Thoracosaurus neocesariensis

Thoracosaurus neocesariensis

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Final Animation

Hello all, here it is, the final Thoracosaurus animation:

DIGITAL PALEOART: Reconstruction and Restoration from Laser-Scanned Fossils from Evan Boucher on Vimeo.

If interested in the process of the project, please check out the accompanying document:
Digital Paleoart: Reconstruction and Restoration from Laser-Scanned Fossils by Evan Boucher

-Evan M. Boucher

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hang in there Everyone

For those of you that do not know, the animation has been completed. A lot has happened since the last post, including hours upon hours of animating, tweaking, reanimating, lighting, shading, work with dynamic curves and particles, compositing, and most importantly rendering.

There are only a few things left at this point. There are some small editing/compositing tweaks that I have to do still, and there is my tome of a document to finish, which I have been working on, and am aiming to try to complete a full draft sometime this week. Anyway, the reason there is no link to the finished piece, is because I want to wait until it is officially been finished to unleash on the world. I am also working on trying to get post-sound work done for it.

Anyway, be patient and it'll be up soon enough. Here's a sneak peak:

Thanks for checking in!

  -Evan B.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Getting There...

So it's been a while since I've posted on here, but that does not mean that there hasn't been any's quite the opposite, where I'm nearing completion. VERY EXCITING!

Anyway, there's a long list of things that have been completed, ranging from fixing the animation in the previous post (and doing it much more efficiently!), as well as completing the motion for the rest of the piece, Getting into Realflow 5, learning how to use it, and getting my fluid simulations working and back into Maya, as well as building, rigging, animating, and texturing a fish (more on that below), and a lot of shading work. We are nearing the final steps. I need to work on fixing up the weights on the muscle rig now that the animation is complete, then do some environmental shading, light, render, and composite. Bottom line is...THE END IS IN SIGHT!

Now since I know those of you that follow this blog are probably dying to see something, I present to you Enchodus (Also known as the "Sabor-Toothed Herring")

Texture Map from ZBrush (Includes, Diffuse, Baked Ambient Occlusion, and Cavity Map)

Enjoy, and Seeya soon!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Animation Round I: It's Alive! :D

Finally we have some motion to post. Sorry for the delay on this. A lot of obstacles jumped in my way. Mostly weight painting in all its forms. Here's what I had to get through between my last post and this post. Bear with me's a bit long and technical, but you'll appreciate the motion so much more if you get through all of this:


 After painting the weights for the bound skin mesh, I then had to paint all the muscle weights. This started out simple enough, but then became an extremely intense situation. I obviously couldn't attach ALL of the muscles to the skin, nor would I want to, considering some of them are deep muscles. In the end, about 70 of my muscles ended up being connected. I had issues attaching more than this, and although I couldn't find a written confirmed source, I'm pretty sure 70 is the maximum amount of muscles that Maya will allow to attach to a single mesh. After attaching all of these muscles, I noticed significant slow-down in the interface when manipulating the control rig.

I then had to actually make sure that Maya knew which muscles affected which part of the creature. To do this, I had to - you guessed it - paint weights yet again... So I had to paint the influence of all 70 muscles to the geometry, so that the proper parts squash, stretch, and deform appropriately.

Now this is where this stuff gets even more complicated...There are some 28 different types of weights you can paint for muscles...all which control very specific attributes. For now i'm only painting "sticky" weights and "sliding" weights. Sticky weights tell Maya what part of the geometry is connected to which muscle and just moves it with it. Sliding weights then allow the geometry to not just stick to the muscle, but slide across it like loose skin; it also allows the user to add a "fat" offset which actually bulges out the geometry... In the end I basically ended up having to paint weights on the whole thoracosaur 3 times:

1. Bind the Skin
2. Bind the Muscles (Sticky Weights)
3. Allow the skin to conform to the muscles (Sliding Weights)

 It's also important to note that there are interface elements missing on the painting muscle weights tool, and I had to look up information on the Maya Muscle scripting API so that I could write a series of MEL scripts to allow the weight painting to go smoothly.

...and that's just the most basic level of Muscle weighting. One can also paint attributes such as jiggle, collision, wrinkles, etc. It gets really intense and with the amount of muscles I have i'm sticking with only the two types of muscle weights for now. There were also many tiny deformation errors here and there, so I made the decision to move on to animating, and fix the small blemishes as they come up...otherwise I'd be painting weights for eternity.

