col's just suggested) as the alternatives are cartoons,
animatronics, puppets or guys in suits - but why for something that's
printed? It's like using a particle accelerator to crack a nut (maybe
slight exaggeration there). Wonder if they have a machine that goes 'ping' too?
This is where the artwork of Dan, John and all the others (Stout, Paul,
Hallett, Henderson and lots of others) really shines... not only more
accurate but better result as 'artwork'. Also, I had a crack at underwater
palaeoart myself, its not easy... you really need an artist that can
capture all the nuances of that environment to do it justice.
There are some brilliant palaeoartists that don't only get the details
right (or at least accurately depict one of the concurrent alternative
scientific views) but so many these days can give the art a sense of
reality... these are not fantasy animals, or lumps of plasticine fighting
each other... they were real animals that lived and breathed, slept, got
bored, got frightened, took a dump, scratched their nose etc... depicting
them in similar styles to how we expect modern animals to be illustrated
helps get this message through, also at a subconscious level, helping the
viewer believe in it. This is most important when communicating with the
non-enthusiast in the general audience, and winning them over is an
important part of the whole game.
At 10:53 AM 17/12/2005, Colin McHenry wrote:
They must have spent a fortune on this work. I see two problems with it;
1. you need a huge team of artists to get everything right; a scupltor to
get the initial shape of the animal, then various 3d digital artists to do
the fine details, rendering, etc. Then the thing has to be posed /
animated, and the background and lighting need to be worked out (plus
whatever other critters are in the scene with the main subject). In
short, there are a lot of people in between the scientific information at
the start and the art director at the finish. It is inevitable that most
of the people in that sequence will understand very little of the basics
about what they are dealing with (for the sea monsters, apart from the
basic anatomy, this means things such as; how animals move in water, how
light behaves in water, that sort of thing) So there will inevitably be
lots of mistakes.
One the other hand, when you (as a palaeontologist) are working directly
with one artist it's a lot easier to make sure that basic things that are
going to make it look realistic don't fall through the gaps.
For example, one of the main problems with the animals in the NG spread is
that they are all swimming around with their mouths open. While it's ok
(if a little repetative) to show a carnosaur showing off its dental work,
for a marine animal this is a no-no. You open the jaws on something like
a pliosaur, and there's only going to be one result - the animal's going
to come to a pretty rapid halt (that big maw makes a really effective
water brake). So 20 pages of close ups of various marine reptiles
swimming around with their mouths wide open is, apart from being a tedious
compositional cliche, just plain stupid.
With all those artists in the way, you also seem to lose the opportunity
to correct small details - the whole process takes on a life of it's
own. So for example, the teeth in the Kronosaurus pic are all shining
bright - my dentist would have been proud of those. Even if the
scientific consultant gets a chance to look at the images before they go
to press, it is apparently too difficult to change small details like this
using Nat Geo's new approach... :-(
2. For all the amazing resources they poured into this, I frankly (and
this is just a personal, subjective, I-don't-like-that-sort-of-art type
opinion) don't think the result looked that great. For mine, the images
lack life - they are very flat. Compare this with the depth that Dan gets
into his underwater stuff (yes, its ironic that the 2D techniques and the
3D techniques have opposed results...).
I wonder if part of the problem was that the artists in this team didn't
really know a lot about the medium they were potrayng - in the news
article they mentioned that they wanted to start with a marine environment
because most people looking at it wouldn't know enough to spot mistakes,
but I think this approach may have backfired on them. To me, it's very
suggestive that the stand-out image in the feature is the ariel shot of
the Shonisaurus pod - i.e. an image that is basically
'terrestrial'. Again, maybe it goes back to their 'cast of thousands'
approach - when you've got one or two artists who 'own' the whole process,
it's going to be in their interests to do everything they need to in order
to get the result right. If this means that they need to spend a couple
of days at the sea-park watching the sea-lions swimming around to get a
feel for how plesiosaurs move, then they'll do that.
It's hard to imagine an animator in a graphics studio, who is only one cog
in a huge chain and doesn't really feel much ownership of the project, and
who has a number of jobs on their desk that they have to get done by
Friday, going to the same lengths. They might not even go as far as
renting out the "Blue Planet".
I reckon they'd if they'd used people like Dan and John (to pull a couple
of names out the air!) they'd have saved themselves a heap, got a better
result, and given a couple of palaeoartists a decent lifestyle for a month
My 2c. I guess, like Jim with the Kong movie, I'd been looking forward to
this for a while, and was underwhealmed by the artwork. (As opposed to
the content of the accompanying article, which just made me furious and
And, just to get it off my chest, Dakosaurus ("pants lizard"?) is a pussy.
John Conway wrote:
Apparently bypassing us 2-dimensional digital artists entirely. What ever
happened to evolution?
Punctuated equilibrium gone mad I say.
I guess us brush jockeys have gone extinct, too.
School of Biomedical Science
Anatomy and Developmental Biology Dept.,
University of Queensland
Q 4072, AUSTRALIA
Phone: (07) 3365 2720
Mob: 0408 986 301
\_ \ / ,\
Returning home after a hard day of
dodging dinosaur feet and droppings,
only to find their burrow trampled,
one Late Mesozoic mammal says to an other :
"Hey, a falling star, make a wish."