Chinese Dragon spotted in the Mountains of Tasmania

Hi, just a quick post with a couple of frames from a test animation of the Chinese Dragon flying over Mt. Cameron in the North of Tasmania. The original photo was taken by Julie Martin who’s also running the project.

I was hoping to add some camera movement to the shot but time restrictions and tight framing of the original photo conspired to make it static except for a bit of camera shake as the dragon flies over. Instead I made sure the Dragon cast shadows on the mountain, a bit more important selling the shot.

I did have time to cut out and paint in some extra sky so I could make the clouds move, which for some reason I found really fun.. go figure. All the preparation work paid off as I turned the shot around in a day, nice.

So, animated in PMG Messiah, rendered in Lightwave and final processing in After Effects. Matte work in Photoshop.

Stay tuned, soon another episode of the adventures of Prehistoric TV Reconstruction Kitteh.

Chinese Dragon #5: How to Train(Rig) Your Dragon

After the absolute mayhem of last week when the prehistoric kitteh picture went viral and I got more hits on the blog in a single day than I usually get in a month, it’s back to semi mundane topics like the ongoing Chinese Dragon.

As I’m in animation with it at the moment with a tight deadline it’s just a quick post with the basics of the Chinese Dragon rig in Messiah.

The spine runs along a spline IK path, which I can add points to as needed.

I’m a bit of a ‘meat and potatoes’ rigger, so I’m happy for any advice Messiah rigging experts might have to make giant wiggly things move around conveniently.

Messiah seems to struggle a little with this guy as he’s pretty big, 35 meters long.

Chinese Dragon #4: ZBrush Setup, Layers

I was going to discuss ZBrush sculpting in this post, but I realised there might be some value in covering a little more about set up and preparing for export.

So I’d exported my base mesh as an obj. file from Lightwave and followed the steps in Steve Warner’s guide here pretty closely, as ZBrush doesn’t follow any of the standard windows conventions for just about any operation!

For the uninitiated, it can be a pretty daunting interface.

Saying that, once you go through the process a couple of times it becomes second nature, and you quickly get into sculpting which is quite intuitive.

ZBrush does all of its work by subdividing the bejingers out of your mesh, so the more detail you want, the more polygons you need to let it use. It has a pretty impressive capacity to deal with millions of polys, and it sets a limit based on your system’s capabilities which is really helpful.(going beyond it results in instability)

Thanks to Bump and Normal mapping when you export your work for rendering the detail can be managed more easily. I’m a big fan of Normal mapping, which gives a serious illusion of depth without needing any additional polygons. I haven’t looked into it too much but the only drawback is the maps aren’t exactly editable, using multiple colours to express depth:

ZBrush allows you to sculpt in non-destructive layers. Just like Photoshop you can turn layers on and off, or use them to try things out without messing stuff up.

The other thing that is nice about this is that you can turn them on and off to export different maps in different ways. So if you plan a little you can make things easier when you return to your output software.

And finally, because the rest of the post has been dry and technical here’s a pretty picture!

Quetzalcoatlus animated progression

I forgot to make my now traditional animated Gif of my Quetzalcoatlus painting so with it being a busy month for non-blog work I thought I’d chuck one up.

It’s pretty clear from watching how the painting came together that I’m going off half baked and things are developing quite organically.

What’s also clear is when I got a hand from Dave Hone to fix the anatomy!


Oh, and a little hint of what’s been keeping me busy….

Run Like a Champsosaurus!

It probably won’t stop you getting horribly consumed!

I seem to be a bit fixated on feeding large predators innocent bystanders at the moment.(please post psychological analysis in the comments section)

Champsosaurus is a new discovery for me. I was looking for a victim for the predator in my next painting and stumbled across this little guy. It belongs to a line of reptiles that developed parallel to crocodiles and looked a lot like them, likely with a similar lifestyle. Though they lacked the armored scutes and had much more lizard like skin. Choristodera experts feel free to critique his anatomy.

The freaky bulging skull with little eyes stuffed down the front and nostrils pushed all the way to the end of the snout had instant appeal.

I have to admit, I’m almost sorry that he’s about to become a meal……… almost.

Weapon: WIP and Adventures in Colour Spaaaaaaace!

So I’m fairly ticked off. I make a painting, post it on the blog, stick it on Imagekind to sell, all goes well… until I see it on another computer.

Grey mud. Lost my pretty blues and yellows to the ham fisted colour overlord that is Windows.(apparently looks even worse on Mac!) So what happened?

Experienced Graphic Designers will know I fell foul of not setting up my colour space properly. What’s colour space? (did you even ask?) I’ll tell you anyway you poor buggers.

All the devices and software we use use their own set of colours to display an image, some have a wider range than others. So when something is produced in one place it gets reinterpreted when you import it or display it somewhere else. Many things share the same set of colours, but plenty don’t. You can also make a colour profile that travels with the image which smart apps and hardware can use to help get the colour as close to the original as possible. So I really should have been working in my destination colour space. sigh.

So now to a little test. Below is a comparison of the original image, and a new one with the colour space corrected. Now for me the new image is too gaudy in Firefox(the filthy liar), but in dedicated Windows apps it seems to match my Photoshop colours.

I thought I’d do the usual gif sequence so you can see how disorganised I was as the painting came together, but one step along the way merits a little extra attention..

Yup, frenzied scribbling!

I’ll often do this trying to get the feel of something without getting stuck doing details. It seems to work for me to get the main masses and directions working, or at least to grab that fleeting picture inside my head and dump it on the page. Anyway, here’s the work in progress animation, enjoy!

Now with working animation!

What the heck is this?

So, because I’ve hit a slow patch and I’m battling my current Tarbosaur painting, I thought I’d do another sneak peek but with added mystery!
I’ve added a feature to my big unpleasant meat eater which I haven’t encountered in other dinosaur reconstructions, but which I did see on ostriches at that great bastion of zoological parks, Zoodoo, here in Tasmania.
So all you paleo buffs out there, write your guesses on a stamped, self addressed envelope… or just in the comments section below to attain the glory of being first to identify the amorphous lump depicted in the above picture!(and possibly a prize!)