With all the weight painting out of the way I could finally start animating...what I've been waiting(weighting?) for all year...


BUT! Alas, remember how I mentioned just attaching the muscles was creating slowdown in the program? Well painting weights just made the Maya interface slower and slower. I tried every OS I had access to (Windows XP, Linux, and Mac OSX) and it didn't get any faster. So then came another major the heck do I get this intense rig to run smooth enough for me to animate with it? Even with various geometry layers hidden, it was still slow. It was clearly the muscle attachement.

I then started plans to create a MEL or Python script to allow me to transfer animation relatively quickly from one rig to another identical one.  I did some research on some other Maya animation tools i'm not too familiar with, and perused the Internet for any free scripts that might be out there, before I spent a lot of time writing my own.

In my hunting I found this fantastic Python script that is up for free download, thanks to its author, Jakob Welner. This script allows me to select all of my controls for the thoracosaurus, and export any attributes or animation on those control objects to a small external file. I can then open another rig with the same controls, and import this external file, and the animation is transfered. This has allowed me to work in more or less real time in the interface, by animating on a Thoracosaurus that doesn't have muscles attached to the skin (they're still in the file so I can turn them on and look for deformation issues here and there, they're just not attached). I can then export this motion, and transfer it to a Rig that I can't manipulate in real time, that has all the muscles attached. Then I just render out some wireframes and look for problem areas and adjust the animation accordingly.


For the animation I've been trying the best I can to stick very closely to reference footage, since this thesis is aiming for accuracy. It has been difficult for me, since I am very used to very cartoony characters. With characters where you're not worried about "correctness" but rather more focused on giving an incredible performance, creating nice fluid arcs of motion, and acting. With narrative animation, the goal of reference footage is to get inspiration and to combine with an animator's intuition to create something fresh and interesting that tells the story properly.

With this there were many moments where I wanted to add more flair, or smooth out my curves so everything was in really nice fluid arcs. But I stood back and made sure he looks just as clunky and awkward on land as an actual crocodylian around this size would. Clearly some things couldn't be exact, since some of this model's proportions are not identical to our good pal Rocky the Alligator of Clyde Peeling's Reptiland. I also used various other reference footage I could find, some of which I took myself, others which were available online, such as at BBC Motion Gallery.

 I was able to animate a couple of unique and interesting steps to keep variety, which then transfered into a walk cycle that I can loop to show it as long as I need to, as it transitions to the different layers of the creature for the first half of the final animated piece. I animated everything so far with the Straight Ahead technique (opposed to Pose-to-Pose). This helped me keep better trajectories with walking shots.

So I animated a transition to a walk, a walk, a transition to the water, and a swim.

You'll never guess what took the longest to animate...


Most of the intricate action that happens with these guys is in the feet. When walking (in the high walk at least) it's all about how the pes and manus curls off the ground. The Thoracosaurus's feet were also a bit bigger than Rocky's, and therefore had to have more attention payed to them. This was rather frustrating, but at the same time, was congruent with my research on crocodylian locomotion. According to Reilly and Elias (1998) most of the speed of an alligator walk is in the feet. The distal limb elements control the speed of the walk, moving faster or slower accordingly. The angles between the leg bones stay more or less consistant. 

Anyway, once all of this was animated, I did some tests where I transfered the motion to the muscle rig, and played with the jiggle settings on the muscles a little bit. It's pretty much working, I just need to make some little adjustments here and there. I compiled a plethora of playblasts (that is, no rendering, lighting, or shading - just the model and the motion) into some videos to post here.

At this point the first half of my motion is complete. I need to stick some final cameras in there and do some lighting and a quick environment design to render out this first half, which I call the "Schematic." The second half is the "Narrative" which will reuse a little bit of this motion, as well as have a couple brand new shots. The "Schematic" is to show motion while documenting the process, and the "Narrative" is the part to feature the fully fleshed out habitat and show a day in the life of Thoracosaurus neocesariensis.

Sorry for the length of this post, but I thought it was important for you all to understand what I've went through to get to this point. Without further ado, here is the motion for the first half of the piece. I hope you enjoy. Much more cool stuff to come!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Skinning Phase I

I was forced to take a week off on production due to the DIGM labs being closed for updates and maintenance... but now I'm back, well rested, and in full force. I did all of the first pass weight painting on the skin of the Thoracosaurus. If I wasn't using a muscle system, this would be the point where I would start animating...however, I need to still paint all the muscle weights now, so that the skin connects to the muscles and deforms properly. I already set up a control that affects the jiggle attributes of all the muscles. I can control the stiffness of different parts of the body now, through a simple control setup, which can be adjusted and animated on a shot per shot basis.

Anyway, at least I can pose him now!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Skin Painting

I finished up the painting of the skin in Pixologic's ZBrush. It saved me a lot of time of guessing and checking UV coordinates in Photoshop...and the time was better spent making things look better opposed to simply lining things up. I looked at a lot of Gharial photographic reference to try to get the texture down. I was also able to use the same alphas I used when sculpting the displacement detail as brushes for painting. I really enjoyed taking the time to grunge things up, and make the guy look worn. I even went as far as adding dirt and mud on his legs and belly; stuff he probably would have picked up when transitioning from land to sea.

ZBrush 3.5R3 has a much more streamlined pipeline than the last time I used ZBrush (which I think was version 2 over a year ago). I was able to export displacement and normal maps, as well as color texture maps, and bake out a cavity map to multiply on the diffuse image, all with very little effort. I'm still working on baking in the Ambient Occlusion to the texture. I still need to paint a texture for the eye, which I'm looking forward to. (Images are directly out of ZBrush.Click on Images for Full Detail).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sculpting Work

Here are my digital sculpts (Click the images for high-res view). I put a lot more detail into the skin through ZBrush, after Autodesk Mudbox was giving me a lot of trouble with memory handling. Constant crashes and clunky pipelines drove me to ZBrush which has been much more stable. All of the scale detail is from black and white "alphas" sampled from actual crocodylian images. The tail and underbelly came from an alligator, and the sides, neck and arms came from gharial texture reference. It could be a bit cleaner but ZBrush is giving me a problem with subdividing one more level. It should be enough detail for now, but I'm looking for methods to get that final subdivision level that would make it all around polished. I might be able to achieve it through adjustments to the exported displacement map in Photoshop. Anyway, next is painting the skin and attaching the skin to the muscles (which seems to be relatively straight forward from the tests I did). I got approval on my muscles from Dr. Dodson, other than a few minor tweaks in positioning that I have to do. Mostly the back muscles didn't go quite high enough, so I will adjust that. Hopefully I will be getting some more motion tests out this weekend or early next week if all goes to plan! Very Exciting!

On another note, check out the recent article in the Drexel Triangle that talks about the Drexel Paleo program, as well as mentions a bit about my project, here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

LOTS of Progress!!!

Sorry for the severe lack of updating on all of the meantime, here are a bunch of images to show you where I'm currently at. I started and finished the muscle system...pending approval from the committee, and I just finished the base mesh. That is the mesh below does not have any textures, shaders, or sculpted displacement (scales, fine skin texture etc) just yet. That's the project for the weekend. Hopefully sometime too I'll get around to posting a video of the dynamic squashing and stretching of the muscles in action. Very Exciting...anyway. I'll probably post my UV pelt this weekend....they always make interesting images in and of themselves...

As always, be sure to click the images for the full resolution versions:

Above, you can see the muscles (red) laid over the fossil (blue) and appended bone (green).

Above: Details of the edge flow for the Thoracosaurus model.

Now it's on to combining the skin to the skeleton/muscle....wish me luck!

-Evan B.

Friday, April 23, 2010

First Test Animation of Thoracosaur Rig - IN STEREO!

First Test Animation of Thoracosaur Rig - IN STEREO! from Evan Boucher on Vimeo.

Alright everybody, I know I've been slacking on documenting my progress up here lately, so to make up for it here's another video for now. It's in stereo for a test for another class, so if you have any anaglyph glasses laying around, grab 'em.

Here's a quick breakdown of progress that will soon be documented (and by soon I mean I will probably force myself tomorrow or the next day to buckle down and bang it out).

1. The full Skeleton is built - complete with appended transverse and spinal processes for the eroded vertebrae

2. The working units of the scans apparently were not set to real world units when exporting from Geomagic, so the scene has been resized appropriately.

3. The base rig was built. The creature is now fully poseable and animateable. There are some important issues to note and discuss about the balance between complete scientific accuracy and useability/practicality of the rig interface.

4. Environmental Work - I've been manually stitching a plethora of images I took in the Estero de Tamarindo in Las Baulas National Park, Guanacaste Costa Rica. The images are of mangroves along the estuary. I took some 20-30 photos and stitched them together in photoshop, creating a panorama to be used as an environmental backdrop for the final Animation.

5. I did an early animation test which is embedded above.

6. Muscle development - I have a full shoulder/upper arm rigged with muscles. It's going much quicker than expected and I'm very excited about it.

Stay Tuned for more details/videos/Rig Breakdowns


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Finished Skeletal Model!

Thoracosaurus neocesariensis Skeletal Turntable - WIP from Evan Boucher on Vimeo.

Here is a playblast of the Completed skeletal model of Thoracosaurus neocesariensis (Crocodylia: Gavialidae).

The model is color coded - anything that is green is laser scanned fossil data, and the cream color was all hand modeled or sampled from duplicated scans. The green color for the scans is in honor of the green sand (glauconite) of New Jersey where the fossils came from.

The next step - Muscles! 

Soon I will post more on the successes, failures, and intense headaches of the actual modeling process.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reconstruction / Skull Morphology.

I. Finishing the Assembly

Assembling the final pieces of the skeleton took a bit of time, mostly because of the number of bones there are and how to place all of them. There was also a setback that I didn't notice until using photographs of the Thoracosaurus display case to guide me in placing the bones. It turned out the 11th vertebrae had been skipped in scanning somehow. I had the  10th and the 12th, but not the 11th. I started to freak out a bit, but realized that about a year ago, Mark Petrovich had scanned half of the skeleton with an older, clunkier software.  Luckily these scans are still backed up in multiple places. Mark and I then had to find these bones that were skipped and piece them together in PET (Polygon Editing Tool); which has a tendency to want to crash every time a user saves. I also want to note the importance of labeling and documenting the process of scanning. The students who were in charge of the scanning had a tendency to not adhere to strict naming conventions, which caused much confusion and might have been responsible for how a bone was skipped. I had also noticed some things labeled incorrectly, such as some of the skull bones. The basioccipital from the skull was also labeled as one of the dorsal vertebrae. There were also a few Caudal vertebrae that I noticed were somehow scanned out of order. I was able to sort this out though after using the reference photography. These are all reasons to make sure that whoever is in charge of a digital paleontology like this must have some sort of background and interest in the subject before diving in. This will reduce the number of errors that take place. Not just any digital artist should undertake such a daunting task. I have been trying to correct some of these mistakes by starting to go back into the original data files and renaming files and organizing them correctly. I don't want to confuse anybody who attempts to work with this data down the road after I've graduated from Drexel.

Back to the assembling front, the bones (even though severely reduced in resolution) had a tendency to be very processing intensive in the viewport of Side Effects Software's Houdini. In order to more efficiently place the bones, I set up a "switch" for each bone. This switch allowed me to place the lowest resolution version of the scan, and then move a slider to swap out the low resolution geometry for any of the other resolutions. This let me use much less computing power to place the bones initially, and then swap them for more detail for continued placement finessing as well as rendering. Then, I set up an interactive slider to control all of the switch nodes. This made it very easy to just swap all of the geometry for the entire skeleton at once; to lower or higher resolutions as I needed. This is what brought me to a point where I could go in and start modeling the rest of the bones. Since my comfort zone for modeling lies with Autodesk Maya, I had to then transfer the final pieced and reconstructed skeleton from Houdini to Maya. I simply exported an .FBX file which contained all the geometry. When importing this .FBX into Maya, the geometry came in as a singe giant piece, which would not work for adjusting placement, and rigging the creature down the road. I had to make sure to use the Mesh > Separate option in order to split the geometry back up into the individual objects. This option basically just takes any pieces of geometry that are independent from one another (i.e. the vertices aren't merged) and splits it up into separate objects based on these boundaries. The wonderful thing about once this was done, is the 10K resolution for every bone runs extremely smoothly in Maya. This is because Houdini was referencing external .OBJ files for each and every bone, where as Maya keeps this geometry recorded in the .mb file. Once this was all set up, it was time to start modeling the missing pieces.

II. Modeling the Missing Bones: Part I: The Skull

Knowing it would be the most difficult part to model, I decided to tackle the skull first. The skull is also the place with the most distinguishing features for crocodylians.  The difficulty of this task was compounded by the fact that there is not much literature to be found on Thoracosaurus neocesariensis in particular. Since there is little information to be found strictly on Thoracosaurus I had to base the shape of the skull on the closest relatives I could find in the literature. The main two that I based my recreatd skull off of are Eothoracosaurus mississippiensis (Brochu 2004) and the modern Gavialis gangeticus. So this places it somewhere between a very basal gavialoid  which thoracosaurus is very close to, and modern gharials. One major reason for using Eothoracosaurus is because of how in Brochu's description of the species, he is actually reinterpreting what Kenneth Carpenter described as Thoracosaurus neocesariensis in 1983.  Brochu points out key differences between the osteology of this specimen and Thoracosaurus. His paper also includes a plethora of photographs of Eothoracosaurus complete with scale markers. This allowed me to import these images into Maya and set them up on image planes for me to use as cross sections to model from.  I had a very good top and bottom view of the skull as well as a great top view of the jaw from the type specimen of Eothoracosaurus. Brochu's paper also included a side and back view of a braincase of another Eothoracosaurus specimen.  I have noted and tried to incorporate all the relevent differences noted between the two species.  For the pieces I didn't have reference images from Eothoracosaurus, I tried to use gharial skull photographs. I found some great 360 degree turntables of a gharial skull that was CT scanned. It can be found on the website for the Digital Morphology database at the University of Texas at Austin (  Most of all, even though I modeled off of this great reference imagery, I made sure to to use the contours of the actual skull scans to drive the appropriate shapes in the skull. 

The area of the skull ventral to the braincase (pterygoids, transpaltine, etc) of the skull was very difficult to model since the orthographic photographs do a great job of compressing any sort of depth. This is the one time in my life where I actually see a point to stereoscopic images, and also how they could really help paleontology (check this out). I did the best I could from a number of orthographic photographs as well as posed perspective reconstructions of crocodylians.

When creating the snout, the gharial skull was much longer than the Eothoracosaurus skull, so there was some questioning on how I should tackle this issue. I opted to go with the longer skull, but for a reason. In my research of gavialoid crocodylians, I read that snouts in modern gharial are allometric (Whitaker 2007). Apparently as gharials grow, their snouts become shorter and blunter over time. In the fossils of our Thoracosaurus, in the skull fragments there are very clear sutures that have not yet completely fused together. This lets us know that this individual was not a full grown adult. Combining this fossil data with the analogue of allometry in gharials is what led to my decision of building a longer snout than the one found in the type specimen of Eothoracosaurus described by Brochu. 

The teeth took quite a bit of time to add in. I based the number of teeth on a combination of the relative space between the scanned fossil teeth that are still embedded in a piece of the dentary, the number of tooth sockets found in the Eothoracosaurus orthographic images, and how many of those fit in the extended gharial snout. The alveoli (sockets) took a lot of time to embed in the jaw. I had to use some techniques to kill off edge loops as they radiate out from the relatively dense alveoli to the rest of the snout. It was a lot of brute repeated modeling task-work.

The most puzzling aspect of the skull was definitely the lower jaw. The Eothoracosaurus jaw is much more robust and dorsal-ventrally expanded than the gharial jaw. The gharial is much more streamlined. I started with the overall top view of the jaw which worked fine, but the side view is where the discrepancy showed up. If I went strictly off of the Eothoracosaurus jaw, it would angle down pretty far away from the top of snout, which made it look like the teeth would never be able to clasp together. So I attempted to use the articular surface between the articular and quadrate from the Eothoracosaurus and combine it with a more gharial-esque jaw. If one follows this jaw rostral, there's suddenly a problem with the actual scanned part of the dentary. It has a pretty sharp angled kink in it when viewed from above, so I placed it where it matched along the length of the jaw in the top view. In the side view this makes it appear too tall for the gharial jaw and too short for the Eothoracosaurus jaw. The only way to fit it in seemed to be to have a relatively drastic kink upwards after the scanned portion as the jaw approaches the tip.  

This is when I noticed an area on the inside of the scanned dentary piece. There appears to be a crack conveniently placed at the "kink" mentioned earlier. It looks like there's the possibility that this kink isn't actually osteological. This crack looks as if this kink is a result of finding the best fit for the Paleobond glue to hold the bone together for display purposes. This is something I have noticed in my fossil preparation experience. Highly fragmented bones, when glued together have a tendency to get somewhat warped around a bit. I did an experiment with fixing this "kink," which could not normally be done easily in the physical world. I set up a deforming lattice and just warped it into a position where this crack fused. when removing this kink, the scanned dentary piece fits better if it's further back on the jaw. This then seems to fit very close to the gharial jaw reference, and creates a more gradual thinning of the snout. This is something I need to consult the experts on, but I'm pretty convinced that this is how it should be. I will stop playing with the skull until I get feedback, and move on to the rest of the skeleton. This process has been extremely difficult. It is very different than my previous character modeling experience. With that it's an artistic choice when something looks good enough to move on. With this, it's much slower to try to ensure that every bit is as accurate as can be with the data that we have.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Poly Counting

 (For all images below, feel free to click on them to view the full sizes)

I. Poly Counts

This Past week was spent with a lot of time looking at ways to reduce polygon counts of the fossil scans in order to make them useable for animation without crashing every program known to man. The full resolution scans are priceless for the scientific community, but are very impractical in an animation production environment. I was worried I would have to block model every bone to create low resolution versions to use, but luckily, there is a tool inside the scanning software (Geomagic Studio) that allows a user to specify the number of polygons to reduce the geometry to. Based on past characters I have built, I estimated that around 10,000 triangular faces is a good number to use to keep a lot of the detail while reducing the number of faces significantly. The original scans were coming in around 400,000 reducing to 10,000 is an extremely significant reduction (About 1% of the poly count of the original) but doesn't take away too much of the detail.




After I created a series of lower resolution versions of each bone, (10K tris, 5K tris, and 2K tris) I started to put the skeleton together. I used the procedural nature of Side Effects Software's Houdini in order to allow me to quickly position the low resolution versions, and create a switch that automatically swaps out the geometry for higher resolution versions. I will soon be looking into creating some sort of script that allows me to swap the 10K resolution bones to the full resolution bones at render time, so that the computer doesn't ever have to display them in the view port, which crashes the program every time.


...and just for kicks, here are some other views of the 10K resolution:


 I've also done some more R&D for muscle systems and for environment development....more on that to come soon. I have gone through the whole pipeline for Maya muscles a couple times to familiarize myself with that, and I have been putting myself through a crash course in Real Flow for water dynamics. Stay tuned for updates on that.

On a side note, in my continued research for croc anatomy, I came across the relatively recent British television series, titled Inside Nature's Giants, where a team of scientists dissect a different large/specialized animal in each episode. One episode happened to be about the Nile Crocodile! This was very informative in not only showing the musculature and other structures underneath, but also putting the anatomy in a physiological and evolutionary context. It was extremely effective and I learned a lot very quickly. I strongly recommend it to anyone who's interested in this stuff. The other episodes were pretty great too (I especially liked the one about the giraffe).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Knee Deep in Literature

So lately I've been delving deeply into the Literature, trying to resolve some of the issues with the missing skeleton parts.  To get my feet wet, I read through the skeletal portion of Robert Chiasson's Laboratory Anatomy of the Alligator. After that it was an in depth looks at some Christopher Brochu Papers, including some about crocodylian phylogeny issues, and some papers about Eothoracosaurus and Eosuchus. Unfortunately I was having trouble finding any papers dedicated to Thoracosaurus neocesariensis in particular. Every lead I had pointed back to a Kenneth Carpenter paper on the species, but I have been having trouble locating a copy. That being said, Brochu describes the same specimen that Carpenter does, and argues that it is in fact not actually Thoracosaurus, and distinguishes it as Eothoracosaurus. In these comparisions I was able to find out some descriptions of Thoracosaurus, which was very helpful.

For what I cannot find on Thoracosaurs neocesariensis I will have to extrapolate from the other "thoracosaurs" (Eothoracosaurus, Thoracosaurus, Thecochompsoides) as well as the modern gavialis.

I then did some reading up on Gharial descriptions and behavior. I found some great information on their hunting behavior in particular, which was very interesting. I am very close to being able to draft up a proposed animatic based on the behavior of these large fish-eating crocodylians. I have also been looking for video documentaries on gharials to watch and study, so I can see some of this described behavior in action. BBC motion gallery is a great reference but only goes so far.

I am now working on a large variety of things. I need to jump head first into the muscle systems. But more importantly I need to figure out the best way to create low resolution "proxy" bones to act as stand-ins for the high resolution scans, so that I can actually rig and animate them. That's the next thing on my list. I may have to hand model some simple proxies, and the scanning software (Geomagic Studio) may be able to do a lot of the heavy lifting for me. Then I'll have to write some sort of script that substitutes the proxies with the full quality at render time... Lots to do lots to do! Stay tuned for more updates. Once I figure out this pipeline, I promise I'll post a rendered image of the full digitized skeleton.

Literature Read this Week:

Brochu, C. A. (2006) Osteology and phylogenetic significance of Eosuchus minor (Marsh, 1870) new combination, a longirostrine crocodylian from the Late Paleocene of North America. Journal of Paleontology 80(1):162-186.

Brochu, C.A. 2004. A new Late Cretaceous gavialoid crocodylian fromeastern North America and the phylogenetic relationships of Thoracosaurs.

Brochu, C. A. 2001. Crocodylian snouts in space and time: phylogenetic approaches toward adaptative radiation. American Zoologist 41:564–585. 

A study of fossil vertebrate types in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia: taxonomic, systematic, and historical perspectives Issue 16 of Special Publication Series, Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia, Pa.) By Earle E. Spamer, Edward Daeschler, L. Gay Vostreys-Shapiro. Academy of Natural Sciences, 1995

Thorbjarnarson, John B. 1990. Notes on the Feeding Behavior of the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) under Semi-Natural Conditions. Journal of Herpetology 24: 99-100.
Whitaker, Romulus. 2007. The Gharial: Going Extinct Again. Iguana 14: 24-33

* The list on the right hand side is what is next in que for the research aspect of the project. If anyone has any suggestions of papers to read, please let me know and I'll incorporate it into my que!

Oh yes, and I appologize for the lack of pictures.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Look What I Found!!!

Hey hey hey, I was able to dig this bad boy out from the depths of the scanning laptop.

Putting it together went really quick too...I think it's because A.) I am getting much faster at this thing....and B.) There are lots of pointy bits on it that make it really easy to match. Very exciting...because this means that SCAN STITCHING IS COMPLETE!!! soon as I can figure out how to get all of this geometry to render without crashing any of the 3D packages, I'll be sure to render an image of the complete fossil material. In the meantime it means I need to do a lot of reading so I can start modeling the missing pieces...oh yes, and muscle system research has been going on as well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Closing in On the End of Scan Stitching

So I'm very close to posting an image of the fully digitized fossil material. There are a few pieces that a colleague of mine is finishing up, and I need to locate where the left dentary has run off to... It appears to not be among the files I've been working off of. There's one other place it could be, which is on the laptop that was used when scanning. I hope it's there so I don't have to rescan anything. There is also one dorsal vertebrae that seems to be missing data for about half of the bone....I am going to look into stitching an older scan of that bone together, from when we were using PET opposed to Geomagic. It will take a lot longer to stitch, but It would be better than having to schedule an entirely new scanning session.

In the meantime, here is an image of the skull. The skull was incredibly difficult to stitch together, since each fragment was very difficult to scan. Some of these pieces are being held together by a very thin layer of Paleobond glue. Because of the fragmented quality of the skull, as well as the complex shape in general, it was very difficult to get a complete scan. I worked with what we had and was able to get them pieced together as best I could. The skull is so fragmented though, and a lot of the detail that the scanner didn't pick up consists of the interior of breaks...i.e. material that wouldn't be visible if it was a complete skull. When the full skeleton is built, and the entire skull reconstructed,  it will not even be noticeable that some of these crevices were not picked up.

In the meantime, it's on to digging through the literature so I can start modeling the missing bones.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Large Alligator Motion Reference!

Great day today! Jason Poole and I drove up to Allenwood, PA to visit Clyde Peeling's Reptiland. There were lots of cool things there, and they showed us around a bit behind the scenes of the place (including off-display animals, and the shop where they build all the custom habitats). It's a really cool place and I highly recommend it to anybody interested in zoology. The best part of the day is when we were able to shoot some video footage of their 11.5 foot alligator, Rocky. We had two cameras and were able to capture the large fellow standing up, turning around, and slumping into the water from two different angles. The weight of this guy was very impressive. This should prove to be very helpful for the Thoracosaurus motions, since they are both very large crocodylians (the Thoracosaurus is estimated around 14-17ft long). I also shot some additional footage of the gator's skin for texture reference. The staff was all very friendly and very helpful. Thanks Clyde, Chad, and staff for letting this happen!

Alligator Motion Reference from Evan Boucher on Vimeo.

Also, Many more stitched scans to come later this week...